Schools Must Be Open in Fall: The Working People Weekly List

Working People Weekly List

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.

President of Key Teachers’ Union Shares Plea: ‘Schools Must Be Open’ in Fall: "Randi Weingarten, president of the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union, called on Thursday for a full reopening of the nation’s schools for the next academic year, saying: 'There is no doubt: Schools must be open. In person. Five days a week.' 'It’s not risk-free,' Ms. Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which has 1.7 million members, said. She argued that the health risks can be managed through a range of practices—some of them relatively simple, such as masking and handwashing, and some of them more difficult to achieve at scale, such as decreasing class sizes to maintain distance and procuring additional spaces to meet outside cramped school buildings."

Want a Healthier Workplace Culture? Unionize: "A workplace’s culture is shaped by many factors. In my personal experience—as both a labor advocate and a manager—a positive workplace culture starts with employees knowing that their contributions are appreciated by management. Unfortunately, this is not the case for far too many working people who have no collective voice on the job. The exceptions are the 14.3 million workers—including more than six million professionals—in the United States who are represented by unions. These workers are able to secure respect by creating a healthy and collaborative workplace culture through negotiating with their employers."

Green Future Needs to Be Built with Union Jobs and Prevailing Wage: "While the future of clean energy jobs is a hot topic of debate these days, the Joe Biden administration is right to connect labor standards to renewable energy tax credits, pushing the industry towards good, union jobs."

Dozens of Large Companies 'Rigged' CEO Pay During Pandemic, Study Claims: "'CEO pay last year revealed the dirty secret that CEOs are not really paid based on their own individual performance,' said Brandon Rees, deputy director of corporations and markets at the AFL-CIO. 'When you compensate CEOs based on share prices, it incentivizes destructive behavior, but also contributes to economic inequality.'"

Fearing for Their Pensions, Union Members See Hope in Federal Aid: "While the pandemic has brought a lot of economic doubt, there is hope now. Tucked into the $1.9 trillion federal American Rescue Plan is special financial assistance to save more than 200 failing pension plans like Whitaker’s. This will impact millions of workers, including roofers, truck drivers, machinists and musicians—many of whom would have faced huge losses to their retirement benefits but are now breathing a collective sigh of relief."

Lean In Circles Bring Tradeswomen Together to Navigate Bias and Ask for What They Deserve: "Today, LeanIn.Org, North America's Building Trades Unions (NABTU), and Canada's Build Together announced Lean In Circles for Union Tradeswomen, a peer mentorship and training program to help women break new ground in an industry that's been historically dominated by men. 'Unions are all about collective voice, and this innovative program offers the perfect opportunity to enhance that solidarity,' said AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer Liz Shuler. 'We need more women in the trades, more women in leadership roles, and having programs like this is a meaningful step to create lifelong leadership skills and real tools that will guide tradeswomen throughout their careers. Connecting with other women in similar situations and sharing strategies through networks is invaluable.' Two years in the making, the program was developed by LeanIn.Org in partnership with AFL-CIO and NABTU leaders, subject matter experts, and tradeswomen to address the specific experiences of women in the building trades. The program was piloted in St. Louis, Missouri, and throughout Canada in 2019 and 2020 and received positive feedback from participants: 95% of Circle members said they built strong connections, and 90% of group moderators reported gaining leadership, facilitation, and organizing skills."

Labor Unions Lodge First USMCA Complaint Against Mexican Factory: "The U.S.’s largest labor union is leading a complaint over working conditions at an auto-parts factory in Mexico, the first case to test whether enforcement provisions in a new trade agreement can help to improve working conditions. 'USMCA requires Mexico to end the reign of protection unions and their corrupt deals with employers,' said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. 'The ongoing harassment of Susana Prieto and SNITIS members is a textbook violation of the labor laws Mexico has pledged to uphold.'"

Don't Pin So-Called Labor Shortage on Workers: Economy Was Broken Before COVID-19: "For over a year, COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on working people and the communities where we live and work. Millions of front-line workers are going to work today, as they have every day during the pandemic, with few—if any—protections from a virus that has killed 580,000 Americans. But there are also millions of working people who are out of a job through no fault of our own. Today, there are 8.4 million fewer jobs in the U.S. economy than there were in February 2020."

Longtime AFL-CIO Official Takes Up Key Labor Post In Biden Administration: "Today, [Thea] Lee became one of those people in charge when President Biden named her head of the Labor Department's Bureau of International Labor Affairs. In that key post, she will will oversee enforcement of labor provisions in U.S. trade policy, including those in President Donald Trump's major trade deal, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA. Among other things, the deal requires Mexico to offer workers greater protections, including against forced labor and violence."

The PRO Act: What’s in It and Why Is It a Labor Movement Priority?: "Enter the Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2021. Better known as the PRO Act, this bill would be the first major worker-friendly labor law reform since the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935, would significantly expand workers’ ability to join and organize unions, and level heavy penalties on employers who stand in their way. There are a number of exciting reforms in the bill, including a federal override of so-called right-to-work laws that weaken unions by allowing members to opt out of paying dues; an end to the hated 1947 Taft-Hartley Act’s ban on secondary strikes (also known as solidarity strikes, these are collective actions that employees in different workplaces can undertake to support another group of workers on strike); an update to the union election process to allow workers to vote online or by phone; enhanced protections for whistleblowers; and a response to the issue of worker misclassification that would give independent contractors—a group left out of the original NLRA that is still denied basic labor rights (especially those who are part of the so-called gig economy)—the right to organize collectively."