Thursday, 5 June 2014
PLANS ‘TO LIMIT PEOPLE’S RIGHT TO ASSEMBLE AND PROTEST ARE UNACCEPTABLE’ says AFL-CIO
‘THE very best of America has come from imminent disturbance, and to limit people’s right to assemble and protest is both unacceptable and un-American,’ AFL-CIO Strategic Advisor Communications Director, Eric Hauser insisted on Monday.
The AFL-CIO has released a video slamming the North Carolina state legislature for establishing undemocratic ‘imminent disturbance’ rules, aimed at limiting the First Amendment rights of North Carolinians.
‘We stand together with the thousands who have spoken out against these reprehensible rules, and call on North Carolina’s leaders to reverse course and restore the basic rights we fight for every day,’ Hauser continued.
These rules, which were established earlier this month, would prohibit individuals from engaging in activity deemed to be an ‘imminent disturbance’ to the North Carolina statehouse. The new rules directly impact on participants of the ‘Moral Mondays’, which have shed light on extreme right-wing policies introduced in the North Carolina statehouse.
The AFL-CIO has also endorsed the Postal Workers’ (APWU’s) boycott of the office supply giant Staples over the US Postal Service’s (USPS’s) privatisation of retail operations by contracting mail services to Staples, with ‘postal counters’ staffed with low-wage, high-turnover Staples employees rather than postal employees.
The USPS began contracting out postal services to Staples in October. So far, 80 Staples stores are part of the pilot programme. But the USPS plans to expand the scheme to 1,500 Staples locations nationwide at the same time the USPS is eliminating public post offices.
In a letter to AFL-CIO affiliate unions, trade and industrial departments, state federations and central labour councils, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Shuler wrote: ‘The pilot programme between the US Postal Service and Staples jeopardises mail services provided by US post offices and the good jobs that come with them.’
APWU President Mark Dimondstein said: ‘Our brothers and sisters in the labour movement are key allies in this struggle, and we greatly appreciate their support. The “Don’t Buy Staples” campaign is an essential component of the movement to stop the dirty deal between the US Postal Service and Staples.
‘The boycott covers all Staples Inc. office supply stores in the United States, Staples.com and Staples Advantage along with all Staples-branded proprietary products.’
In related news, dozens of APWU members and their allies rallied outside Staples’ annual stockholder meeting on Monday morning in Palo Alto, Calif.
Dimondstein said: ‘Staples is a company with declining sales, with plans to close more than 200 stores by the middle of next year. Shareholders need to ask management why they are involved in this kind of controversial deal when they have so many problems to fix in their core business.’
The AFL-CIO said on Monday: ‘In our regular weekly feature, we’ll be taking a look at the winners and losers of the week in the struggle for the rights of working families. The winners will be the persons or organisations that go above and beyond to expand or protect the rights of working families, while the losers will be whoever went above and beyond to limit or deny those rights.’
Winner: AFSCME workers at Central Michigan University, for standing up to a nonsensical anti-family attendance policy and forcing Aramark to back off a policy that wouldn’t have helped anyone.
Runner-Up: Raise Michigan and other raising wages advocates in the state who worked hard and pressured Republicans to accept an increase to the state’s minimum wage that they originally opposed.
Loser: The North Carolina General Assembly, for deciding that freedom of speech and freedom of assembly don’t really apply in the Tar Heel State.
Runner-Up: Staples, which is now being boycotted by the Postal Workers (APWU) – with the support of the AFL-CIO – because of its deal with the US Postal Service to provide in-store postal services with low-wage, non-union, non-trained Staples employees.
‘In our new regular feature, we’ll be taking a look at the villains who are doing their best to prevent the United States from raising wages for all or some Americans. We’re going to try to take a look at more than just the usual suspects in these posts, and we’ll probably stay away from government officials to give you a look at other key players who are part of the problem.
‘This week, our Low-Wage Villain of the Week is Rob Walton, chairman of Walmart. Rob Walton’s story is not what we think of as an inspirational, all-American success story. Choosing a rich father has unquestionably worked well for Rob.
‘The Walton family sits on a net worth of more than $144 billion (more than the bottom of nearly 42% of Americans combined – yes, Rob, his siblings and mother are worth the same amount as 130 MILLION Americans), and Rob himself has a net worth of $35 billion.
‘So Rob has become the 14th richest person on the planet, despite the fact that the furthest he has gone from working for his dad’s company was working for a law firm that . . . did legal work for Walmart. But, you might wonder, is he doing good work as chairman?
‘His wealth increased by $305 million last year. But before you say he earned it, no . . . he really, really didn’t. While the overall Standard & Poor’s 500 index has gained 15% in the past year, Walmart shares fell 2.2%.
‘In the first quarter of 2014, stocks were down 3% and customer traffic declined 1.4%. Second quarter projections don’t show these trends changing. Advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. gave Walmart an 8 (on a 10-point scale, with 10 being the highest level of risk) and said that shareholders should vote against the company’s executive compensation plan, Chairman Walton and director Michael Duke.
‘And the company is dealing with numerous legal problems, including a $21 million settlement for wage theft, which isn’t its first such settlement in recent years, and is being sued for illegally firing workers for union organising.
‘So the company isn’t exactly being run well, but Chairman Walton is very well compensated. Does Rob share that wealth? No, the employees in the company are some of the lowest paid of any large employer in the country.
‘Walmart brags that its US workforce averages pay of $12.78 an hour, but that number leaves out more than half of the company’s workforce, such as part-time and temporary workers, and includes some managerial staff.
‘The company admits that 500,000 of its workers earn less than $10 an hour. Numerous job websites report the average pay for Walmart employees to be less than $10, ranging from $8.63 (Glassdoor) to $9.64 (PayScale).
‘In any event, the wages are low enough that many of the company’s workers receive government benefits designed to help the poor. It is estimated that Walmart employees received $6.2 billion in public assistance last year.
‘For getting rich off of his father, and staying rich by impoverishing and mistreating his workers rather than hard or innovative work, Rob Walton is our Low-Wage Villain of the Week.’
Seattle voted unanimously on Monday to raise the city’s minimum wage to the highest level of any major US city – $15 (£9) per hour, twice the national minimum.
Wages would begin to rise next year, ultimately reaching $15 from Washington state’s minimum of $9.32 over three to seven years, depending on the business.
The current US minimum wage is $7.25, although 38 states have set higher levels. The AFL-CIO said: ‘Today’s vote in Seattle will go down in history as a milestone in the struggle to raise wages and ensure fair pay for all workers.
‘It is proof that when working people organise and make their voices heard, we all benefit. While Republicans in Congress fail to act, Seattle, along with other cities and states around the country, is ensuring that workers receive a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work.’