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.
PRO Act Drive Revs Up as Faith Groups Back Legislation: "'This PRO Act Week of Action is another full-court press. America’s labor movement is showing up in every corner of our country to demand a fix to our outdated labor laws that are nearly 100 years old," said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. 'Our members and all working people are committed to making the PRO Act the law of the land this year.'"
Congress Must Take Action to Protect Workers: "As Oregon's U.S. senator and president of the Oregon AFL-CIO, the state's largest federation of unions, we have long advocated for the rights of workers to collectively bargain free from employer interference. Yet, union-busters, big business and woefully outdated labor laws continue to undermine workers' rights. The massively uneven playing field in Bessemer illustrates the urgent need to improve our labor laws. That's why we're pushing to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act—the most significant worker empowerment legislation since the Great Depression. It would dramatically increase penalties for employers that violate workers' rights, and so much more."
Big, Ugly Hero to Workers Spared Execution: "But rodent admirers can rejoice. The National Labor Relations Board has decided that unions can continue to display the famous inflatable rat after opposition from employers and Peter Robb, the former general counsel of the NLRB who was appointed by President Trump and fired by President Biden. On Wednesday, the NLRB in a 3-1 decision found that the display of inflatable labor mascots such as Scabby did not violate the National Labor Relations Act. Robb had argued that the use of Scabby was unlawfully coercive."
To Build Back Better, Give Workers a Voice and a Stake: "Bezos is not the first entrepreneur to get rich imagining a product or service people love. But there was once a time when Americans who actually did the work saw a part of the profits and had a voice in the workplace. Henry Ford famously believed that his company benefited from his workers being able to buy the product they made. Living wages and labor unions helped build an American middle class that welcomed workers who built and grew things, even without a college degree. Today, those same workers are fighting for the Protect the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act), a piece of common-sense legislation that would give workers a fair shot at economic mobility and the right to form unions. It gives workers a voice and a stake in America building back better, as well as an ability to bargain for a family wage and to demand safety and dignity on the job."
Black Unemployment Matters Just as Much as White Unemployment: "In April 2020, after the labor market took its largest one-month hit in modern history, Black men and women suffered job losses proportionate to those of white women. Still, their losses were far less severe than those of Hispanic men and women. Black workers already had higher unemployment rates, as has always been the case, but their unemployment rates did not skyrocket as much as other groups. In fact, while the Black unemployment rate normally hovers around two times higher than that of whites, the racial disparities in the unemployment rate fell during the height of the coronavirus crisis. Black job losses were not as extreme as might have been expected because Black workers were overrepresented in the sectors deemed essential. Yet, since April 2020, the ratio of Black to white unemployment has been on a path to return to its typical level—with Black workers experiencing twice the level of unemployment as their white neighbors."
The Government Agency That Can End the Covid Pandemic: "After a year of deadly Covid-19 outbreaks in meatpacking, healthcare, retail, prisons, transportation and other workplaces across the country, and after the Trump administration’s infuriating refusal to protect workers from exposure to the virus, worker advocates were overjoyed on January 21 when President Biden signed an Executive Order calling for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue within two months an enforceable emergency standard to protect workers from the disease. But that deadline came and there was no OSHA standard. Finally, on June 17 the Biden administration issued an emergency standard that covered only health care workers. The rest of the workforce was left to rely on voluntary guidelines that were often impossible to enforce."
Organizing a Union in the Disorganized World of Small Restaurants: "Worried about returning to work during a pandemic and galvanized by the racial-justice protests throughout their city, 17 cocktail-room employees at Tattersall Distilling in Minneapolis told the owners during a staff meeting in June 2020 that they intended to form a union. They wanted personal protective equipment, overtime pay and antiracism training. The past year and a half has been a watershed for labor organizing, as the pandemic and a national discourse on racial equity have turned a harsh spotlight on low pay and poor working conditions across the American economy. One of the most surprising places those campaigns have surfaced is independent restaurants, bars and bakeries, where unions are rare."
Frito-Lay Workers Are on Strike for Their Lives: "At the Frito-Lay production plant in Topeka, Kansas, workers are subjected to something called 'suicides,' shifts in which they come in for eight hours, are forced to work four more hours, and then are called in four hours early, leaving them only eight hours off between shifts. This is how the company forces overtime to the point that many of those workers say they work twelve hours a day, seven days a week, with some not having had a day off in five months, weekends included."
AFL-CIO: S&P 500 Companies CEO-to-Employee Pay Ratio Up, Averaged $299: $1 in 2020: "According to the AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, the average compensation for an S&P 500 CEO in 2020 was $15.5 million. An 'Executive Paywatch' website created by the AFL-CIO allows users to see the CEO’s salary and CEO-to-employee pay ratios of many of America’s largest corporations, not just those in the S&P 500, without looking through SEC filings. 'On average, in 2020 at S&P 500 companies, CEO pay increased by 5% while the disclosed median employee’s pay at those same companies only increased by 1%,' said Shuler."
I'm a Frito-Lay Factory Worker. I Work 12-Hour Days, 7 Days a Week: "Many of the 850 workers at the facility say they work 84 hours a week with no days off. Workers are nominally supposed to work eight-hour shifts, but because of shortages, workers are often forced to add on an extra four hours before or after their shifts. Workers call these extended shifts 'suicides,' because they say the schedule kills you over time. Some workers haven't had a single day off in five months, including Saturdays and Sundays."
Texas Dems, AFL-CIO’s Trumka Link Voting and Workers’ Rights: "Citing civil rights leaders the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the late Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and a delegation of Texas state Democratic lawmakers—who left Austin for D.C. to halt a draconian Texas GOP voter repression law—inextricably linked voting rights with worker rights. In an outdoor press conference at AFL-CIO headquarters, located just blocks from the White House on the now-renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza, the lawmakers and union leaders said those causes are one and the same. Trumka pledged a joint crusade for both. 'It’s time for the Senate to be courageous and lead the way for the PRO Act and S. 1 and the rest of the Workers First Agenda,' Trumka declared. He also identified the foes."