AFL-CIO

Dick Meister: Good news for our neediest workers

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By Dick Meister

Bay Guardian columnist Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

Here's some good news for the new year: Ten states are set to raise their minimum wage rates on January first.

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) calculates that the increased rates will boost the pay of more than 850,000  low-income  workers in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

The rates, raised in accord with state laws requiring automatic adjustments to keep pace with the rising cost of living, will go up by 10 to 35 cents an hour depending on the state. NELP figures that will mean $190 to $510 more a year for the four million workers who are paid at the minimum in those states. Read more »

Dick Meister: Michigan is just the beginning

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By Dick Meister
Bay Guardian columnist Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

Be alert, American workers: The passage of right-to-work legislation in Michigan means serious trouble for unions and their supporters everywhere. Yet there's legitimate hope that it also could lead to a revitalized labor movement.

You can be sure the action by Michigan, long one of the country's most heavily unionized states, home of the pioneering and pace-setting United Auto Workers and iconic labor leader Walter Reuther, will inspire anti-labor forces in other states to try to enact right-to-work laws. Read more »

Dick Meister: Home care workers need presidential help

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By Dick Meister

Bay Guardian columnist Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

The country's 2½ million home care workers have been waiting a whole year now for President Obama to make good on his promise to grant them the federal minimum wage and overtime pay protections they so badly need.

The need for immediate presidential action was made abundantly clear in a letter to the White House on Dec. 13 that was released by the National Employment Law Project – NELP, as it's called. The signers include people who are receiving home care, those who employ them and those who provide the care.

NELP's figures show that the average national wage of home care workers, including those working at for-profit home care agencies, is $9.40 an hour. Which means that one in five caregivers live at or below the poverty level, even in the 21 states with minimum wage and overtime laws that cover them. Read more »

Dick Meister: A free choice for U.S. workers

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By Dick Meister

Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom,  has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

Now that the electioneering and political posturing is done with, it's time for President Obama and congressional Democrats to finally deliver on their promises to enact the long delayed Employee Free Choice Act that's at the very top of organized labor's political agenda.

EFCA, as it's sometimes called, has been stalled in Congress for three years. It would give U.S. workers the unfettered right to unionization that would raise their economic and political status considerably.  But that would come at the expense of employers, who have been able to block a large majority of workers from exercising the union rights that labor law has long promised workers.

EFCA would in essence strengthen the 78-year-old National Labor Relations Act – the NLRA – to make it easier for workers to form and join unions.  Which is the clearly stated purpose of the NLRA. Read more »

Dick Meister: Labor's big day

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By Dick Meister

Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED/TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

Now that the election dust has settled, it's clear that organized labor was a big winner locally, statewide and nationally.

In San Francisco, more than half the winning candidates for local office had labor backing, as did all local candidates for state office and all but two of the winning city propositions.

Labor did as well statewide, with voters soundly rejecting State Prop 32 that would have greatly diminished unions' political strength.  Defeating the proposition was by far labor's most important election goal. Read more »

Dick Meister: Danger and death in the tobacco fields

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By Dick Meister

 

Dick Meister, who has covered labor and political issues for more than a half-century, is co-author of "A Long Time Coming: The Struggle To Unionize America's Farm Workers" (Macmillan). Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com.

Amid all the well-deserved concern over the deadly effects of tobacco on smokers, we've largely overlooked  tobacco's other major victims – the workers who harvest the damn stuff for the great profit of  tobacco companies, often because they have virtually no other way to make a living.

There are nearly 100,000 tobacco harvesters, some as young as 12, most of them Mexican immigrants. They work during the summer in the tobacco fields of North Carolina, the country's leading tobacco producer. As the AFL-CIO, its Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), the human rights group Oxfam America and others have reported, the workers' pay and working and living conditions are abominable. Read more »

Dick Meister: Two big tests for labor

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By Dick Meister

 Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

Helping get President Obama re-elected tops organized labor's political agenda. But for now, unions are rightly focusing on special elections this month in Wisconsin and Arizona, where other labor-friendly Democrats are being challenged by labor foes.

Coming up first, on June 5, is the Wisconsin election to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who's been labor's public enemy No. 1 for his blatant anti-union policies. He's been acclaimed by anti-labor forces nationwide and as widely attacked by labor.

Both sides see the election as highly symbolic, a possible guide for those seeking to limit the union rights of public employees and other workers or, conversely, for those attempting to halt the spread of Walker-like attacks on collective bargaining in private and public employment alike. Read more »

Dick Meister: Fair Trade: Not With Columbia

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By Dick Meister

Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.net, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

By all accounts, Colombia is one of the world's worst abusers of workers and their unions. Yet President Obama has just signed a Free Trade Agreement with Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos.

The agreement, set to go into effect May 15, will align the United States with a nation in which working people have very few of the basic labor rights long granted U.S. workers. Read more »

Meister: The obvious solution to our social security problem

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By Dick Meister

Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

Guaranteeing America's working people a decent retirement has become increasingly difficult with the decline of traditional pension plans and the glaring inadequacy of the 401 (k) savings accounts that have replaced them.

So what to do? The answer is obvious to the AFL-CIO, and should be to everyone else: Increase Social Security benefits. Read more »

Dick Meister: Labor's David vs. GOP's Goliath

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By Dick Meister

 Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-TV Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister,com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

Organized labor is doing exactly what it must do to combat the onslaught against unions being waged by Republican politicians nationwide, throwing lots of money and lots of ground troops into the election campaigns of Democrats – most especially President Obama's campaign for re-election.

The AFL-CIO made it official with a ringing endorsement of Obama. Federation President Rich Trumka declared that "as president, Barack Obama has placed his faith in America's working men and women to lead our country to economic recovery and our full potential. So we're putting our faith in him." Read more »