Maryland State and District of Columbia AFL-CIO

Recent News Stories

Guild and CASA Rally Support to Prevent Deportation of a Washington-Baltimore News Guild (WBNG) member who works at CASA de Maryland.

Every week, we'll be bringing you a roundup of the important news and commentary about issues and events important to working families. Here's this week's Working People Weekly List. Read more >>>

Each week, we take a look at the biggest friends and foes of labor. We celebrate the workers winning big and small battles, and we shame the companies or people trying to deny working people their rights. Read more >>>


LEADERS,

Please see the attached ads to help stop fast tract, that are going up in Maryland. Share with family and friends and encourage that they make phone calls.

Encourage attendance to the COMMUNITY SPEAK OUT AGAINST FAST TRACK, Saturday, May 2nd, 4:00 P.M. - 6:00 P.M. at the DoubleTree by Hilton, 1726 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville, MD 21208.

All members of Congress have been invited along with the press. Thanks

Fred D. Mason, Jr.
President, MD/DC AFL-CIO

AFL-CIO Now Blog -- Recent News Stories

A Better Way to Vote
A Better Way to Vote

I voted
yaquina

Imagine a state where voters never have to even wait in line or present a photo ID in order to get their ballot. Where bad weather, traffic jams, working late or child care duties never have to interfere with a citizen’s intent to exercise his or her democratic franchise.

A state where it’s the government’s obligation—if it knows a citizen is a registered voter—to deliver the ballot, not force the voter to go to a specific polling location or arrange for an absentee ballot.

Such a state is Oregon, where voters in 2000 approved by a more than 2-1 margin to create what can best be called a "Vote at Home" election system. Two other states—Washington and Colorado—have now adopted the same system, as have 21 of Utah’s 29 counties.

In Vote at Home systems, U.S. Postal Service letter carriers deliver a ballot to every active registered voter about two weeks before every election. Voters typically mark their ballots at home, then have the option of returning them by mail or taking them to any one of hundreds of ballot drop-sites around the state. Voters’ signatures on the return envelope are verified against voter registration cards before ballots can be counted, to ensure election integrity.

This week, former Oregon Secretary of State Phil Keisling will be in Washington, D.C., for an event the AFL-CIO is co-sponsoring with the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) to talk about the many benefits of Vote at Home elections. Voters strongly approve of the system; it saves millions in taxpayer dollars in reduced election costs; and, perhaps most important of all, it spurs significantly higher voter turnout, especially in midterm elections. Keisling will be joined by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who was elected in 1996 in the nation’s first-ever federal election that used this system.

As America’s working men and women look ahead to future elections, Vote at Home seems like a simple, common-sense reform with exceptional power to reinvigorate American democracy. Just recently, a new organization—National Vote at Home Coalition—was launched to help support such efforts as a Vote at Home ballot measure campaign that was recently launched by progressive activists in South Dakota. Other ballot measure efforts also are being discussed for several other states, as well as legislative efforts in several other states.

In 2016, an estimated 60 million already registered voters didn’t cast a ballot—and more than 100 million didn’t in 2014. Maybe it’s time to start relying on the genius of Benjamin Franklin—and the U.S. Postal Service he created nearly 250 years ago—to start fixing that.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 10/17/2017 - 11:40

Partnership Brings Relief to Puerto Rico
Partnership Brings Relief to Puerto Rico

Puerto Rican relief efforts
AFL-CIO

As part of the response to the devastation in Puerto Rico, working people and United Airlines teamed up to fly more than 300 first responders and skilled volunteers to help with relief and rebuilding. The partnership was a response to an urgent request from Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz for highly skilled workers.

In response, Cruz said:

I will always remember and, most importantly, San Juan will never forget the sight of hope and redemption of brotherhood and sisterhood of more than 300 union brothers and sisters stepping out of their buses with open hearts to help those whose cry for help some have tried to dismiss and diminish. Your compassion, your skills, but most of all, your great heart has strengthened our bodies have rebuilt our buildings, but most of all has touched our souls. We know we are not alone, for we know the union movement will never forsake us....

Where there are problems to be fixed, you do not run away, you stand by us every step of the way....

You embody the true nature of the American spirit of compassion, ingenuity, and resilience....

Your presence here reassures us with our minds and with our hearts that all Puerto Ricans have seen that not only is it the right thing to do, but it is the path for the future. San Juan will never be able to pay the debt of gratitude, brotherhood, and sisterhood that will forever bond us together.

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler said:

Last week, I joined more than 300 hardworking union men and women who volunteered to help their fellow U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico and flew with them to San Juan in an airplane operated in partnership with United Airlines.

Nurses, doctors, engineers, carpenters, electricians, truck drivers and working people from different backgrounds joined together in a heartbeat and responded to the recovery efforts. Since landing, they have been working around the clock to help devastated communities.

Whether delivering critical aid, restoring power or saving lives—they are real life heroes and they’re making a real difference. And we’re in it for the long haul.

I could not be more proud to be part of a movement alongside these selfless and brave working women and men. We are proud of their work and honored to have a few of them join us today to tell you their personal accounts.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 10/17/2017 - 10:20

Texas Unions Partner with Mayor Turner to Send Supplies to Puerto Rico
Texas Unions Partner with Mayor Turner to Send Supplies to Puerto Rico

Texas to Puerto Rico
AFL-CIO

The Seafarers (SIU) union and other Houston-area unions organized a relief drive to collect supplies for Puerto Rican hurricane survivors.

Yesterday, leaders from the Texas labor movement joined together with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner to load containers with vital supplies for a ship bound for Puerto Rico.

The Seafarers secured the shipping containers and organized with other local unions and the mayor’s office to collect materials being donated to Puerto Rican communities impacted by Hurricane Maria. Recent reports state that 85% of the island is still without electricity and 40% of the population still lack access to clean drinking water.

The cargo ship is delivering water, nonperishable food, toiletries, battery-powered electronics, mops, brooms and other desperately needed items to the Puerto Rico AFL-CIO in San Juan. The supplies will be shipped on the National Glory, a U.S.-flagged vessel owned and operated by National Shipping of America, that will be crewed by SIU members under the Jones Act. Plans to send more cargo to Puerto Rico are in the works.

"The labor movement is at its best when we work together during times of great need. We saw that here in Texas after Hurricane Harvey, and now we want to extend that help to Puerto Rico," said Zeph Capo, president of the Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation.

Dean Corgey, vice president of the Gulf Coast Region of the Seafarers, said, "Mayor Turner has been a stalwart supporter of Houstonians and others harmed by hurricanes recently. We’re proud to be partnering with the mayor on this effort to bring aid to Puerto Rico."

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 10/16/2017 - 16:05

Why the Best Protectors for Workers Are Other Workers
Why the Best Protectors for Workers Are Other Workers

IAFF Vegas
IAFF

As concertgoers fled the mass shooting at the country music festival outside the Mandalay Bay in Clark County, Nev., at the end of the Las Vegas strip, dozens of off-duty fire fighters attending the concert sprang into action. Twelve were among the wounded by gunfire.

At the same time, more than 150 fire fighters and paramedics from Clark County Local 1908 and surrounding locals rushed to the scene to save lives, treat the wounded and help the survivors.

"Our members–including those attending the concert off duty–reacted as they always do," said IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger. "They put their training to work immediately, without hesitation and without regard for their own safety, making quick and difficult decisions on how best to save lives."

As the news of the unfolding tragedy flashed across the nation, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) – the union representing more than 310,000 professional fire fighters and paramedics–also took action, reaching out to Clark County Local 1908 and other affiliates in the area to provide assistance.

On Monday morning after the shooting, Patrick Morrison–a retired Virginia fire fighter who heads the health and safety division at the IAFF, was on the phone with affiliates across the country to organize and mobilize experienced teams of peer support counselors and trauma specialists to help members involved in the response to the mass shooting. Within hours, he too was on a plane to Las Vegas.

"It’s easy to see a broken arm and treat it. It’s more difficult to see trauma to our brains or hearts," Morrison said. "Everyday, work for fire fighters and paramedics can be traumatic. Mass-casualty events can be much worse. We want to make sure our members understand the signs and symptoms of traumatic stress injuries, so we can treat them."

Many of the peer support counselors who arrived in Las Vegas have been through similar events. Some pulled bodies from the attack at the 2016 Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Fla., where 49 people were killed and 59 wounded. Others got a crash course in trauma from the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, or from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.

All of them brought their personal stories to Las Vegas to help their union brothers and sisters.

At the school shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Col., Ray Rahne was a fire fighter who had responded like everyone else in his department. Afterwards, the Vietnam veteran, who is also a husband and father, would find himself crying at times. And he was skittish and jumpy.

"I would go from happy to depressed at the snap of the fingers. People started asking, ‘What’s going on?’ This went on for over a year. Finally, I thought, I don’t know. I’ve got to go see somebody," Rahne said.

Now retired from Littleton Fire and Rescue and a IAFF district vice president, Rahne got help and then joined his union’s growing movement to treat mental and emotional injuries to fire fighters, paramedics, and dispatchers.

Two years ago, the IAFF hired its first full-time and permanent behavior health specialist. This year, the union plans to hire a second. And, last March, the union opened the Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery in Upper Marlboro, Md., exclusively for IAFF members.

"Health and safety is a big priority for us. We want to make sure all of our members are as safe as possible," Morrison said.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 10/13/2017 - 16:05

Joining Together: The Working People Weekly List
Joining Together: The Working People Weekly List

Every week, we bring you a roundup of the top news and commentary about issues and events important to working families. Here’s this week’s Working People Weekly List.

NAFTA Negotiators Send Corporate Whiners Back to Swamp: "Giant corporations, loyal to coin and faithless to country, staged a public display of blubbering in the run up to this week’s fourth round of negotiations to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)."

Las Vegas Dad Sells His Harley to Go to Puerto Rico and Drive Trucks to Help Hurricane Victims: "When Marcos Cruz heard about the need for truck drivers to help hurricane victims in Puerto Rico, he knew he could help. The single dad of two teenagers was born in Puerto Rico but has lived in Las Vegas for over 40 years."

From the Mountains of Puerto Rico: 'We Won’t Have Electricity Up Here for at Least a Year': "Adela Fígaro wasn’t worried when high winds began to lash her home, high on a hill in Las Marias, an area in the west-central region of Puerto Rico. The Dominican Republic native, with a quick wit and a big smile, had been through other serious storms in her 30-plus years living deep in the mountains of the island, about 60 miles from San Juan, where much of the island’s coffee and fruit is grown."

SEC Asked to Probe Trades of Student Loan Firm Navient: "A series of well-timed trades in shares of student loan giant Navient Corp. immediately before the Labor Day holiday weekend, after which a critical Trump administration policy announcement was made public, spurred the AFL-CIO to request that federal securities regulators review what it labeled potential insider trading."

United Airlines and Unions Fly Through Sham Attacks on Labor to Help Out in Puerto Rico: "Last week a United Boeing 777-300 flew from Newark to San Juan, carrying the assistance that Puerto Rico needs most after Hurricane Maria. Not just supplies, but 300 workers from 20 unions, all willing to work free to help the island rebuild."

5 Things You Need to Know About TPS or Temporary Protected Status: "In a turbulent world, countries with more privilege have a powerful ability to protect people from countries experiencing crises such as war, natural disaster or ongoing violence and prevent them from returning to conditions that could cost them their lives. Since 1990, the United States has allowed more than 300,000 immigrants from such countries to live and work here under Temporary Protected Status."

What Working People Are Saying About the Janus Supreme Court Case: "The U.S. Supreme Court has granted certiorari in the case Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, meaning the court will hold a hearing and make a ruling on the case. The case started with the billionaire governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, attempting to undercut the voice of public service workers through the courts. Janus is part of a broader strategy by corporate-funded organizations like the State Policy Network, which admits that the whole point of Janus is to strike a 'mortal blow' and 'defund and defang' unions. Working people are speaking out against these attempts to use the courts to attack their rights."

World Day for Decent Work: Immigrant Protections Essential for Achieving Decent Work: "Oct. 7 marks the 10th annual World Day for Decent Work, a day when unions across the globe mobilize for decent work. In local events, workers highlight issues of corporate greed, low wages, inequality and injustice. In the United States, immigrant workers and communities are under attack as the Donald Trump administration threatens some of the few protections available to immigrants in vulnerable circumstances. This undermines decent work and the ability of all working people to come together to assert their rights on the job."

NAFTA Negotiations Still Need Improvement: "On Sept. 27, the United States, Canada and Mexico finished the third round of the North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiation talks. We’ve been told these talks will 'get a better deal for our workers,' but the negotiating goals seem to prioritize getting a better deal for corporations that want to offshore jobs and decrease wages. That means NAFTA will continue to make it harder for you to get a raise."

Working Families Join Together to Help Puerto Rico: "As the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico continues, working people from across the country are joining together to help with recovery and rebuilding."

Miners Working with Congress to Solve Pension Crisis: "Strong bipartisan legislation has been introduced in recent congressional sessions to solve the pension crisis currently facing America's mine workers. The Miners Protection Act is a response to a growing insolvency problem with the Mine Workers (UMWA) 1974 Pension Plan. The legislation would protect the pensions of 87,000 current beneficiaries and 20,000 more who have vested for their pensions but have not yet begun drawing them. We've waited too long to see this problem addressed, and Congress should act now."

Working People Need Fair Currency Rules in #NAFTA: "One of the reasons that so-called U.S. 'trade' deals (such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA) should really be called 'offshoring' deals is that they do not contain any enforceable restrictions on currency misalignment and manipulation. Without such restrictions, countries can game the value of their currency to gain a trade advantage that provides corporations an incentive to strip jobs and wages from the U.S."

Working Families Respond to Mass Shooting in Nevada: "After yet another mass shooting last night, this time in Las Vegas, working families and their allies responded to the tragic evening. Below are their responses. Steve Sisolak, chair of Clark County Commission in Las Vegas, has set up a GoFundMe page to collect donations to aid the victims and their families. Please visit the Las Vegas Victims' Fund and contribute what you can."

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 10/13/2017 - 12:34

5 Things You Need to Know About TPS or Temporary Protected Status
5 Things You Need to Know About TPS or Temporary Protected Status

In a turbulent world, countries with more privilege have a powerful ability to protect people from countries experiencing crises such as war, natural disaster or ongoing violence and prevent them from returning to conditions that could cost them their lives. Since 1990, the United States has allowed more than 300,000 immigrants from such countries to live and work here under Temporary Protected Status.

Anti-immigrant groups are pushing the administration to end TPS status, which would strip away work authorization from hardworking men and women and risk sending them back into harm's way. Although we hear a lot about the refugee program, too little is known about TPS. Here are five things working people need to know about this important program:

1. TPS immigrants receive provisional protection against deportation and temporary permission to work in the United States. The majority of current TPS holders have been working in and contributing to our communities for more than 15 years. They pay taxes, join unions, own homes and raise families.

2. TPS status for each country must be renewed at least every 18 months, and each time workers renew their permits they undergo a new security screening.

3. In all, more than 320,000 people from 10 countries are at risk of losing protected status in 2018.  El Salvador leads the way with nearly 200,000 people, followed by Honduras and Haiti, as countries with the largest population to be affected. Other TPS countries include Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

4. TPS designations are made based on extreme circumstances that persist. Sudan, for instance, is still under a State Department travel advisory that warns travelers not to visit the country because of ongoing risks of terrorism, armed conflict and violent crime. Haiti is in turmoil after being hit not only with a devastating earthquake, but by a massive cholera epidemic and multiple category 4 hurricanes.

5. The AFL-CIO opposes this attack on working people. Failure to renew TPS will actively harm our economy, our communities and our unions. We want more working people to have rights on the job, not fewer.

Take action today to hold the line on workplace rights for TPS holders.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 10/13/2017 - 09:10

What Working People Are Saying About the Janus Supreme Court Case
What Working People Are Saying About the Janus Supreme Court Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has granted certiorari in the case Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, meaning the court will hold a hearing and make a ruling on the case. The case started with the billionaire governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, attempting to undercut the voice of public service workers through the courts. Janus is party of a broader strategy by corporate-funded organizations like the State Policy Network, which admits that the whole point of Janus is to strike a "mortal blow" and "defund and defang" unions. Working people are speaking out against these attempts to use the courts to attack their rights. Here's what they are saying:

Stephen Mittons, AFSCME Council 31 member, child protection investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services:

My work as a child protection investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is vital to the safety of our state’s most vulnerable children and families. This court case is yet another political attack on the freedom of my colleagues and I to speak up to ensure that we can safely and adequately manage our caseloads, which reflects our commitment to safety and public service to our communities.

Jeff Price, AFT Local 3 member, teacher at Central High School, School District of Philadelphia:

My union just went through a lengthy contract fight in Philadelphia. We had to fight hard to protect our students’ basic needs, such as having at least one nurse and counselor in each school and ensuring that kids had necessary textbooks and materials. And we had to fight back against the district's desire to eliminate class sizes and get lead testing for the school's water fountains. Most people assume that the union only fights for teachers' rights, when in reality, most of our contract is there to protect the basic rights and needs of our students. Those rights are at grave risk in Janus.

Sonya Shpilyuk, NEA member, high school English teacher, Montgomery County, Maryland:

More and more, the economy is working against working people, including the families whose children I teach. My union gives me a voice and a seat at the table to advocate for my students, my colleagues and my community.

Edna Logan, SEIU Local 99 member, custodian at Esteban Torres School, Los Angeles Unified School District:

By sticking together in our union, we've lifted the wage floor to a $15 minimum wage, protected and expanded health care benefits for our families, and won more funding for our schools. Together, we’ll continue to fight to ensure all students have the support and services they need to succeed in school. That’s why the extremists are attacking us, to stop our progress. But we plan to stick together no matter what and keep standing up for quality public services.

Lee Saunders, president, AFSCME:

This case is yet another example of corporate interests using their power and influence to launch a political attack on working people and rig the rules of the economy in their own favor. When working people are able to join strong unions, they have the strength in numbers they need to fight for the freedoms they deserve, like access to quality health care, retirement security and time off work to care for a loved one. The merits of the case and 40 years of Supreme Court precedent and sound law are on our side. We look forward to the Supreme Court honoring its earlier rulings.

Randi Weingarten, president, AFT:

Unions are all about fighting for and caring about people—and in the public sector that includes those we represent and those we protect and teach in communities across America. Yet corporations, wealthy interests and politicians have manufactured Janus as part of their long and coordinated war against unions. Their goal is to further weaken workers’ freedom to join together in a union, to further diminish workers’ clout.

These powerful interests want to gut one of the last remaining checks on their control—a strong and united labor movement that fights for equity and opportunity for all, not just the privileged few. And under the guise of the First Amendment, they want to overturn a 40-year precedent that’s been reaffirmed numerous times. In other words, this would be a radical departure from well-established law. We believe that after resolving a similar case last year, the Supreme Court erred in granting cert in Janus, and that the trumped-up underpinnings of the plaintiff’s argument will rapidly become clear before the full bench.

Lily Eskelsen García, president, NEA:

For decades, corporate CEOs and the wealthy have fought to enrich themselves at the expense of the rights and pocketbooks of working people, and that harms families in communities across the country. As the nation’s largest union, we know this fight will not only impact the lives of educators, but it also impacts the families of the children we educate. We won’t back down from this fight and we will always stand up to support working people, our students and the communities we serve.

Mary Kay Henry, president, SEIU:

The anti-worker extremists behind this case want to divide working people, make it harder to pool our resources and limit our collective power. But SEIU members won't let any court case stand in our way of sticking together for good jobs and strong communities.

A statement from the four biggest public sector unions (AFSCME, AFT, NEA and SEIU):

The Janus case is a blatantly political and well-funded plot to use the highest court in the land to further rig the economic rules against everyday working people. The billionaire CEOs and corporate interests behind this case, and the politicians who do their bidding, have teamed up to deliver yet another attack on working people by striking at the freedom to come together in strong unions. The forces behind this case know that by joining together in strong unions, working people are able to win the power and voice they need to level the economic and political playing field. However, the people behind this case simply do not believe that working people deserve the same freedoms they have: to negotiate a fair return on their work.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 10/12/2017 - 09:28

World Day for Decent Work: Immigrant Protections Essential for Achieving Decent Work
World Day for Decent Work: Immigrant Protections Essential for Achieving Decent Work

Oct. 7 marks the 10th annual World Day for Decent Work, a day when unions across the globe mobilize for decent work. In local events, workers highlight issues of corporate greed, low wages, inequality and injustice. In the United States, immigrant workers and communities are under attack as the Donald Trump administration threatens some of the few protections available to immigrants in vulnerable circumstances. This undermines decent work and the ability of all working people to come together to assert their rights on the job.

The Trump administration has announced that it will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which will strip away work authorization from nearly 800,000 productive members of our society. Further, the administration is currently assessing if it will recertify Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a designation that protects some 330,000 people who fled war, natural disaster and instability and allows them the opportunity to rebuild their lives in the U.S. Ten countries in all currently have TPS designation: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The labor movement will work tirelessly to defend these important protections.

DACA and TPS holders are our co-workers, union sisters and brothers, and neighbors. Tens of thousands work in industries such as hospitality, construction, food processing, education and retail. They are leaders in our unions and communities. Many have lived in the U.S. for decades. Many fear returning home.

The longtime failure of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform and create a pathway to citizenship for millions of hardworking immigrants has created a crisis in which one out of 20 workers in our country lacks formal work authorization. Rather than expanding rights and protections to this population, the Trump administration is expanding the pool of vulnerable workers in our labor force. The resulting threat of deportations weakens our unions and labor rights for all workers.

The entire workforce will suffer if these working people are stripped of their rights and status. The labor movement strongly condemns the efforts to criminalize immigrant communities. Instead of deporting immigrants, we need to ensure that all working people have rights on the job and are able to exercise them without fear of retaliation.

On World Day for Decent Work, we must hold the line on workplace rights and defend these important protections. A future of decent work, equality and shared prosperity is only possible if all workers are free to join together regardless of where they came from. Call on lawmakers today to defend DACA and TPS by signing our petition.

Kenneth Quinnell Sat, 10/07/2017 - 11:35

The Economy Loses 33,000 Jobs in September, and Unemployment Was Little Changed at 4.2%
The Economy Loses 33,000 Jobs in September, and Unemployment Was Little Changed at 4.2%

The U.S. economy lost 33,000 jobs in September, and unemployment was little changed at 4.2%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The decline likely reflects the impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

In response to the September jobs numbers, AFL-CIO Chief Economist William Spriggs tweeted:

Last month's biggest job gains were in health care (23,000), transportation and warehousing (22,000), financial activities (10,000), and professional and business services (13,000). Employment in food services and drinking places dropped sharply in September (-105,000) and manufacturing (-1,000) also saw a decline. Employment in other major industries, including mining, construction, wholesale trade, retail trade, information and government, showed little change over the month.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for teenagers (12.9%), blacks (7.0%), Hispanics (5.1%), adult men (3.9%), adult women (3.9%), Asians (3.7%) and whites (3.7%) showed little or no change in September.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was down slightly in September and accounted for 25.5% of the unemployed.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 10/06/2017 - 10:43

On Manufacturing Day, Let’s Salute the Dreamers?—?and Make Sure They Can Succeed
On Manufacturing Day, Let’s Salute the Dreamers?—?and Make Sure They Can Succeed

This Manufacturing Day post is for all the dreamers out there. For the young men and women who will imagine and invent things that will make the world a better place. And for the folks who will make those incredible things right here in America.

These dreamers will join a long line of change-makers. As a nation, we’ve always risen to the challenge to make a better future for the next generation, although we often take a step or two back before getting it right. As we honor our nation’s makers?—?past, present and future?—?it’s important to take stock of what we’ve done well and where we need to make some changes.

Think of the Rosie the Riveters who built the indefatigable Arsenal of Democracy but were forced from work after World War II—and whose daughters and granddaughters still face entirely too much unequal pay, discrimination and harassment. Nevertheless, CEOs such as General Motors’ Mary Barra, female entrepreneurs who launch start-up manufacturers, and a new surge of women embracing the age of digital manufacturing hint at the possibilities (if policies and practices change).

Or think of the black steelworkers who spent decades fighting for opportunity and equality, only to achieve a taste of it just as their mills were shuttered by a lethal combination of imports and advances in automation beginning in the 1970s. Their sons and daughters still reel from instances of police violence, discrimination and horrors, like the white supremacists we all witnessed in Charlottesville just a few weeks ago. But when I see programs like Austin Career and College Academy on the West Side of Chicago and Focus: HOPE in Detroit, I see a glimpse of the future (if we can just get it right).

And think of the proud factory workers who, over the course of our nation’s history, built the world’s largest and most innovative manufacturing economy, only to see it outsourced, devalued and held hostage to a philosophy that placed a premium on cheap consumer goods at the expense of good, stable, middle-class jobs.

The consequence of that job loss has rippled through millions of workers’ lives and thousands of communities. It has even altered our life expectancy rates, our marital rates and, of course, our politics. It’s more than an economic side effect. Deindustrialization has led America down a dead-end alley from which we’ve yet to emerge.

Still, some amazing entrepreneurs are still betting on making things in America, and we’ve managed to add back 1 million manufacturing jobs since the Great Recession, so all is not yet lost.

When some manufacturers grumble about not being able to find skilled workers, wondering why young people can’t see job opportunities right in front of them, I have to bite my tongue. These folks often assume it’s the inaccurate image of manufacturing as dirty and dangerous that’s keeping those doors shut, or perhaps the next generation doesn’t want to work hard.

I don’t want to minimize the challenges we face in replacing a rapidly retiring factory workforce or developing talent within an educational system that for decades squeezed out technical training before realizing that was a mistake. There’s a lot of important work to do here.

These kids?—?these dreamers?—?are woke. Now more than ever, job applicants want to know the values of the men and women they’ll be working for. How did their employers respond to these challenges I’ve mentioned? And how will they invest in developing the skills and careers of their workers?

Manufacturing Day should be a two-way street.

Even in an age of automation and globalization, there are a lot of reasons to think that millions more Americans can be working in manufacturing over the next decade. We have a strong energy advantage. We have a robust consumer market. We have an entrepreneurial culture. While more robots will be found on factory floors, the industry is already highly automated. With new products, more market share and sharpened skills, we can create more factory jobs. With the right mindsets in the public and private sectors, we can guarantee that the next generation of really amazing things can be made right here.

So keep dreaming, young dreamers. But remember to keep your eyes wide open while you do. Happy Manufacturing Day?—?now let’s go make something together.

This guest post from Scott Paul, president of Alliance for American Manufacturing, originally appeared at Medium.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 10/06/2017 - 08:57

Maryland State and District of Columbia AFL-CIO Logo

Sign Up
Email:
Password:
Remember me