Bluegrass State Union Members Accept Teacher’s Invitation to Teach Labor History at Her High School
A bumper sticker was John Coomes’ “teacher’s certificate” at Henderson County High School in Henderson, Ky., his hometown.
“It said, ‘China is a right-to-work state since 1949,’” explained the Henderson-based Tri-County Labor Council president, who just finished a second daylong labor history presentation at HCHS, one of the largest schools in western Kentucky.
Coomes’ cup runneth over.
“We were there last year and have been invited back next year,” said the 66-year-old retiree from Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 136, based in Evansville, Ind., across the Ohio River from Henderson.
“Everybody—the teachers, the students—has been very supportive. This is a great way to teach these millennials about unions, which have gotten beaten up pretty badly in Kentucky lately.”
The just-concluded session of the Republican-majority state Legislature passed a trio of union-busting bills—“right to work,” prevailing wage repeal and a paycheck deception measure.
Tea party-tilting, union-despising GOP Gov. Matt Bevin gleefully signed the legislation.
“We wanted the students to know how these bills hurt everybody and not just union members,” Coomes said.
“We” included a trio of helpers: Marty Owens, Larry Parsons and Butch Puttman, all from Laborers Local 1392 in Owensboro, Ky., about 30 miles upriver from Henderson.
“We were in the auditorium all day,” said Coomes, who also sits on the Kentucky State AFL-CIO Executive Board.
The session was a reprise from the 2016 program, which stemmed from the bright red sticker showing an outline of China and the familiar hammer-and-sickle Communist symbol.
Coomes, who worked out of Local 136 for 47 years, happened to be handing out the stickers last year. When HCHS history and government teacher Ginger Stovall spied them, she had to have one.
“She’s my niece,” Coomes explained.
Uncle John wasn’t sure whether to give her one. “Knowing that her family is Republican, I asked her what she was going to do with it. I said, ‘If you put it on your car, your family is going to be upset.’
“She said, ‘Oh, no. I’m going to put it on my bulletin board in class.’ She also said she spends a week teaching about unions.”
Then she popped the question to her kin: “Could you bring someone in to help me teach the history of unions?”
Uncle John was happy to oblige. He summoned Louisville, Ky., labor lawyer Dave Suetholz. “Dave was very gracious to do this for us last year. He taught five classes and probably saw over 500 kids.”
Coomes got the stickers from Tim Donoghue, president of the Erlanger, Ky.-based Northern Kentucky Central Labor Council. “We are using the bumper stickers to educate our new members as well as the public,” he explained.
“I get to teach labor history at Lloyd High School in Erlanger, and l have contacted several other schools. I like to stress to our council delegates and union leaders that we must get involved in school board elections and demand our story be told.”
This year, Coomes’ program grew into seven classes with about 700 students participating. It was held in conjunction with career day.
He said representatives of unions, mostly building trades, constituted about “a third of everybody who was there. I felt really good about that.”
He said Parsons did most of the history teaching. “After he finished, I’d talk about my career and plug the building trades at career day,” Coomes said.
Meanwhile, he and Madisonville, Ky., resident Kevin Walton of United Steelworkers Local 9443 in Robards, Ky., are working on a labor history CD. Walton, the central labor council vice president and COPE director and a state AFL-CIO board member, helped with the 2016 program. But this year he was away at the USW’s convention in Las Vegas.
“We really want the CD to have a wow factor with slides and photos,” Coomes said. “We want it professionally done. It’s a great way to show high school students how bad unions have been mistreated and what unions do for all working people, not just union members.”
This is a guest post from Berry Craig, a retired member of AFT Local 1360. It originally appeared at Kentucky State AFL-CIO. Kenneth Quinnell
Sun, 04/23/2017 - 10:48— Apr 23
Unionized Scientists March in Protest of Attacks on Science and Jobs
IFPTE Local 20
Of all the attacks on our civil society, the attacks on evidence-based science pose perhaps the greatest existential threat. Decisions being made about climate science and environmental protection at this critical time will shape the future of our planet.
Advances in research are produced by the twin pillars of dedicated scientists and an activated citizenry who demand that the best science be applied to today’s most pressing problems. Because scientists produce the facts that expose the lies currently being purveyed, the tip of the spear is pointed at the heart of science-based policy and research.
But the imminent threat also presents an extraordinary opportunity for the scientific community to unify around a message of resistance, one in which organized labor has a critical role to play. Unionized scientists are well-positioned to fight back against the false narratives being pushed by the administration and to advocate collectively for continued funding of crucial basic research. Science professionals need a workplace free from fear of corporate power and political malfeasance influencing their results. We are the protectors of truth and facts, and in that way we all are in service to the public. With scientific integrity, we speak truth to power.
Budget cuts are the beginning of the attack. For example, the Donald Trump administration is proposing a 31% cut in funding and 21% cut in workforce at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on top of less-heralded budget cuts over the past three years. Such low funding levels have not been seen since the 1970s, prior to the enactment of most of our national environmental laws. Enforcement is also targeted, crippling the EPA’s ability to protect human health.
Is this a good way to save money? Investments in environmental protection pay huge dividends for the country. For example, air pollution reductions will avoid 230,000 premature deaths and produce total benefits valued at $2 trillion in 2020, according to a 2011 study. This benefit exceeds costs by more than 30-to-1, to say nothing of the human suffering.
Scientists have long held the view that with enough data and evidence we will be able to convince skeptics that climate change is real, that humans are responsible and that immediate action must be taken. It is increasingly clear that this approach has not worked.
For the nearly 7,000 postdoctoral researchers at the University of California and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab represented by UAW Local 5810, having a union ensures strong workplace protections as well as a powerful, nationwide platform for advocacy when research comes under threat. And the collective power of the union is not limited to the workplace.
With a diverse membership that includes both higher education and the manufacturing sector, the UAW has been a leading advocate for climate change policies that both create healthy communities and address economic and racial inequities. And at the EPA, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Local 20/Engineers and Scientists of California (ESC) has rallied in opposition to the cuts and will continue to speak out, including in San Francisco at the March for Science.
Make no mistake. As organized scientists, we are in solidarity with our union brothers and sisters who have lost jobs and real income steadily over the past several decades. We support the creation of jobs in clean energy sectors and in green infrastructure projects.
It is time for scientists and the citizenry who depend on science to embrace our responsibility to advocate for sound policies. Our very lives and livelihood are now dependent on stepping collectively forward into the realm of political advocacy and action.
Together we will March for Science on April 22, in opposition to the damage that the current administration seeks to do to research and in solidarity with scientists, researchers, and concerned citizens who remain resolved, undeterred, and organized in the face of these threats.
Carly Ebben Eaton is a postdoctoral scholar and executive board member of UAW Local 5810. Kathy Setian was a project manager at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a steward of IFPTE Local 20, Engineers and Scientists of California. She will be a speaker at the April 22 March for Science in San Francisco.Kenneth Quinnell
Tue, 04/18/2017 - 13:34— Apr 18
We Need Tax Reform That Works for Working People
Tomorrow, Americans will fulfill our civic duty of paying taxes to a system that is far from perfect or fair. As Congress reportedly is working on a plan to reform it, the AFL-CIO has a simple framework for what a serious proposal should include and what should not be included. These are the standards we will judge it by:
Big corporations and the wealthy must pay their fair share of taxes: Our rigged and broken tax system lets big corporations and the wealthy avoid paying their fair share of taxes, sticking the rest of us with the tab. Any tax reform proposal must not cut taxes for big corporations or the wealthy. On the contrary, tax reform should restore taxes on the wealthiest estates and tax the income of investors as much as the income of working people. It's imperative that tax reform make our tax system more progressive than it is now. Big corporations and the wealthy must pay more in taxes than they pay now, so we can build an economy that works for all of us.
Tax reform must raise significantly more revenue: Tax reform must raise enough additional revenue over the long term to create good jobs and make the public investment we need in education, infrastructure, and meeting the needs of children, families, seniors and communities. Any tax reform that reduces revenues in the short term or the long term is unacceptable. Additionally, cost estimates must be honest and not rely on gimmicks that hide the true long-term cost of tax cuts.
Tax reform must eliminate the tax incentive for corporations to shift jobs and profits offshore: Taxing offshore profits less than domestic profits creates an incentive for corporations to shift jobs and profits offshore, while giving global corporations a competitive advantage over domestic corporations. Tax reform must eliminate the tax incentive for corporations to shift jobs and profits offshore, a move that would raise nearly $1 trillion over 10 years. Reform must not include a “territorial” system that further reduces taxes on offshore profits and would increase the tax incentive for global corporations to shift jobs and profits offshore. Tax reform also must encourage investment in domestic manufacturing, production and employment to ensure a robust manufacturing sector.
Global corporations must pay what they owe on past profits held offshore: Global corporations owe an estimated $700 billion in taxes on the $2.6 trillion in past profits they are holding offshore. Tax reform should use these one-time-only tax revenues to increase smart public investment in infrastructure rather than cut corporate tax rates permanently. The higher the tax rate on these accumulated offshore earnings, the more funding will be available for public investment in infrastructure.
Mon, 04/17/2017 - 11:00
Tax Fairness— Apr 17
Joe Arpaio's Infamous Arizona Tent City Closing
By the time former Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio lost his re-election bid in 2016, he was widely thought of as one of the worst sheriffs in the country, if not the worst. He was known for harsh anti-immigrant policies, accusations of racial profiling, misuse of funds and any number of other complaints—and the perfect symbol of everything wrong with his way of approaching law enforcement was Tent City.
Bearing signs with the horrible pun “In-Tents unit” (“intense,” get it?), Tent City was Arpaio’s silly “get tough on crime” idea. And it quickly gave Maricopa County, and Arizona, a reputation as a place where revenge and hate were the driving principles behind law enforcement, an approach as inefficient and ineffective as it is immoral.
Since 1993, as many as 1,700 inmates at a time were housed in a seven-acre plot of tents. Inmates were forced to wear stereotypical black-and-white striped prison uniforms and, seriously, pink underwear. This is the type of man Arpaio is. He wants prisoners not only to pay their debt to society but to be humiliated—and he thinks making men wear pink underwear is the way to do it.
More serious were accusations of inhumane conditions at the facility, where the Arizona heat could reach 110 degrees during the hottest parts of the year. Prisoners complained of expired food and undrinkable water.
Contrary to Arpaio’s claims, evidence shows that Tent City was not only an ineffective crime deterrent, but expensive as well. Newly elected sheriff Paul Penzone said closing it will save millions of dollars, making the prison more efficient, more effective, and safer for both inmates and prison employees:
The image of the tents as a deterrent to recidivism, and as a symbol of being tough on crime may have been true in the past. Today it is only a myth. Tent City is no longer an effective, efficient facility. It has been effective only as a distraction. The circus is over; the tents are coming down.
It’s good to see that this shameful part of Arizona, and American, history is finally ending.
Thu, 04/13/2017 - 11:57
Joe Arpaio— Apr 13
The Plan Behind a Chicago Project to Lift Up Working People
Brooke Collins City of Chicago
Manufacturing jobs have been on a steady decline for several years because of trade deals, technological advancements and economic recessions. Despite this, manufacturing remains one of the most important sectors of the U.S. economy, employing more than 12 million workers, or about 9% of the total U.S. employment.
American cities continue to spend billions each year to buy major equipment, such as buses and railcars for public transportation systems. This spending has the potential to support tens of thousands of good manufacturing jobs. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, there will be 533,000 good middle-skill manufacturing jobs available over the next decade.
Jobs to Move America is working with labor, business, community and governmental groups around the country to ensure money spent on building transportation infrastructure is also used to promote equity and bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States. The organization also is advocating for workforce development and training programs that prepare working people for high-skilled careers that will help them succeed in the 21st-century economy.
Jobs to Move America and community partners recently managed to ensure a project in Chicago will create good jobs and long-term economic opportunities for the community. JMA worked with the Chicago Federation of Labor, the city of Chicago and the Chicago Transit Authority for four years to ensure that the U.S. Employment Plan was included as part of the CTA’s latest $1.3 billion project, which will supply up to 846 new railcars and replace about half of the CTA’s current fleet. The employment plan is a toolbox of policy resources transit agencies can include as part of their request for proposals to encourage bus and rail manufacturers to train and create good high-skilled U.S. jobs in communities that need it most.
The company that won the contract, CRRC Sifang America committed to building a new $100 million unionized facility on Chicago’s South Side, the first in 36 years. The company will spend $7.2 million to train 300 factory and construction workers. Additionally, CRRC has signed on to a community benefits agreement guaranteeing support for South Side residents and is part of a workforce-labor-business consortium that received a $4 million Department of Labor grant to develop an apprenticeship and training program, and a pipeline into manufacturing jobs in Chicago.
The work of JMA with labor and community partners leveraged a robust manufacturing jobs program that will strengthen the middle class, stimulate increased investment in new domestic manufacturing facilities, and create opportunities for low-income communities. Most importantly, the Chicago work has set a precedent for the rest of the country, lifting up standards and creating a model for how communities and business can and should work together.
The idea behind JMA’s work is simple. There is a need to reframe the discussion about good jobs and economic prosperity away from a "cheapest is best" approach to a broader discussion about the economic impact of using taxpayer dollars to create good jobs, especially for those historically excluded from the manufacturing sector, like women and people of color.
Take, for instance, Kristian Mendoza in the Los Angeles area, a veteran who was struggling to find a good-paying job after his service. He was forced to commute to a job an hour-and-a-half each way from his home. The job paid so little he could barely afford the gas to get there and did not have the resources to take care of his two young children.
Because of the work of the JMA coalition in Los Angeles, a U.S. Employment Plan was implemented in a project of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Part of the agreement is a community-labor partnership with Kinkisharyo, the company that won that bid. The company committed to hiring and exploring skills training for disadvantaged U.S. workers. To date, the company has exceeded its commitments, employing some 400 workers, most of whom are people of color in a unionized factory.
Mendoza is one of the 400. After struggling for years, he has been able to move out of his family’s home and into a place close to the Kinkisharyo factory.
The JMA team is now working on multiple projects across the country, monitoring the industry for upcoming opportunities to maximize public transportation dollars and ensure there are more success stories like Mendoza’s.
Wed, 04/12/2017 - 11:23
Jobs to Move America— Apr 12