AFL policy paper presented to AFL 47th Constitutional Convention, April 28 to May 1, 2011
Earlier this year, we saw attacks on labour rights and labour laws begin in Wisconsin after the election of a Republican governor and state legislature. Not content with seeking cuts to pay, benefits and working conditions, these Tea Party Republicans sought to eliminate the right of unionized public-sector workers to engage in collective bargaining in all but very limited areas. The conflict soon spread to other states including, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and New Jersey.
Post Author: AllGov. Bio: AllGov.com provides up-to-date news about more than 300 branches of the U.S. government, most of which operate under the radar of the media, even when they have annual budgets of billions of dollars. AllGov tells you what each agency says it does, what it really does, and who is making a profit from the agency. It also gives a history of the agency, illuminates controversies relating to the agency and shares critiques and suggested reforms from both the left and the right. The Meet Your Government section provides profiles of hundreds of department and agency heads, as well as ambassadors to and from the United States.
govinthelab.org, Sun Apr 24 2011
April 2011: Widespread violations of child-labour laws revealed; government performance on oil sands shameful; fed Conservatives accused of hypocrisy in dealing with immigrants; Albertans...
Widespread violations of child-labour rules revealed in study
- Tens of thousands of adolescent Albertans are in the workforce – 21 per cent of them in illegal jobs, according to an Alberta Federation of Labour study. It found there were widespread violations of employment standards for adolescents and children in the province. For more information...
Government performance on oil sands shameful
- The Auditor General's report revealed the Progressive Conservative government has failed to institute a way of tracking its revenue from oil-sands operations, meaning it might have foregone billions of dollars in revenue. Meanwhile, Premier Stelmach and others in the government continue to act as pitch men for a pipeline company that wants to ship raw bitumen – and good jobs – out of the province. For more on AG press release ... and for Keystone XL release ...
Federal Conservatives accused of hypocrisy in dealing with immigrants
- The Conservative Party of Canada reaches out to immigrants Canadians with one hand, but crafts policies that punish them with the other. It has cut targets for real immigration, while increasing the number of Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs), who have little protection from abusive employers and recruitment agencies. New rules introduced this month will make it almost impossible for TFWs to even consider becoming citizens. For more information ...
Albertans warned to brace for Tea Party policies
- The infamous billionaire Koch brothers from Kansas – who have spent tens of millions of dollars funding climate-change deniers and the extreme right-wing Tea Party in the U.S. – have hired a lobbyist to push the Alberta government on taxation, economic development and energy and resource issues. Meanwhile, the AFL revealed that a provincial cabinet minister had links to an organization calling for restrictions to collective-bargaining rights in Alberta. For AFL press release ... and for the Edmonton Journal news item ...
Gate Gourmet locks out workers in Edmonton - About 60 workers at Gate Gourmet's facility at Edmonton International Airport have been locked out after rejecting a final offer from the company that included a three-year wage freeze. The employees, represented by UFCW 401, had been seeking only moderate increases that would barely allow them to keep up with the rising cost of living. Show your support by joining them on the picket line at Airport Road. For more ...
- April 28 - International Day of Mourning
- April 28 - May 1 – AFL Convention
- May 1 – May Day
- May 9-13 – CLC Convention
- May 17 - International Day Against Homophobia
- May 21 - International Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development
Did you know ...
- 8,200 Alberta children aged nine to 11 have jobs.
- 78 per cent of the jobs done by children are clearly illegal, including newspaper delivery and janitorial services.
- 26,000 adolescents, aged 12-14, work in Alberta.
- More than 21 per cent of working adolescents are employed in prohibited occupations, including janitorial services, sports teams and working on golf courses.
- 50 per cent of the jobs done by adolescents fall into the grey area of babysitting and yard work.
- The AFL study reveals that violations of child-labour laws included working too many hours, being paid less than minimum wage and working in prohibited jobs or performing prohibited tasks.
- The study also showed that parents did not fully understand their children's rights and had difficulty monitoring workplace conditions. For more ...
On Tuesday 12 April 2011, the Swazi authorities responded with brutal repression and hundreds of arrests to peaceful protest actions from workers and pro-democracy activists. The offices of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) were raided, and the General Secretary of the Swaziland Federation of Labour (SFL) was arrested, among many others. The violence used by the authorities was hugely disproportionate, and the Swazi government has threatened not to allow trade union activities anymore in the future. The protests, which were announced correctly and well in advance, and conducted in a peaceful way to support legitimate demands for more democratic rights for Swaziland’s impoverished citizens, were suppressed by heavily armed police and military, which occupied the city of Manzini as well as other important centres with ostentatious display of power. In doing so, they used teargas against protestors, arrested hundreds of people, among which at least twenty two trade union leaders, and there are even reports that live ammunition was fired. Repression was particularly vigourous in the city of Manzini, where paramilitary police in full riot gear, including shields and rifles, marched through the streets. In the course of the morning, hundreds of people were arrested, and four trade union activists were still missing on 15 April. Furthermore, security forces started arresting everyone wearing a political party T-shirt or cap. Students at the Swaziland Kwaluseni Campus were confined to the campus, which amounts to arrest.
Simultaneaously, the offices of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions, the Swazi National Association of Teachers and the National Public Services and Allied Workers Union were raided by heavily armed security forces. The police started to use rubber bullets to disperse the crowds. It started preventing all buses from going to the meeting points and started to arrest all the people on them, reportedly even without checking whether they were going to take part in the demonstrations or not. A number of buses was even driven to far away forests or the mountainous region on the border with South Africa, and the activists who were on them were left in remote places without transportation. The authorities at one point even sent in the Red Berets, a special Swazi Army branch. In and around four protest centres, including the bus rank in Manzini and the Swazi National Association of Teachers Centre, there were numerous skirmishes, with security forces dispersing the crowds, who subsequently regrouped, time and again. The army eventually declared a curfew in Manzini, ordering the people to empty the city’s streets after 9 pm.The International Trade Union Confederatoin firmly protested to the Swazi government and invites you to do the same.
Act Now!, Apr 21 2011
There was a telling exchange during Gov. Scott Walker's appearance Thursday before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
The governor had gone to Washington to take a star turn before former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was scheduled to fly into Wisconsin and defend the Walker Way: stripping Wisconsin public employees of basic rights in the workplace, rendering public employee and teacher unions dysfunctional, undermining democracy at the school district and municipal level, and restructuring state government to limit access to health care and sell off public properties in no-bid deals with campaign donors.
The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is chaired by a rigid conservative ideologue, Congressman Darrell Issa, R-Calif. And Issa, like the other Republicans on the panel, has something in common with Walker: He is a major recipient of campaign contributions and political support from groups associated with the billionaire Koch brothers. So the governor's appearance was supposed to be a typical D.C. insider gathering, where Walker's political allies would toss the governor softball questions and let him ruminate on the joys, er, the "necessity" of cutting funding for public services and education.
But it did not turn out that way. Walker was paired on the panel with Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, who has maintained good relations with public employee and teacher unions while renegotiating contracts and addressing budget shortfalls. Shumlin's presence exposed Walker as an outlier who has caused unnecessary divisions and inflicted unnecessary pain on Wisconsin workers, farmers, communities and schools.
Walker tried his best to peddle the fantasy that his general attack on state, county and municipal employees and teachers, and his specific attempt to silence them in the workplace by stripping them of most collective bargaining rights, was needed to balance the state budget.
But then Congressman Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, asked the million-dollar question, or, to be more precise, the $137 million budget repair bill question.
"Your proposal would require unions to hold annual votes to continue representing their own members. Can you please explain to me and members of this committee how much money this provision saves for your state budget?" asked Kucinich.
Walker tried to avoid the question.
Kucinich pressed him. "Did you answer the questions?" the congressman asked. "How much money does it save, Governor?"
A reluctant Walker finally responded: "It doesn't save any."
That is the takeaway line from Walker's trip to Washington.
Busting unions is a political ploy, not a fiscal necessity. Walker has divided Wisconsin, thrown our Legislature and our communities into disarray, and caused what many legal observers believe to be the most serious constitutional crisis in the modern history of the state. And for what?
Not to save money.
Not to get Wisconsin's finances in order.
But to play politics with people's lives.
When the time comes to hold this governor to account, much will be said on all sides. But the most powerful condemnation of Walker's false claim that he needed to bust unions in order to balance the budget has come from the governor's own lips.
"How much money does it save, Governor?"
"It doesn't save any."
The Cap Times, Apr 17 2011
Swazi police fired tear gas to disperse activists who held anti-government protests for a second day on Wednesday, despite a call to stop the action after a police crackdown.
Union leaders said they had suspended their protest against King Mswati III, Africa's last absolute monarch, to re-strategize as fresh arrests and a heavy police presence in the main city blocked activists from rallying.
Hundreds of teachers at first refused to end the protest, and police fired tear gas to remove them from an office where they were staging a sit-in. But the standoff ended after several hours, said Muzi Masuku, a spokesman for the Open Society non-governmental organization, which helped mediate in the crisis.
Masuku said police eventually agreed to let the teachers' trade union transport them either to their homes or to a church in Manzini where they would spend the night.
The protesters want the free-spending king to loosen his grip on power and allow multi-party democracy, and are also angry at government proposals to slash salaries for civil servants amid a severe budget crisis.
Unions called for the protests Tuesday to mark the 38th anniversary of the banning of political parties in a country where 70 per cent of the people live in dire poverty and 25 per cent of adults have HIV, the world's highest rate. On Tuesday, police also fired tear gas and water cannons, beat protesters with batons and arrested activists to break up the protest, according to organizers. At least 100 people were detained, including top labour and civil society leaders, unions said.
"The state has responded with extreme brutality and people feel unsafe. Many of our people are in police cells," said Vincent Dlamini, general secretary of the National Association of Public Servants and Allied Workers Union.
But most top union leaders who had been detained have since been released, said Dlamini, who was held from Sunday to Tuesday.
Two protest leaders were detained Wednesday, with one held under house arrest, according to Sipho Kunene, leader of the Swaziland Federation of Labour. Police patrolled Manzini Wednesday, arresting people in groups, including four teachers who were speaking to an AFP journalist in a cafe.
Edmonton Journal, Thurs Apr 14 2011
With a tense round of bargaining just under way between the province and its teachers, the B.C. Supreme Court has declared “unconstitutional and invalid” a law that has restricted teachers’ bargaining rights for more than nine years.
The B.C. Liberal government imposed legislation in 2002 that took the makeup of classrooms – the total number of students as well as the number of special needs students integrated into each class – out of collective bargaining.The B.C. Teachers’ Federation challenged the law under the Canadian Charter of Rights, arguing those components have a significant impact on their working conditions and should be freely negotiated.
Madam Justice Susan Griffin, in a ruling released Wednesday, sided with the teachers and delivered a rebuke to the province for its vague claims and secretive agenda.
The release of the ruling partly overshadowed Premier Christy Clark’s by-election launch. Ms. Clark, who was education minister when the labour law was introduced, met with reporters to announce she’ll be seeking election in Vancouver-Point Grey on May 11, but questions about the education decision dominated the exchange.
When the law was passed during an emergency session of the legislature in January, 2002, Ms. Clark called it a “really balanced piece of legislation … reasonable and very, very fair.”
On Wednesday, she said the law, at the time, had broad-based support. “But clearly it wasn’t the right bill. The Supreme Court has told us that so we are going to address that, and we’re going to have to make sure we get on a different footing with the teachers’ union, just as the court has suggested.”
It was a rough start for Ms. Clark’s first day of campaigning for a seat in the legislature. Ms. Clark met reporters outside her downtown cabinet offices, rather than making the announcement in the riding that was recently vacated by former premier Gordon Campbell.
In her written decision, Judge Griffin dismissed the government’s claims that the law was needed to counter the “virtual paralysis of the school system.” In fact, the court found the changes were imposed without consultation to curtail costs and that the government’s objectives interfered with free collective bargaining.
Evidence at the trial showed the government expected to save, in 2001 dollars, $275-million each year by taking class size out of the contract. “A key reason that school administrators and the government did not like to have class size and composition limits included in collective agreements,” wrote Judge Griffin, “was the fact that these limits increased costs to school districts.”
As well, the judge described evidence brought forward by the province that class-size limits were causing hardships to students and parents as “vague … anecdotal hearsay.”
The province has one year to respond to the decision and is considering an appeal. But in the meantime, the court has thrown the government’s net zero bargaining mandate for the public sector into question.
The current contract with teachers expires in June and the province maintains there is no money for wage hikes – it hopes to meet its target to eliminate the provincial deficit by 2013, in part by keeping public-sector wages frozen.
Susan Lambert, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, would not speculate on the cost of rolling back the 2002 law, but she said the province has a moral obligation to act swiftly to end the “shameful legacy” of underfunding classrooms in the wake of Wednesday’s ruling.
“It’s a tremendous victory for teachers, and for students and for parents. It’ll have a significant impact on restoring learning conditions in schools,” she said. “This is a turning point.”
She said the law left students struggling in oversized classes with inadequate supports for too long and she expects the provisions that limited class sizes will be restored.
The Globe and Mail, Wed Apr 13 2011
Byline: Justine Hunter and Ian Bailey
An international campaign for the reinstatement of 50 Mexican rubber workers employed by German-based Continental AG, was successful after 22 months. The illegal dismissals on 18 May 2009 were made under the guise of the global financial crisis. The ICEM-affiliated National Union of General Tire/Continental Workers’ Union (SNTGTM), led by General Secretary Alberto Espinosa Rocha, launched a full mobilisation of the union for their reinstatement and to support each sacked worker who chose to fight for re-employment.
The struggle, termed to “Resist One More Day than Continental,” supported especially the reinstatement of union activists Juan Pablo Hernández Lara and Alfredo Calderón and was won one year, ten months, and ten days after the sackings, when 50 colleagues returned to work at the factory in San Luis Potosí, 430 kilometres north of Mexico City.
The members of SNTGTM, through the decision of the union's Congress to wage the fight, supported every worker contesting dismissal, and the union paid them the minimum wage for a worker in the sector throughout the legal process. That income is low, but the faith and support from fellow members was vital.
The SNTGTM and reinstated workers gave special thanks to the ICEM, International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF), the United Steelworkers (USW), and the AFL-CIO, for their solidarity and support internationally. The SNTGTM singled out the IGBCE and European Works Council for their important assistance in forcing the struggle onto the agenda of Conti's management meetings.
In recent months, the union has recovered hundreds of jobs and established conditions for increased factory production in Mexico. The SNTGTM is now fighting the proposed regressive labour law in Mexico, which, if enacted, would jeopardize their hard-won achievements.
ICEM.org, Mon Apr 11 2011
Thousands of European trades union members demonstrated against austerity measures as EU finance ministers closed a two-day meeting in Hungary that confirmed Portugal was next in line for tough spending cuts.
Thousands of people marched in Budapest to protest against EU austerity measures on behalf of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) on Saturday, April 9.
ETUC estimated the turnout of European workers at about 40,000. They were in Budapest to protest against EU-driven reforms to cut state spending and to make wages and pensions more competitive, as part of a bid to trim governments' growing deficits.
"We want jobs, growth, our welfare state intact, and we are not going to pay for bankers' mistakes," ETUC general secretary John Monks told the crowd.
The protest came as EU finance ministers and central bankers from the 27-nation bloc gathered for a second day of informal talks on the response to the ongoing eurozone difficulties underlined by Portugal's request for an EU bailout.
As part of the 80 billion-euro ($115-billion) bailout deal, the EU is asking Portugal to commit to further financial reforms in order to bring its budget deficit and debt into more sustainable territory.
The ministers have defended the need for painful austerity measures despite the protests.
"People must understand that we are not making savings to make people angry, we are making savings in order to pay for our social policies," said Luxembourg's Luc Frieden.
Germany's trade minister said that today’s governments have to implement tough measures if they didn’t want to abdicate their "responsibility to future generations."
"What we are doing is to work for a sustainable framework for growth. For sustainable growth, a stable currency is a pre-condition, and [so are] stable budgets," Wolfgang Schäuble told reporters.
Spanish Finance Minister Elena Salgado said it was "normal" for trade unions to protest against budget consolidation measures, "but I think from the governments' [side] what we have to say is that ... they are necessary."
According to European Commission estimates from November, deficits in the EU are expected to fall from 6.8 percent in 2010 to 5.1 percent of gross domestic product in 2011, against an EU-recommended limit of 3 percent.
Author: Stuart Tiffen (dpa, AFP)
Editor: Toma Tasovac
DW-World.De, Sat Mar 9 2011
A study out today shows his proposed two-year budget could mean a direct loss of 51,052 jobs in that state. The study by Innovation Ohio, shows that such job losses would be more than double than the 22,000 jobs created since Kasich took office. This blow to Ohio's economy is in addition to the Kasich-backed bill passed by the Ohio Legislature gutting collective bargaining rights for public employees, a drastic move that limits workers' ability to attain or maintain middle-class jobs.
Innovation Ohio Communications Director Dale Butland puts it this way:
School districts and local governments will, of course, do everything possible to avoid laying people off. But they've already made the easy cuts and pared their budgets dramatically. So when the Governor proposes to cut school funding by $3 billion and local government funding by 50 percent, firing workers or raising local taxes are the only realistic choices they have left. But attacking workers - whether through a job-killing budget or the unfair Senate Bill 5 - will not fix Ohio. It will only destroy the middle class. And that's not what Gov. Kasich was elected to do.
In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker already has racked up quite a record as a job killer, after only a couple months in office. In Florida, where Gov. Rick Scott turned away federal high-speed rail project, costing the state much-needed jobs, his hand-picked department heads are being paid special salaries-unabashed cronyism costing the state's taxpayers a bundle.
AFL-CIO Now Blog, Thurs Apr 7 2011
Byline: Tuyla Connell