In This Issue:
- Nonfiction TV Writers Highlight Contingent Employment
- Employers’ Proposal in Congress Threatens Overtime Pay for Millions
- American Library Association Convenes, DPE Contributes
- AFT Launches ‘Share My Lesson’
- DPE General Board Hears Updates, Plans for November
- American Rights at Work Honors IAM, NFLPA
- H-1B Visa Requests: Where Do They Come From?
- DPE Provides Latest Info On Misclassification Of Employees As Independent Contractors
- Global Workers Justice Alliance Releases ‘Visas, Inc.’
- DPE Signs On
- DPE In the News
NONFICTION TV WRITERS HIGHLIGHT CONTINGENT EMPLOYMENT – No job security, no minimum pay, no benefits: Sound familiar? It’s the reality that almost all nonfiction TV writers – also known as “reality TV writers” – face every day.
The exceptions are the lucky few who have organized into unions. On July 31, 2012, Writers Guild of America East (WGAE) and American Rights at Work and Jobs with Justice (ARAW) hosted “The Real Nonfiction TV Writers of NYC: A Panel Discussion on Contingent Employment,” a Capitol Hill briefing that underscored the point.
Featuring Senator Al Franken (D-MN), a member of WGAE, SAG-AFTRA, and Directors Guild of America (second from right), the panel included WGAE Executive Director Lowell Peterson (second from left), Late Show with David Letterman writer and WGAE member Lee Ellenberg (far left), and ARAW Executive Director Sarita Gupta (far right). Photo © ARAW, all rights reserved.
Peterson observed that the U.S. economy has increasingly moved to a freelance basis. WGAE offers a model for addressing that shift. Nonfiction TV has been entirely nonunion. But WGAE has won four of four elections through the National Labor Relations Board, just concluded two collective bargaining agreements, and brought writer-producers their first health benefits. Acknowledging that WGAE has just begun, Peterson declared, “There is actually good news. Unions can do it.”
Ellenberg described a union as “so incredibly beneficial for us.” He writes comedy, he said, and does not focus on business. With a union, “they tell us we’re being screwed when we don’t realize we’re being screwed” – and then the union makes the situation better.
Gupta underscored the trend toward contingent and precarious employment, in hotels, warehouses, and diverse other workplaces. Driven by employers seeking lower costs and higher profits, the push brings part-time, low-wage, low-benefit, dead-end jobs. The trend creates a desperate need to overhaul U.S. labor laws and provide a “robust right to form a union.”
Listing legislative proposals that would help contingent workers, Peterson mentioned the Rebuild America Act (S. 2252), the Employee Free Choice Act, expanding the definition of “employee” under the National Labor Relations Act, and strengthening protections for the intellectual property on which writers depend for income.
Representing DPE at the event were President Paul E. Almeida and Executive Director David Cohen.
EMPLOYERS’ PROPOSAL IN CONGRESS THREATENS OVERTIME PAY FOR MILLIONS – An employers’ proposal in Congress threatens overtime pay for millions of U.S. workers. A new and very conservative estimate from the highly respected and non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) says so.
In recent years, IBM, Oracle, and other information technology (IT) employers paid millions of dollars to settle allegations that they violated the law requiring overtime pay for employees who work more than 40 hours in a week. After IBM settled one case for $65 million in 2007, it cut the pay of the affected employees by 15 percent. Then it asked Congress to weaken the law.
On October 20, 2011, Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) introduced the Computer Professionals Update Act (CPU Act, S. 1747). Its impact would be as widespread as IT in the workplace, which appears everywhere.
DPE has worked with its affiliated unions AFT, IBEW, and IFPTE, as well as the AFL-CIO and others, to oppose the bill. The three original co-sponsors were Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mike Enzi (R-WY), and Johnny Isakson (R-GA). In the last 10 months, five more Senators have joined them: Scott Brown (MA), Richard Burr (NC), Saxby Chambliss (GA), Tom Coburn (OK), and Rob Portman (OH). All five are Republicans.
So far, though, no Member in the House of Representatives has introduced a companion bill. DPE and its allies have been working hard to fend off interest. A July memorandum from CRS made that work easier. It estimated that if the CPU Act became law, millions of IT workers could lose overtime pay.
Meanwhile, IBM showed its motivation again – profit for its shareholders, regardless of the impact on U.S. living standards – in a completely separate matter. For a New York State contract to upgrade the state unemployment insurance system, IBM used computer programmers and analysts from India on H-1B visas whom it brought to New York. New York taxpayers are paying Indian workers to help respond to New York unemployment so IBM can profit. Read a news account here.
For more information, please contact DPE Executive Director David Cohen, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-638-0320 extension 113.
AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION CONVENES, DPE CONTRIBUTES – Over 20,000 library workers and advocates flocked to Anaheim, CA on June 21-26, 2012 for the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Meeting and Exhibition. Contributions by DPE were well received.
DPE works directly with ALA and its companion organization, the American Library Association-Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA). The latter focuses on two areas: certification, and salaries and status. Since 2005, DPE has also co-chaired the AFL-CIO/ALA Joint Committee on Library Service to Labor Groups. Labor members of the committee include Jannie Cobb, National Labor College; Justin Crossfox, AFT; Julius Jefferson, Jr., IFPTE; Jessica Storrs, AFSCME; and Nick Yovnello, AFT.
Each year, the AFL-CIO/ALA Joint Committee develops and organizes a program for the annual conference. The program this year, “Libraries Fight Back: Keep the Fight Going!,” featured Anne Cisney, President of AFSCME Local 2083 at the Seattle Public Library, Seattle, WA; Connie Williams, teacher librarian at Petaluma High School, Petaluma, CA and site representative for the Petaluma Federation of Teachers, Local 1881; and Nicole Williams, reference librarian at Englewood Public Library, Englewood, NJ and a shop steward for the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, Local 108.
Anne described the Seattle Public Library’s labor management agreement that transformed how labor and management work together. The agreement helps the library accomplish its mission by giving the librarians and library staff a voice in how the library operates, for example, an increased staff presence on library committees.
Connie detailed the struggles of teacher librarians and the advantages of becoming active in her union. Many teacher librarians have to compete with teachers for resources, and there are far more teachers than teacher librarians. When Connie wanted to have her voice heard, she became a site representative in her union. This has helped her have a voice in her union, participate in site decisions, and build community.
Nicole (right) shared the inspiring story of the fight to oppose a 23 percent cut to the Englewood Public Library budget. RWDSU worked with the community, and more than 100 people attended a city council meeting to protest. Management undercut the efforts by proposing that the city cut 12 percent. Ultimately, approximately nine percent was cut, but Nicole was confident that the city learned that it could not cut the library without strong community opposition. Photo: http://local108rwdsu.org/.
The AFL-CIO/ALA Joint Committee met to plan its program and activities for the 2013 Annual Conference, to be held in Chicago, IL. The Joint Committee discussed the different ways the 2013 theme “Preserving Labor’s History” could be approached, including a tour of significant Chicago labor sites, what is happening to the materials in labor archives that are closing, and looking at successful labor archives at universities and historical societies.
The Joint Committee’s booth in the Exposition Hall featured labor materials, including several DPE fact sheets, brochures, pro-labor badge ribbons, resource guides, and a poster illustrating the union difference for library worker salaries.
In addition to its work with the Joint Committee, DPE works closely with ALA-APA and sits on the Standing Committee on the Salaries and Status of Library Workers. This committee focuses on the professional library worker, rather than the patrons they serve. As chair of the union subcommittee, Jennifer Dorning will be organizing a session for the 2013 annual meeting about the benefits of organizing, and how to start, a union.
The 2012 John Sessions Award, named in honor of a former AFL-CIO Education Director and co-chair of the AFL-CIO/ALA Joint Committee on Library Service to Labor Groups, was given to San Francisco State University’s Labor Archives and Research Center. Presented annually by the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) and supported by a donation from DPE, the award recognizes a library or library system that made a significant effort to work with the labor community and brought recognition to the contribution of the labor movement to the development of the United States. At the RUSA Awards Ceremony and Reception, Catherine Powell, Director of the Labor Archives and Research Center, accepted the plaque for the Center.
Library workers are represented by DPE affiliates including AFGE, AFT, IFPTE, OPEIU, RWDSU, and USW.
For information about ALA and the Annual Meeting, see www.ala.org. For more about library workers, read the DPE Fact Sheet on library workers. For information about the meetings of the AFL-CIO/ALA Joint Committee or the ALA-APA Committee on the Salaries and Status of Library Workers, or to learn more about the involvement of DPE, contact DPE Researcher and Representative Jennifer Dorning, 202-638-0320 extension 114, email@example.com.
AFT LAUNCHES ‘SHARE MY LESSON’ – On July 28, 2012, the American Federation of Teachers, with British partner TES Connect, officially launched “Share My Lesson,” the nation’s largest free collection of classroom resources created by teachers for teachers. Included is a new section of materials for developing curricula based on the Common Core State Standards.
AFT President Randi Weingarten said, “Share My Lesson allows educators to share tried-and-true ideas, lessons and teaching tools with their colleagues to improve the quality of teaching in America.”
Since its unveiling in June, Share My Lesson added resources that help teachers implement the Common Core State Standards, a requirement for teachers in 46 states and Washington, DC.
“The Common Core standards emphasize critical thinking and deep understanding of concepts – a far cry from the testing and test-prep mania out there,” Weingarten said. “For students to develop these skills, their teachers must have the tools and support – like Share My Lesson – to educate students for the realities of the 21st century.”
The Share My Lesson website, www.sharemylesson.com, already has more than 200,000 resources for any educator, from preschool to college.
DPE GENERAL BOARD HEARS UPDATES, PLANS FOR NOVEMBER – On June 19, 2012, the DPE General Board held its annual meeting. DPE Chair J. David Cox, AFGE National Secretary-Treasurer, set the stage by underscoring the importance to U.S. workers of the November elections, voter registration, and getting out the vote. AFL-CIO Political Department Deputy Director Julie Greene followed in the afternoon with a special report on election preparations.
DPE Treasurer Francine Lawrence, AFT Executive Vice President, led the Board through the financial report. Then DPE President Paul E. Almeida delivered the President’s Report for June 1, 2011 through May 31, 2012. He enlisted DPE Executive Director David Cohen and Researcher and Representative Jennifer Dorning to detail DPE’s leadership on seeking to strengthen intellectual property protections, defend against right-wing attacks, reach out to professional associations, research and report on workplace issues, and communicate with the people whom unions affiliated with DPE represent as well as policy-makers and the public. The represented unions also provided each other with invaluable updates about their activities and plans.
AMERICAN RIGHTS AT WORK HONORS IAM, NFLPA – On June 20, 2012, American Rights at Work (ARAW) held its 8th annual Awards Celebration. Among the honorees: Bill Street, director of the IAM woodworkers’ division (below left), and DeMaurice Smith, NFL Players Association executive director (below right). Both IAM and NFLPA are valued affiliates of DPE, which assisted in preparations for the celebration. Photos © ARAW, all rights reserved.
Honored with Street was Per-Olof Sjöö, president of the Swedish woodworkers’ union. Street and Sjöö collaborated in leading a global campaign that brought a voice at work for more than 300 workers at an IKEA factory in Danville, VA. Street declared that the honor “validated what we have proclaimed to the world for the last three years – that union rights are human rights…”
Smith led the NFLPA through its successful negotiations with the NFL. He built support for the players throughout the labor movement by identifying their cause with that of other U.S. workers. Concluding a moving and energetic speech, Smith said, “We can’t let American working men and women lose. Let us use our great minds to bring back the fight for Americans at work and dedicate ourselves to making their lives better tomorrow than today.”
Other speakers included then ARAW Executive Director Kimberly Freeman Brown, former NLRB General Counsel Fred Feinstein, former NLRB Chair Wilma Liebman, and Ford Field concession worker and UNITE HERE member John Marler. Representing DPE at the event were DPE President Paul E. Almeida and Executive Director David Cohen.
H-1B VISA REQUESTS: WHERE DO THEY COME FROM? – On July 18, 2012, DPE President Paul E. Almeida and DPE Researcher and Representative Jennifer Dorning attended a Brookings Institution event to release its report, “The Search for Skills: Demand for H-1B Immigrant Workers in U.S. Metropolitan Areas.” The report examined the geography of H-1B visa requests.
For more information, contact DPE Researcher and Representative Jennifer Dorning, (202) 638-0320 extension 114, firstname.lastname@example.org.
To view the Fact Sheet, visit our website. For more information, contact DPE Researcher and Representative Jennifer Dorning, (202) 638-0320 extension 114, email@example.com.
GLOBAL WORKERS JUSTICE ALLIANCE RELEASES ‘VISAS, INC.’ – On June 8, 2012, DPE President Paul E. Almeida and Researcher and Representative Jennifer Dorning attended the release of “Visas, Inc.: Corporate Control and Policy Incoherence in the U.S. Temporary Foreign Labor System.” The report, by the Global Workers Justice Alliance, is a comprehensive analysis of high and low skill guest worker visas and aims to advance the discussion of comprehensive immigration reform.
For more information, contact DPE Researcher and Representative Jennifer Dorning, (202) 638-0320 extension 114, firstname.lastname@example.org.
DPE SIGNS ON – On June 26, 2012, DPE joined its affiliated unions IAFF and IFPTE, the AFL-CIO, and other unions in a letter to the House of Representatives opposing the “Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act” (H.R. 1860).
On July 24, DPE joined its affiliated unions AFT, IAFF, and IFPTE; the AFL-CIO, and other unions in a letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee supporting the Marketplace Equity Act (H.R. 3179).
To read the letters, click here and scroll down.
DPE IN THE NEWS – On July 25, 2012, The New York Times hosted an online exchange about skilled immigration that cited DPE President Paul E. Almeida as arguing that “programs like the H-1B visa incentivize the displacement of native workers because employers may prefer foreign workers for their lower cost and exploitability.”