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Women's History Month Profiles: Roxanne Brown

Mon, 30 Mar 2020 15:03:25 +0000

Women's History Month Profiles: Roxanne Brown

Roxanne Brown
AFL-CIO

For Women's History Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various women who were, and some who still are, leaders and activists working at the intersection of civil and labor rights. Today, we are looking at Roxanne Brown.

Roxanne Brown currently serves as international vice president at large for the United Steelworkers (USW). She has served USW's membership for more than two decades.

During her career, she has helped advance legislation to strengthen U.S. defense procurement laws and shape environmental policies to benefit USW members with jobs. She helped build bridges between USW members and the Environmental Protection Agency to achieve mutually beneficial goals. She worked to rally 20,000 people to protect the steel industry from foreign dumping.

She was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and raised in New York. Through the And Still I Rise program, Brown wrote about her work. Here are some key excerpts.

On the challenges of moving to clean energy:

Much of the work that we’re trying to do is to help design good, sensible and reasonable clean energy policies that take my members into account on the industrial side, and in the building and construction trades. We want to ensure that all of us play a role in this new, emerging economy.

On the gender wage gap:

We have to create that equality across the board. Every wage gap that exists is money that’s leaving the pockets of women all over the country. I grew up in a single-family household. My mom was a single mom. Every penny counts when you’re a single mom. The labor movement understands that. This is why wage equality has been one of its biggest fights.

On how she got into union work:

I grew up around unions, but didn’t know what they were. I’m from Jamaica. My family settled in New York. The women in my family worked in healthcare and food services. An aunt who worked for the county hospital was a member of the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA). She would take me to union picnics and union parties, but I had no idea what CSEA was. I just thought it was the hospital party. That was my very first experience with unions. I started with the Steelworkers when I was 19 years old. 

On why she loves her fellow union members:

My very first day with the Steelworkers, I met a group of legislative interns who were members. That is when I fell in love with my union, because I fell in love with our members. They were nontraditional and diverse. They were from all walks of life. We’re the largest union in the paper sector; the oil sector; chemicals and rubber; and the auto industry. We actually have more people working in the auto industry than the United Auto Workers because our members make the components for automobiles—steel, aluminum, seats, glass and tires—literally everything.

On diversity in the labor movement:

It is very helpful for the future and growth of our union for our members to be more comfortable with diversity, particularly as more and more public sector workers are organized and we get more nurses, bus drivers, and cab drivers in the fold. For our union to fully move into the 21st century, it needs to be inclusive. I’m part of us moving in that direction.

On the purpose of unions:

I want young people, people of color, immigrants, and women to know that unions are about power. They are about economic power. They are about educational power—because those wages allow people to send their kids to school. They are about financial power for the future, because a lot of these union jobs have very strong retirement benefits associated with them.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 03/30/2020 - 11:03

Fighting the Coronavirus: Making Ventilators

Fri, 27 Mar 2020 18:37:21 +0000

Fighting the Coronavirus: Making Ventilators

Trevar Smedal is a member of Machinists (IAM) Local 1406 employed at General Electric's Datex-Ohmeda in Madison, Wisconsin. He and his co-workers are in a race against the clock to produce ventilators needed in the worldwide fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Watch the video to hear Trevar's story.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 03/27/2020 - 14:37

Put Workers First: In the States Roundup

Thu, 26 Mar 2020 13:03:55 +0000

Put Workers First: In the States Roundup

In the States
AFL-CIO

It's time once again to take a look at the ways working people are making progress in the states. Click on any of the links to follow the state federations on Twitter.

Find state-by-state COVID19-related resources here.

Alaska AFL-CIO:

Arizona AFL-CIO:

Arkansas AFL-CIO:

California Labor Federation:

Colorado AFL-CIO:

Connecticut AFL-CIO:

Florida AFL-CIO:

Georgia AFL-CIO:

Indiana State AFL-CIO:

Maine AFL-CIO:

Massachusetts AFL-CIO:

Metropolitan Washington (D.C.) Council, AFL-CIO:

Michigan AFL-CIO:

Minnesota AFL-CIO:

Missouri AFL-CIO:

Montana AFL-CIO:

Nebraska State AFL-CIO:

New Jersey State AFL-CIO:

New York State AFL-CIO:

North Carolina State AFL-CIO:

North Dakota AFL-CIO:

Ohio AFL-CIO:

Oregon AFL-CIO:

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO:

Rhode Island AFL-CIO:

Texas AFL-CIO:

Virginia AFL-CIO:

Washington State Labor Council:

West Virginia AFL-CIO:

Wisconsin State AFL-CIO:

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 03/26/2020 - 09:03

Women's History Month Profiles: Jessie Lopez de la Cruz

Wed, 25 Mar 2020 15:03:00 +0000

Women's History Month Profiles: Jessie Lopez de la Cruz

Jessie Lopez de la Cruz
AFL-CIO

For Women's History Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various women who were, and some who still are, leaders and activists working at the intersection of civil and labor rights. Today, we are looking at Jessie Lopez de la Cruz.

In 1919, Jessie Lopez was born in Anaheim, California. Her family was poor enough that she began working in fruit and vegetable fields at five. Her family soon began working as migrant farmworkers, and they were hit hard by the Great Depression. 

While working in San Juan Capistrano in 1932, Jessie was asked to help translate during a strike of Mexican workers, as she had the best English of the workers, who were mostly Mexican. In 1938, she married another farmworker, Arnold de la Cruz, and they went on to have six children.

She continued as a farmworker for decades before becoming inspired to start organizing workers. She wouldn't become an organizer until she was in her 40s. Her husband, Arnold, began working with César Chávez and the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) in 1965. Meetings were held in the couple's home, and soon Jessie began to volunteer as well.

After the NFWA became the United Farm Workers (UFW), Jessie became the top recruiter in the union. She led or participated in a variety of actions, such as picketing stores, to advocate for the safety of Mexican American workers and against employer corruption and abuse. 

UFW established its first hiring hall in 1968 and Jessie became the manager. Her tireless efforts led her to even more exposure and activity in organizations like the Fresno County Economic Opportunity Commission, Central California Action Associates, California's Commission on the Status of Women.

Jessie worked to improve UFW as well. Her advocacy led the union to expand opportunities for women in leadership positions, despite strong opposition.

She retired from UFW in 1993 and spent her retirement working with California Rural Legal Assistance and her local Catholic charity. After she died in 2013, her biography was adapted into a television miniseries.

Watch a video with more about the story of Jessie Lopez de la Cruz:

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 03/25/2020 - 11:03

Talking About COVID-19: Labor Podcast and Radio Roundup

Tue, 24 Mar 2020 13:10:23 +0000

Talking About COVID-19: Labor Podcast and Radio Roundup

In addition to the AFL-CIO's own "State of the Unions," there are a lot of other podcasts out there that have their own approach to discussing labor issues and the rights of working people. Here are the latest podcasts from across the labor movement in the United States.

America’s Work Force: The Benefits of Mechanical Insulation: Insulators Union Labor Management Cooperative Trust Executive Director Pete Ielmini talking about the benefits mechanical insulation offers to mechanical systems and the companies where it is properly installed and maintained.

Belabored Podcast #193: Work in the Time of CoronavirusAs the coronavirus spreads across the world, we discuss what it means for workers in health care, the gig economy and other front-line industries.

Building Bridges: What Is to Be Done: Forging a systemic response to address the health and economic crisis of the pandemic, with Dean Baker, senior economist and co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Heartland Labor Forum: It's been 55 years since Selma: How far have we come? Also updates on how the pandemic is affecting Kansas City workers.

IAFF Podcast: Managing Your Retirement Accounts in the Era of COVID-19: "IAFF [Fire Fighters] Financial Corp Chief Financial Officer Carrie Tucker sits down with Mark and Doug to discuss the recent stock market volatility, how it is affecting retirement accounts and what firefighters should be doing during this unprecedented time."

Labor History Today: The Great Postal Strike, Watergate and “Casey Jones, the Union Scab.”

Labor Live@5 (D.C.): A D.C.-based women's social justice a cappella group, SongRise, encourages perseverance, raises awareness, breaks down barriers, touches hearts and inspires action through song. 

State of the UnionsA discussion with Matt Morrison, executive director of Working America, about how the affiliate union is mobilizing millions of workers from all demographics who otherwise lack representation at work.

UCOMM: Understanding the NFLPA Contract BattlePlus, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) on the PRO Act, teachers fight for more funding and more.

Union City Radio: Resources to help survive the economic impact of coronavirus.

Union Strong: COVID-19 relief for working people.

Willamette Wake-UpThe crisis in private sector pensions with Don McIntosh.

WorkWeek: The San Francisco housing and homeless crisis with San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston, port safety with ILWU Local 10 President Trent Willis and more. 

You Are the Current Resident (NALC): A discussion with Executive Vice President Brian Renfroe and Mark Sims, COVID-19 updates and more.

Your Rights At Work (D.C.): The latest on workers and the coronavirus.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 03/24/2020 - 09:10

Our Response to the Coronavirus: The Working People Weekly List

Mon, 23 Mar 2020 18:28:33 +0000

Our Response to the Coronavirus: The Working People Weekly List

Working People Weekly List
AFL-CIO

Every week, we bring you a roundup of the top news and commentary about issues and events important to working families. Here’s the latest edition of the Working People Weekly List.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka Talks About the Coronavirus’ Impact on America's Workers: "AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka talks about the coronavirus’s impact on American workers and what he expects ahead. He talks about the U.S. economy more widely as well, labor’s relationship with Congress and the administration and presidential politics."

AFL-CIO President Trumka on Our Response to the Coronavirus: "AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was on Bloomberg Radio discussing our response to the coronavirus and our demands moving forward."

AFL-CIO Calls on Federal Government to Protect Entertainment Industry Workers: "With hundreds of thousands of entertainment industry workers suddenly unemployed by the coronavirus shutdown, unions and guilds affiliated with the AFL-CIO’s Department for Professional Employees are calling on President Trump, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Congress to quickly pass emergency relief legislation to enhance and expand state unemployment benefits and send direct cash to the impacted workers they represent.” 

‘At War with No Ammo’: Doctors Say Shortage of Protective Gear Is Dire: "With coronavirus cases soaring, doctors, nurses and other front-line medical workers across the United States are confronting a dire shortage of masks, surgical gowns and eye gear to protect them from the virus."

The Delivery Workers Who Risk Their Health to Bring You Food: "As New Yorkers barricade themselves in their homes to practice “social distancing,” delivery workers, typically an overlooked group, have now taken on outsized significance and are on the front lines of the outbreak. With demand for deliveries surging, a largely immigrant work force has become a critical link, providing food, groceries, medication and many other items that many people can no longer easily access or are unwilling to go out and purchase. Beside risking their own health, workers typically earn meager salaries and have no health insurance or any other labor protections."

Airline Union Leader: ‘The Casualties Are Starting to Pile Up’: "The airline layoffs that began this week will snowball and cripple the industry’s ability to recover once the novel coronavirus pandemic is contained unless federal lawmakers act swiftly to prop up payrolls, the leader of the nation’s top flight attendants union said Friday."

Trumka Praises Workers, Slams Trump and Profiteers on Coronavirus Pandemic: "Workers, union and non-union, are responding magnificently to the coronavirus pandemic, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says. Business and GOP President Donald Trump are another matter."

'I Can’t Overstate How Devastating This Crisis Has Been': "Karen Kent, head of UNITE HERE Local 1, estimates that three-fourths of the 16,000 hospitality workers her union represents are out of work or laid off as a result of coronavirus-related cancellations and cutbacks."

How to Keep U.S. Workers Safe During Coronavirus: "Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka join 'Morning Joe' to discuss safety for U.S. workers and what the labor movement is doing in this time of crisis."

As Coronavirus Deepens Inequality, Inequality Worsens Its Spread: "As the coronavirus spreads across the globe, it appears to be setting off a devastating feedback loop with another of the gravest forces of our time: economic inequality. In societies where the virus hits, it is deepening the consequences of inequality, pushing many of the burdens onto the losers of today’s polarized economies and labor markets. Research suggests that those in lower economic strata are likelier to catch the disease. They are also likelier to die from it."

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on the Coronavirus Pandemic: "AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was on Bloomberg Business discussing the coronavirus pandemic and its effect on the American worker."

Gig Economy Workers Are Our Newest First Responders: "These low-paid, unsung workers—Instacart shoppers but also the Amazon delivery folks and everyone else who is doing gig work today that helps other people engage in self-protective social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic—are now the equivalent of first responders."

Women's History Month Profiles: Elizabeth Gurley Flynn: "For Women's History Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various women who were, and some who still are, leaders and activists working at the intersection of civil and labor rights. Today, we are looking at Elizabeth Gurley Flynn."

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka Answers COVID-19 Questions on Facebook Live: "In a Facebook Live event Wednesday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (UMWA) spoke about working people's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and answered questions from union members."

‘State of the Unions’ Podcast: Working America, AFL-CIO's Community Affiliate: "On the latest episode of 'State of the Unions,' podcast co-host Julie Greene Collier and guest co-host Carolyn Bobb sit down with Matt Morrison, executive director of Working America, the 3.5 million-member community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, to discuss how the affiliate is mobilizing millions of workers from all demographics who otherwise lack representation at work."

Transit Workers Win Organizing Victories: Worker Wins: "Our latest roundup of worker wins begins with a series of wins for transit workers and includes numerous examples of working people organizing, bargaining and mobilizing for a better life."

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 03/23/2020 - 14:28

The Response to COVID-19: What Working People Are Doing This Week

Mon, 23 Mar 2020 17:10:44 +0000

The Response to COVID-19: What Working People Are Doing This Week

What Working People Are Doing This Week
AFL-CIO

Welcome to our regular feature, a look at what the various AFL-CIO unions and other working family organizations are doing across the country and beyond. The labor movement is big and active—here's a look at the broad range of activities we're engaged in this week.

Actors' Equity:

AFGE:

AFSCME:

Air Line Pilots Association:

Alliance for Retired Americans:

Amalgamated Transit Union:

American Federation of Musicians:

American Federation of Teachers:

American Postal Workers Union:

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance:

Association of Flight Attendants-CWA:

Boilermakers:

Bricklayers:

California School Employees Association:

Coalition of Black Trade Unionists:

Coalition of Labor Union Women:

Communications Workers of America:

Department for Professional Employees:

Electrical Workers:

Fire Fighters:

Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics and Allied Workers-USW:

International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers:

International Labor Communications Association:

Ironworkers:

Jobs with Justice:

Labor Council for Latin American Advancement:

Machinists:

Maritime Trades Department:

Metal Trades Department:

Mine Workers:

Musical Artists:

National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-CWA:

National Association of Letter Carriers:

National Day Laborer Organizing Network:

National Domestic Workers Alliance:

National Nurses United:

National Taxi Workers Alliance:

The NewsGuild-CWA:

NFL Players Association:

North America's Building Trades Unions:

Office and Professional Employees:

Painters and Allied Trades:

Pride At Work:

Professional Aviation Safety Specialists:

Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union:

SAG-AFTRA:

School Administrators:

Seafarers:

Solidarity Center:

Theatrical Stage Employees:

Transport Workers:

Transportation Trades Department:

UAW:

UNITE HERE:

United Food and Commercial Workers:

United Steelworkers:

Utility Workers:

Working America:

Writers Guild of America, East:

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 03/23/2020 - 13:10

Women's History Month Profiles: Elizabeth Gurley Flynn

Fri, 20 Mar 2020 17:17:55 +0000

Women's History Month Profiles: Elizabeth Gurley Flynn

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn
AFL-CIO

For Women's History Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various women who were, and some who still are, leaders and activists working at the intersection of civil and labor rights. Today, we are looking at Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was born in 1890 in Concord, New Hampshire, to a radical, activist working-class family. When she was 10, the family moved to the South Bronx, where she attended public school. By the time she was 15, Flynn was active in socialist groups. At 15, she gave her first public speech, and the next year she was expelled from high school. She became a full-time organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

In the years leading up to World War I, Flynn was active on women's rights, free speech for IWW speakers and organizing textile strikes in places like Lawrence, Massachusetts, and Paterson, New Jersey. She also worked to organize garment workers in Pennsylvania, silk weavers in New Jersey, restaurant workers in New York City and miners in Minnesota. 

Flynn opposed the war when it broke out, and like many war opponents, she was charged with espionage. The charges were dropped and Flynn began working to defend immigrants threatened with deportation for their opposition to the war.

In 1920, Flynn helped found the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and was elected to the national board. From 1927-1930, she chaired International Labor Defense. During that time she was active in trying to free jailed labor organizers Thomas J. Mooney and Warren K. Billings. For the first half of the 1930s, she withdrew from public life because of bad health, but she returned to public life in 1939 and was re-elected to the ACLU board. When Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin signed a nonaggression pact, the ACLU expelled all Communist Party members from its ranks, including Flynn.

Flynn ran for the Communist Party of America's Central Committee successfully, and ran for a seat in Congress unsuccessfully. During World War II, Flynn fought for women's economic equality. After the war, as communism grew more unpopular in the United States, Flynn shifted back to defending free speech rights for radicals. In 1951, she was arrested for conspiracy to overthrow the government based on the Smith Act of 1940. She spent more than two years in prison.

She returned to political action once she was out of prison, and in 1961, she became the first woman elected national chair of the Communist Pary. A critic of the Soviet Union, Flynn traveled behind the Iron Curtain and was stricken ill. She died in the USSR and was given a state funeral in Red Square.

In his autobiography, journalist Eugene Lyons described Flynn as "the most brilliant woman I had ever met. A veteran of the front trenches in the labor struggle since fifteen, she was, at thirty, attractive, winsomely Irish in her wit and her savor of life, with a remarkably cool intelligence behind her fiery oratory and personality. In the Mesaba Range strike, the Paterson and Lawrence strikes, her eloquence and courage and sweetness had won her tens of thousands of worshipful friends among the workers."

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 03/20/2020 - 13:17

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka Answers COVID-19 Questions on Facebook Live

Fri, 20 Mar 2020 16:49:54 +0000

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka Answers COVID-19 Questions on Facebook Live

RLT Coronavirus
AFL-CIO

In a Facebook Live event Wednesday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (UMWA) spoke about working people's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and answered questions from union members. 

Lisa, a member of the Ohio Nurses Association/AFT, asked about getting N95 respirators and other vital supplies into the hands of front-line nurses.

Michael, an AFT member in New York, asked what message we can send to ensure that the rich and corporations don’t use this public health crisis to further erode the middle and working classes.

Garrett, a letter carrier in Seattle, asked whether or not this crisis may be an opportunity for the labor movement to increase the number of union jobs in the United States.

Watch the video below to see Trumka's answers to these questions and more discussion of our response to COVID-19. You also can read a transcript of his remarks.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 03/20/2020 - 12:49

‘State of the Unions’ Podcast: Working America, AFL-CIO's Community Affiliate

Wed, 18 Mar 2020 14:38:47 +0000

‘State of the Unions’ Podcast: Working America, AFL-CIO's Community Affiliate

On the latest episode of "State of the Unions," podcast co-host Julie Greene Collier and guest co-host Carolyn Bobb sit down with Matt Morrison, executive director of Working America, the 3.5 million-member community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, to discuss how the affiliate is mobilizing millions of workers from all demographics who otherwise lack representation at work.

Listen to our previous episodes:

  • A discussion with M.K. Fletcher, AFL-CIO Safety and Health specialist, about all things COVID-19, what the labor movement is doing and how we are responding to ensure that front-line workers' needs are taken care of.

  • Talking with AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre (UFCW) about his journey from being an Ethiopian refugee to success in the labor movement in Orange County, California, and in Washington, D.C., and the people and institutions that helped him along the way.

  • A conversation with the Rev. Leah Daughtry, CEO of "On These Things," about Reconnecting McDowell, an AFT project that takes a holistic approach to revitalizing the education and community of McDowell, West Virginia, and how her faith informs her activism.

  • Talking to Fire Fighters (IAFF) General President Harold Schaitberger about the union’s behavioral health treatment center dedicated to treating IAFF members struggling with addiction and other related behavioral challenges. The discussion also addresses the toll of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on firefighters and their families, the response of the IAFF in its wake, and the life of a firefighter.

  • A chat with the podcast team on their favorite episodes of 2019.

  • A discussion with Cas Mudde, a political scientist at the University of Georgia, on the resurgence of right-wing politicians and activists across the world, much of it cloaked in populist, worker-friendly rhetoric.

State of the Unions” is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and anywhere else you can find podcasts.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 03/18/2020 - 10:38

   
  

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