News

The AFL-CIO Executive Council today elected Liz Shuler, a visionary leader and longtime trade unionist, to serve as president of the federation of 56 unions and 12.5 million members. Shuler is the first woman to hold the office in the history of the labor federation. The Executive Council also elected United Steelworkers (USW) International Vice President Fred Redmond to succeed Shuler as secretary-treasurer, the first African American to hold the number two office. Tefere Gebre will continue as executive vice president, rounding out the most diverse team of officers ever to lead the AFL-CIO.

Our brother and leader Richard Trumka passed away on August 5, 2021, at the age of 72.

Belonging to a union is not a panacea for all that plagues workers during a pandemic, as many hospital and other workers short on protective gear can attest. Still, being covered by a collective bargaining does increase the chances of having medical coverage and paid sick time — benefits that are particularly important during a public health crisis — a new study finds. Nearly all, or 94%, of workers covered by a union contract have access to employee-sponsored health benefits, compared to 68% of nonunion workers, according to recent research published by the Economic Policy Institute.

One way to view President Donald Trump’s executive actions last week on COVID relief is that they represent unlawful overreach. But that would imply that while his actions are illegal, they are nevertheless effective — and therein lies the core problem. What our showman president signed last week was nothing more than smoke and mirrors. 

In March, working families across the country started to scramble. Our homes were transformed into makeshift classrooms, summer camps and daycare centers as the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered schools and child care facilities.

In May, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act, a piece of legislation that would provide much-needed solutions to our current economic and public safety crisis. Unfortunately, its path forward has been uncertain. There has been no debate on the bill in the Senate, and Mitch McConnell even sent the Senate on vacation without hearing it.

More than three years after taking office, the administration has never filled the job running the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is charged with enforcing workplace safety laws. The $560 million-a-year agency, whose estimated 2,000 inspectors performed 32,020 on-site inspections in 2018, spent months not doing any in-person inspections related to coronavirus, other than in hospitals, said Rebecca Reindel, director of occupational safety and health for the AFL-CIO.

Working people are bearing the brunt of this global pandemic and economic crisis. The physical toll, death, pain, and suffering that Oregon’s frontline and essential workers have experienced is unprecedented.

Coupled with the economic collapse that has exacerbated long-term inequities for low wage workers and BIPOC communities, workers are hurting and they need protections.

Daniel DiSalvo asks: “Will Unions Let Schools Reopen?” (op-ed, June 30). Of course! The AFT published our school reopening plan in April. We said it isn’t a question of whether to reopen, but how to do it safely. We need the infrastructure and investment to physically distance, stagger classes, provide personal protective equipment and test, trace and isolate new cases.