Union Label & Service Trades Department, AFL-CIO 202-508-3700 unionlabel@unionlabel.org
In the age of anti-worker decisions like Janus, what does Labor Day mean anymore?

In the age of anti-worker decisions like Janus, what does Labor Day mean anymore?

The intent of Labor Day, as envisioned by our forefathers, has, of course, eroded over the years.

Most see it as an opportunity to have a last trip to the beach or backyard barbeque, but in reality, the state of labor and capital today make it more important than ever to embrace the meaning of Labor Day.

Created in the late 19th century as a way to repair ties with American workers after the deadly Pullman Railway strike, Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday. The decades following saw massive parades and celebrations across the country honoring American workers. It wasn’t seen as the last weekend of summer, but instead as an opportunity to show appreciation for those who toiled and built a prosperous nation.

But now, in the 21st Century, we see fewer and smaller parades and celebrations honoring workers. Instead, we see massive retail sales and low-wage workers being exploited, working long-hours for a minimum wage that, for most, doesn’t pay enough to sustain themselves, let alone a family. We see our government attack the rights of federal employees, and the highest courts in the land strike down past laws that ensured public employees’ right to union representation. These attacks by anti-union politicians and employers are meant only to strangle and starve the very mechanisms in place to speak for workers: labor unions.

But this Labor Day, let’s vow to change the narrative. You can enjoy your picnic or family vacation, but when you return to work on Tuesday, do so with a renewed sense of purpose. It is time for all workers to help rebalance the power. As the new AFL-CIO television ad so eloquently shows, “Together we rise.”

So, between now and next Labor Day, let us join together to work towards electing pro-worker politicians. Let us join together to organize the unorganized. Let us join together to fight for our brothers and sisters for fair working conditions, safe workplaces, wages and benefits that lift all workers.

This Labor Day, let’s vow to work together because “Together we rise.”

Trump Admin Attacks Federal Workers Again

Trump Admin Attacks Federal Workers Again

Photo courtesy of AFGE

The attack on federal workers continued in May when President Trump signed multiple executive orders limiting official time, making it easier to fire federal employees, and lengthening probationary periods for new employees. Each of these edicts are designed to weaken unions, federal employee compensation and civil service protections.
These, along with other moves by the Trump Administration, including imposing a contract on a union against its will, are bound to affect federal employees for the worse.
His first directive was to drastically cut “official time,” which he would like to rename as “taxpayer-funded union time.” Official time is the time allowed to union officials to represent all members of a bargaining union, whether they are a union member or not, in matters of interest to the workforce.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the largest federal employee union, called the orders, “a direct assault on the legal rights and protections that Congress has specifically guaranteed to the two million public-sector employees across the country who work for the federal government.”
AFGE filed a lawsuit asking that the Executive Order 13837 — slashing paid union time — be struck down by a federal court.
Executive Order 13836, directs federal agencies to renegotiate their union contracts to increase management authority to “reward high performers, hold low-performers accountable, or flexibly respond to operational needs.” It also states that collective bargaining should not take more than a year.
Claiming that it takes six months to a year to remove a tenured federal employee for poor performance, and as many as eight months to exhaust any appeals, a White House spokesperson said the EO would “streamline the process.” However, union representatives say it would politicize the hiring and firing of federal employees.
Finally, Executive Order 13839 would change the longstanding federal worker job security protections currently in place. Instead, workers would be subject to what amounts to an “at-will” environment. Managers would no longer be required to use “progressive discipline” and will not be held to a consistent standard of how discipline is handled. The EO shortens the timeframe for employees subject to Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs)—which provide employees a chance to improve their job performance following a poor evaluation or reprimand—to 30 days, government-wide. It currently runs between 60 and 120 days and changes the seniority rights provision replacing it with a “manager-evaluated performance ratings system. Again, union representatives believe that this order would allow managers to promote and fire at will, rather than for cause.
The National Treasury Employees Union president, Tony Reardon said that these executive orders indicate an administration threatened by workers with rights. “The truth is that these orders will disrupt workplaces of every agency, add red tape and impede quality work that taxpayers expect and deserve.” ■

Supreme Court Strips Workers’ Rights in Forced Arbitration Case

Supreme Court Strips Workers’ Rights in Forced Arbitration Case

On May 21, in Epic Systems v. Lewis, the Supreme Court ruled that an employer may lawfully require its employees to agree, as a condition of employment, to take all employment-related disputes to arbitration on an individual basis, and to waive their right to participate in a class action or class arbitration.
Employees of the Wisconsin-based tech firm Epic Systems sued their firm to recover overtime pay. They sought to void arbitration agreements they were forced to sign as a condition of employment which required them to pursue complaints in private arbitration, not in the courts.
The Supreme Court, in a majority decision written by the newest justice, Neil Gorsuch, sided with Epic and ruled that the 1925 Federal Arbitration Act trumped the protections for collective action contained in the 1935 National Labor Relations Act (NRLA), even though NLRA was passed by Congress after the Arbitration Act.
The decision was issued in three consolidated cases, all of which were part of a similar pattern. In each one, a worker is presented with an arbitration clause that requires all employment disputes be submitted to arbitration on an individual basis. The worker is told that if he wants to continue in the job, he will be deemed to have assented to the clause. Subsequently the worker files a class action lawsuit on behalf of himself and other workers similarly situated, alleging that the employer has violated the federal minimum wage and hour law. The employer moves to dismiss the lawsuit claiming the worker is bound by the arbitration clause and therefore is precluded from bringing a class action in a judicial or arbitration tribunal.
Employers have increasingly added group-action waivers to their arbitration clauses. Today over half of nonunion companies impose arbitration agreements on their workers, and nearly all include group-action waivers, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
In the minority dissent read from the bench, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called the decision “egregiously wrong.” The minority dissent argued that workers were granted significant rights under the New Deal’s NLRA including the right to pursue litigation collectively, and that an employer-dictated waiver would violate it.
“Employees’ rights to band together to meet their employers’ superior strength would be worth precious little if employers could condition employment on workers signing away those rights,” Ginsburg wrote.
“Expenses entailed in mounting individual claims will often far outweigh potential recoveries,” noted Ginsburg.
Initially, the Justice Department had joined with the National Labor Relations Board and was arguing for the workers’ rights, but when the Trump Administration weighed in, the Justice Department switched sides and took a pro-business stance.
“Every American needs to know that the Trump administration sided not with the workers in this case, but with the corporations that want to strip away workers’ rights,” said Christine Owens, Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project. “Very few workers are willing to take on their employer by themselves and risk termination, abuse, or worse. Few workers can afford to spend thousands of dollars to pursue an individual case. Collective and class actions exist for this very reason, so that regular people can pool their claims and get a lawyer to pursue their case.”
Justice Ginsburg urged Congress in the dissent to correct the court’s ruling.
“Congressional action is urgently in order to correct the court’s elevation of the Arbitration Act over workers’ rights to act in concert,” she said.

Bipartisan Congressional Committee to Examine Multiemployer Pension Crisis

Bipartisan Congressional Committee to Examine Multiemployer Pension Crisis

More than one million retirees enrolled in multiemployer pension plans are in danger of losing benefits because the plans that pay them will go insolvent. In addition, the federal agency that acts as a safety net — the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) — is also in danger of insolvency. Unless something is done to address this crisis, there will be billions lost in retirement benefits.
In 2015, the multiemployer system provided $2.2 trillion in economic activity to the U.S. economy, generated $158 billion in federal taxes, $82 billion in state and local taxes, supported 13.6 million American jobs, and contributed more than $1 trillion to U.S. GDP. This includes $41 billion in pension payments and $203 billion in wages to active employees
In 2014, Congress passed what it believed was a solution in the form of the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (MPRA). The Act was designed to provide trustees with a solvency restoration tool and to protect retirees from the larger benefit reductions they would see should their plan go insolvent and the PBGC would have to guarantee payments. The MPRA however, still allows for drastic cuts to participant benefits, and is, of course, opposed by current workers and retirees whose payments would be slashed under the terms of the MPRA.
Since its passing, several unsuccessful efforts have been made to repeal MPRA and replace the MPRA with legislation that would better protect pensioners and help ailing plans return to solvency. The most recent attempt was the Butch Lewis Act, introduced by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Named for retired Teamster’s Local 100 President that died while fighting to protect retiree benefits, the legislation would have created a new federal loan program available to struggling multiemployer pension funds.
While Brown sought to have the bill included in the budget bill passed in February, it did not make it into that legislation. Brown did however secure the creation of a bipartisan House and Senate Joint Select Committee on multiemployer pensions in the budget deal.
The Committee, made up of eight Democrats and eight Republicans from both Houses of Congress, will meet on at least five occasions to discuss solutions to the pension crisis.
“While it is not the immediate solution we hoped for, this committee will force Congress to finally treat the pension crisis with the seriousness and urgency American workers deserve,” Senator Brown said in a statement.
The committee’s assignment is to produce a bill to solve the pension crisis by the final week of November, Senator Brown said in a statement. If at least four members from each party agree on a compromise, that solution will be guaranteed the expedited votes in the House and Senate, with no amendments.



By Thomas J. Kriger, PhD
Registered Apprenticeship, the gold standard for workforce training, is an integral part of the Building Trades “brand” in the US construction industry. The highest quality training programs in the industry guarantee that signatory employers have access to the most highly skilled and safest workforce in the industry. Recently, you may have heard about proposals out of Washington, D.C. for expanding apprenticeship in the U.S. through the creation of new forms of apprentice training.
While the Building Trades strongly supports the expansion of apprenticeship into industries that currently lack this type of training, we don’t want to lose sight of the need to preserve and strengthen the system of Registered Apprenticeship. Registered Apprenticeship, at its heart, is a structured on-the-job learning experience that combines the best of “earn and learn” training with high quality, classroom-based supplemental instruction. These programs must “register” their training standards, curricula and instructor qualifications with the US DOL or appropriate state apprenticeship agency, thus providing third party certification of program quality, breadth and depth, and expected outcomes. For over 100 years, Registered Apprenticeship has proven to be a reliable pathway to the middle class, complete with benefits and pensions, for Building Trades members.
Among construction apprentices in the U.S. today, 75 percent are trained in the joint apprentice training committee (JATC) system, which the Building Trades operate in cooperation with their contractor partners. We know from over 100 years of experience that robust, labor-management commitment to and investment in craft training ensures the necessary and portable skills for workers to meet specific demands of employers and entire industries. Coupled with increased investments in infrastructure, Registered Apprenticeship can unleash broad, sustainable growth throughout the country, while also allowing for career pathways for under-served communities including communities of color, women, returning citizens and transitioning veterans
In the Building Trades, these apprenticeship career pathways have been fully developed through articulation agreements and other relationships with U.S. colleges and universities. All Building Trades apprenticeship programs, for example, have been assessed for higher education credit. In fact, NABTU considers apprenticeship training ‘the other four-year degree.’ If the Building Trades training system, which includes both apprentice-level and journeyman-level training, was a degree granting college or university, it would be the largest degree granting college or university in the United States — over 5 times larger than Arizona State University. In fact, NABTU’s training infrastructure is rivaled only by the U.S. military in terms of the quality and depth of skills training.
US Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta framed this issue correctly when he observed, “if you look into the Building Trades, there’s almost a billion [dollars] that’s spent every year [on training], and that’s all private sector money. The Building Trades have put together labor-management organizations that jointly invest in these [registered] apprenticeship programs because they know both on the labor side and the management side that a skilled workforce is critical to the Building Trades. And that’s how it’s worked for a number of years.”
With over 1,650 training centers throughout the United States and 20,000 experienced and highly trained instructors, NABTU and its contractor partners will continue to promote our successful model and remain key stakeholders in this process initiated by the Administration to increase access to robust apprenticeship programs in other industries. We know from experience that Registered Apprenticeship can achieve the desired effects of both meeting the workforce needs of employers and industries, while also ensuring stable and prosperous middle-class careers for American workers.

Top Ten Things to Watch for in 2018

Top Ten Things to Watch for in 2018

Since taking office in 2017, Trump and his administration have systematically dismantled protections for worker across the country. In this issue of the Label Letter, we have compiled ten things to watch for in 2018, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

NLRB Reorganization, Redirections Favor Businesses Over Unions

According to a recent New York Times article, the Trump Administration is attempting to demote senior civil servants whose decisions at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) have favored unions and is proposing to reorganize regional offices so that a smaller number of senior officials would oversee the day-to-day workings of the agency. The agency is also directing its regional directors to submit significant cases to General Counsel Peter Robb for advice.

During a January 11 conference call, Robb said he wants to reorganize the agency’s 26 regional offices into a smaller number of districts or regions, run by officials who report directly to the General Counsel, Bloomberg Law reported.

Regional directors and staff typically resolve more than 85 percent of the roughly 20,000 cases filed with the agency each year over disputed labor practices without involving the general counsel, the agency’s top enforcement official.

In addition to the reorganization proposal, a memo from Robb issued in December instructed the Board’s regional directors and other officers to submit cases involving “significant legal issues”—including cases that were decided during “the last eight years that overruled precedent”—to be submitted to the Board’s General Counsel for advice.

The memo stated that the Agency would no longer pursue a campaign against employers who improperly classify workers as contractors, for example, and called out several previous board decisions, noting that the General Counsel “might want to provide the Board with an alternative analysis,” including:

  • Purple Communications, 363 NLRB No. 162 (2016), in which the Board held that employees have a presumptive right to use their employer’s email system to engage in activities protected by Section 7 of the NLRA, including union organizing.
  • Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc., 362 NLRB No. 186 (2015), in which the Board found that mere potential control over the working conditions of another employer’s employees was sufficient to find a joint employer relationship.
  • A series of decisions that expanded the range of union representatives in Weingarten interviews, such as Fry’s Foods Stores, 361 NLRB No. 140 (2015). Prior to Fry’s Food Stores, it was well-settled that an employee represented by a union is entitled, upon request, to union representation at an investigatory meeting in which the employee has reasonable grounds to fear that the meeting will result in disciplinary action. NLRB v. J. Weingarten, Inc., 420 U.S. 251 (1975). Fry’s Foods, however, expanded upon Weingarten by holding that an employee also has the right to consult with a union representative before the employer interviewed the employee about the misconduct, even without the employee requesting such a meeting.
  • A series of decisions that found common employer handbook rules to be unlawful, such as Casino San Pablo, 361 NLRB No. 148 (2014) (finding that a rule prohibiting “insubordination or other disrespectful conduct” to violate the National Labor Relations Act because the rule might be deemed as “encompassing any form of Section 7 activity that might be deemed insufficiently deferential to a person in authority”).

While some are claiming that reorganization is budget-related, Robb was said to have told the directors that the changes were independent of budget considerations. No matter the reasons, the memo and conference call both leave little doubt that the structure of the Agency will certainly favor businesses and that changes will rollback many, if not all, of the union-friendly decisions issued in recent years by a Democratic-majority Board.

Missouri Right-to-Work Law Heading for Ballot in 2018

Missouri residents will get to vote on whether Missouri will become the 28th right-to-work state in the U.S. The legislation was introduced and passed during the 2016 legislative session, but labor fought back, and in a stunning turn of events, collected more than 300,000 signatures forcing a public vote. The vote, known as a ballot referendum, is scheduled for the November 6, 2018, election. However, Republican lawmakers could try to move the vote to April, when turnout to the polls is much lighter.

In 1978, Missourians rejected a ballot proposal to implement right-to-work in the state with 60 percent of voters casting a no vote.

“Hundreds of thousands of Missourians signed the petition this year to put this harmful legislation on the ballot,” said Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO. “While we only needed 107,510 signatures in six of the eight congressional districts to qualify for the ballot, hardworking Missourians submitted an unprecedented 310,567 signatures, nearly three times the amount required, including signatures from all 114 Missouri counties, with enough to qualify ALL eight congressional districts.”

The GOP-controlled Missouri Legislature rushed the legislation through early in 2016 and Republican Gov. Eric Greitens, who campaigned on the anti-worker measure, signed it.

Janus v. AFSCME Decision Could Wound Public Sector Unions

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the Janus v. AFSCME case in early spring, and the ruling is expected to go against public sector unions.

The case is basically a repeat of the Friedrichs v. CTA case argued last year in the Supreme Court that ended in a 4-4 deadlock after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. In both cases, the anti-union side argued that interactions between public sector unions and government employers are inherently political, therefore, fair share agency fees that reimburse the union for the expenses of representation and bargaining were forced political speech, violating employees’ purported First Amendment rights.

The Janus case was brought against AFSCME by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, in the name of a state employee, Mark Janus, who says he does not want to pay a “fair share” representation fee to the union.

The Janus decision is expected to overturn a 40-year old ruling in Abood v. Detroit, which held that employees were required to pay for the cost of fair representation since unions are required by law to represent all employees in a bargaining unit.

The four largest public-sector unions – the National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, Service Employees International Union and AFSCME – are joined in opposition, saying the case is a political attempt to rig the nation’s economic rules against working people by depriving the unions of adequate funding.

“These powerful interests want to gut one of the last remaining checks on their control—a strong and united labor movement that fights for equity and opportunity for all, not just the privileged few. And under the guise of the First Amendment, they want to overturn a 40-year precedent that’s been reaffirmed numerous times. In other words, this would be a radical departure from well-established law. We believe that after resolving a similar case last year, the Supreme Court erred in granting cert in Janus, and that the trumped-up underpinnings of the plaintiff’s argument will rapidly become clear before the full bench,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.

If the decision goes as expected, all public employee unions would become right-to-work and employees would be allowed to opt out of paying fair share representation fees.

Pickpocketing Tipped Workers

A proposed rule from the Department of Labor could soon require that tipped workers share tips with their coworkers, and even their managers. The proposed rule has sparked concerns that restaurant owners, along with owners of other workplaces whose workers rely on tips, like nail and hair salons, would use the rule to pocket tips and to lower wages throughout their businesses. According to Economic Policy Institute estimates, if this rule takes effect, employers could “pocket $5.8 billion in tips earned by tipped workers each year.”

The DOL has argued that managers would be dissuaded from stealing tips, out of fear of employee turnover and decreased morale. Despite those claims from the DOL, the National Restaurant Association, and other restaurant-owner advocacy groups that employers would not steal tips if the rule takes effect, current estimates is that many employers already do. According to a study by EPI, research on workers in three large U.S. cities (Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York) found that 12 percent of tipped workers had tips stolen by their employer or supervisor.

“Crucially, the rule doesn’t actually require that employers distribute pooled tips to workers,” said Heidi Shierholz, EPI senior economist, in a statement.

The Department of Labor says that it couldn’t estimate the tip pooling rule’s full effect on employees, but a Bloomberg article revealed that the agency did conduct an analysis that showed that the law would be horrible for low wage workers who rely on tips. The DOL then dropped the analysis.

“Senior department political officials—faced with a government analysis showing that workers could lose billions of dollars in tips as a result of the proposal—ordered staff to revise the data methodology to lessen the expected impact, several of the sources said,” said the Bloomberg article.

Federal law currently bans companies from forcing workers to divide tips with other employees if the tipped workers don’t receive base pay of at least the minimum wage. The Obama administration expanded this protection in 2011 to cover all tipped workers — a move that was challenged in federal court.

A public comment period on the proposed rule ended on Feb. 5.

Purple Communications Decision Headed to Court Appealing Rule on Employee Email Usage

On Dec. 19, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to affirm its ruling in the controversial Purple Communications decision. Purple Communications was a 2014 decision that allowed for employee use of company email for non-work purposes during non-work times.

Purple Communications, a video provider for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, appealed a 2014 NLRB ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, that ruled that employees were allowed to send messages about union organizing over their work email. The NLRB’s 2014 ruling held that employees who already have access to their employer’s email system are permitted to use the email system for protected union-related activities because email is the premier platform for “worker speech” in the modern workplace.

In the 2014 decision, the NLRB also ruled that employers may institute a complete ban on non-work email use only if the employer can justify the ban by identifying “special circumstances” that make the prohibition necessary. This ruling overturned a 2007 NLRB judgement that held employees had no right to use employer email for union activity.

In its appeal, Purple argues that the NLRB’s 2014 ruling unfairly restricts employers’ rights to control their own computer systems and that allowing these emails, similar to physical union literature, could clutter workers’ inboxes which would interfere with productivity. Purple also argues the NLRB’s ruling violates the company’s First Amendment rights by letting employees distribute messages through their employer-provided email that Purple (and other employers) do not necessarily endorse.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) filed a brief on Jan. 19 urging the court to back the NLRB’s ruling and allow companies to permit workers to use employer email servers for non-work-related purposes.
Even if the court upholds the agency’s ruling, a victory may be short lived because the NLRB’s new general counsel, Peter Robb, issued a memo late last year indicating his office may be seeking to have the board overturn the decision.

Look for a ruling later this year.

Minimum Wage Rising

Eighteen states in the U.S. are raising their minimum wages in 2018.

Despite efforts over the last eight years, the federal minimum wage has remained at just $7.25 per hour, prompting more states and localities to raise wages locally. Some of the raises can be attributed to legislative votes, while others come from ballot referenda.

In some cases, the raises are tied to inflation, so the bumps will continue as the cost of living increases. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that the raises will impact 4.5 million workers.

Here are the states with new minimum wages, according to EPI:
  • Alaska: $9.84, $.04 increase
  • Arizona: $10.50, $.50 increase
  • California: $11.00, $.50 increase
  • Colorado: $10.20, $.90 increase
  • Florida: $8.25, $.15 increase
  • Hawaii: $10.10, $.85 increase
  • Maine: $10.00, $1.00 increase
  • Michigan: $9.25, $.35 increase
  • Minnesota: $9.65, $.15 increase
  • Missouri: $7.85, $.15 increase
  • Montana: $8.30, $.15 increase
  • New Jersey: $8.60, $.16 increase
  • New York: $10.40, $.70 increase
  • Ohio: $8.30, $.15 increase
  • Rhode Island: $10.10, $.50 increase
  • South Dakota: $8.85, $.20 increase
  • Vermont: $10.50, $.50 increase
  • Washington: $11.50, $.50 increase

At this point, there are 29 states that have implemented a higher minimum wage than the federal minimum. In addition, cities and counties have raised their minimum wages beyond the state and federal levels. In some cases, the hikes have gone as high as $15 per hour – the stated goal of the Fight for $15 campaign, the union-backed movement that began with striking fast-food workers in 2012 but soon spread to other low-wage industries.

Studies have shown that minimum wage increases have bi-partisan support, but despite that support, federal lawmakers have failed to pass an increase since 2009. Labor unions and low-wage workers have succeeded in getting raises passed on the state and local levels as the federal rate remains unchanged.

Preemption Laws & Local Minimum Wages

State lawmakers and governors are making efforts to beat back minimum wage hikes by creating laws that preempt minimum wage increases passed by localities. While advocates of preemption often claim that their main concern is to avoid a hodgepodge of wage levels within a state, these bills have been pushed by corporate special interest groups and passed by pro-business state legislatures.

Taking away local control over wages has become a major priority of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-backed group with extensive lobbying resources and influence in state legislatures. The Koch brothers are major funders of ALEC’s efforts. And their efforts have been successful in half of the country.

As of mid-2017, 25 states have passed laws that preempt cities from passing their own local minimum wage laws. Republicans in Missouri passed a preemption law in 2017 to retroactively kill a minimum wage hike enacted by city leaders in St. Louis. Under the new law, no locality could have a wage floor higher than the one mandated by the state. As HuffPost reported in July, the new law had the effect of reversing St. Louis’ minimum wage, taking it from $10 to the current state level of $7.70.

Labor Candidates Running for Office

The AFL-CIO has established a new political campaign division in its headquarters that will focus on getting labor-friendly candidates elected in the 2018 mid-term elections. The office is called the “Mobilization Hub” and will be led by Julie Greene, a former deputy political director for the labor federation and a former staffer for the Democratic National Committee.

Republican or Democrat, candidates whose views align with union priorities can get help with campaigns from the Hub, said Greene.

During the AFL-CIO 2017 Convention, the Labor Federation adopted a resolution “Encouraging Union Members to Run for Public Office” that pledges to adopt labor candidate programs in every state and local labor body in the country. The Hub is one step to achieving that goal.

A number of state and local labor councils have labor candidate programs in place and quite a few more are developing the programs for the 2018 elections.

Women Rising in Union Leadership

Women already make up nearly half of union membership, and the Center for Economic Policy Research estimates they will comprise the majority by 2023. But only about 20 percent of the AFL-CIO’s executive council are women. In other unions, however, the numbers are more promising. UNITE-HERE’s leaders are 60 percent female and SEIU’s leadership is half female.

According to one report on women in union leadership, there are obstacles that often make it difficult for women to aspire to union leadership. The study identified six barriers that women face: women experience difficulty making time for the demands of union leadership, especially because of family obligations; women and people of color have a fear of retribution by employers; too few women are serving as union leaders; women express discomfort with public authority based on a belief that this is not a female role; women are not aware of how union leadership may benefit their lives as workers; and unions are not prioritizing the concerns of women.

The report also identified seven strategies for promoting women’s leadership within unions. Unions can highlight the importance of women’s contributions; provide trainings on effective ways to mobilize women; encourage and support more women in leadership positions both nationally and locally; create and strengthen mentoring programs for women; provide dedicated space for women to voice their concerns; address women’s priorities by using imagery and language that reflects their experiences; and provide flexible options for involvement by finding creative times and places to meet and providing supports such as childcare.

The #MeToo movment has brought sexual harassment to light in all facets of the work world and has empowered women to speak out. Because of this, many women leaders are emerging. Female union organizers are openly embracing the #MeToo movement, using political action and organizing to promote unions as protectors of women in the workplace. Employers can also expect to see unions increasingly target companies with high-profile sexual-harassment or gender-discrimination claims, including employers facing collective actions.

For example, in a recent article entitled “What #MeToo Can Teach the Labor Movement,” union organizer Jane McAlevey called on women to embrace the idea of a female-led labor movement focused on obtaining free childcare, schedule control, and family leave, including in areas such as education and healthcare where women employees comprise the majority.

“The union movement must step in now and connect the dots to real solutions, such as income supports like universal high-quality childcare, free healthcare, free university and paid maternity and paternity leave. We need social policies that allow women to be meaningful participants in the labor force—more of a norm in Western Europe where unionization rates are high,” wrote McAlevey.

McAlevey points out that the #MeToo movement’s success should prove that women can and should lead a powerful labor movement and that labor’s resurgence should embrace women as leaders and fighters.

Trump Rollback of Worker Protections

By Deborah Berkowitz, Senior Fellow, National Employment Law Project
In his first year in office, President Trump repeatedly broke his promise to put workers first, siding with wealthy corporations over working families at virtually every turn. The president and his administration, with assistance from the GOP-led Congress, launched initiatives that repealed and rolled back on-the-job protections that keep our nation’s workforce safe. All told, the Administration is further rigging a system against workers and is all too willing to sacrifice workers’ health to protect corporate ledgers.

Instead of fighting for working families and safe jobs, the actions of the Trump Administration were a punch in the gut to workers and their communities. In just the first year, the Trump Administration:

  • Repealed the government’s ability to enforce rules requiring accurate injury records in dangerous industries.
  • Repealed the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces requirements that would assure that large Federal Contractors follow safety and labor laws.
  • At the behest of corporate special interests, OSHA issued a proposed rule to weaken health protections for workers in construction and shipyards exposed to the highly toxic chemical beryllium.
  • Delayed implementation of life safety OSHA rules on silica exposure and the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s examination rule for metal and nonmetal mines. They also proposed weakening the MSHA rule.
  • Proposed an increase in line speeds in hog slaughter plants that would dramatically increase worker safety risks in one of the most dangerous industries sin the country.
  • Announced his intention to weaken pesticide protections for farmworkers, including repealing regulations that prohibited minors from applying the most toxic pesticides, and weakening protections for all farmworkers in the field from pesticide exposure.
  • Withdrew a policy by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to designate walkaround representatives to participate in OSHA inspections in non-union workplaces.
  • Failed to replace over 40 vacancies of OSHA inspectors—thereby significantly reducing the ability of OSHA to protect workers. It would take OSHA over 150 years to visit every workplace just once.