Lansing, MI – In response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Epic Systems v. Lewis et al on whether forced individual employee arbitration violates the National Labor Relations Act, President Ron Bieber from the Michigan AFL-CIO released the following statement:
“Today in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court has paved the way for employers to block access to the courts for thousands of Michigan families whose employers have broken the law or violated their workplace civil rights.
With Trump-nominated Justice Neil Gorsuch casting the deciding vote, the Supreme Court broke with over eighty years of labor law and sided with corporate special interests, allowing employers to force employees to sign exploitative individual arbitration waivers as a condition of employment. That’s a spineless, backdoor way to repeal laws on the books: wage laws, anti-discrimination laws and others – these protections are of little use if workers can’t enforce them.
In Michigan, we know how critical it is for individuals to be able to voice their concerns together – and how harmful forced arbitration can be to women fighting sexual harassment and assault. Nobody, should have to sign away their civil rights just to have a job.
Today’s ruling continues a series of harmful rulings from the Roberts Court that erode workers’ rights and freedoms.”
LANSING – A new report from the AFL-CIO shows that the state of Michigan had 162 workplace fatalities and 97,000 workplace-related injuries and illnesses in 2016. The report, titled Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, compiles data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2016, the most recent year data is available. These figures rose from the previous year when 134 workers were killed and 96,000 injured in 2015. The new data was released in advance of Workers Memorial Day, which takes place on April 28 to commemorate workers who have died or suffered illness or injury on the job.
This year marks an especially urgent fight as the Trump administration continues to roll back and weaken protections and rights for working people. These actions have ranged from repealing, weakening or delaying standards on toxic chemicals and safety hazards like workplace violence, to cutbacks in enforcement, and efforts to eliminate key job safety research and training programs.
“Every American has the right to a safe and healthy workplace. Hardworking men and women putting in long hours deserve to know that they’re going to make it home at the end of the day,” said Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber. “Yet, Michigan families are here mourning their loved ones. We’re here to fight for workplace safety for everyone.”
“Our leaders in government and business should be protecting working people’s lives above all else,” said Bieber. “It’s time for change. Working people deserve good, safe jobs now.”
Nationally, 5,190 American workers died on the job in 2016, an increase from 4,836 deaths the previous year. Another estimated 50,000 to 60,000 died from occupational diseases, meaning approximately 150 workers died on the job each day from preventable, hazardous workplace conditions. Overall, the national job fatality rate increased to 3.6 per 100,000 workers from 3.4 in 2015.
Startlingly, the national figures show that workplace violence is now the second-leading cause of workplace death, accounting for 866 workplace deaths, including 500 homicides.
Other report highlights show that the construction, transportation and agriculture industries remain among the most dangerous. In 2016, 991 construction workers were killed—the highest total of any sector. Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting was the most dangerous industry sector per capita, with a fatality rate of 23.2 per 100,000 workers.
On Saturday, working people across Michigan will gather at Workers Memorial Day ceremonies to honor those who were hurt or killed on the job. Attendees will also speak out against recent actions taken by the Trump administration to roll back and block regulations that protect workers from serious hazards, like deadly silica dust, chemical explosions, and workplace violence, as well as cuts to the job safety budget.
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FLUSHING – The Michigan AFL-CIO formally endorsed Gretchen Whitmer for governor today at a press conference held at UA Local 370’s training center near Flint. The state labor federation represents 42 unions and over one million active and retired union members across Michigan.
“Working people in Michigan need a governor who will be in our corner,” said Ron Bieber, President of the Michigan AFL-CIO. “That’s why we’re endorsing Gretchen, because she’s a strong progressive leader who’s always had the backs of working families, and she’s the only candidate in this race with a real plan to fix the damn roads and create more good-paying jobs for Michigan. Our members are ready to roll up their sleeves, knock on doors, make phone calls, and get out the vote to help elect Gretchen as our next governor.”
As a progressive leader in the Michigan Legislature, Whitmer helped pass the Healthy Michigan law to expand Medicaid and cover 680,000 more Michiganders, including children, seniors, low-income and working-class families. Whitmer also led the fight against Governor Rick Snyder’s cuts to education and attacks on workers’ rights.
“Working people are the backbone of Michigan, and that’s why I’m so proud to have the support of so many hardworking union members in this race,” said Whitmer. “Michiganders have been working harder and harder, but working people aren’t getting any more money in their pockets. When I’m governor, we’re going to make smart investments to fix the roads, expand access to quality, affordable health care, and create jobs so that every hardworking Michigander gets a paycheck that can actually support a family.”
The Michigan AFL-CIO’s endorsement was approved by a unanimous vote of the executive council following an extensive candidate screening process, which included three town hall forums in Warren, Detroit, and Saginaw, featuring all four Democratic candidates for governor.
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Labor federation endorses Sam Bagenstos, Megan Cavanagh for Michigan Supreme Court
LANSING – Today the Michigan AFL-CIO endorsed Pat Miles for Attorney General and Jocelyn Benson for Secretary of State. Miles is a former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, where he was the first to bring charges against former Michigan State University Doctor Larry Nassar. Benson is the former Dean of the Wayne State University Law School, where she froze tuition and expanded access to scholarship funds for all students.
“Michigan’s working families need to elect an Attorney General this year who will have our backs,” said Ron Bieber, President of the Michigan AFL-CIO. “As U.S. Attorney, Pat took on powerful interests and won for Michigan families, and as our next Attorney General, Pat will always stand up for working people. This year we also need to elect a Secretary of State who will fight to protect and expand our voting rights to ensure every Michigander has their voice heard in our elections without intimidation or fear of fraud. That’s why we’re proud to endorse Jocelyn in this important race, because she has a real plan to make the Secretary of State’s office faster, more transparent, and more accountable to the people of Michigan.”
The state labor federation also endorsed Sam Bagenstos and Megan Cavanagh today for Michigan Supreme Court. Bagenstos has been a civil rights attorney for more than 20 years. He served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights under President Obama, and is now a law professor at the University of Michigan. Cavanagh has over 15 years of experience as one of Michigan’s top appellate attorneys. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Wayne State University Law School.
“Under the justices that have been appointed by Governor Snyder, Michigan’s Supreme Court has been tilted to favor wealthy special interests over regular working people, and that needs to change,” said Bieber. “We need to elect Supreme Court candidates this year who will fight to build a justice system in Michigan that is open, fair, and treats everyone equally. Sam and Megan are both outstanding candidates with impeccable credentials, and our members are committed to electing them to the Supreme Court this November.”
The Michigan AFL-CIO is planning to announce its endorsement in the race for Michigan governor later this week.
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