James Parks blogs for the AFL-CIO. Learn more about James.

L.A. Transit Agency Program Will Create 260,000 Construction Jobs

that will create 260,000 construction jobs. Officials said the program will dramatically increase the number of workers hired from communities near upcoming transit projects and special attention will be given to applicants who live in areas of high unemployment.

The Construction Careers Policy covers Metro transit construction projects for the next 30 years, including projects funded under Measure R, the half-cent sales tax recently approved in 2008 by voters to fund transportation upgrades. Under the Construction Careers Policy, workers who live in high unemployment areas will gain increased access to good jobs through increased access to construction apprenticeship programs and jobs. The policy is the first of its kind for a major transit agency in the United States.

Add Your Name to Union Plus Solidarity Map

, part of Union Privilege, the consumer benefits arm of the AFL-CIO, is inviting all working people to come together online to show America our strength and solidarity. If you support American workers, join other working people and be counted on the Union Plus Solidarity Map. The goal is to have 10,000 participants on Labor Day, Sept. 5. 

Click here to show support for all workers in North America by adding your name to the Solidarity Map and here to view the map, which is updated every 15 minutes.

Rabbis Declare Hyatt ‘Not Kosher’

A group of 21 rabbis and other community faith leaders have declared several Hyatt hotels to be “not kosher” and have vowed to avoid the hotels until they provide decent wages and safe conditions for all their workers, expecially housekeepers.

Meanwhile, in California, pressure is building on the giant hotel chain to drop its opposition to legislation that would require companies to adopt a few common-sense practices to protect housekeepers from getting hurt. The bill would require California hotels to provide housekeepers with fitted sheets (so housekeepers don’t have to lift 100-pound mattresses to tuck the bottom sheets underneath) and mops (so they don’t have to scrub bathroom floors by hand).

Take action. Click here to tell Hyatt: Stop opposing a bill that would keep your workers safe.

Study: Decline in Unions A Leading Factor in Income Inequality

says the decline in the percentage of workers who belong to unions is worsening income inequality and closely parallels the decline of the middle-class.

In fact, the decline of union membership explains about a fifth of the increase in wage inequality among women and about a third among men, says Bruce Western, a professor of sociology at Harvard University and co-author of the study.

Bay Citizen First Start-Up News Website to Join Union

voted to affiliate with the Pacific Media Workers Guild, Local 39521 of The Newspaper Guild-CWA (TNG-CWA). This is the first start-up news website to form a union.

In a letter to the website’s CEO Lisa Frazier before the vote, the editorial staff wrote:

We believe The Bay Citizen, as one of the pioneering exponents of new civic journalism, should also be a leading example in the area of workplace democracy.

TSOs Elect AFGE As Their Union

 as their exclusive union representative. The 8,903-8,447 vote came in a runoff with the National Treasury Employees Union.

Although the TSOs did not have collective bargaining rights until now, more than 12,000 TSO members had joined 40 AFGE local unions across the country. It took 10 years before the TSOs finally gained the right to bargain. The Obama administration restored the TSO’s legal right to bargain collectively after George W. Bush took it away.

Labor Department App Helps Workers Track Wages, Hours

Want to make sure you’re getting paid what you’re due? Now there’s an app for that. The U.S. Labor Department announced last week its first application for smartphones: a time sheet to help employees independently track the hours they work and determine the wages they are owed.

Available in English and Spanish, workers can use the application to conveniently track regular work hours, break time and any overtime hours for one or more employers. Contact information and materials about wage laws are easily accessible through links to the webpages of the department’s Wage and Hour Division.

Rather than relying on their employers’ records, workers now can keep their own.

Biden, Solis Tell Workers: ‘We Need Collective Bargaining’

Tens of thousands of working people under attack from Republican governors in 12 states received some high-level support and encouragement yesterday. In a virtual town hall meeting sponsored by the unions of the AFL-CIO, SEIU, the National Education Association (NEA), Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and the Teamsters.Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told the workers the Obama administration will stand with them and will stay with them to make sure their rights are protected.

Joined by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in the call, the Vice President opened with a quote from President Obama saying that “We can’t have a strong middle class without unions.” Then Vice President Biden added, “You built the middle class. This fight is not about wages or benefits; it’s about trying to break unions. We absolutely, positively need collective bargaining.”

House Republicans Block Unemployment Benefits Extension

House Republicans yesterday blocked an effort to maintain federal unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, making a lapse in benefits all but certain when they expire at the end of the month.

House Democrats tried to speed the extension through by calling for a suspension of the rules, a procedure which requires a two-thirds majority. Although 258 members—a significant majority—supported the bill, the final vote fell short of the needed margin. The bill, H.R.6419, would have extended UI through February 2011 for those who have exhausted 26 weeks of insurance provided by states. It also would provide 100 percent federal funding to state unemployment programs to cover additional costs.

Trumka: Labor Day a Defining Time for Working People

The elections this year come down to a choice between leaders who will stand with working people or those whose right-wing agenda will choke off economic recovery and put corporations back in the driver’s seat.

With that said, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka outlined plans for an aggressive and massive mobilization of working people this Labor Day weekend and for the fall election. During a press conference this morning, Trumka also announced the federation will run TV and radio ads Labor Day weekend in key markets during popular sports broadcasts.

Trumka: ‘We’re Going to Rebuild America With Jobs’

save jobs, not just spout ”more of the same corporate bull,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told a crowd of thousands at a mass jobs rally in Los Angeles today.

“How are we going to rebuild America? With jobs! Who’s going to rebuild America? Working people with jobs!”

The choice for voters is clear in California, said Art Pulaski, executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation. The Republican candidates for governor and U.S. senator, respectively, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, are mirror images of each other.

UC Postdoctoral Researchers Reach Tentative Deal

They are some of the smartest people in the nation. Proving just how smart they are, the 6,500 postdoctoral researchers in the University of California (UC) system became union members and negotiated a first-ever union contract even though Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed cutting $2.5 billion from education in his budget proposal. These members of Postdoctoral Researchers Organize/UAW (PRO/UAW) reached a tentative agreement with university administrators Aug. 1

Workers Rally to Make It Right at Rite Aid

Hundreds of Rite Aid workers and supporters from Pennsylvania, New York and California rallied this morning outside the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Harrisburg, Pa., to demand good jobs and a voice at work.

During the rally, Sylvia Estrada and Angel Warner, two workers from Rite Aid’s massive distribution center in Lancaster, Calif., described the five-year struggle by 550 employees to form a union.