Afl-Cio Forms Partnership With National Day Labourers!

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A NEW national partnership agreement signed yesterday by the AFL-CIO and the largest network of worker centres serving low-wage, often immigrant workers will help promote and advance the workplace rights of all workers, both organisations said.

Approved here yesterday by the AFL-CIO Executive Council, the new partnership agreement with the National Day Labourer Organising Network (NDLON), the nation’s largest day labourer association, followed passage of a policy decision by the 53-union AFL-CIO providing for formal ties with the worker centres that have sprung up across the country.

‘Day labourers in the United States often face the harshest forms of workplace problems and this exploitation hurts us all because when standards are dragged down for some workers, they are dragged down for all workers,’ said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.

‘The work being done by worker centres and NDLON in particular is some of the most important work in the labour movement today, and it’s time to bring our organisations closer together.

‘Through this watershed partnership, we will strengthen our ability to promote and enforce the workplace rights for all workers – union and non-union, immigrant and non-immigrant alike.’

The agreement does not make the workers in the centres members of unions, but provides an organised framework for joint work by the AFL-CIO and a group that is considered one of the most dynamic advocates for workers in today’s economy.

Ten years ago, there were four worker centres in the United States. Today, there are over 140 of them in 31 states, in rural areas as well as big cities.

NDLON is the largest and most structured association of worker centres, operating as an umbrella organisation for over 40 centres that focus on correcting systemic violations of the rights of day labourers and giving them a public voice.

Rampant abuses of workplace rights among the growing ranks of day labourers were documented in a report published earlier this year by the independent Centre for the Study of Urban Poverty.

‘The growing worker centre movement shows that the fight for change at work has never been as vibrant, varied and urgent,’ said Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Labourer Organising Network.

‘Yet the end goal remains the same: to ensure that the rights and freedoms of workers aren’t reserved just for a few, but extended to the many – regardless of where you were born, the colour of your skin, your gender or migratory status.

‘This new partnership will advance that goal.’

The AFL-CIO and NDLON will work together for state and local enforcement of rights as well as the development of new protections in areas including wage and hour laws, health and safety regulations, immigrants’ rights and employee misclassification.

They will also work together for comprehensive immigration reform that supports workplace rights and includes a path to citizenship and political equality for immigrant workers – and against punitive, anti-immigrant, anti-worker legislation.

Worker centres operate as grassroots mediating institutions providing support to communities of low-wage workers, many of them new immigrants and black or Mexican workers.

Increasingly popular models for low wage and immigrant worker organising, the centres provide community spaces where employers and labourers can meet with a staff equipped to handle workplace violations.

The majority of centres provide a variety of services ranging from legal representation to recover unpaid wages; English classes; worker rights education and access to health clinics.

Through creative strategies, worker centres have had significant success improving working conditions and raising wages for low-wage workers in high turnover industries and impermanent employment relationships.

‘By combining our resources in communities and states, we hope to translate the substantial gains achieved by worker centres into the lasting improvement of working conditions,’ Sweeney said.

‘Worker centres will benefit from the labour movement’s extensive involvement and experience in policy and legislative initiatives on the local, state and national levels.

‘This partnership will also benefit AFL-CIO unions and local labour bodies by establishing channels to formally connect with local worker centres in order to expose abuses and improve workplace standards in various industries to the benefit of all workers.’

In some communities, worker centres and unions have already been working collaboratively – advancing worker-friendly laws and ordinances, spotlighting unscrupulous employers and industry abuses and enlisting support from government agencies for enforcement of workers’ rights.

Despite their common interests, however, relationships between organised labour and worker centres have been largely non-existent.

The agreement will build on existing, informal relationships and promote the creation of new ones between local labour movements and neighbouring worker centres, the two organisations said.

Meanwhile AFL-CIO President John Sweeney has issued a statement on the Ballot Initiative to raise the Minimum Wage in the state

He said: ‘Ohio’s working families made a bold move to improve their lives and their communities today by placing an initiative on November’s ballot that would give the state’s workers a long-overdue minimum wage increase.

With poverty on the rise and working families scraping to make ends meet, it’s appalling that Republican Leadership in Congress continues to play games with the minimum wage at the expense of hard-working Americans.

‘In the face of continued inaction in Congress, Ohio working families have taken matters into their own hands to remove politics from the equation.

‘Today working people in Ohio roundly rejected the shameful political ploy orchestrated by Republican Leadership last week.

‘We applaud Ohioans for a Fair Minimum Wage – a coalition of community, faith-based and labour organisations co-chaired by the Ohio AFL-CIO – that fought so hard to get this vital initiative on the ballot.

‘Working families in Ohio and across the country are sending a clear message that they won’t wait around for Congress to act.

‘The AFL-CIO’s “America Needs a Raise Campaign” is going state by state to ensure that low-wage workers get the pay increase they’ve been waiting nearly 10 years for and we won’t stop until all of America’s workers receive the wage increase they justly deserve.’