Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and has written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety.

California Nurses Ratify New Pact with Kaiser Permanente


California registered nurses, members of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU), who work at 86 Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinics in northern and central California voted overwhelmingly (93%) to ratify a new three-year contract reached last week. The agreement covers 18,000 RNs and will give them a stronger voice on patient care and provide breakthrough improvements in workplace protections along with economic gains.

UC Health Care Workers Strike, Charging Harassment and Intimidation

Mike Hall

Today, some 22,000 surgical and X-ray technicians, custodians, servers, cooks and other workers at nine University of California campuses and all of U.C.’s medical centers are on a one-day unfair labor practice strike over what they say is intimidation and harassment of workers who took part in an earlier strike over patient safety in May.

“Our members have both the legal right and moral responsibility to stand up for the safety of the students and patients we serve,” AFSCME Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger said. “By attempting to silence workers, UC hasn’t just repeatedly broken the law—it has willfully endangered all who come to UC to learn, to heal and to build a better life for their families.”

Shutdown Shut Down

Mike Hall

After 16 days of a government shutdown that kept vital services behind locked doors for the public, paychecks out of the pockets of hundreds of thousands of federal workers and pushed the economy to the brink of disaster, the Republican government shutdown ended last night when the Senate (81–18) and House (285–144) passed, and President Barack Obama signed, a bill to fund and reopen the government and raise the nation’s debt ceiling.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said, “While it is good news that we have avoided a crisis, we all know that it should never have happened.  No party or faction inside a party should hold our economy hostage to extract political gains.”

Sutter Nurses’ Stance and Strikes for Patient Care Pay off with Tentative Pact

 during the past two years protesting sweeping reductions in patient care, nurses’ standards and workplace conditions that Sutter Health system demanded during contract talks at San Francisco Bay area hospitals, some 3,000 registered nurses have reached a tentative agreement that eliminates more than 200 concession demands.

The agreement, announced Friday, covers RNs and several hundred respiratory, X-ray and other technicians who work at Alta Bates Medical Center facilities in Berkeley and Oakland, Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, Sutter Solano in Vallejo and Sutter Delta in Antioch. The health care professionals are members of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU) or its affiliate Caregivers and Hospital Employees Union.

Home Care Workers Win Wage and Overtime Protection

Mike Hall

Nearly 2 million home care workers—the vast majority of whom are women—take care of the elderly and people with disabilities, often working 12-hour days and 60 to 70 hours a week. Now, for the first time since 1975, most of these workers will have the wage and overtime protection of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) under a new rule issued today by the Obama administration’s Department of Labor.   

Since they were exempted from the FLSA nearly four decades ago, home care workers seldom have been paid overtime and their net income is often less than the minimum wage, considering time spent in travel between the homes where they work in a single day and its cost. Unlike workers covered by federal labor laws, they have not been paid for all the hours they are on the clock.

RNs Withstand ‘Furious Anti-Union Campaign,’ Join CNA/NNU

/NNU) last week after beating back what they say was a “furious anti-union campaign by hospital management and its high paid anti-union consultants.”

Caroline Gallego, a 24-year labor and delivery RN, said after the election victory, “United with my co-workers we have never felt so empowered. We need improvements in staffing…and look forward to gaining a real voice in patient care.”

Nationwide Fast-Food Strike Set for Aug. 29

 for fast-food and other low-wage workers will reach another milestone next week with a nationwide strike set for Aug. 29. Following the success and public support of a walkout in eight cities earlier this month, those workers and the community, faith and labor groups that back them are calling on fast-food and low-wage retail workers across the nation to join them in the fight for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation.

The strike is set for the day after the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. One of the historic march’s demands was to “give all Americans a decent standard of living,” and it called for a minimum wage of $2 per hour. Adjusted for inflation, that would equal $15.26 an hour today.

Walmart Should Look in the Mirror for the Cause of Its Declining Sales

Mike Hall

Walmart reported last week that sales at its U.S. stores had unexpectedly declined. Walmart tried to explain its shrinking sales away by citing outside factors such as higher gas prices and payroll taxes.

But, say many market observers, the real cause lies within Walmart itself—the largest private-sector employer in the United States and the poster child for low-wages.   

Daniel Gross at The Daily Beast says, “This isn’t complicated. Or, rather, it shouldn’t be complicated.”

Senate Confirms NLRB Nominees; Board at Full Strength

 on President Obama’s nominees by Senate Republicans who threatened to shut the board down Aug. 27.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says the confirmations are “Good news for all workers seeking to exercise the rights they are guaranteed by law. Those essential rights include the ability to bargain together for fair wages and living standards and a workplace safe from abuse, harassment and intimidation.”

Fast Food Strikes Escalate Across the Nation

Mike Hall

In the biggest strike yet in the growing fast-food/low-wage workers’ actions demanding a voice, thousands of workers making the minimum wage or just slightly more walked off the job in several cities today, demanding a living wage, no retaliation for striking and the right to join unions.

The walkouts are taking place in Chicago; Detroit; Flint, Mich.; Kansas City, Mo.; Milwaukee; New York City; and St. Louis and include workers from McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and KFC and from retail stores like Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret and Dollar Tree.

Behind the Smoke: What Immigration Reform Really Means

, people and groups on the losing side of the debate are making outrageous claims in bogus studies and TV commercials. Let’s take a minute and revisit some of the facts about immigration reform.

Immigration reform with a path to citizenship and workplace rights doesn’t just benefit aspiring citizens and their families. It's good for all workers. Earlier this year, we published a 10-point checklist showing how all workers will benefit from fixing our broken immigration system. Here are just a few. 

Out-Foxing Fox? Stop Koch Takeover of L.A. Times

, the billionaire brothers who fund a number of extreme right-wing organizations and are major contributors to the tea party and bankrollers for host of anti-worker state ballot initiatives and legislation, now have their sights set on building a major media empire.

They are expected to make a $600 million-plus bid to purchase the Tribune Co. and its eight regional newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, the Orlando Sentinel and the Hartford Courant, and more than 20 TV stations like WGN in Chicago and KTLA Channel 5 in Los Angeles.

New AFL-CIO/Union Plus Jobs and Freedom Scholarships Honor 50th Anniversary of March on Washington

. To commemorate the historic 1963 march, the AFL-CIO, in partnership with Union Plus, announced today a new Dreams of Jobs and Freedom Scholarship program.    

The scholarships will provide $5,000 each to at least 50 talented high school seniors—including those from union families—to help pay for the costs of higher education.

Join the Drive to Save Saturday Mail Delivery

Mike Hall

This Sunday, you can rally and tell Congress to strengthen the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) for the future and protect six-day mail delivery. The coalition Delivering for America is organizing hundreds of rallies across the country to save Saturday delivery, which Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe says he will end Aug. 5. Find a rally near you.

Donahoe’s plan to shrink the USPS and end six-day service is an attack on the future of this great institution, on the customers who need it and on the employees who support it. These ill-advised cuts would hit small-business owners, senior citizens and rural residents the hardest.

Broken Immigration Systems Puts Workers’ Rights on ICE

Mike Hall

A new report outlines how employers across the country are gaming today’s broken immigration system to exploit immigrant workers and evade both labor and immigration laws. The report by the National Employment Law Project (NELP) uses two dozen case studies—including the recent action at Palermo’s Pizza—as examples of employers’ use of immigration enforcement or the threat of it to retaliate against workers who seek their basic workplace rights.  

Founder of Flight Attendants Union Dies at 91

Mike Hall

Edith Lauterbach, the last founding member of the first union for flight attendants, died earlier this week in San Francisco. She was 91. In a statement, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA ) said: “The flight attendant community lost our hero, our guiding light….As our heavy hearts remember our friend and trailblazing founder, we reflect on Edith’s contributions to our profession and our union each and every day.”



Postal Unions Condemn Plan to End Saturday Delivery

Mike Hall

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe’s plan to end Saturday mail delivery beginning Aug. 5 is a “disastrous idea that would have a profoundly negative effect on the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and on millions of customers,” says Letter Carriers (NALC) President Fredric Rolando.

Postal Workers (APWU) President Cliff Guffey says, “USPS executives cannot save the Postal Service by tearing it apart. These across-the-board cutbacks will weaken the nation’s mail system and put it on a path to privatization.”

Obama Calls for Road Map to Citizenship in Immigration Reform

 platform President Obama unveiled today at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas shows, says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, “The president clearly shares the AFL-CIO’s commitment to a viable pathway to citizenship, meaning that seemingly innocuous conditions cannot be allowed to get in the way of a road map for citizenship that encompasses the dreams of 11 million people.”

Obama’s proposal for a comprehensive immigration plan for aspiring citizens in this country now follows Monday’s announcement by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators of their vision of immigration that also includes a path to citizenship.

3.5 Million Jobs at Stake if Infrastructure Continues to Crumble

Mike Hall

What would it cost if the nation’s crumbling infrastructure of bridges, roads, rails, sewer systems, power grids, airports and more is allowed to deteriorate at its current pace? Some 3.5 million jobs and $3.1 trillion in lost economic output by 2020. What would it cost to avoid that? About $1.1 trillion in additional investment.

Sure sounds a like a great return on the investment and it is, according to a new report from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

New Immigration Rule Aims to Keep Families Together

Mike Hall

Immigrant families with a spouse, child or parent who is a U.S. citizen will no longer be torn from each other when a family member who is an aspiring citizen begins the process of obtaining lawful permanent resident status in the United States, under a new federal rule on immigration announced last week.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano says the rule, which takes effect March 4, “Facilitates the legal immigration process and reduces the amount of time that U.S. citizens are separated from their immediate relatives who are in the process of obtaining an immigrant visa.”

AFT’s Weingarten: ‘Schools Have to Be Safe Sanctuaries’

eachers President Randi Weingarten told “Meet the Press” yesterday, “Schools have to be safe sanctuaries…[there] has to be a conversation and action about both mental health as well as gun laws. We can actually do things in schools, we can actually have more guidance counselors, we can have more social workers, psychologists, all of whom have been cut because of the [budget] cuts. We can do wraparound services. We can do more of these things…to destigmatize mental illness and to have more access as well as a whole package of sensible gun laws.”

No Public Input & Signed in Secret, Michigan ‘Right to Work’ for Less Law Goes into Effect in April

Mike Hall

It seems appropriate that after Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) shepherded through the state House and Senate the right-wing extremist and corporate CEO backed  “right to work” for less legislation—that he had long-called “too divisive to pursue”—without any public input, that he would sign the measure in secret yesterday.

With as many as 15,000 people swarming the state Capitol in Lansing denouncing Snyder and the legislature for bowing to the likes of the Koch brothers, Grover Norquist, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the extremes of the Republican Party, Snyder retreated behind closed doors to sign the legislation and, only after the fact, announced his signature. Here are some details of the legislation that, if it follows the pattern of “right to work” laws in other states, will lower the standard of living for Michigan workers.

Striking SoCal Port Clerical Workers Win Outsourcing Controls in Tentative Pact

) Local 63—are back on the job this morning in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., after the ILWU and port employers reached a tentative agreement Tuesday night that will prevent the outsourcing of jobs. 

ILWU International President Robert McEllrath said the unity and solidarity of the workers, members, their families and thousands of community supporters played a major role in the workers’ win. When the workers struck Nov. 27, ILWU dockworkers and other port workers refused to cross the picket lines.

César Chávez’s Home Designated National Monument

) leader, César Chávez, a national monument. Known as La Paz, short for Nuestra Senora Reina de la Paz, or Our Leady Queen of Peace, the site is in Kenne, Calif.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says the designation is a “fitting tribute for a man whose campaign for civil rights and respect for workers struggling in the shadows broke new ground and left an indelible mark on the pages of American history.”


How Unions Help Build the American Dream

pits the Republican tenet on economic mobility against another deeply held Republican belief that unions are a heavy and evil anchor on the economy that must be cut away.  

Where there is a strong union movement, there is more economic mobility. If unions are strengthened, upward mobility will increase. The 10 states with the highest unionization rates—New York, Hawaii, Michigan, New Jersey, Washington, Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin and Oregon—perform considerably better on a range of measures of mobility than the 10 states with the lowest levels of unionization.

AFGE, TSA Reach First-Ever Contract for Airport Screeners

, the Bush administration, citing so-called “national security” concerns, terminated the screeners’ collective bargaining rights.

Today, after a nearly 10-year battle, AFGE and the TSA have reached their first-ever labor contract that covers the TSA’s 45,000 workers. Says AFGE President John Gage: “For 10 long years, AFGE has fought hard so that Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) would have collective bargaining rights. We have often looked back and wondered why it was taking so long. Today, we begin to look forward.”

Obama Halts DREAMER Deportations

of as many as 1 million young aspiring citizens with a new directive to Department of Homeland Security halting the deportation of those young immigrants who would be eligible for U.S. residency under the terms of the DREAM Act

For several years, Republican lawmakers in Congress have blocked the DREAM Act.

The DREAM Act would provide undocumented young people who were brought to the United States by their parents as children a pathway to legal residency through higher education or service in the military.

Simpson Launches Tirade Against California Seniors

A vicious rant against seniors by Alan Simpson, co-author of the 2010 federal commission on the deficit report that calls for raising the Social Security retirement age, should give pause to those embracing the so-called Simpson-Bowles plan—especially Democrats. It’s time for them to not only repudiate Simpson’s most recent tirade against seniors, but they also should reject his even more devastating attack on seniors—and their children and grandchildren—by pledging not to cut Social Security.

Unions, Kaiser Permanente Reach Tentative Agreement

and the nearly 100,000 members of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, reached tentative agreement yesterday on a new, three-year national contract. The tentative agreement covers workers at hundreds of Kaiser Permanente health care facilities in nine states. The current agreement expires Sept. 30.

The tentative agreement includes wage increases and maintains current benefits plus improves the dental plan.  Kaiser Permanente also has committed $19 million annually to two existing educational trust funds to ensure career development for its diverse workforce.

Brown Signs Law Protecting Project Labor Agreements in California

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed into law last week a bill that says local governments cannot issue blanket prohibitions on project labor agreements (PLAs) without losing state funding for public works projects.

Los Angeles and San Francisco recently approved PLAs for projects that will create tens of thousands of good, middle-class jobs. But other cities—including San Diego— have tried to ban the agreements.

Around the country, Republican lawmakers with model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have been pushing bans on PLAs.

Get Ready for 99% Spring “Tax Wealth, Not Work” Actions

around the country, learning how to take back the economy from the 1%. Their first big round of actions is set for Tax Day, April 17. Click here to find a Tax Day action near you. Click here to find a training session near you.

In demonstrations around the nation, working families will raise their voices to demand that the 1% and corporations pay their fair share. The wealthiest Americans—like Mitt Romney—pay a far lower percentage of their income in taxes than do average working people—and some multibillion-dollar corporations don’t pay a cent.

Beyond the Weekend: How Unions Boost Us All

Union bashing may the popular sport for Republican presidential candidates (click here for more). But a new report looks at some of the real stories about how unions and union members are having positive impacts on jobs, health care, education and their communities.   

Beyond the Weekend by American Rights at Work (ARAW) reveals that when employees come together in the workplace, the benefits of their collective action extend far beyond themselves.

Workers at SoCal Carwashes Win First Contracts

won their first contracts with carwash owners after they voted last year to join the United Steelworkers (USW) Local 675.

The workers at Vermont Carwash and Nava’s Carwash in South Los Angeles came together in the CLEAN Carwash Campaign to fight for their rights. The CLEAN Carwash Campaign is a coalition supported by the USW, the AFL-CIO and more than 100 community, faith and labor organizations in Los Angeles.

Today, the carwasheros celebrated their victory at a ceremony with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Southern California Car Washes Agree to $1 Million Back Pay Settlement

Eight California car washes agreed to an historic $1 million settlement with the state’s attorney general for routinely failing to pay minimum wage or overtime, creating false records of work hours and not paying money owed to employees who quit, according to Attorney General Kamala Harris. “Workers at these car washes were taken advantage of by unscrupulous employers who illegally denied them the pay and benefits they earned. I am pleased that the resolution of this case will allow workers to receive the pay they are owed,” she said.

At least $800,000 of the settlement will go to workers who were underpaid, according to court records. Other parts of the settlement will pay taxes and penalties. Click here for a copy of the settlement agreement.

Act Now: Tell House Republicans to Stop Holding Jobless Hostage

The Republican-controlled House Rules Committee early Tuesday morning voted to block a full House vote on the bipartisan Senate compromise that extends unemployment insurance (UI) benefits for the long-term jobless. The current program expires Dec. 31.

Call House Speaker John Boehner at 202-225-0600. Tell him to stop playing politics with the lives of working familes–pass the Senate’s bipartisan bill to extend unemployment aid and middle-class tax cuts now.

Previously, Speaker Boehner indicated he supported the measure. But the Republican tea party wing raised such a ruckus, Boehner changed his tune, and now says the compromise should be rejected.

L.A. Stadium Project Means 23,000 Jobs

The California legislature approved of a bill that would allow expedited judicial reviews of any legal challenges to a proposed downtown Los Angeles NFL stadium and renovation of the neighboring Los Angeles Convention Center. 

Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, says the action is “a significant step forward in the creation of 23,000 good middle-class jobs for construction and hotel workers, stage hands and grips and janitors. This is our economic stimulus package and it will be financed with zero public dollars. The LA Labor Movement worked hard to score a major victory for all Angelenos.”

Verizon Workers Fighting for Middle-Class Jobs

and rallies up and down the East Coast, Verizon workers and their allies are telling the hugely profitable corporation that they will not allow it to destroy their middle-class jobs.

The workers—members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and Electrical  Workers (IBEW)—went on strike yesterday after Verizon would not back off from its $1 billion giveback demands. That’s about $20,000 per Verizon family. The strike, says CWA District 1 Vice President Chris Shelton, is: “all about good jobs. Companies like Verizon should be investing in rebuilding the American economy, not contributing to the destruction of good, middle-class jobs.”

Cry Wolf Project Debunks Corporate, Conservative Claims

How many times have we heard from big corporations and their political allies—usually well-financed by corporate campaign contributions—that the latest workplace safety, environmental or consumer protection regulation will kill jobs, ruin the economy and lead to the end of civilization as we know it?

I’ve lost track—but the new Cry Wolf Project hasn’t.

The Cry Wolf Project is a network of advocates, researchers and scholars dedicated to demonstrating that, in fact, conservatives and business groups are only “crying wolf” to delay, prevent and weaken important and commonsense regulations that save lives, clean our environment and make our families more secure.

4,340 Killed on the Job; Job Safety Laws ‘Must Be Strengthened’

Forty years after the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), “there is much more work to be done….The job safety laws must be strengthened,” finds the 2011 AFL-CIO annual job safety report “Death on the Job,” released this week to commemorate Workers Memorial Day. (Click here for the full report.)

In 2009 (the latest figures available), 4,340 workers were killed on the job—an average of 12 workers a day—and an estimated 50,000 died of occupational diseases. More than 4.1 million workplace injuries and illnesses were reported in private and state and local workplaces. But the report says the 4.1 million “understates the problem,” and the actual number is more likely 8 million to 12 million.

From Coast to Coast, We Are One

with workers whose rights and middle-class jobs are under attack in Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere by Republican governors and legislators. They are also honoring the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death. He was gunned down fighting for the same rights for Memphis, Tenn., sanitation workers.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says “What started in Wisconsin has spread to every state across the country as working people stand together to say ‘Enough’.”

The immense activity this week is a direct result of the backlash provoked by overreaching governors and state legislatures. Working people’s energy and commitment to coming together will continue until the priorities of many of our politicians are realigned.

Happy Birthday Health Care Reform—Don’t Let Republicans Spoil the Party

Today is the first anniversary of the landmark Affordable Care Act that has already helped tens of millions of Americans acquire or receive better health care and that has reined in health insurance companies’ most abusive practices.

A recent report finds that the new health care reform law will mean thousands of dollars in health insurance premium savings and out-of-pocket health care costs for working families. For example, middle-class families purchasing private insurance in the new state-based Health Insurance Exchanges could save as much as $2,300 per year in 2014 and a family of four with an income of $33,525 could save as much as $14,900 per year since they also will qualify for tax credits and reduced cost sharing.

Yet congressional Republicans keep trying to repeal health care reform. What are they against?  Take a look at just some of the Affordable Care Act’s benefits repeal would destroy.

Michigan Workers Set to Rally Against Gov. Snyder’s Attack on Democracy

” bill that won final legislative approval yesterday. The so-called emergency managers bill would allow Snyder to declare a “financial emergency” in a city or school district and appoint a manager with broad powers, including the ability to fire local elected officials, break teachers’ and public workers’ contracts, seize and sell assets, eliminate services—and even eliminate whole cities or school districts without any public input.

Like Republican Govs. Scott Walker (Wis.) and John Kasich (Ohio) and others who have mounted an unprecedented and coordinated assault on workers’ rights and middle-class jobs, Snyder claims the new law is simply a tool to address the state’s budget woes. But his own policies—including an 86 percent cut in corporate taxes accompanied by tax increases on working families and cuts to school budgets—strip away the claim’s veneer.

1,000 Help Unmask Right-Wing Billionaires’ Secret Strategy Session

More than 1,000 activists, including members of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU), AFSCME, Health Care for America Now (HCAN) and Common Cause, helped shine a big spotlight on a closed-door gathering of right-wing billionaires and extreme conservative leaders and politicians in Palm Springs yesterday. The strategy meeting was organized by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch who have been instrumental in orchestrating the tea party movement and funding much of the modern right-wing infrastructure.

Lack of Paid Sick Leave Is Family and Public Health Concern

by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). According to report, the occupations most likely to have regular contact with the public—­food service and preparation, and personal care and service—­are among those least likely to provide paid sick days.

Recent surveys show three-quarters of Americans say paid sick leave should be a “basic workers’ right” and Congress should pass legislation that guarantees workers paid sick leave. More than 160 countries provide paid sick leave, but not the United States.

Queen Meg’s Crown Jewels and Other Items Up for Auction

You can own a piece of royal history, or even better, give a little something from the Queen herself as a holiday gift. Slow down, we’re not talking about some stuffy old English monarchial memorabilia. We’re talking about the one and only U.S.-born Queen Meg, the California Nurses Association’s satirical imperial parody of free-spending billionaire Meg Whitman and her failed bid to buy California’s governorship.

The good queen has graciously donated some of her most prized possessions for a Royal Holiday Auction to benefit the Nicky Diaz Legal Defense Fund. eBay is hosting the auction, sponsored by the CNA.  Find the auction here.

Republicans Pull the Plug, Jobless Help Dies

At the stroke of midnight last night, some 800,000 workers who have been looking for jobs for more than six months lost their unemployment insurance (UI)—2 million will be without help by the end of December. Why? Because congressional Republicans have chosen to side with the nation’s millionaires instead of the jobless.

They chose to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy as their top priority this lame-duck session and essentially have told workers struggling to find work in an economy with five job hunters for every opening: “Tough luck. Happy holidays.”

Tell Congress: Extend Unemployment Help, Not Tax Cuts for the Rich

Congress is back in town and back to work today, and its first order of business should be maintaining the emergency unemployment insurance (UI) benefits program that is a lifeline for the millions and millions of long-term jobless workers. If the program is allowed to expire Nov. 30, 800,000 people will immediately lose that vital help to keep a roof over their head, food on the table and medicine in the cabinet—and 2 million will lose their UI by the end of the year.

On Tuesday, call your Senators toll-free at 1-877-662-2889 or click here and tell them Congress must act now and maintain benefits to the jobless, not extend tax cuts to the rich.

Nurses to Whitman: ‘Women Vote for Women Who Vote!’

More than 1,500 people, including many women in early 20th century fashion, marched and rallied in Sacramento yesterday to mark the 90th anniversary of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution that gave women the right to vote.

The rally, sponsored by the California Nurses Association (CNA), also spotlighted how Republican gubernatorial candidate, billionaire CEO Meg Whitman, hasn’t exercised that right during  most of her adult life. She has admitted her voting history is “atrocious.”

For Air and Rail Workers, New NMB Rule Means ‘Democracy’

issued yesterday by the National Mediation Board (NMB) means airline and rail workers will now be able to choose whether to join a union under rules that are more fair and more in line with democratic principles.

For decades, the deck has been stacked against workers covered under the Rail Labor Act (RLA) because every worker who did not cast a vote in a representation election was automatically counted as a “No” vote. The new NMB rule says that an election’s outcome will be decided by the majority of votes cast, just like every other election, from city council to the presidency.

Big Crowds in L.A. and San Francisco Back Locked Out Rio Tinto Miners

More than 1,000 union and community activists, joined by about 200 locked-out miners and their families, marched outside the British consulate in Los Angeles on Friday to protest British-owned Rio Tinto’s two and half-month lock out of 600 miners at its Boron, Calif., borax mine. The march and rally was one of several in the United States and Canada to support the members of International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 30, who have been locked out since Jan. 31.

House Approves Historic Health Care Reform

In a historic vote more than 60 years in the making, the U.S. House of Representatives late Sunday night voted to approve (220-211) what AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka calls a ”momentous step toward comprehensive health care.”

The bill survived a $100 million lie-and-distortion campaign by Big Insurance to kill it—the same kind of tactics these groups have aimed at health care proposals for six decades. Trumka says the bill is not “a baby step or half measure,” but a solid step forward to set our country on a path to health care that actually works for working families.

California Attorney General Investigating Seven Health Insurers for Denying Claims, Hiking Rates

California has launched an investigation into possible illegal premium increases and denial of claims by the state’s seven largest health insurance companies.

Yesterday, state Attorney General Jerry Brown issued subpoenas for detailed financial records and other information records to Aetna Health, Anthem Blue Cross, CIGNA, Health Net, Blue Shield of California, Kaiser Permanente and PacifiCare.

Record Profits Don’t Stop Health Insurer’s Record Rate Hikes

There’s a theory that trends happen first in California before spreading to the rest of the nation. If that’s true in health insurance, we’re all in deep trouble.

Last week, Anthem Blue Cross—whose parent company WellPoint posted a record $4.7 billion profit in 2009—announced it was gouging even more money from its 800,000 California customers by raising premiums as much as 39 percent.