TEMPORARY WORKERS DESERVE A PERMANENT VOICE
The AFL-CIO recently launched a national organizing campaign targeting temporary employment agencies, one of the fastest-growing sectors of the labor market. From 1982 to 1998 the number of jobs in the temporary industry rose by 577 percent, while the number of jobs in the overall economy increased by just 41 percent. The vast majority of temporary workers are not unionized. Local 802 has been circulating petitions in support of their right to organize for collective bargaining. We urge you to sign the petition the next time you’re at the union hall.
OSHA ISSUES FINAL ERGONOMICS STANDARDS
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has at last issued the final version of its long-delayed ergonomics regulation. The standard will take effect Jan. 14. While some unions, as well as health and safety advocates, believe that we need to strengthen the proposal, others want to ensure that the new regulations get enacted as soon as possible. “OSHA’s final ergonomics standard is the most important worker safety action developed in the agency’s history,” said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. “We will do everything necessary to defend this important worker protection measure from certain political and legal attack by corporate opponents and anti-worker members of Congress.”
The main concern opponents have raised about the new OSHA rule is that it does not require a professional diagnosis for an initial determination to be made on the extent of an ergonomic injury. An employer could determine whether a worker’s injury is the result of an ergonomic hazard, However, the employee can appeal any determination made by an employer to OSHA, which will then investigate the claim.
NO NEW TAX DOLLARS FOR SWEATSHOPS
The New York City Council’s Contracts Committee recently held a hearing on the Anti Sweatshop Procurement Bill, Intro 693. The legislation, which is sponsored by Council Speaker Peter Vallone, would require all city agencies to procure textile and apparel goods only from “responsible” contractors and subcontractors – that is, companies that provide a safe, nondiscriminatory work environment and compensate their employees with a non-poverty wage.
The bill, which is supported by the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees, requires contractors to provide full disclosure about their operation and that of their subcontractors to assure that employees receive decent non-poverty wages and health benefits. Companies that provide false information would be subject to civil penalties and sanctions. UNITE Political Director Ed Vargas said, “Once the bill comes out of the city council we’re confident the mayor will sign it because of the overwhelming support from council members and labor unions.” UNITE has been sponsoring rallies throughout the city, as part of its campaign to educate the public about the intolerable conditions in sweatshops. The bill now awaits final approval by the full City Council.
NLRB RULES THAT POSTGRADUATES MAY ORGANIZE
The National Labor Relations Board recently ruled that graduate students who work as research and teaching assistants are employees who have the right to form unions to negotiate wages, benefits and other working conditions. In particular, the decision confirms that graduate assistants at New York University have the right to unionize. The NLRB ruling sets a historic precedent for the labor movement by making it possible, for the first time, for hundreds of thousands of graduate employees at private institutions throughout the country to unionize.
NYU graduate employees voted last spring for United Auto Workers (UAW) representation after the NLRB regional office decided that they had a legal right to unionize. However, ballots were impounded after NYU appealed. The graduate assistants have now had their union election certified, and have formed the first graduate employee union at any private university in the United States.