Tag Archives: union

Ellison says he’ll resign from Congress if elected DNC head

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison remains the early favorite to become the next leader of the Democratic National Committee, amid resistance to the Minnesota liberal’s bid from key parts of the party’s base.

The contest is evolving into a larger fight over the future of the party.

Backers of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are throwing their support behind Ellison while some Hillary Clinton supporters are searching for an alternative.

Ellison picked up a powerful endorsement recently from the AFL-CIO, which issued a statement calling him a “proven leader.”

But his candidacy remains under siege.

Ellison has faced vocal criticism from prominent Democrats, Jewish groups and some union leaders, who have questioned his comments about Israel, his defense of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and his commitment to his own party.

Earlier this month, a union leader criticized the AFL-CIO for only including Ellison’s name, along with the choices to abstain or “make no endorsement at this time,” on the ballot sent to union members.

A federation faction “seems to want to push our movement further and further to the left,” Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, said in a recent statement. “That is a recipe for disaster as the most recent election results just showed.”

An editorial in an official Nation of Islam publication, “The Final Call,” quoted articles that Ellison wrote in the 1990s praising Farrakhan as a “sincere, tireless and uncompromising advocate.”

The editorial accused Ellison, the first Muslim-American elected to Congress, of being a “hypocrite” for now making a “cowardly and baseless repudiation” of Farrakhan.

Ellison did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

His history with the group has distressed some Jewish organizations. The Anti-Defamation League last week said Ellison’s past remarks about Israel were “disturbing and disqualifying,” and Haim Saban, a party donor deeply involved with Israeli issues, accused Ellison of being an “anti-Semite.”

Hoping to assuage some of the concerns, Ellison said he would resign his seat in Congress if he were picked as chairman by DNC members at the late February elections.

“Whoever wins the DNC chair race faces a lot of work, travel, planning and resource raising,” Ellison said in a statement. “I will be ‘all in’ to meet the challenge.”

The contest has divided Democratic leaders, placing Obama’s team at odds with Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada and his replacement, New York’s Chuck Schumer, whose early support for Ellison was seen as an effort to shore up the liberal flank in Congress.

Part of the issue is personal. Ellison has, at times, broken ranks to criticize Obama, the head of the party he now hopes to lead.

While White House aides say that Obama is unlikely to publicly comment on the race, behind the scenes his backers have been speaking with Democratic donors and potential candidates to see who else might be persuaded to run, according to several Democrats familiar with the discussions. These Democrats were not authorized to publicly discuss those private discussions and spoke on condition of anonymity.

High on the White House’s list of preferred candidates is Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who’s weighing whether to run for the party job or for Maryland governor, said the Democrats.

A vocal contingent is pushing for a Latino leader at the DNC, arguing that the growing demographic group is crucial to the party’s future and should be represented at the highest levels.

Others have been trying to draft Vice President Joe Biden and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, both of whom have ruled out a bid.

South Carolina’s party chairman, Jaime Harrison, and the party head in New Hampshire, Ray Buckley, have announced bids, though they haven’t gotten much traction.

Missouri’s secretary of state, Jason Kander, who attracted attention for running a surprisingly competitive Senate race this year, says he’s gotten calls exploring his interest in the post.

“I’m going to do all that I can for the cause of progress,” Kander said. “If it turns out that my party wants me to serve as chair I’m open to that.”

Ellison backers argue that the party must take a more populist approach after the 2016 losses, saying Democratic leaders did too little to address the economic pain of working-class voters.

“Keith brings a breath of fresh air to the Democratic party,” said DNC member Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “He believes in strengthening the economics for working families across the country.”

But some are more concerned with campaign mechanics than message, saying the party’s outreach, bench and fundraising languished under Wasserman Schultz.

“Ellison talks about vision when we need a fundraiser and organizer,” said Bob Mulholland, a longtime California Democratic operative and DNC member.

Strikers arrested during protests for better wages, fight for $15

Police on Nov. 29 handcuffed fast-food cooks and cashiers, Uber drivers and home health aides and airport workers who blocked streets outside McDonald’s restaurants from New York to Chicago.

The demonstrators had launched a nationwide wave of strikes and civil disobedience by working Americans in the Fight for $15.

In Detroit, dozens of fast-food and home care workers wearing shirts that read, “My Future is My Freedom” linked arms in front of a McDonald’s and sat down in the street. As the workers were led to a police bus, hundreds of supporters chanted, “No Justice, No Peace.”

In New York City’s Financial District, dozens of fast-food workers placed a banner reading “We Won’t Back Down” on the street in front of a McDonald’s on Broadway and a sat down in a circle, blocking traffic, until they were hauled away by police officers.

In Chicago, scores of workers sat in the street next to a McDonald’s as supporters unfurled a giant banner from a grocery store next door that read: “We Demand $15 and Union Rights, Stop Deportations, Stop Killing Black People.” Fast-food, home care and higher education workers were arrested, along with Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

The strikes rolled westward, as workers walked off their jobs in 340 cities. They were demanding decent wages and union rights. Among them were baggage handlers, cabin cleaners and skycaps on picket lines at Boston Logan International Airport and Chicago O’Hare International Airport to protest.

“We won’t back down until we win an economy that works for all Americans, not just the wealthy few at the top,” said Naquasia LeGrand, a McDonald’s worker from Albemarle, North Carolina. “Working moms like me are struggling all across the country and until politicians and corporations hear our voices, our Fight for $15 is going to keep on getting bigger, bolder and ever more relentless.”

The wave of strikes, civil disobedience, and protests follows an election defined by workers’ frustration with an economy and business practices that have meant only stagnant wages.

“To too many of us who work hard, but can’t support our families. America doesn’t feel fair anymore,” said Oliwia Pac, who was on strike from her job as a wheelchair attendant at O’Hare. “If we really want to make America great again, our airports are a good place to start. These jobs used to be good ones that supported a family, but now they’re closer to what you’d find at McDonald’s.”

U.S. Rep Jan Schakowsky, D-Chicago, joined striking workers on the picket line and Cook County Commissioner Jesus Garcia got arrested supporting strikers.

In New York City, Councilmembers Brad Lander, Mark Levine and Antonio Reynoso got arrested alongside workers outside a McDonald’s in Lower Manhattan.


Some voices from the Fight for $15:

Dayla Mikell, a child care worker in St. Petersburg, Florida: “Risking arrest today isn’t the easy path, but it’s the right one. My job is all about caring for the next generation, but I’m not paid enough to be able to afford my own apartment or car. Families like mine and millions others across the country demand $15, union rights and a fair economy that lifts up all of us, no matter our race, our ethnicity or our gender. And when it’s your future on the line, you do whatever it takes to make sure you are heard far and wide.”

Sepia Coleman, a home care worker from Memphis, Tennessee: “For me, the choice is clear. I am risking arrest because our cause is about more than economic justice—it is about basic survival. Like millions of Americans, I am barely surviving on $8.25/hour. Civil disobedience is a bold and risky next step, but our voices must be heard: we demand $15, a union and justice for all Americans.”

Scott Barish, a teaching assistant and researcher at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina: “I do research and teach classes that bring my university critical funding, but the administration doesn’t respect me as a worker and my pay hasn’t kept up with the rising cost of living. I could barely afford to repair my car this year. And I’m risking arrest today because millions of American workers are struggling to support their families and the need for change is more urgent than ever. We are ramping up our calls for $15 and union rights, healthcare for all workers, and an end to racist policies that divide us further.”

Justin Berisie, an Uber driver in Denver: “Everyone says the gig economy is the future of work, but if we want to make that future a bright one, we need to join together like fast-food workers have in the Fight for $15 and demand an economy that works for all. Across the country, drivers are uniting and speaking out to fight for wages and working conditions that will allow us to support our families and help get America’s economy moving.”

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota: “When I talk to people on the picket lines in Minnesota and around the country, they tell me they’re striking for a better life for their kids and their families. They tell me they’re working harder than ever, and still struggling to make ends meet. In the wealthiest country in the world, nobody working full time should be living in poverty. But the power of protest and working people’s voices can make all the difference. Politics might be the art of the possible, but organizing is the art of making more possible. Workers around the country are fighting to make better working conditions and better wages possible. And I stand with them.”

Scott Walker’s Packers analogy on teacher pay backfires

Gov. Scott Walker may have thought a Green Bay Packers analogy about teachers would be a political touchdown. Instead, his opponents tried to sack him Tuesday for comparing free agency in the NFL with how teachers are paid in his state.

The Republican governor’s remarks came after a closed-door listening session in Coon Valley, Wisconsin, when reporters asked whether he thought incentive-driven salary programs would make it harder for K-12 schools to retain teachers.

“If the Green Bay Packers pay people to perform and if they perform well on their team, (the Packers) pay them to do that,” Walker said, according to the LaCrosse Tribune. “They don’t pay them for how many years they’ve been on the football team. They pay them whether or not they help (the Packers) win football games.”

That drew a sharp rebuke from Democratic state Rep. Sondy Pope, of Mount Horeb, who said Walker’s analogy comparing teacher salaries — which average $54,766 in Wisconsin based on National Education Association figures — to NFL players who make millions was “simply ridiculous.”

“This callous disregard of professional educators is insulting,” Pope said.

Walker doesn’t understand that NFL players have comprehensive representation from union officials to protect and bargain for their wages and benefits, said Democratic Rep. Katrina Shankland, of Stevens Point, a dig at Walker’s signature legislative initiative that disallowed collective bargaining for teachers and other public workers.

Shankland also pointed out that NFL players get raises for each year they’re in the league regardless of how they play or how many games they win.

“Ask the Chicago Bears about this,” she joked in a statement.

Wisconsin Education Association Council President Betsy Kippers said Walker was wrong to suggest “our children’s futures are a game to be won or lost.”

Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said Tuesday that the governor was trying to make a point that good employers reward employees based on performance, “not just seniority.”

“That is what we can now do in Wisconsin after our reforms, to make sure we have the best and brightest teaching in our classrooms,” Evenson said.


Ruling striking down ‘right-to-work’ on hold

A Wisconsin appeals court has granted an emergency request to put on hold a Dane County circuit judge’s ruling striking down the state’s so-called “right-to-work” law.

The 3rd District Court of Appeals granted the stay request made in April by Attorney General Brad Schimel, a Republican who is defending the law signed by Gov. Scott Walker and passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature.

Right-to-work laws prohibit businesses and unions from reaching agreements that require all workers, not just union members, to pay union dues. Unions challenged the law, arguing that it enables nonunion members to receive free representation. Wisconsin is one of 25 states with a right-to-work law.

In April, Dane County Circuit Judge William Foust struck down the law as unconstitutional after it was challenged by three unions — the AFL-CIO’s Wisconsin chapter, Machinists Local Lodge 1061 and United Steelworkers District 2.

Schimel asked Foust to put his ruling on hold while the appeal was pending, arguing that doing away with the law has created confusion for unions and employers. Foust declined, but state appeals court Judge Lisa Stark sided with Schimel in late May.

The lower court’s ruling that the unions would be harmed if it were put on hold was not substantiated by the facts, Stark said.

Stark said he was granting the stay while Schimel’s appeal was pending “given a relative lack of harm shown to either party or the public interest, the presumption of constitutionality of this duly enacted statute and the preference under the law to maintain the status quo to avoid confusion.” Stark also said Schimel had established that the state was likely to succeed on appeal.

Johnny Koremenos, a spokesman for Schimel, said in a statement that the ruling gives more certainty as the appeal is pending.

“We feel confident the law will ultimately be found constitutional,” Koremenos said.

Fred Perillo, the unions’ attorney, did not immediately return a telephone message left after office hours.

While the case is pending before the state appeals court, it is expected to ultimately go before the state Supreme Court, where conservatives hold a 5-2 majority.

Judge won’t stay ruling against Wisconsin ‘right to work’ law

A Dane County judge refused on April 26 to stay his ruling striking down Wisconsin’s right-to-work law, reiterating his position that the legislation wrongly enables non-union workers to receive free representation.

Judge William Foust said he doesn’t believe state attorneys have shown they’ll overturn his decision on appeal and have no evidence the state would suffer if his ruling stands. He said the core of his ruling is whether a union has to provide free services.

“The decision boils down to something as simple as ‘there is no free lunch,’” the judge said.

Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel, who is defending the law, immediately said he’ll seek a stay from a state appeals court “where we feel confident this law will be upheld.”

Right-to-work laws prohibit businesses and unions from reaching agreements that require all workers, not just union members, to pay union dues. Since unions must represent all employees in a workplace, the laws essentially allow non-union workers to benefit from union representation for free. Twenty-five states have such laws

Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed Wisconsin’s version last year.

Three unions – the AFL-CIO’s Wisconsin chapter, Machinists Local Lodge 1061 and United Steelworkers District 2 – filed a lawsuit challenging the law in March 2015, arguing the statutes amount to an illegal taking of their services without compensation.

Foust found the law unconstitutional earlier this month. The state Justice Department asked Foust last week to stay the ruling. They filed notice of appeal the same day with the Wausau-based 3rd District Court of Appeals.

Assistant Attorney General Steven Kilpatrick argued at a hearing Monday that the judge should grant the stay because the state likely will win the appeal, all statutes are presumed constitutional and the state suffers harm any time it can’t enforce a law and unions aren’t likely to suffer substantial harm if the law remains in place pending the appeal.

Fred Perillo, the unions’ attorney, countered that a stay would harm the unions. He said keeping the law in place would cost the unions thousands of dollars in potential dues, prevent them from negotiating contracts requiring due payments and prohibit contract clauses reinstating union dues if right-to-work was struck down from taking effect.

The Wisconsin AFL-CIO issued a statement praising Foust for again affirming that the right-to-work law is unconstitutional.

UW-Madison delays changes to teaching pay for grad students

After several weeks of advocacy work by the University of Wisconsin–Madison Teaching Assistants’ Association, the administration agreed to delay implementation of a plan to restructure graduate student pay on campus.

The plan, which only came to light a few weeks ago, was developed behind closed doors with no graduate student input.

Implementation of the plan has been delayed until 2017, but continues to represent a breach of the university’s promise to honor the TAA labor contract after the passage of Act 10, according to the TAA.

Earlier in November, outside Bascom Hall on the campus, the TAA set forth a list of demands in response to the graduate school’s proposed restructuring of pay:

• In order to provide a more livable standard for all graduate workers and bring the university in line with peer institutions, provide a pay raise for all graduate workers campus-wide.

• For the sake of transparency and openness, the current proposal must be scrapped and the graduate school must work in conjunction with graduate students to find a solution that works for all graduate workers.

• For the sake of democracy and shared governance, the graduate school must provide a seat at the table with real power for graduate workers.

• The administration must respect our position as workers on campus and the value we create for the university.

“This proposal would force individual departments to decide how much we’re worth, who is worth more, and who deserves a higher wage. Department heads, faculty, and administrative staff would be forced to turn to private donors to make sure graduate workers are being paid at amounts that don’t even meet a basic standard living wage,” said TAA co-president Sergio González.

He continued, “We’ve got some of the smartest graduate students in the world working at this university. I invite all of you to join the TAA in proposing an alternative pay structure that is fair, equitable, and just, and that represents what is best for our university, its workers, and all of its students. The university must scrap this proposed pay restructuring and bring graduate student workers to the table so that together we can find a solution to ensure that the University of Wisconsin–Madison continues to be an elite institution committed to shared governance and world-class teaching and research.”

Adria Brooks, a TAA member and a graduate student in electrical and computer engineering, said, “If we allow policies to be passed that kill equal pay for equal work, then whenever the College of Engineering, my college, brings in multi-million dollar industry grants to improve undergraduate studies, the language departments tasked with educating the associated increase in engineering students needing to fulfill their general education requirements may not be able to fairly compensate their graduate teaching assistants for this work.”

Concerned about the effect the new proposal will have on departments across campus, Brooks said, “When the administration pushes through policy changes like this, without graduate student input, it marginalizes traditional, non-grant based departments, but most importantly, it impinges on the world-class education we promise to our undergraduate students: of course we are in favor of pay raises. Of course we do not want esteemed faculty, students, and funding opportunities to bypass the University of Wisconsin for other institutions. But we want these things because they benefit all disciplines, not just a few.”

The TAA is the oldest graduate student labor union in the United States. Graduate student workers perform nearly half of all the instruction that takes place at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, while also taking classes and conducting research, according to the TAA.

Hundreds of union members picket at Kohler

Hundreds of union members and their supporters picketed at the gates of the Kohler Co. on Nov. 16 in the first strike at the Wisconsin manufacturer in more than 30 years.

Workers waved signs, cheered at honking cars and in one location clogged an intersection, which at one point backed up traffic for more than a mile on a two-lane country road into town.

“We’re sorry it had to come to this, but we’re standing for what we believe in,” said John Matenaer, who said he has been with the company 30 years.

Workers want higher pay, lower health care costs and an end to a two-tier wage scale that they say unfairly limits many employees with less seniority to about $13 an hour regardless of the type of work they do.

“We’re all one, all united,” said Bob Durfee, who said he has 24 years with Kohler. “We should all have the same pay, pretty much across the board.”

Kohler – which makes kitchen and bath fixtures, small engines and generators, and runs golf and resort destinations – released a statement on its website, saying the company was “very disappointed that our final offer was not accepted by our associates and is concerned that Union officials may have misrepresented what could be achieved in a strike.”

Kohler had called for three raises of 50 cents an hour each year – about 2 percent a year – for most of its workforce. The offer raised health care costs but included a $1,200 bonus that the company said could cover the increase.

Workers, however, say they haven’t had a raise since 2009 and that the proposed pay increases would actually amount to about 8 cents an hour by the end of the three-year contract.

“It’s a billion-dollar company haggling over pennies,” said Joel Mork, who said he has worked for Kohler for 15 years.

Union employees say those in the lower tier wouldn’t earn a living wage or have a legitimate opportunity for advancement, despite working side by side with workers who make significantly more.

Dave Ertel, a bargaining committee member who said he has been with the company 24 years, said union members have been preparing for months for the eventuality of a drawn-out strike.

“We knew this was the way it was going to go,” he said.

The company employs 32,000 people worldwide and has annual revenue approaching $6 billion, according to its website.

Picketing began early on Nov. 16 after workers marched from the union hall to the company gates. United Auto Workers Local 833 has said 94 percent of voting members rejected Kohler’s latest offer, triggering the first strike at the company since 1983. About 1,800 workers attended Sunday’s membership meeting.

Dean Zettler, who has been with the company 22 years, said they will be out there “until it’s done.”

“It’s not up to us; it’s up to them,” Zettler said.

New Mexico city divided over proposal to name streets for King, Chavez

A proposal to rename Roswell, New Mexico, streets after Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez has divided officials and residents.

City councilors flung accusations of racial and ethnic bias while discussing the proposal during a recent meeting.

City Councilor Juan Oropesa says he believes opponents are against the idea because of the race, ethnicity of the two civil rights figures.

“They don’t want it because those are the two individuals,” Oropesa said of Chavez and King.

Councilor Jeanine Corn Best, however, denies the opposition has to do with race.

“Naming new streets make more sense,” said Corn Best, chair of the Infrastructure Committee. “Naming a street that is already named is incorrect.”

City Councilor Caleb Grant said no business owners on the two streets in the current proposal support the renaming. Some merchants said they would have to get all new business cards, letterhead and other materials with their company address. Others expressed concern about the cost of new street signs. Bobby Villegas, a local businessman, said the Hispanic community would raise money to change street signs.

Grant said he would approve of naming a new street “down the road.”

The full council plans to debate the issue in December after a decision on the city’s street naming policy is resolved, the Roswell Daily Record reported.

Residents attending the meeting also reflected the divisiveness stirred by the renaming. Villegas, who is Hispanic, said the city’s population has become more and more Latino. Naming a street after Chavez would “support us for the sake of our kids, for our future,” he said.

But other residents, such as Cleta Coen, believe the renaming is excessive. Roswell already has a park named after King, Coen said

“I don’t see any benefit of changing the names,” Coen said.



Teachers not loving McDonald’s McTeacher’s Nights

The National Education Association and more than 50 state and local teachers unions are calling on McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook to end McTeacher’s Nights.

The unions and educators are concerned about McDonald’s kid-targeted marketing.

On McTeacher’s Nights, McDonald’s recruits teachers to work behind the counter and serve burgers, fries and soda to their students and their students’ families.

The corporation heavily brands the events, even going so far as to provide uniforms and branded shirts for teachers to wear behind counters. In return, McDonald’s donates a small portion of the night’s proceeds.

The unions say the events take advantage of cash-strapped schools and use teachers to sell junk food directly to their students in order to create brand loyalty.

Court: Caterpillar must grant union access to South Milwaukee plant

An appeals court says Caterpillar must allow a union investigator access to its South Milwaukee plant to look into a fatal accident four years ago.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals says the union’s right to represent its employees outweighs Caterpillar’s interest in protecting its property. A crane operator was killed at the plant in 2011 when a piece of equipment crushed him. 

Police and federal investigators were given access to the plant, as well as local representatives of the United Steelworkers union. But, the mining company refused to allow the union’s national accident investigator on site, saying the accident was being handled by police and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 

The Journal Sentinel reports Caterpillar says it’s disappointed with the court’s decision, but will comply with it.