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Fifty-five years ago, in a speech to the convention of the Illinois AFL-CIO, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. laid out with characteristic moral clarity the essential role of unions in American life. “The labor movement,” he explained, “was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress … [When] the wave of union organization crested over the nation, it carried to secure shores not only itself but the whole society. Civilization began to grow in the economic life of man, and a decent life with a sense of security and dignity became a reality rather than a distant dream.”

This Labor Day, America’s working families are facing unprecedented challenges.

Eight hundred thousand workers. That is the number of government employees and contractors impacted by President Trump’s shutdown of the federal government. The average take home pay of impacted workers is around $500 per week, and any financial uncertainty is sure to cause stress and anxiety over how to make ends meet. Each day of this manufactured crisis, working families lose money for housing, healthcare and groceries — the essentials we need to get by.

Furloughed federal employees and out-of-work contractors greeted one another Thursday with a sarcastic nickname that, on the 20th day of a partial government shutdown, captured their feeling of powerlessness: “Hello, fellow pawns.”

They shouted it to one another over the brutal wind and bitter cold on Thursday in downtown Washington, where hundreds gathered to demand government leaders put an end to the shutdown and allow them to get back to work.

1. Janus dealt a heavy blow to labor—but public-sector unions didn’t crumble overnight.

In June, the Supreme Court issued its long-awaited ruling in Janus v. AFSCME—and it was just as bad as everyone feared. In a 5-to-4 decision, the court found that public-sector unions violated the First Amendment by collecting so-called fair-share fees from workers who aren’t union members but benefit from collective bargaining regardless.

A federal employee union sued the Trump administration Monday over the government shutdown, claiming it is illegal for agencies to force employees to work without pay.

The story below comes from  a 2009 interview with union workers Richard & Millie Beauregard that are currently being printed as part of a series of oral histories about Nichols & Stone Furniture Company at the Chair City Community Workshop.

Last week was a bad week for autoworkers and the future of our domestic industry. On Nov. 26, General Motors (GM) announced its decision to halt production at the Lordstown, Ohio, and Hamtramck, Mich., assembly plants, idling thousands of workers.

“The entire Massachusetts AFL-CIO community mourns the loss of Worcester Firefighter, Christopher Roy, who died heroically in the line of duty Sunday, December 9th. We send our deepest condolences to Christopher Roy's family, especially to his 9 year old daughter, Ava Roy. Our hearts go out to the Worcester Firefighters and members of Ladder 4 who must continue to don their boots and bravely fight for our safety even as this tragedy weighs so heavily on their hearts.”

-Steven A. Tolman, President, Massachusetts AFL-CIO

A series of settlements hammered out over the past few weeks between Marriott and its striking workers in Boston and seven other cities are ushering in groundbreaking benefits that could set a precedent not just for the service industry but for workers nationwide.

The Boston agreement, reached after workers spent more than six weeks on the picket lines, marching and chanting in the wind and rain and snow, includes a roughly 20 percent increase in wages over 4½ years, a 37 percent increase in pension contributions, and six weeks of paid maternity leave, plus two weeks for spouses.