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There's too much going on this week to focus on one topic. So here's a rundown from the world of working people and their unions.
- Hilda Solis made her first public appearance as labor secretary during the AFL-CIO Executive Council meeting in Miami, where she toured an Electrical Workers (IBEW) union training facility and held a meeting in the inner city with 700 community members. Solis vowed to fully enforce the laws that protect workers and, as one of the first supporters in Congress for the Employee Free Choice Act, said she would work to pass and then enforce the legislation if it becomes law. As AFL-CIO President Sweeney said of Solis: ''She is the only labor secretary in recent memory from a working family, union background.
- A new report shows in 30 percent of union elections, one or more workers who try to form a union are fired. Released in conjunction with the AFL-CIO Executive Council meeting, the new study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) is another strong argument for passing the Employee Free Choice Act and restoring the freedom to form unions and bargain.
- President Obama, speaking via DVD to the Executive Council meeting, reiterated his strong support for America's working families and for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act: "[A]s we confront this crisis and work to provide health care to every American, rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, move toward a clean energy economy, and pass the Employee Free Choice Act, I want you to know that you will always have a seat at the table."
- Green Veep. Vice President Biden also spoke with the Executive Council this week. On Friday, Biden held the first meeting of the President's Middle Class Task Force, which heard from experts on the potential to create green jobs and connecting working people with training opportunities in the green economy. Speaking to the panel, United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo Gerard noted that in February, the AFL-CIO's Working for America Institute launched a Center for Green Jobs, which will expand research, training and policy work in support of good green jobs. He also mentioned how the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) is leading a national initiative joining their affiliates and 1,100 apprenticeship training centers with community organizations to train workers for the opportunities offered by new energy investment.
- Can My Boss Do That? Unless you have a union, the answer is probably "Yes." Today Interfaith Worker Justice launched a new website, www.CanMyBossDoThat.com to help newly unemployed workers understand their rights and protections and advocate for themselves. It offers state-specific information geared to help real life situations such as that of Joe Buczek, a worker in Miami, who was told he could collect his last paycheck in groceries.
- Mind the gap. The global pay gap between women and men is worse than previously estimated. Today the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) released a report that finds the global pay gap is 22 percent, rather than the 16.5 percent. Based on a survey of some 300,000 women and men in 20 countries, the report was released in advance of International Women's Day, held every year on March 8. Around here, we wear red on March 8 to signify how far in the red women's paychecks are compared with men's—in the United States, the pay gap has been worsening, and now stands at 78 cents to the dollar, $434,000 lost in lifetime earnings for a woman.
Maybe all the women working in the United States should just stop after finishing three-quarters of a workweek. Let's see how fast those wallets open then.