• February 20, 2017
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    The Week in Labor History

    February 13
    A national eight-month strike by the Sons of Vulcan, a union of iron forgers, ends in victory when employers agreed to a wage scale based on the price of iron bars—the first time employers recognized the union, the first union contract in the iron and steel industry, and what may be the first union contract of any kind in the United States - 1865
     
    Some 12,000 Hollywood writers returned to work today following a largely successful three-month strike against television and motion picture studios.  They won compensation for their TV and movie work that gets streamed on the Internet - 2008
    (Working Stiffs, Union Maids, Reds, and Riffraff 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. Fiction and nonfiction, the films are about unions, labor history, working-class life, political movements, and the struggle between labor and capital.)
     

    February 14
    Western Federation of Miners strike for 8-hour day - 1903
     
    President Theodore Roosevelt creates the Department of Commerce and Labor. It was divided into two separate government departments ten years later - 1903
     
    Jimmy Hoffa born in Brazil, Ind., son of a coal miner. Disappeared July 30, 1975, declared dead seven years later - 1913
     
    Striking workers at Detroit’s newspapers, out since the previous July, offer to return to work. The offer is accepted five days later but the newspapers vow to retain some 1,200 scabs. A court ruling the following year ordered as many as 1,100 former strikers reinstated - 1996

    February 15
    Susan B. Anthony, suffragist, abolitionist, labor activist, born in Adams, Mass. "Join the union, girls, and together say: Equal Pay for Equal Work." - 1820

    U.S. legislators pass the Civil Works Emergency Relief Act, providing funds for the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, which funneled money to states plagued by Depression-era poverty and unemployment, and oversaw the subsequent distribution and relief efforts - 1934

    The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) expels the Mine, Mill & Smelter Workers; the Food, Tobacco & Agricultural Workers; and the United Office & Professional Workers for “Communist tendencies.” Other unions expelled for the same reason (dates uncertain): Fur and Leather Workers, the Farm Equipment Union, the Int’l Longshoremen’s Union, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers - 1950

    February 16
    Leonora O’Reilly was born in New York. The daughter of Irish immigrants, she began working in a factory at 11, joined the Knights of Labor at 16, and was a volunteer investigator of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911. She was a founding member of the Women’s Trade Union League - 1870

    Diamond Mine disaster in Braidwood, Ill. The coal mine was on a marshy tract of land with no natural drainage. Snow melted and forced a collapse on the east side of the mine, killing 74 - 1883

    Beginning of a 17-week general strike of 12,000 New York furriers, in which Jewish workers formed a coalition with Greek and African American workers and became the first union to win a 5-day, 40-hour week - 1926

    Rubber Workers begin sit-down strike at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. - 1936

    American Wire Weavers Protective Association merges with United Papermakers & Paperworkers - 1959

    All public schools in Milwaukee and Madison, Wisc., are closed as teachers call in sick to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s plans to gut their collective bargaining rights - 2011

    February 17
    Sixty-three sit-down strikers, demanding recognition of their union, are tear-gassed and driven from two Fansteel Metallurgical Corp. plants in Chicago. Two years later the U.S. Supreme Court declared sit-down strikes illegal. The tactic had been a major industrial union organizing tool - 1937

    Two locals of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Int'l Union (now UNITE HERE) at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., strike in sympathy with 1,300 graduate student teaching assistants who are demanding the right to negotiate with the university - 1992

    February 18
    One of the first American labor newspapers, The Man, is published in New York City. It cost 1¢ and, according to The History of American Journalism, “died an early death.” Another labor paper, N.Y. Daily Sentinel, had been launched four years earlier - 1834

    Faced with 84-hour workweeks, 24-hour shifts and pay of 29¢ an hour, fire fighters form The Int’l Association of Fire Fighters. Some individual locals had affiliated with the AFL beginning in 1903 - 1918

    February 19
    American Federation of Labor issues a charter to its new Railroad Employees Department - 1909

    A few weeks after workers ask for a 25¢ hourly wage, the Philadelphia Rapid Transit (streetcar) Co. fires 173 union members “for the good of the service” and brings in replacements from New York City. Striker-scab battles and a general strike ensued - 1910
    (In this expanded edition of Strike! you can read about labor-management conflicts that have occurred over the past 140 years. Here you’ll learn much about workers’ struggle to win a degree of justice, from the workers’ point of view. Brecher also examines the ever-shifting roles and configurations of unions, from the Knights of Labor of the 1800s to the AFL-CIO of the 1990s.)

    Journeymen Stonecutters Association of North America merges with Laborers’ Int’l Union - 1968

    The U.S. Supreme Court decides in favor of sales clerk Leura Collins and her union, the Retail Clerks, in NLRB v. J. Weingarten Inc.—the case establishing that workers have a right to request the presence of their union steward if they believe they are to be disciplined for a workplace infraction - 1975

    Int’l Union of Police Associations granted a charter by the AFL-CIO - 1979

    Farm Labor Organizing Committee signs agreement with Campbell Soup Co., ending 7-year boycott - 1986

    - 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 

     

    SUMMARY OF AKAKA AMENDMENT 2034

    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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