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An Attack on All of Us

The 2016 November ballot will feature some of the worst attacks Oregon’s immigrants have seen. Any time working people face threats or fall under attack, it’s an attack on all of us. Too many communities and working families in Oregon will suffer should these dangerous policies be enacted.

With their victory on Measure 88 (driver’s cards), anti-immigrant forces in the state now feel they have the momentum to pass even more hateful policies to make the lives of many Oregonians even more difficult. These groups have filed several statewide ballot measures that Oregonians could potentially vote on this November. The measures do three things:

  1. Require E-Verify: Some proposals would require every business in Oregon to run every current and future employee through the flawed E-Verify program, or risk losing their business license.
  2. English-Only: Another measure would make English the official language of Oregon. All government information and documents (including those at schools) could only be published in English. No government job could require applicants to be competent in a language other than English.
  3. Restricting Voting Rights: A final measure would cancel every Oregonian’s voter registration until they could re-prove to the county clerk they were citizens in Oregon.

A coalition of local organizations – including the Oregon AFL-CIO– has come together to defeat these measures, and do everything it can to protect our most vulnerable in this state. To succeed in 2016, we will need your help. It starts by making a pledge and sharing with your friends and family that you will not sign any ballot proposal that attacks immigrants.

Click here to decline to sign these hateful policies.

As they build for the election, our opponents will be asking members of the community to sign petitions so the measures qualify for the ballot.

Click here to support the refuse to sign pledge.

We believe that Oregonians do not want these divisive policies to be the law in our great state. We will continue to work to defeat them, and will keep you informed as we do.

Exposing the Truth about the Freedom Foundation

A new video from the Northwest Accountability Project answers the question – what’s the Freedom Foundation’s real motivation for attacking labor unions and going to the homes of public employees in Washington and Oregon? Click here to get the scoop.

Thank You, Oregon Legislature

In case you missed it, last week Oregon’s Legislature voted to raise our minimum wage! Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain issued the following statement after the House approved the bill, which is on its way to Governor Brown’s desk:

“The momentum to raise Oregon’s minimum wage has been building for months, and today’s vote marks a significant victory for working people across the state. While raising the wage is just one piece of our broader efforts to create economic opportunity for working people, it will make a real difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Oregonians. We anticipate that Governor Brown will sign this bill and make a raise official in the coming days.”

Send an email to your legislators now thanking them for supporting the bill to raise Oregon's minimum wage. Please use this form to send an email now and tell them thank you for standing up for Oregon workers!

President Trumka to Majority Leader McConnell:
Do Your Job

The following is a letter from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka urging union members across the country to take action and tell GOP Senators who are obstructing President Obama’s Supreme Court nominations to do their jobs and appoint a nominee: 

Working people like us work hard and do the job we were paid to do every day. We don’t just do the parts of the job that we like or choose when to show up on the job.

Sadly, we can’t say the same of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and many Senate Republican leaders. Right now, they’re refusing to do the job they were elected to do and consider and confirm a qualified nominee to fill the vacancy created at the U.S. Supreme Court from Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing over the weekend.

Sign the petition now to tell McConnell and Senate Republican leadership to do their job and work to fill the Supreme Court vacancy without delay.

This issue isn’t about party or politics. It’s about our lawmakers doing what they agreed to when they were elected to the Senate—period. One of the most important parts of being a senator is fulfilling your constitutional duty to review and vote on nominees.

They’re trying to make excuses for not doing this essential work but, contrary to what they’re saying, there is plenty of time for Congress to fill this vacancy and precedent for confirming a nominee in an election year, even when the Senate isn’t controlled by the party of the president.

We don’t make excuses at our jobs even when we might not like something we’re asked to do or work with someone we might not like. Our senators shouldn’t do that either. It’s time they stop with the politics and do their jobs.

Tell Senate Republican leadership to get to work and move quickly on allowing hearings and a vote on a new Supreme Court justice.

In Solidarity,

Richard Trumka
President, AFL-CIO

The Art of Misdirection

Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain wrote an article featured in The Oregonian this week which explains how the art of misdirection is being used by those who oppose raising Oregon’s minimum wage:

“When you know you don't have logic or public opinion on your side, you try to divert the audience's attention. As the 2016 legislative session quickly approaches, this is exactly the tactic that opponents of raising the minimum wage are relying on. Instead of making an honest defense why it's okay for full-time workers to live in poverty, they're attempting to change the subject by conjuring confusing claims about inflation and poverty reduction.”

Click here to read the full article in The Oregonian. And make sure to save the date for January 14th, 2016 for a rally and legislative hearing in Salem to call for a higher minimum wage!

Calling all Working Women!

It’s no secret that women face unique obstacles balancing family and work. But the truth is that women are not some special interest group: working women want the same thing all Americans want: fair pay and an economy that works for all of us.

Take the AFL-CIO Working Women's survey and let the world know what matters to women at work.

The National AFL-CIO will use the anonymous responses gathered to publish a written report, bringing the voices of real working women to the table. Spend just a few minutes of your time and share it with your coworkers and friends. Together we can change the rules to create a better life for all families!

National Apprenticeship Week

President Obama has proclaimed the week of November 1st – 7th as National Apprenticeship week, with the purpose of working to “recognize the ways apprenticeships foster innovation and prosperity, and recommit to encouraging and supporting those who offer and partake in them.”

Apprenticeships are a valuable part of our economy, our communities, and our union movement. According to the US Department of Labor there are more than 445,000 active apprenticeships across the country, with more added every day. These programs not only offer an education — in many cases at no or low cost to participants —

 but also provide a clear career path forward through new skills, higher wages, and opportunities for advancement. Apprentices earn an average s

Throughout the week union leaders, educators, community organizations, as well as current and former apprentices will be sharing how apprenticeship works for them using#ApprenticeshipWorksand#NAW2015.  tarting yearly salary of more than $50,000, and during their careers, they'll earn $300,000 more on average than their non-apprentice peers.

Worker Compensation Under Attack

A dangerous new threat is emerging in corporate America: Companies are choosing to opt out of state workers’ compensation laws to create their own rules. One lawyer in Texas, according to a recent article, has created the blueprint behind this new way for corporations to profit and 120 companies in Oklahoma and Texas have chosen to opt out of their state laws.

The attacks aren’t just coming from a lawyer in Texas: there has been a steadily increasing decimation of workers’ compensation over the past decade. These cuts, often deceptively framed as ‘reforms,’ are a clear and present danger to the safety of working people across the country.

The union movement stands for the rights and safety of all working people. It goes beyond the tried and true saying, that an injury to one is an injury to all – we must ensure that compensation for injuries sustained while working are sufficient and working families are not put into desperate situations. Our safety on the job can never take a back seat to corporate profits.

Fair Shot For All: 2016 Agenda Launch

Be part of the movement to create real opportunity for every Oregonian. On the heels of a victorious 2015 legislative agenda that included paid sick leave, banning the box to reduce barriers to employment, fighting against racial profiling, and securing a decent retirement for working Oregonians, we’re proud to join Fair Shot for All to announce the 2016 Fair Shot agenda.

Two events will be held on Thursday, November 12th:

Unions are Tools for Economic Mobility

When we talk about rebuilding the middle class, we’re talking about economic mobility. The dream for so many hardworking parents is to be able to give their children a prosperous future, but in today’s economy where recovery has not been a certainty, that dream can be all too elusive.

A study released today from the Center for American Policy dug deep into the issue of economic mobility, showing that the dream of children finding prosperity is hard to reach for many in our country. “A U.S. child born in the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution, for example, has a 7.5 percent probability of reaching the top 20 percent as an adult, compared to 11.7 percent in Denmark and 13.4 percent in Canada.”

The study closely examined the close relationship between union membership and economic mobility and makes a compelling point: the more folks who are in unions, the better we all are. The study breaks this down into three areas:

  • Areas with higher union membership demonstrate more mobility for low income children.
  • Areas with higher union membership have more mobility as measured by all children’s incomes.
  • Children who grow up in union households have better outcomes.

The study explains why unions have such a positive impact:

“There are strong reasons to believe that unions may increase opportunity. First, there are the direct effects that a parent’s union membership may have on their children. Union workers make more money than comparable nonunion workers—what economists call the union premium—and when parents make more money, their children tend to make more money—which economists refer to as the inter-generational earnings elasticity. In theory, unionized parents should pass on a portion of the union premium to their children. There may be other channels through which children whose parents were in a union have better outcomes than other children: union jobs may be more stable and predictable, which could produce a more stable living environment for children, and union jobs are more likely to provide family health insurance.

But there is also a series of other ways that unions could boost intergenerational mobility for nonunion workers. It has been shown that unions push up wages for nonunion workers, for example, and these wage gains for nonunion members could be passed on to their children. Children who grow up in nonunion households may also display more mobility in highly unionized areas, for example, because they may be able to join a union when they enter the labor market. Finally, unions generally advocate for policies that benefit all working people—such as minimum wage increases and increased expenditures on schools and public services—that may especially benefit low-income parents and their children.”

Read the full study here.

Top 10 Ways Guest Worker Visa Programs Undermine Immigrant Rights

Every year, hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world come to the United States to work in jobs of all skill levels on temporary guest worker visas, yet these legal pathways fail to empower working people with real rights and protections. As the debate over immigration reform heats up once again, the role and impact of the many visa programs that bring new workers into our country are often misunderstood and mischaracterized. Unjust immigration laws clearly have been used to lower wages and labor standards in the United States. However, the cause of this problem is not immigrant workers themselves, but rather a system that allows employers to hire people who by law have virtually no rights and are therefore easy targets for exploitation and abuse. Reforming these programs is critical to building a rights-based immigration system that promotes shared prosperity and respects the dignity and contributions of all working people.

Here are the top 10 ways that guest worker visa programs fail to protect immigrant rights:

1. Most guest workers have to pay high fees to get their jobs. International labor recruiters charge people exorbitant fees for the opportunity to work temporarily in the United States. Many workers are forced to borrow money at high interest rates and even use the deeds to their homes as collateral. Workers who arrive in the United States deeply in debt are vulnerable and much less likely to leave the job, whatever the conditions, without first earning enough to repay their debt. International labor recruiters rarely are held responsible for their illegal and abusive tactics, and there is no liability for U.S. employers who benefit from the labor supplied by these recruiters.

2. Guest worker programs tie workers to a single employer. With few exceptions, the legal immigration status of a guest worker is dependent on employer sponsorship. When a person holds a visa that is linked to a single employer and that employer is abusive—for example, by stealing wages or not providing a safe work environment—the person is left with few options. That person must either endure the unlawful conditions or return home immediately; she can rarely secure another job. This unjust system allows employers to wield enormous power over an essentially captive workforce and deters guest workers from asserting their rights under U.S. law. High debts combined with this lack of alternatives make guest workers extremely vulnerable to human trafficking.

3. The levels of abuse guest workers face are shockingly high. In practice, temporary work visa programs have become a legalized structure for exploiting people and increasing their vulnerability to severe labor exploitation. Guest workers routinely face fraud, wage theft, discrimination, confiscation of passports, economic coercion, retaliation, blacklisting and, in some cases, forced labor, indentured servitude, debt bondage and human trafficking. These abuses are not isolated events—the government’s own reports make clear that the problems are egregious and widespread.

4. Guest workers who exercise their rights can get deported or blacklisted. Employers frequently retaliate against working people for speaking out or attempting to organize to improve working conditions. In most cases, a guest worker who is fired or resigns in protest is no longer authorized to remain in the United States; the person is required to return to her home country within days. Upon return home, people who asserted their rights on the job have faced physical and financial threats and often are blacklisted by recruiters who control access to future employment opportunities in the United States.

5. Guest worker programs allow for discrimination. The U.S. government’s anti-discrimination laws prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of race, color, sex, religion and national origin. Yet, recruiters and employers openly express preferences related to national origin, gender and age when hiring people on temporary visas. In this way, guest worker programs are quietly re-segregating entire sectors of the U.S. workforce into jobs and visa categories based on racialized and gendered notions of work.

6. Many guest worker programs are anti-family. Most low-wage and seasonal guest workers must work in the United States without their family members, so they are separated from their spouses and children for extended periods. This is particularly problematic since employers often misuse seasonal visas to employ workers for many years at a time, greatly increasing the duration and trauma of family separation. In addition, visas for guest workers’ family members generally prohibit them from working.

7. Guest worker programs don’t require equal pay. There are many ways for employers to game the visa system to legally underpay guest workers. The visa regulations that set the minimum wage levels are inadequate and allow employers to misclassify workers to drive down labor costs. The wage requirements effectively become a ceiling on the wages that are offered to guest workers and, consequently, to any workers in the same industry. The difference between the local average wage rates and the wages offered to guest workers becomes a corporate subsidy to companies that no longer have to use the free market to set their pay scales high enough to attract local workers. The perverse financial incentives created by these unjust regulations have led to the erosion of living wages across entire industries, which are now nearly impossible to staff without guest workers.

8. Guest workers are not assured equal benefits or legal protections. Some visa programs require guest workers to pay taxes for benefits they are not eligible to receive, while others allow employers to avoid payments into the social safety net altogether. In addition, some guest workers are excluded from key employment-related protections under law, and people brave enough to report labor violations face incredible obstacles to accessing legal services in the United States. Those who are able to muster the courage and resources to pursue a case face many difficulties litigating in the transnational arena. As a result, employers have little reason to fear ever being sanctioned for violating the rights of guest workers.

9. Guest worker programs disempower workers and allow them to be pitted against each other. Employers routinely misuse guest worker programs to undercut or displace an existing local workforce. Despite prevailing assumptions, most employers are not required to document a real labor shortage before hiring guest workers. These regulatory shortfalls allow hiring with the express intent to drive down wages and standards and challenge efforts to ensure that all workers on American soil feel connected and protected. Making matters more complicated, employers often attempt to hide their abuse of visa programs by hiring through third-party outsourcing firms or “body shops.” These low-road employers undermine permanent employment, allow for differential treatment of people performing the same work and erode worker unity by blurring the true nature of the employment relationship.

10. Guest worker programs don’t provide a path to citizenship. With few exceptions, guest worker programs are temporary in nature and require people to return to their home countries when the visa expires. The few visas that do allow conversion to permanent status keep that decision and power in the hands of employers, who continue to wield undue control over the lives and livelihoods of the guest workers as a result. The biggest users of temporary visas sponsor their workers for green cards at very low rates, indicating they prefer to employ vulnerable guest workers over workers with rights, seniority and labor market mobility.

The labor movement remains committed to comprehensive immigration reform that provides a broad and inclusive pathway to citizenship for the current undocumented population and reforms our employment-based visa system to ensure that it is responsive to actual labor market needs and empowers working people with full rights and protections.

Labor Day Roundup

In case you missed it, here’s a roundup of media coverage of Labor Day 2015:


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