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Dec. 10 ’Biggest Ever’ Mobilization for Workers’ Rights

Last week at a meeting of allied organizations to discuss planning for Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney declared that our nationwide mobilization will be “the biggest ever” for workers’ rights. Planning is under way around the country and around the world. Over the week of Dec. 5–10, tens of thousands of workers in 68 cities—and the number is growing daily—will take the fight to restore workers’ freedom to form unions to the White House, statehouses and front doors of employers that deny workers’ rights.

Dec. 10 marks the anniversary of the 1948 United Nations ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which includes workers’ freedom to form unions.

Speaking at the meeting, Clyde Rucker, a former Verizon Wireless customer service representative, said he was fired after he tried to form a union with the Communications Workers of America. “We have to fight everywhere for the right to join a union,” said Rucker. “We have to become more vigilant and continue to speak out. Corporate injustice anywhere is a threat to workers everywhere.”

American Rights at Work Chairman David Bonior said 23,000 people are fired each year or otherwise illegally discriminated against for trying to organize and bargain. In American Rights at Work’s recent “Workers Rights Are Human Rights” tour, more than 40 workers traveled to Atlanta, Austin, Texas, and Boston to tell their stories about being fired and harassed while trying to form a union. Bonior said human rights leaders from Canada, Mexico and Guatemala who joined him on the tour were “appalled by the stories of what is happening in U.S. workplaces.”

At last week’s meeting, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Linda Chavez-Thompson urged all the groups to support the nationwide mobilization around International Human Rights Day, saying, “History will mark the passion and compassion of all of us.”

In response, several groups declared their support for the Dec. 10 mobilization. “Civil rights are labor rights and labor rights are human rights,” said NAACP Washington Bureau Director Hilary Shelton, who played a public service announcement from NAACP Chairman Julian Bond calling on all people to join the Dec. 10 mobilization. Sarita Gupta of Jobs with Justice told the audience about events her group is helping plan across the country and Kristy Sanford of Interfaith Worker Justice detailed her organization’s plans for services focusing on workers’ rights at churches and synagogues.

U.S. Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) called union membership “the ticket out of poverty.” The nation needs the Employee Free Choice Act, she said, because employers regularly threaten, intimidate and fire workers for trying to form unions. The Employee Free Choice Act would allow workers to avoid the current National Labor Relations Board election deathtrap by forming unions based on a majority of signed authorization cards. It also would increase penalties for illegal employer anti-union actions and provide first-contract mediation and arbitration.

Groups represented at last week’s meeting include American Rights at Work, the Alliance for Retired Americans, the Center for American Progress, the American Constitution Society, the Campaign for Labor Rights, the Institute for Policy Studies, the Center for Community Change, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Americans for Democratic Action,
the Progressive Policy Institute, Interfaith Worker Justice, Jobs with Justice, the Sierra Club, the A. Philip Randolph Institute, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, United States Student Association, Human Rights Watch, the National Council of Women’s Organizations, the Coalition on Human Needs, the United
Association for Labor Education, the National Baptist Convention USA, Pride At Work, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Japanese-American Citizens League, United Students Against Sweatshops, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, Campaign for America’s Future, the United Nations Association, United for a Fair Economy, the National Council of Churches and the NAACP.

Dec. 10 Goes Global

Workers taking part in Dec. 10 actions in the United States will be joined by workers on six continents—from countries as diverse as Bosnia, Cambodia and Bahrain—who will hold events to support human rights, including workers’ freedom to form unions. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney will join hundreds of other global union leaders in Hong Kong Dec. 10 for a rally to coincide with the meeting of the World Trade Organization. Reciprocally, workers from around the world will come to the United States to join workers at Dec. 10 events across the nation.

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Rich Trumka has sent a letter to Polish labor leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa asking him to urge other Nobel Peace laureates to sign a statement of support for workers’ rights that would be released during the week before Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day.

Reports from Dec. 10 Sites

Local union leaders and our allies across the country are in the process of planning events in more than 68 cities. A dozen of the largest affiliates in the AFL-CIO are taking the lead in different cities in what AFL-CIO Organizing Director Stewart Acuff calls “the most significant, deepest buy-in” for a major mobilization. Workers in Boston plan to march throughout the city, stopping at workplaces where workers are trying to form unions, before holding a rally at the state capitol. In Sacramento, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union will focus on workers’ campaign at Blue Diamond Almond, where the company openly admits to conducting “an aggressive union avoidance campaign.” In St. Louis, the Mine Workers will call attention to anti-union Peabody Coal, which has systematically de-unionized their operations. In Portland, Ore., workers will join with other activists to protest the World Trade Organization and workers’ rights abuses around the world. In Washington, D.C., workers will rally in front of AFL-CIO headquarters, then march to the White House to demand that President Bush stop his assault on federal employees’ collective bargaining rights.

Along with these major events, teach-ins are scheduled at colleges in Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, North Carolina, Seattle, New Jersey, New York, San Francisco, Cincinnati and at other colleges across the nation to inform students of the plight of America’s workers.

New Tools Online

A public service announcement from NAACP Chairman Julian Bond asking people to join with workers around Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day, is now available for download on the AFL-CIO website. http://www.aflcio.org/joinaunion/voiceatwork/d10_psa.cfm

Dec. 10 Events Calendar

A searchable calendar of events is available on the AFL-CIO home page. People can search for events in their state and site coordinators can post information about their events on this calendar. We are asking everyone coordinating sites to post information about them right away. Check back often, as more sites will be added every week. http://www.aflcio.org/joinaunion/voiceatwork/calendar.cfm

Teach-In PowerPoint

Along with the Teach-In Toolkit, a PowerPoint presentation is available for use at Teach-Ins around Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day.

Dec. 10 Flier

Download this color save-the-date flier to publicize your Dec. 10 event.

Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-N.C. ) became the 205th Employee Free Choice Act (S. 842 and H.R. 1696) co-sponsor in the House of Representatives. We are now only 13 co-sponsors away from reaching a majority in the House and, with 41 co-sponsors, only 10 votes shy of a Senate majority. Dec. 10 offers a great opportunity to ask senators and representatives who have not yet signed on to mark International Human Rights Day by becoming co-sponsors of the Employee Free Choice Act.

Send letters to your senators and representative urging them to co-sponsor the Employee Free Choice Act by clicking on this link.

A list of co-sponsors and fact sheets on each provision of the legislation are available on the Voice@Work PrivateNet website

Press Clips of the Week

Time to protect unions,”: [New York] Daily News Op-ed by John Jordan, a former union organizer, about companies using bankruptcy court to void union contracts.

AFL-CIO Leaders Push for New Members,” The Washington Post
AFL-CIO met with allied organizations to ask for their help in our nationwide mobilization around Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day.

Quote of the Week

“You practically have to kill someone.”
— Jack Haskell, of the anti-union firm Adams, Nash, Haskell & Sheridan, quoted in the Connecticut Post talking about the kind of employer actions that might prompt the NLRB to overturn an election.

Please send story suggestions, event announcements, campaign reports, letters and other information to Kevin Byrne at kbyrne@aflcio.org

Thank you for all you do to restore workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain collectively.

Together we will win.

In solidarity,

Andy Levin
Voice@Work Campaign
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