New Officers to be Voted in at AFL-CIO Convention

The spirit of trade unionism is in full stride in Pittsburgh as the city hosts the AFL-CIO's 26th Constitutional Convention September 13 - 17. Highlighting the summit is the election of a new slate of officers - including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Worker's Liz Shuler - to helm the 11 million-member federation.

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'Young Workers: A Lost Decade'

Something bad happened in the past 10 years to young workers in this country: Since 1999, more of them now have lower-paying jobs, if they can get a job at all; health care is a rare luxury and retirement security is something for their parents, not them. In fact, many--younger than 35--still live at home with their parents because they can't afford to be on their own.

These are the findings of a new report, "Young Workers: A Lost Decade." Conducted in July 2009 by Peter D. Hart Research Associates for the AFL-CIO and our community affiliate Working America, the nationwide survey of 1,156 people follows up on a similar survey the AFL-CIO conducted in 1999. The deterioration of young workers' economic situation in those 10 years is alarming.

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Reform U.S. Foreign Policy. Pass the Employee Free Choice Act.

Sometimes an opportunity for reform comes along that is "strategic" in that it changes the playing field for efforts to win other reforms in the future. The passage of the National Labor Relations Act - establishing the right of American workers to organize unions and bargain collectively - was a strategic reform. It increased the power of people previously excluded from power, and thereby reduced the power of corporate interests.

But the right of workers in America to organize has been steadily eroded by unpunished abuses by anti-union employers. Passage of the Employee Free Choice Act is easy to justify on the basis of guaranteeing the basic human rights of working Americans.  When the Employee Free Choice Act is signed into law, millions of private sector workers will have greater protection from having their rights violated.

What difference would that make? Ask Steve Arney. He used to be a reporter at the Bloomington Pantagraph, a newspaper in Illinois owned by Lee Enterprises.

A majority of employees at the Pantagraph signed cards to support forming a union with the St. Louis Newspaper Guild. Lee Enterprises responded with a campaign to defeat the effort by Pantagraph employees to form a union.

As part of Lee's anti-union campaign, Steve Arney lost his job.

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John Sweeney: "We will pass the Employee Free Choice Act"

John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO, said 2 years ago:
"Today, the Employee Free Choice Act has 208 co-sponsors in the House, including 10 Republicans, and 42 in the Senate -- and we will pass it while George Bush is in office."John Sweeney at National Press Club 1/18/2006

Since then the EFCA, which adds penalties for labor violations, has passed the House, but has stalled in the Senate over a Republican blockade over a small change in "card check" organizing campaigns and has been abandoned by Democrats and Unions until 2009.

Currently employees can optionally organize or decertify a union using signature cards instead of secret ballots. Business groups only want to be able to decertify unions using card check, calling organization by signature cards "undemocratic" and condemning the entire EFCA as "Orwellian named." If the Republican position sounds like a double standard, thats because it is.

Sweeney and his Democrat allies in the Senate could easily shift the debate to just enforcing current labor law. Instead, they are letting the Republicans have a free ride this November by keeping the general public confused about technical aspects of forming a union.

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The Revolution Begins in Chesco

After another day on the ground in Pennsylvania, this occurs to me: the 50 State Strategy should be abandoned in favor of a One Million County strategy. I picked "one million" as a ballpark figure only because Wikipedia won't tell me how many counties and parishes we have in these United States.

Pennsylvania Democrats are working on the county level for a legislative majority in the capital of Harrisburg. At a rally this afternoon in the Chester County town of Downingtown, State Senator Andrew Dinniman told the crowd of the dark days when Chesco (as the locals seem to call it) was once considered so Republican that neither Al Gore in 2000 nor John Kerry in 2004 would show his face there. But in a May 2005 special election, Dinniman trounced his Republican opponent by 13 points.

Then there's Tom Houghton, running for State Representative in Chesco. Tom's hometown of London Grove Township is 3-to-1 Republican but still elected the tree-hugging Houghton to its Board of Supervisors. Tom today credited his success to talking to his neighbors about the building blocks of suburbia: health care, school funding, and preserving public spaces. It''s looking more and more like that Chesco might very possibly make the third time the charm for Lois Murphy in her re-re-match with Jim Gerlach.

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