AFL-CIO starts largest labor union voter mobilization effort in NC history


Starting back in September, the AFL-CIO began a new initiative to get union members out to the polls to vote their conscience, hopefully for union-backed candidates. The heated races for Governor, Senator, and President make this election year especially important, and with North Carolina’s new status as a “swing state”, the races are closer than ever and could truly go either way at this point.

With NC’s new position as a tier 1 state, meaning that competition is rife on the electoral stage, a large amount of money will be flowing in to fund Candidates, as well as educate, and mobilize voters. Large amounts of outside donated money, PACs and SuperPACs, and 100 Full-time organizers on the AFL-CIO’s behalf are at the forefront of the campaign. Volunteers are doing their part by phone banking, knocking on doors, and having honest conversations. North Carolina AFL-CIO boss MaryBe McMillan stated that the changes “Will help us build a better mobilization structure so that we can hopefully, eventually, change some of the anti-union and anti-worker laws that we have in this state,” The AFL-CIO has also sent a team of lawyers and poll monitors to ensure that polling goes smoothly and swiftly across the state.

Traditionally, The AFL-CIO encouraged only union members to vote, but with the stakes higher than ever, they hope that people who are not union members can be swayed during the campaign. She notes,”We’ve traditionally just done a member-to-member program, so union members calling other union members and knocking on other union members’ doors, and that’s still our primary focus, but because of these additional resources we can also knock on the doors of the general public as well,”

The initiative is also serving another purpose: not just getting folks out to vote, but also building bridges and making friends in a state that is not always union-friendly. McMillan says,”Hopefully by knocking on the general public’s doors, folks will be able to see that union members aren’t these scary thugs and mobsters. We’re their neighbors, we’re the folks that deliver the mail and put out the fires. We’re average, everyday people who are just looking to build better lives for ourselves and our families.”

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NLRB Rules that Unions can represent Temp Agency Workers


In a historic ruling, the NLRB has decided 3-1 that unions should be allowed to represent those working temp agency jobs. The  decision reversed a Bush-era precedent that stated that temp workers could not organize with company employees without consent of  both the company and the staffing agency.  Now, both permanent workers and those working through a temp agency can collectively bargain in the same unit and form a community of like-minded workers. This ruling allows temp agency workers to more effectively negotiate with management and will stop private companies from skirting labor laws by using temp workers instead of paying fair wages and benefits.

This also relates back to the IBEW Constitution. One of the main objectives that the IBEW fights for in its constitution is representation for ALL workers in the electrical trade, not just those that apply here or are members. Now that those working through temp agencies can organize into a union to bargain and win the benefits and wages they truly deserve, they also can create a beneficial relationship between management and worker. ALL workers deserve representation.


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Readjusting the labor movement’s focus for the future

manufacturing_collageIn this election year of 2016, political candidates galore have given us lengthy speeches and diatribes about how American jobs should come back to these shores, and have lamented the economic reality that manufacturing is being outsourced to China, India, and Mexico and other countries around the world. They are correct, but this way of thinking has little to do with resurrecting the piece of economic pie that manufacturing  holds in the economy, and much more to do with nostalgia.

The Halcyon days of the post-World War II era  are the inspiration for many of these beliefs, that manufacturing is the key to entering the middle class, attaining the American dream, and resurrecting American economic prosperity. However, the key to a prosperous future lies not solely in manufacturing. This is the key error many of our policymakers seem to make.The economic realities of 2016 are not the same as those of 60 years ago. The reality is, America is more service-oriented than ever.

What truly brought the middle class stability that many politicians talk about seeking to resurrect, are unions. It was unions that fought for higher pay, benefits, breaks, and the five day week that made manufacturing prosperous in the first place. Automation in the form of the assembly line increased the pace of production, and made the industry what it is today. Union membership percentage nationwide was at its highest in 1954 at 35%.  Ten years later, union membership had grown numerically, but the percentage of the population was slightly less. Many families grew up with a union worker in the household or knowing someone who was a union worker. In 1964 in Virginia, for example, even in a state not particularly friendly to unions, 15.8% of the workforce was unionized. In 2014, 50 years later, it was at 4.5%. In North Carolina in 2014, it was 2%. (According for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015, it increased to 3% in our state) Labor union membership has dwindled, and now even faces a demographic crisis, where most union members are 40 and older, and fewer younger workers are interested in joining a union. Strangely enough, conditions in the workplace have steadily declined over the years, leaving one to wonder why more young people don’t see unions as appealing options.Wages have been stagnant for thirty years, benefits are decreasing in scope (if one receives any at all) and part-time jobs and temp agencies have exploded instead of full-time work because some employers refuse to pay benefits. It only seems natural that they should seek out such an option. More young workers are entering the blue collar trades than ever before, so it should be a priority for us to bring them into the union fold.

We cannot time travel back to when unions were strong and manufacturing was the country’s backbone. Instead, what needs to happen is to adjust our sensibilities to fit that of the 21st century economy. Manufacturing is strong and vibrant, but the labor movement needs to renew a focus on organizing those in the service industry, the tech industry, healthcare, and those working on emerging technologies. These areas are where most job growth in the near future will be.  If we are going to prosper like many politicians claim we should, we have to adjust where our focus lies for the future.

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