Government affairs

Legislative Updates

The future of working families

State legislatures all over the country have been debating potential laws that could change the day-to-day life of working families within their states. So it is important that all labor organizations stand together on a firm position of what is important for the future of working families.

The AFL-CIO’s executive council met recently and approved four statements designed to set a blueprint for how organized labor should move forward when working with legislators on crafting public policy. The statements particularly focus on several bills introduced and issues addressed at the state and federal levels—issues such as workers’ rights, retirement security, investing in American’s infrastructure, and ensuring democracy.

On-demand workers: There has been an expansion of companies such as Uber, Lyft and Airbnb, so-called “on-demand” companies that don’t provide employees the rights and protections they deserve. The AFL-CIO’s statement on this issue calls for strengthening the collective-bargaining power of working people as well as to grant on-demand employees a status that will allow them to receive benefits such as overtime, workers’ compensation and a minimum wage.

So far, four states have passed legislation defining the on-demand workforce as independent contractors; five other states have similar legislation pending. FedEx uses the same ideology to treat some of its employees as contractors. As more and more companies are created around new technologies and innovations, their workers need to have good jobs that are fully protected under the National Labor Relations Act—just as letter carriers’ jobs are.

Retirement security: According to another AFL-CIO statement, half of all workers have no employer-provided retirement plan of any kind. The statement calls for an increase to Social Security’s annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) and for getting rid of the cap on taxable earnings ($118,500 today).

There also have been multiple attempts to undermine pensions. For example, state employees’ pensions are being cut in Illinois, while several other state legislatures have introduced measures that attempt to slash pensions or to get rid of them entirely.

Infrastructure: The Flint, MI, water crisis is a clear example of what happens when governments don’t invest in public services. The AFL-CIO calls for rebuilding America’s infrastructure to protect citizens from disasters like Flint’s or worse. Investing in infrastructure is one thing; coupling investment with project-labor agreements (PLAs) will help ensure quality and efficiency on the job. The AFL-CIO’s statement on this issue also encourages the use of American-made products as a way to boost the country’s economy. In several states—such as Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, New York and Virginia—there is legislation that would require American-made products to be used in certain circumstances, such as building projects.

Elections: Another AFL-CIO statement is a reminder about the importance that the entire labor movement—including letter carriers—continues to be engaged in elections as voters, activists and volunteers. The 2016 election will decide the future of working families. For there to be successes, it is imperative that everyone use one of this country’s most fundamental rights: the right to vote.

The council’s statement agreed on the following principles:

  • expansion and protection of voting rights at the federal and state levels
  • preventing corporations and the wealthy few from buying elections
  • changing structural rules to ensure that every vote and every voice counts equally
  • reshaping the political debate to demand full democracy at every level of government

There are several state initiatives to help make voting easier—for example, universal voter registration and no-excuses vote-by-mail. Meanwhile, there are other state-level bills that could make it harder to vote: Voter I.D. laws, restrictions on early voting and absentee voting, and additional restrictions on voter registration.

For a list of the AFL-CIO’s proactive state-level battles, click here.

For a list of the AFL-CIO’s defensive state-level battles, click here.

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