Labor Leaders urge members to support May Day actions

Leaders of four large US labor unions urged their members to support the May 1 “Day Without Immigrants” actions taking place in cities and towns across the US.

On May Day immigrants will be participating in strikes, boycotts, and marches to protest the anti-immigrant policies of the Trump administration.

RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, Chris Shelton, president of the Communication Workers of America, Larry Hanley, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, and Peter Knowlton, general president of United Electrical Workers, all signed a statement urging members and local leaders to support the May Day actions.

“We will march and stand with our sister and brother immigrant workers against the terror tactics of the Trump administration,” reads a statement issued by the four labor leaders. “. . . We urge our organizations’ leaders and members to participate in whatever way we can.”

The statement issued by the four union leaders says that immigrants, both those with and without residency documents,” lead hard working and productive lives” and that many are also union members.

These workers have been a target of President Trump since he began his campaign for President in 2015.

Trump, according to the four union leaders, has tried to cast immigrants as rapists and murderers to justify his vilification of them.

This kind of race baiting and immigrant bashing have a long history in the US and are part of “a consistent attempt by business elites to divide working class people in order to advance their pro-corporate agenda.”

“We refuse to go down that road of hatred, resentment, and divisiveness,” reads the statement. “We will march and stand with our sister and brother immigrant workers against the terror tactics of the Trump administration.”

DeMoro, Shelton, Hanley, and Knowlton lead unions that are part of a new Labor for Our Revolution network.

Our Revolution is the grassroots organization that grew out of Sen. Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.

More than 1000 local union leaders and members, who are part of the Labor for Our Revolution network, have signed a statement saying that they will support local “Day Without Immigrants” actions.

“It’s gratifying to see that so many members understand the importance of taking a stand with immigrant workers,” said Larry Cohen, Our Revolution board chair and former president of the Communication Workers of America. “It doesn’t matter whether you were born in the US or arrived as an immigrant, May 1 is a time for all workers to come together and fight for our jobs and our living standards.”

Bloomingdale’s union workers bargain for online commissions

Bloomingdale’s, an upscale nationwide department store, and its New York City employees are negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement.

The negotiations are taking place at a time when customer shopping habits are shifting. More of Bloomingdale’s customers are making their purchases online.

But this trend hasn’t made the employees in the store superfluous. They still play an important role in the success of Bloomingdale’s.

“It’s unionized workers at the Bloomingdale’s flagship store who deliver the top-notch service and create the shopping experience so many customers have come to expect and love,” said said Cassandra Berrocal, president of Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) Local 3, the New City Bloomingdale’s workers’ union. “These workers deserve a fair new contract that values their enormous contributions to the financial health and growth of Bloomingdale’s.”

The union wants Bloomingdale’s to recognize the important role that its workers are playing by paying them commissions on online sales.

Customers will often come into stores to gather information about purchases and then finalize their purchases at home online, in some cases, to take advantage on online discounts.

“(Union sales clerks) will help them for hours, and then they go home and buy (online),” said Chelsea Connor, director of communications and media for RWDSU to CBS MoneyWatch. “(Clerks) are spending a lot of time on the phone and on the floor, and not making what we used to make.”

Some sales clerks have seen their commission income drop by as much as 20 percent because of increased online purchases.

In many cases, those online purchases are the result of hard work that sales clerks put in answering customer questions and helping them gather information about their purchases.

“People will come in and take an hour or more of our time looking at furniture, and then they’ll say ‘Can I buy this online?'” said a Bloomingdale’s furniture department employee who preferred not to give her name to Racked, an online media site that covers style and fashion.

 

It’s not just the sales clerks who make Bloomingdale’s continue to be profitable while other retail stores are struggling.

Local 3 members include shelf stockers and clerical workers as well as retail clerks.

These workers also want their contributions to Bloomingdale’s success recognized.

But Bloomingdale’s came to the bargaining table demanding a slew of concessions.

The company wants to eliminate workers’ pensions, make them pay more for health care coverage, take away scheduling protections, eliminate seniority rights, and take away compensatory days for working on holidays.

The union is resisting these takeaways and fighting for a fair pay increase for all workers.

Negotiations at Bloomingdale’s are coming a time when the retail sales industry is facing uncertain times.

The rise of online sales and other changes to customers shopping habits are affecting sales.

Because of the changes facing the retail sales industry, Macy’s, the owner of Bloomingdale’s, last year announced that it would be closing 68 Macy’s stores and eliminating 10,000 jobs.

Macy’s has been joined by other retailers. Sears, K-Mart, JC Penney, Abercrombie & Fitch, Payless Shoes, Radio Shack, and Staples among others have all announced significant store closings and layoffs.

But Bloomingdale’s has defied this trend.

Instead of closing stores, Bloomingdale has been opening new stores. The number of Bloomingdale’s stores, including outlet stores, increased from 50 in 2014 to 55 in 2016, and the company plans to open more new stores.

Stuart Appelbaum, president of RWDSU, said that instead of seeking concessions, Bloomingdale’s should be rewarding its workers for the company’s success.

“Bloomingdale’s should recognize that these incredible workers make the flagship store a highly profitable global showroom for customers from many countries,” said Appelbaum. “These dedicated employees generate millions in sales for Bloomingdale’s, including from the company’s website. They deserve a fair contract that offers commissions for online sales and returned items, along with good wages, benefits, and scheduling protections.”

Local 3’s current collective bargaining agreement with Bloomingdale’s expires on May 1.

In a message to members, the union ne said that progress had been made during the negotiations but “many very difficult issues remain to be resolved.”

Earlier in the month, the union told members to be prepared to start picketing the store if an agreement could not be reached by May 1.

Researchers link meeting corporate earnings goals to worker injuries

A recently published research paper finds that corporate managers will sacrifice workers’ safety in order to meet investor earnings expectations.

The paper authored by Judson Caskey, an associate professor of accounting at UCLA, and N. Bugra Ozel, an assistant professor of accounting at the University of Texas at Dallas, was published in the February issue of the Journal of Accounting and Economics.

Caskey and Ozel, find strong evidence showing that when corporations are in danger of not meeting earnings expectation benchmarks set for them by Wall Street, corporate managers will try to lower costs by increasing employees’ workload and cutting back on safety-related expenditures.

Doing so increases the number of job related injuries or illnesses by between 10 percent and 15 percent.

Earnings benchmarks are set by Wall Street analysts to help investors determine whether to buy or sell stock in companies.

“We know that firms try to meet earnings benchmarks because the benchmarks have implications for the firms,” said Ozel. “If firms do not meet these benchmarks, then investors punish them, and stock prices go down significantly after a miss of earnings expectations. That gives managers incentive to use the tools they have to ensure they are going to perform at least to the expectations.”

Among the tools that management uses “to ensure that they are going perform at least to the expectation” is their ability to control expenditures.

One way to control expenditures is to reduce spending on equipment maintenance, safety training, and other safety measures, all of which can lead to more on-the-job injuries

Another way is to increase workers’ workload, which lowers labor costs by squeezing more production out of workers.

Making employees work harder can lead to more work injuries, write Caskey and Ozel because as workers are forced to work harder they can “compromise their safety by overextending themselves or by circumventing safety procedures that slow the flow of work.”

“Taken together, the evidence suggests that both pressure to increase worker productivity and cuts to safety-related expenditures contribute to the relation between benchmark beating and workplace safety, said Ozel”

According to the paper, work injuries are 10 percent to 15 percent higher for corporations in danger of not meeting their earnings benchmark compared to those that exceed benchmarks by a comfortable margin.

Caskey and Ozel arrived at their conclusions after studying years of corporate safety data reported to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and corporate financial reports.

“There’s clearly an economic trade off,” said Ozel in describing the results of their research. “Managers are there to think about the best interests of their investors, and they have to make a decision of what would be in the best interests of the investors, and sometimes, they might decide to risk injuries.”

The authors also find that there are some exceptions to their overall findings.

The biggest exception is in companies where workers belong to unions. These companies, according to Caskey and Ozel, are less likely to put their workers at risk of injury in order to meet earnings benchmarks.

“This is consistent with unions’ aim to ensure reasonable workloads, work speed, and safety” write Caskey and Ozel. “It is also consistent with the findings in the literature that, compared to non-union workers, union workers are less likely to perceive that taking risks is a part of their job, and unionization leads to fewer workplace injuries.”

“Our evidence suggests that unions mitigate the extent to which pressure to meet earnings expectations translates into reduced safety”, continue the authors.”

Other factors that make it less likely that corporations will reduce worker safety in order to meet earnings benchmark are the strength of a state’s workers’ compensation system and the extent to which a company relies on government contracts for its earnings.

Companies that rely heavily on government contracts are less likely to cut worker safety measures because “government contracts typically include terms that prohibit bids from firms deemed to have unsafe work environments.”

We tend to think of corporate managers as rational players for whom “performance is important” but not so important that they will “sacrifice people’s health for this purpose,” said Ozel. “And (yet in our research) we find quite a significant result — a 10 to 15 percent increase in employee injuries.”

Time running out for Congress to keep promise made to miners

Time is running out for Congress to act on legislation that will preserve health care benefits for 22,000 retired coal miners and protect pensions for tens of thousands of active and retired miners.

In March some retired coal miners received letters notifying them that their current health care insurance will be terminated at the end of April.

These miners retired from mines owned by companies that filed bankruptcy between 2012 and 2015.

Their health care insurance is presently paid for by the United Mine Workers of America’s Multiemployer Health Care Fund, but because of a spate of bankruptcies in the coal mining industry and the general decline of the industry, the money to pay for the health care benefit is about to run out.

Congress is currently considering passage of the Miners’ Protection Act, which would provide a mechanism for funding the retirees’ health benefit and shore up their under funded pension.

But action must be taken on the bill in the next week or thousands of retired miners will be left without health care insurance.

Retired members of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) have been traveling from West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Ohio to Washington DC urging lawmakers to pass the Miners Protection Act (S 175 in the Senate and HR 179 in the House).

The Miners’ Protection Act would transfer interest accumulating in the Abandoned Mine Rehabilitation Fund to the UMWA Multiemployer Health Benefit Fund.

That money would be used to shore up the under funded health benefit plan and ensure continuing health care coverage for retirees who worked for Patriot Coal, Walter Energy, and Alpha Natural Resources, all of which declared bankruptcy between 2012 and 2015.

The Miners’ Protection Act also would provide funds to protect the pensions of active and retired coal miners.

When the retired coal miners went to Washington DC, they urged lawmakers to keep a promise that the US government made 70 years ago.

In 1946, 350,000 bituminous coal miners went on strike. At the time, coal was a key resource for the nation’s economy, which was in the midst of changing from a war economy to a peace economy.

When the miners and coal companies couldn’t reach an agreement to settle the strike, President Truman seized the mines putting the government in control of the mines and forcing miners back to work.

In order to return the mines back to the coal companies, the government needed the UMWA to accept a new collective bargaining agreement.

To win the union’s acceptance, the government promised to guarantee that miners would have health care and retirement benefits for life.

Knowing that coal mining was a dangerous occupation and that health problems were a constant companion of both active and retired miners, the union agreed to the deal.

Since then there have been several instances when the miners’ lifetime health care and pension benefits have been in jeopardy.

Until now, the government has always kept its promise, but things have changed, and the current leadership of Congress has been reluctant to keep the promise.

The Miners’ Protection Act appeared to have enough votes to pass in 2016, but Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority leader, wouldn’t allow a vote on the bill.

Instead, Congress extended temporary funding that kept the retired miners’ health care plan solvent until April 30, 2017 and did nothing to protect the miners’ pension plan.

Donnie Smith, a female African-American retired miner, had a message for members of Congress as they consider whether to support the Miners’ Protection Act.

“They need to put themselves in our shoes,” said Smith. “Just walk around in our shoes for a while. Go underground and see what we went through and see if, you know, taking our benefits away from us is worth it.”

Facebook tells workers that they can join May Day actions; Is Google next?

On May 1, the International Workers’ Day, dozens of local May Day demonstrations will take place in the US to protest President Trump’s anti-immigrant and anti-worker policies.

Facebook on April 18 notified its employees that it will not punish any employee who misses work to participate in a May Day demonstration.

The company also said that it will take steps to protect service workers employed by Facebook subcontractors should they choose to join the May Day demonstrations. These workers provide food, janitorial, security, and other services on Facebook campuses.

“We support our people in recognizing International Workers’ Day and other efforts to raise awareness for safe and equitable employment conditions,” reads the notice to Facebook employees.

The notification came after Silicon Valley Rising, a coalition of 40 labor, faith leaders, and community based organizations, sent letters to the 20 largest tech companies in Silicon Valley asking them to “honor the wishes of any workers who want to participate in (May Day) actions” by “not disciplin(ing) those workers who participate” and “(holding) their food service, janitorial, security, and other subcontractors to the same standard.”

Subcontractor workers in the tech industry are largely immigrants, people of color, and women.

Four days before Facebook made its announcement, delegations from immigrant rights, tech equity, and labor groups visited Google campuses across the country to deliver a similar letter.

Many of Google’s service workers have been directly affected by the administration’s anti-immigrant policies, and some want to join the May Day demonstrations to protest these policies.

“Since Trump was elected, it has felt like there is a non-stop attack on immigrants,” said Braulia Delgado, a Google janitor for 13 years to BuzzFeed News. “As an immigrant worker I am staying home from work on May 1st and encouraging other workers to stay home and march with us because we contribute a lot to this industry and this country and we belong here. Google and other tech companies have already taken a stand against the Trump administration’s policies, now it’s time for them to stand with us.”

But there is fear that some employers may retaliate if these workers do join the demonstrations.

The delegation wanted assurances from Google that its service workers would receive the same protections that its tech workers have received.

In January, thousands of Google tech workers walked off the job to protest President Trump’s Muslim travel ban.

In March, Google employees took off work to join A Day Without Women demonstrations.

In both instances, Google supported its employees right to protest.

“Google and its employees have stood up to intolerance, as evidenced by their strong stance against the first travel ban,” said Derecka Mehrens, co-founder of Silicon Valley Rising. “Now is the time for Google to continue to be an industry leader by ensuring that all workers in its offices — both direct and subcontracted employees — have the opportunity to participate in these historic (May Day) actions without fear of retaliation.”

Facebook’s decision to stand with its workers puts more pressure on Google to take a public stand supporting its service workers as well as its tech workers should they decided to join the May Day demonstrations against President Trump’s anti-immigration policies.

But as of this writing, Google has not done so.

Silicon Valley Rising is asking people to support tech workers and tech service workers right to join the resistance by signing a petition addressed to Google.

Nurses oppose governor’s business decision to reduce public health services

Members of the Maine State Nurses Association/National Nurses United (MSNA/NNU) urged state lawmakers to pass a bill that would restore an important public health service that Maine’s governor has allowed to atrophy.

The bill LD 1108 would require the state’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention(CDCP) to hire more public health nurses.

CDCP acting on behalf of Gov. Paul LePage, who came to office in 2011 boasting that he would run state government like a business, has refused to fill vacant public health nurse positions.

As a result, the number of public health nurses has dropped from 50 to 23 leaving the nurses still on the job overwhelmed and putting the health of the public at risk.

Public health nurses in Maine play an important role in preventing disease and other health problems that if left unchecked could cause major public health problems.

LD 1108 would set a minimum staffing level for public health nurses at 50 and establish a deadline for the agency to meet the minimum staffing levels.

“Gov. LePage’s destruction of public health needs has caused suffering among patients in this state. Public health services need to be restored,” said Cokie Giles, president of MSNA/NNU on the eve of an April 13 legislative hearing on the bill. “LD 1108 is emergency legislation that must urgently be passed.”

Maine’s corps of public health nurses was created in the 1920s primarily to improve the health of expectant mothers and to reduce infant mortality.

Since then, their duties have been expanded to include overseeing vaccination programs, in-person monitoring of people with deadly infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, home visits to elderly people well enough to stay out of nursing homes but still medically fragile, and organizing responses to epidemics like the 2009 outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus.

Apparently the governor doesn’t think that it’s a good business decision to hire enough public health nurses to provide these vital public health services.

According to the Bangor Daily News, the LePage administration has “decimated” the state’s public health nurses’ program “by leaving more than half of its budgeted positions unfilled,”

Prior to LePage taking office, one of the most important services provided by public health nurses were their home visits to new mothers and their newborns.

According to the Daily News,

Decades of research have shown that sending a nurse into a new parent’s home, both prenatally and postpartum, is associated with a range of positive outcomes, from reduced likelihood of preterm births, infant deaths and child abuse, to improved language development and school readiness for the child and improved health for the mother.

But the LePage administration has greatly reduced public health nurse home visits to prenatal and postpartum women.

Much of this work has been farmed out to non-medical personnel who are not trained or licensed to deliver health services to new parents and their babies.

At the same time that public health nurses are paying fewer home visits to expecting and postpartum women, Maine is experiencing an alarming opioid abuse crisis, which affects the health of newborns.

According to the Daily News, “1000 babies born in Maine each year are exposed to drugs in utero and need medical follow-up.”

Disturbingly as the rise in opioid abuse has increased, so has Maine’s infant mortality rate.

In 1996, Maine had the lowest infant mortality rate in the US, but by 2014 it had dropped to 37th. While the infant mortality rate in other states has been improving, it is getting worse in Maine.

Despite Maine’s public health crisis of rising opioid abuse and increased infant mortality, Gov. LePage thinks that it makes good business sense to seek more cuts to public health nurse staffing.

His proposed budget for the next two years eliminates eight public health nurse positions and three management and support staff positions.

But some Maine lawmakers want to reverse Gov. LePage’s cuts and are supporting LD 1108.

State Senator Brownie Carson, a Democrat has sponsored LD 1108, and the bill has nine co-sponsors, seven of whom are Republicans.

“Six years ago, we had 59 public health nurses, including field nurses, managers and planners in 13 offices across the state who were looking after all of Maine’s people. Now, although the numbers are hard to get, we think we have between 20 and 23,” said Sen. Carson at a media conference.

In testimony during a senate committee hearing, Sen. Carson said that the state’s public health nurse program has been “hollowed out.”

“We must right this ship,” said Sen. Carson.

OSHA delays another worker safety standard

For the second time this year, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has postponed implementation of worker safety standards that would protect the lives of hundreds of workers.

OSHA on April 6 announced that it was delaying implementation of new safety standards limiting worker exposure to crystalline silica, a fine dust that can cause silicosis, a debilitating and sometimes fatal lung disease, lung cancer, and kidney disease.

Silica dust, which is created during the use of power tools such as saws, grinders, drill, and jackhammers, is common at construction sites, foundries, and fracking wells.

The new exposure limits, which would only affect the construction industry, were set to go into effect in June, but implementation was postponed until September.

In March, lobbyist from several construction industry trade groups urged OSHA to postpone implementation for one year.

In February, OSHA postponed new safety standards for working with beryllium from March until May.

Beryllium is a lightweight metal used in the manufacture of electronic devices, aircrafts, and missiles.

When beryllium is machined, dust from the machining can be inhaled and cause a chronic lung disease.

OSHA’s decision to delay implementation of the silica safety standards was criticized by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (NCOSH), a coalition of local and state occupational safety groups.

“The federal safety standard limiting worker exposure to silica dust has been decades in the making,” said Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of NCOSH. “It is backed by solid scientific evidence and the experience of workers who have suffered cancer, silicosis and other life-threatening diseases. There is no reason for delaying this rule, which will save more 600 lives each year.”

The dangers of silica have been known since the 1930s. The government first enacted silica safety standards in 1971, but those standards proved to be inadequate.

After extensive research, OSHA proposed new silica safety standards in 2011. After years of further research and public input, OSHA the new safety standards were finalized in May 2016.

There are actually two safety standards: one for the construction industry, the other for general industry and maritime services.

The safety standards for the construction industry were to be implemented on June 23, 2017. The other standards were to be implemented a year later.

At the time that the safety standards were published, Tomas Perez, the then secretary of the US Labor Department said that the new standards would save the lives of 600 workers a year and prevent 900 new cases of silicosis.

Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, co-executive director of NCOSH said that the delay in implementing the new safety standards imposes an unwarranted risk to the health and safety of construction workers.

“With construction season underway, three months of delay means that millions of workers will be exposed to hazardous silica dust that will make them sick and take their lives,” said Goldstein-Gelb.

According to OSHA, 2 million construction workers at more than 600,000 construction work sites are exposed to silica dusts.

Of those exposed, 840,000 are exposed to silica levels higher than those of the new safety standards.

Goldstein-Gelb said that steps that companies can take to comply with the new safety standards would be minimal.

“Tools to wet down silica dust and vacuum it up are practical, affordable, and readily available,” said Goldstein-Gelb. “The new standard was announced more than a year ago and employers are aware of their responsibilities to limit worker exposure. To protect workers, the time to act is now.”

T-Mobile’s company union ruled illegal

A National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) administrative judge on April 4 ruled that an organization of employees created by T-Mobile, the third largest wireless carrier in the US, is an “employer dominated” organization and is therefore illegal.

Employer dominated employee organizations are also known as company unions, which were outlawed by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in 1935.

T-Mobile created the organization called T-Voice in 2015 and described it as the voice of frontline workers.

Members of T-Mobile Workers United (TU) who are organizing a union independent of the company filed charges with the NLRB arguing that T-Voice was the voice of management not frontline workers.

Administrative Judge Sharon Levinson Steckler agreed and ordered T-Mobile to disband T-Voice.

“Whenever an employer unlawfully establishes and maintains a dominated labor organization, that organization must be disestablished (because) (t)he dominated labor organization cannot function as a bargaining representative of employees,” wrote Steckler in her decision.

TU is a national organization of T-Mobile workers organized by the Communication Workers of America (CWA).

Its headquarters are located in Wichita, Kansas and last year its members elected Chief Stewards to represent the interests of workers at seven T-Mobile call centers.

“If T-Mobile wants to address its workers’ concerns and ideas, (TU has) democratically elected representatives ready and willing to meet with management to discuss how we can improve our workplace,” said Angela Melvin, a TU executive board member and T-Mobile customer representative in Wichita.

 

During the time that it has been active, TU has won some important job improvements including paid paternity leave, protections against sexual harassment, and protections of employee free speech rights.

It is currently engaged in making T-Mobile’s employee metrics, the measures the company uses to judge employee performance, fairer and more consistent.

 

 

T-Mobile, owned by the German telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom, operates 17 US call centers, where customer service representatives handle inquiries and complaints.

T-Mobile also owns retail outlets, including those managed by MetroPCS, which was purchased by T-Mobile in 2013.

T-Mobile created T-Voice at a time when TU was scoring some victories and growing as an organization, whose ultimate goal is to be union representing T-Mobile’s customer service representatives, technicians, and sales associates.

T-Mobile said that it created T-Voice to address employee and customer problems, that the company refers to as “pain points.”

T-Mobile hand picked T-Voice representatives, provided company space for T-Voice meetings, and paid T-Voice representatives for T-Voice work.

Company managers also sat in on T-Voice meetings.

Despite T-Mobile’s assertion that T-Voice wasn’t a company union, it had all the trappings of one.

Company unions have their roots in a working class tragedy that took place at the turn of the twentieth century.

In 1913 miners at John D. Rockefeller’s Colorado Fuel and Iron mines in Ludlow, Colorado went on strike for better pay, better working conditions, and the recognition of their union.

The strike was long and bitter. The Colorado governor at the behest of Rockefeller called in the National Guard to break the strike.

On April 20, 1914, guardsmen using machine guns opened fire on an encampment where thousands of miners and their families lived during the strike.

The soldiers killed 14 miners, 11 of their children, and two women.

The Ludlow massacre at the time became infamous, and Rockefeller looked for other means besides brute force to keep miners from organizing their own unions.

His solution was to create a union affiliated with the company. He called his company’s union the Employees Representation Plan.

Other employers adopted Rockefeller’s soft strategy for deterring workers from organizing their own unions, and company unions began to proliferate.

While company unions gave the appearance of workers having a voice on the job, they had no power that could give them a real voice or to bargain effectively over wages and working conditions.

In 1935 while the US was in the midst of the Great Depression, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) was enacted.

The NLRA created labor standards that among other things prohibited company unions because they put the interests of the employers ahead of the interest of the workers who they were supposed to represent.

Judge Steckler ruled that T-Mobile had violated Section 8(a)(2) of the NLRA, and her ruling creates a path for T-Mobile workers to have an independent voice on the job.

TU wants to be that independent voice.

“We’re telling our co-workers: ‘Your voice matters’,” said Melvin. “Across the country, call center representatives, retail associates, and technicians are coming together to support one another and fight for fairness on the job.”

Fight Racism, Raise Wages

April 4 is an important date in history.

Fifty years ago on April 4, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave one of his most memorable sermons at the Riverside Church in New York City.

The sermon explained why he had decided to publicly oppose the Vietnam War, but it was much more than that and has subsequently been referred to as Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” sermon.

In his sermon, King said that the war was a symptom of more troubling problems facing the US and called for “a radical revolution of values” to overcome the “triplets of racism, militarism, and economic exploitation.”

A year later on April 4, 1968, King was murdered in Memphis where he was in town to support striking sanitation workers.

Forty-nine years later on April 4, 2017, local groups of the Black Lives Matter and Fight for $15 movements joined together to renew King’s call for a “radical revolution of values.”

They held rallies, marches, and teach-ins in two dozen US cities whose unifying theme was “Fight Racism, Raise Wages.”

“I just want you to know with the time we are living in now, with the level of poverty and the level of racism and the level of extremism, silence is not an option. We cannot be quiet and silent any more,” said Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP and leader of North Carolina’s Moral Monday movement at the Fight Racism, Raise Wages rally in Memphis.

On its “Beyond the Moment” web page, the Movement for Black Lives announced that the April 4, Fight Racism, Raise Wages actions were the beginning of a month-long campaign of “political education” and “bold actions” designed to lay the foundation for building “a Movement of the Majority,” described as

“Black and Brown people, immigrant communities,  the economically unstable, women, children, the disabled, the LGBTQ community, those working to protect our right to work, and those fighting for our right to clean air and water, (all of whom are) facing attacks because a minority whose values are rooted in white supremacy, division, and hatred have taken power.

Although in power, hate is not the majority.  People who believe in freedom, justice and the humanity of all people are the majority, and we’ve had enough. We won’t stand idly by and watch our communities be attacked and torn apart.

The center of the April 4 rallies and demonstrations was Memphis, where thousands of people marched behind a banner reading “Fight Racism, Raise Wages, Still Fighting for the Dream.”

They marched through downtown to the Lorraine Motel, where King was murdered 49 years ago.

One of those marching was Genevieve Sneed, a home care worker.

“Dr. King came to Memphis to march with Black sanitation workers fighting for better pay and union rights – a fight that we continue today,” said Sneed. “Black and Brown workers—especially women—have been held back by the forces of poverty wages and racism for far too long. After 30 years as a home care worker, I only make $9/hour. It’s time to break down the barriers to the economic and racial justice Dr. King fought for.”

“I have been a home care worker for more than 20 years, yet I only make $9.75 an hour,” said Sepia Coleman who was also at the march. “I do valuable work, yet my pay screams that I am not worthy of living wages for the valuable work I do. The low pay, lack of advancement opportunities, and disrespect I face, and so many persons of color face, says we don’t count. But we do count. That’s why I am committed to the fight to undo the pattern of racial and economic injustice that so many of us encounter.”

The Memphis marchers paused for a moment of silence at 6:01 P.M., the time that King was shot in 1968.

Similar demonstrations took place in cities all over the US.

In Charleston, South Carolina supporters of the Fight Racism, Raise Wages actions gathered at the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1422 union hall.

At the rally, Local 1422 President Kenneth Riley told the audience that in addition to being the anniversary of King’s assassination, April 4 is the anniversary of the death of Walter Scott, an African American man shot and killed by police officers in North Carolina.

“At this critical juncture in our history, it is so important to honor the memory of these two men, both undone by race hate and gun violence,” said Riley. “But even as he left us, Dr. King showed us the way forward–a three-fold attack on the evils of war, poverty, and racism.”

Unions oppose Gorsuch nomination

Unions are taking a stand against President Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

In letters to lawmakers and messages to members, unions say that Gorsuch’s record as a judge on the US Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals and his judicial philosophy show that as a Supreme Court Justice, he would put the private interests of corporations and big business ahead of the public interests.

Deborah Burger and Jean Ross, co-presidents of the National Nurses Union, in a letter to US senators, said Judge Gorsuch is “driven by ideology” rather than a devotion to the law.

Gorsuch “has been consistently dismissive of Americans’ rights to meaningful equality and workplace justice” and his record shows that he “promotes business interests at the expense of the average American,” wrote Burger and Ross.

In a separate message to Senate Democrats, NNU urged them to join the Senate’s Democratic Leader Sen. Charles Schumer in filibustering Gorsuch’s nomination.

“We strongly support (Sen. Schumer’s decision to  filibuster) and urge all Senate Democrats to vote against cloture on the floor of the Senate,” said Burger and Ross.

A successful filibuster would raise the number of votes needed to secure Gorsuch’s nomination from 51 to 60.

Dennis Williams, president of the United Autoworkers (UAW) also wrote a letter to senators urging them to reject Gorsuch’s nomination.

In addition to criticizing Judge Gorsuch’s judicial record of supporting business over workers, Williams’ expressed concerns about how Gorsuch’s nomination would affect civil rights and campaign finance cases that come before the Supreme Court.

“Judge Gorsuch’s judicial philosophy and public statements strongly suggest that he would decide cases in a way that eviscerates what remains of our campaign finance laws and further weakens voting rights,” wrote Williams.

Both the UAW and Communication Workers of America (CWA) are urging members to get involved in stopping the Gorsuch nomination.

The UAW in a flyer, urged members to contact their senators to tell them to vote no on the nomination.

The CWA in a e-mail message to members did the same.

In the message, CWA described testimony  that its General Counsel Jody Calemine gave at a hearing on the Gorsuch nomination conducted by the Senate  Judiciary Committee.

In that testimony, Calemine brought the case of Trans Am Trucking, Inc. v. Administrative Review Board to the attention of the committee and the general public.

The case involved a truck driver named Alphonse Maddin, who was fired by his employer Trans Am Trucking.

Maddin was stranded on a highway in subzero weather after the brakes on his truck’s trailer froze. Maddin reported the problem to Trans Am and waited for three hours for help to arrive.

When Maddin began to feel the effects of hypothermia, he became worried that he might freeze to death. With no word from Trans Am on when help would arrive, Maddin unhooked his trailer from the cab and drove himself to safety.

As a result, the company fired him for abandoning the trailer.

Maddin filed a complaint against Trans Am with the US Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA).

The case was heard by an administrative law judge with US Department of Labor who ruled in favor of Maddin and awarded him back pay.

Trans Am appealed the judge’s decision, and the appeal was eventually heard by the US Court of Appeals Tenth District.

A three judge panel of the appeals court voted 2 to 1 in favor of Maddin ruling that Maddin had acted appropriately when he decided to save his own life.

Gorsuch, on the other hand, dissented saying that the company was justified in firing Maddin.

In addition to mobilizing their members to oppose the Gorsuch nomination, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have joined a grassroots coalition of public interest groups called People’s Defense to stop the Gorsuch nomination.

People’s Defense on April 1 held rallies in cities across the US to speak out against the Gorsuch nomination.

At the rally in Cleveland,  SEIU Local 1 Ohio Director Yanela Sims told the audience that the US needs an economy and political system that works for working people; not one that puts the special interest of corporate America above the public interest.