• October 22, 2016
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    The Week in Labor History

    October 17
    A huge vat ruptures at a London brewery, setting off a domino effect of similar ruptures, and what was to become known as The London Beer Flood.  Nearly 1.5 million liters of beer gushed into the streets drowning or otherwise causing the deaths of eight people, mostly poor people living in nearby basements - 1814

    Labor activist Warren Billings is released from California's Folsom Prison. Along with Thomas J. Mooney, Billings had been pardoned for a 1916 conviction stemming from a bomb explosion during a San Francisco Preparedness Day parade. He had always maintained his innocence - 1939

    "Salt of the Earth" strike begins by the mostly Mexican-American members of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Union Local 890 in Bayard, N.M. Strikers' wives walked picket lines for seven months when their husbands were enjoined during the 14-month strike against the New Jersey Zinc Co. A great movie, see it! - 1950
    (Working Stiffs, Union Maids, Reds, and Riffraff: An Expanded Guide to Films About Labor: This wonderful book is an encyclopedic guide to 350 labor films from around the world, ranging from those you’ve heard of—Salt of the Earth, The Grapes of Wrath, Roger & Me—to those you’ve never heard of but will fall in love with once you see them.)

    Twelve New York City firefighters die fighting a blaze in midtown Manhattan - 1966

    Int’l Printing Pressmen's & Assistants' Union of North America merges with Int’l Stereotypers', Electrotypers' & Platemakers' Union to become Printing & Graphic Communications Union - 1973

    Industrial Union of Marine & Shipbuilding Workers of America merges with Int’l Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers - 1988

    October 18
    The "Shoemakers of Boston"—the first labor organization in what would later become the United States—was authorized by the Massachusetts Bay Colony - 1648

    New York City agrees to pay women school teachers a rate equal to that of men - 1911

    IWW Colorado Mine strike; first time all coal fields are out - 1927

    Some 58,000 Chrysler Corp. workers strike for wage increases - 1939

    The United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA) was formed as a self-governing union, an outgrowth of the CIO's Packinghouse Workers Organizing Committee. UPWA merged with the Meatcutters union in 1968, which merged with the Retail Clerks in 1979 to form the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) - 1943

    GM agrees to hire more women and minorities for five years as part of a settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission - 1983
    (Mobilizing Against Inequality: Unions, Immigrant Workers, and the Crisis of Capitalism: Are immigrant workers themselves responsible for low wages and shoddy working conditions? Should unions expend valuable time and energy organizing undocumented workers? Unions in Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States have taken various approaches to confront the challenges of this significant segment of the workforce. As U.S. immigration policy is debated, readers will gain insight into how all workers benefit when wages and working conditions for immigrant workers are improved.)

    October 19
    The National Association of Letter Carriers achieves equalization of wages for all letter carriers, meaning city delivery carriers began receiving the same wages regardless of the size of the community in which they worked – 1949

    The J.P. Stevens textile company is forced to sign its first union contract after a 17-year struggle in North Carolina and other southern states - 1980

    October 20
    Eugene V. Debs, U.S. labor leader and socialist, dies in Elmhurst, Ill. Among his radical ideas: an 8-hour workday, pensions, workman's compensation, sick leave and social security. He ran for president from a jail cell in 1920 and got a million votes - 1926
    (The Bending Cross: A Biography of Eugene V. Debs: Eugene V. Debs was a labor activist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who captured the heart and soul of the nation’s working people. He was brilliant, sincere, compassionate and scrupulously honest.  A founder of one of the nation’s first industrial unions, the American Railway Union, he went on to help launch the Industrial Workers of the World—the Wobblies.  A man of firm beliefs and dedication, he ran for President of the United States five times under the banner of the Socialist Party, in 1912 earning 6 percent of the popular vote.)

    Hollywood came under scrutiny as the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) opened hearings into alleged Communist influence within the motion picture industry. Dozens of union members were among those blacklisted as a result of HUAC’s activities - 1947

    Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan writes to PATCO President Robert Poli with this promise: if the union endorses Reagan, "I will take whatever steps are necessary to provide our air traffic controllers with the most modern equipment available and to adjust staff levels and work days so that they are commensurate with achieving a maximum degree of public safety." He got the endorsement. Nine months after the election, he fires the air traffic controllers for engaging in an illegal walkout over staffing levels and working conditions - 1980

    Death of Merle Travis, songwriter and performer who wrote "Sixteen Tons" and "Dark as a Dungeon" – 1983

    Two track workers are killed in a (San Francisco) Bay Area Rapid Transit train accident.  Federal investigators said the train was run by a BART employee who was being trained as an operator as members of the Amalgamated Transit Union were participating in what was to be a four-day strike - 2013

    October 21
    Wisconsin dairy farmers begin their third strike of the year in an attempt to raise the price of milk paid to producers during the Great Depression.  Several creameries were bombed before the strike ended a month later. The economy eventually improved, allowing the farmers to make more money - 1933

    October 22
    Bank robber Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd is killed by FBI agents near East Liverpool, Ohio. He was a hero to the people of Oklahoma who saw him as a "Sagebrush Robin Hood," stealing from banks and sharing some of the proceeds with the poor - 1934

    October 23
    President Theodore Roosevelt establishes a fact-finding commission that suspends a nine-months-long strike by Western Pennsylvania coal miners fighting for better pay, shorter workdays and union recognition.  The strikers ended up winning more pay for fewer hours, but failed to get union recognition.   It was the first time that the federal government had intervened as a neutral arbitrator in a labor dispute - 1902

    Explosion and fire at Phillips Petroleum refinery in Pasadena, Texas, kills 23 and injures 314 - 1989

    Postal workers Joseph Curseen and Thomas Morris die nearly a month after having inhaled anthrax at the Brentwood mail sorting center in Washington, D.C.  Other postal workers had been made ill but survived. Letters containing the deadly spores had been addressed to U.S. Senate offices and media outlets – 2001

    - compiled/edited by David Prosten at Union Communication Services

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  • ACTion Request = Tues 4-24 Call Your Senators on AKAKA AMENDMENT 2034
    Updated On: Apr 28, 2012

    ACTion Request

     Once again, Washington politicians are targeting federal employees for cuts. Buried in the Postal Reform Bill (S.1789) are provisions that would substantially reduce benefits for federal workers who are injured on the job.

    Amendment 2034, the “Akaka Amendment,” would eliminate the harmful provision that reduces benefits for federal workers injured on the job.

    We are urging all federal employees to call your Senators and tell them to protect injured federal employees by voting YES on the Akaka Amendment (Amendment 2034).

    Tell Your Senators:

     Vote “YES” on Akaka Amendment 2034 to Postal Reform Bill on Tuesday April 24th

     Once again, Washington politicians are targeting federal employees to pay for other initiatives…

    On Tuesday, April 24th, the U.S. Senate will vote on Amendment 2034, the “Akaka Amendment,” to strike language that would substantially reduce benefits for federal workers injured on the job…

    Tell the Senate to Protect Injured Federal Employees…

    We are urging all federal employees to call your Senators and tell them to protect injured federal employees. You can reach your Senators by calling the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 



    Senator Akaka, joined by Senators Inouye, Harkin, Murray, and Franken, filed an amendment to strike Title III of S.1789, which reduces workers’ compensation benefits for injured employees, and replace it with the text of H.R. 2465, the Federal Workers’ Compensation Modernization and Improvement Act. This bi-partisan bill (introduced by Representative John Klein (R-MN) and cosponsored by Representatives George Miller (D-CA), Tim Walberg (R-MI), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA)) passed the House by voice vote last year and amends the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), 5 U.S.C. §§ 8101 et seq., the federal workers’ compensation program.

    Specifically, this amendment would:

    Allow the Department of Labor (DOL) to crosscheck a federal worker’s earnings with information held by the Social Security Administration to combat fraud.

    Expand DOL’s ability to collect from third parties.

    Authorize DOL to collect administrative costs and expenses from the federal agency that employs the injured or ill worker, promoting greater accountability in the program.

    Streamline the claims process for workers who sustain a traumatic injury in a designated zone of armed conflict.

    Ensure that Physician Assistants and Advanced Practice Nurses are reimbursed for their services and can certify disability for traumatic injuries.

    Ensure injuries or illnesses sustained as the result of terrorism are covered as a war-risk hazard. This will help guarantee federal workers injured abroad or in the line of duty are appropriately compensated.

    Raise the maximum disfigurement benefit from $3,500 (set in 1949) to $50,000 and provide additional support for funeral expenses (up to $6,000).

    Why support this amendment:

    Workers’ compensation cuts do not belong in postal reform:

    Title III of the Postal Reform bill would cut workers’ compensation benefits for federal employees government-wide. Most of the workers affected by this are not postal employees. This is the only provision in the legislation that is not specific to the Postal Service.

    These cuts do not even help the Postal Service in the near term. According to CBO, through 2016, the changes would result in a net increase of $10 million in Postal Service costs. Over the long run, these benefit cuts would only reduce a tiny fraction of the Postal Service’s deficit.

    Senator Akaka said we need to take a closer look to make sure we do not harm disabled employees. This reform should not be included in postal reform legislation. The sponsors of this bill claim that this reform mirrors a proposal from Obama Administration (actually proposed by the Bush Administration but the Obama Administration has carried it forward). However, the Administration proposal is not as severe, and it is not retroactive.

    Retroactive changes are unacceptable:

    The proposal to apply these changes retroactively to many workers already injured is particularly concerning. It changes the rules after the fact for disabled employees who were relying on the promise of these benefits.

    Reducing benefit levels for a past injury may invite litigation. FECA provides such employees’ their exclusive remedy against the federal government, and employees may not recover non-economic losses such as compensation for pain and suffering. Retroactive changes to benefit levels after the injury has occurred violate the government’s part of this bargain. Just as a litigant is not permitted to unilaterally change the terms of a settlement after it is made, the federal government should not be able to unilaterally change its workers’ compensation liability after that liability has attached.

    Retroactive changes violate a basic premise of insurance. A responsible employee may choose to further insure himself or herself against disability, but that is not possible if their coverage under the workers’ compensation statute can be changed after the fact.

    These cuts will harm senior citizens:

    The reductions at “retirement age” are very concerning as well. Like most states, the federal government currently provides permanent benefits for permanent injuries. This is necessary because employees who cannot work because of injuries do not experience normal wage growth, do not earn Social Security credit, cannot contribute to the Thrift Savings Plan, and may have little ability to save. Moreover, the employees in the Civil Service Retirement System this applies to are not even eligible for Social Security.

    Congress has gone down this road before, in 1949 passing a law (P.L. 81-357) that allowed workers’ comp benefits to be reduced at age 70. Congress repealed that law in 1974 (P.L.93-416), citing concerns about age discrimination and the burden on recipients.

    Low-wage workers will be hurt most:

    Proponents of these cuts often point to the tax-free status of FECA benefits. While this provides significant benefit to higher-wage workers in high tax brackets, low wage workers receive little or no benefit from FECA benefits being tax free.

    These cuts remove the FECA supplement for dependents. Low-wage workers, in particular, may rely significantly on tax advantages provided to families with dependents, including filing as a head of household, exemptions for dependents, child and child care tax credits, and the Earned

    Income Tax Credit. All of those tax benefits are lost during receipt of FECA, and the FECA dependent supplement helps offset those losses. Removing that supplement will harm low-wage workers. These cuts provide no relief to families and they will be driven into poverty by the reduction.

    House-passed bill offers a bipartisan alternative:

    This amendment replaces the problematic FECA cuts with the text of the H.R. 2465, which makes common sense changes to the FECA program without reducing benefits. The Republican-led House decided not to change workers compensation benefits at this time, and instead to study the issue. This bill was sponsored by Representative John Klein (R-MN) and cosponsored by Representatives George Miller (D-CA), Tim Walberg (R-MI), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) and passed on suspension by voice vote on November 29, 2011.

    At the request of both the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Education and Workforce Committee (Klein, Walberg, Miller and Woolsey), which has jurisdiction over workers’ compensation in the House, the GAO is reviewing workers’ compensation benefits right now. It makes no sense to legislate before the studies Congress requested are final, Senator Akaka said. 

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