Flexing Union Muscle: 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.

Lee Saunders: Flexing Union Muscle: “U.S. workers today have enormous momentum and leverage. 2023 was a year of walkouts, with the number of U.S. workers on strike more than doubling. Lee Saunders is president of AFSCME, one of the country's largest unions, and he says with workers engaged as never before, this is the moment to make progress for American labor. A look at the power of workers in 2024, and how one union leader wants to wield it.”

Passage of Voting Rights Urged: “The AFL-CIO, America’s largest federation of labor unions, has voiced its support for the reintroduction of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act in the Senate. Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond emphasized the significance of this legislation, especially as the nation commemorates the anniversary of ‘Bloody Sunday’ and the historic Selma to Montgomery marches. Redmond underscored the Act’s homage to the late Rep. John Lewis, a stalwart champion of civil rights, and its pivotal role in fostering a more inclusive democracy. He highlighted the labor movement’s enduring commitment to social and economic justice, recognizing the inseparable link between voting rights and these foundational principles.”

Michigan Seniors Blast Former President Donald Trump on Social Security and Medicare Comments: “Some Michigan senior citizens are criticizing former President Donald Trump for suggesting this week he would find ways to cut spending on Social Security and Medicare if elected in November. Monday, during an appearance on CNBC, Trump was asked about long-term solvency issues for Social Security and Medicare. Trump responded, ‘First of all, there is a lot you can do in terms of entitlements in terms of cutting and in terms of also the theft and the bad management of entitlements, tremendous bad management of entitlements.’ President Joe Biden pounced on the statement, posting on X (previously known as Twitter) with ‘Not on my watch.’ Tuesday, a group of senior citizens holding Biden-Harris signs gathered at the AFL-CIO office in Lansing. ‘Donald Trump made it clear he would try to cut Social Security and Medicare if he returns to the White House,’ said Jim Pedersen, the president of the Michigan Alliance for Retired Americans. ‘And we should take him at his word.’”

USW Files Section 301 Trade Petition to Level Playing Field for Ship Building: “On Tuesday, the United Steelworkers filed a Section 301 trade petition, calling on the United States Trade Representative to start an investigation of Chinese commercial shipbuilding. They also hosted a press conference about this topic on Tuesday. USW International President Dave McCall said the petition is 4,000 pages. ‘If we do not act soon, we will be dependent on China, not only for the products on the vessels. But also for the ships themselves. The filing is a broad indictment. It also identifies steps taken to restore capabilities and capacity for jobs. It’s time to fight back.’”

Off-Broadway Stagehands’ Union Organizing Gains Steam: “After Sarala Pool worked a design internship in college, she dreamed of working Off-Broadway. She wanted to harness her skills to make magic happen onstage at places like the Public Theater. Her dream came true as assistant prop manager on Suffs in 2022, but the job, like all Off-Broadway gigs, was short-lived. She left it scrambling for another job with health insurance as the coverage from her parents expired. ‘The Public Theater is my favorite place I’ve ever had the privilege to work at,’ Pool said at a Feb. 29 press conference at the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE)’s Local 1 hall. ‘If I could have afforded to stay, I would have.’”

AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler On Equal Pay Day: “From AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler: As we observe Equal Pay Day today, we are reminded of the persistent injustice faced by working women across our nation. It is unacceptable that for the past 20 years the gender wage gap has remained largely unchanged as big corporations and the wealthy—along with many Republicans—resisted change.”

Letter Carrier Robberies Continue as the U.S. Postal Service, Union and Lawmakers Seek Solutions: “When the U.S. Postal Service launched Project Safe Delivery last year, officials pledged they would be ‘doubling down’ on their efforts to combat growing rates of letter carrier robberies. The crackdown has led to hundreds of arrests, and robberies slowed toward the end of the year. But, overall, the number of postal carriers who were robbed in 2023 rose again and the number who were injured nearly doubled as criminals continue to target carriers for their antiquated ‘arrow keys’ that allow access to mailboxes. This week, legislation is being introduced in Congress to accelerate the replacement of tens of thousands of mailbox keys, boost prosecutions and review sentencing guidelines. All of it can’t come soon enough for letter carriers.”

Union Group Opposes Ancora’s Attempts at Norfolk Southern Takeover: “The Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of trade union centre AFL-CIO has said it is ‘gravely concerned’ by the attempts from Ancora Holdings to oust Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw in a letter sent to shareholders ahead of a vote on Ancora’s proposed replacement. A letter sent by TTD President Greg Regan, on behalf of TTD’s 37 member unions, said that the replacement of Shaw with Jim Barber, a former executive at UPS, would have ‘lasting deleterious effects on the safety and service’ of the railroad company and the wider rail industry.”

Dartmouth Basketball's Union Vote is Just a Small Part of the Campus Organizing Wave: “The Dartmouth College men’s basketball team achieved a significant milestone last week when they became the first college athletes to vote to join a union. But they are only a small part of a much larger trend—that of college and graduate students voting in big numbers to join unions in their on-campus jobs. Organizing vote wins in higher education have added more new union members than in any other sector of the economy in recent years, said Christian Sweeney, deputy organizing director at the AFL-CIO. ‘It’s been happening for a while,’ he said. ‘It’s young people saying we’ve got to protect our interests here. It’s really very much grassroots driven.’”

Patagonia in Reno Becomes First in the U.S. to Unionize: “The Patagonia Store in Reno has voted to become the first such store in the nation to form a union. The store, located at 130 S Center Street, will be joining the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 711. ‘My fellow co-workers and I are now standing together with the protections of union representation and about to negotiate a contract, all thanks to our union siblings over at REI whose progress inspired us to continue the hard work of unionizing this industry. We are ready to fight for a contract that protects our rights and provides the wages and benefits we’ve earned making Patagonia the success that it is in Reno,’ said Nick Helmreich, a retail team lead at the Reno Patagonia store.”

‘An Invigorating Reminder’ of Why We Support President Biden: “Last night, I had the experience of a lifetime—and my head is still spinning from it. I had the honor of attending the State of the Union address of the first president to ever walk a picket line: President Joe Biden. I was the guest of Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland, who represents the fighting 10th District where I live in Tacoma.”

‘Born a Badger’: Secretary of Labor Julie Su’s Madison Roots Inspire Federal Worker Advocacy: “Some of U.S. Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su’s earliest memories took place while she lived in Madison. She remembers feeding ducks on Lake Mendota, and describes herself as being ‘born a Badger.’ Her family later moved to California, but Su returned to Madison Wednesday—this time a member of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet. She accompanied Vice President Kamala Harris in a visit that celebrated initiatives in Madison to build infrastructure and combat the climate crisis.”

AFSCME Union President Says Biden's Success on Jobs is Unparalleled: “Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, joins MSNBC's the Rev. Al Sharpton to discuss President Joe Biden's economic policy.”