AFL-CIO Files Shareholder Action Asking Nike to Pay Its Share of Taxes
In the wake of the release of the so-called Paradise Papers, the AFL-CIO sent a shareholder proposal to Nike asking the world's largest sports brand to stop using tax-avoidance schemes that have allowed the company to avoid paying $4 billion in U.S. taxes. That money could be used to fund infrastructure, schools and health care.
The Paradise Papers helped shine a spotlight on the practices used by companies like Nike to avoid paying taxes on earnings they make in the United States. Nike is a client of the offshore law firm Appleby, which helped Nike shift the billions in profits through such methods as transferring ownership of trademarks, including Nike’s iconic swoosh logo, to a Bermudian subsidiary and then to a Dutch limited partnership.
The AFL-CIO’s shareholder proposal will go to a vote at Nike’s 2018 annual meeting and has been co-filed by Domini Investments. The proposal asks Nike to adopt a set of "responsible tax principles" that include:
Considering the impact of Nike’s global tax strategies on local economies and government services that benefit Nike;
Annually reviewing Nike’s tax strategies and assessing the alignment between the use of such strategies and Nike’s stated values or goals regarding sustainability;
Periodically assessing the reputational consequences, including views of customers, shareholders and employees, of engaging in practices deemed to be "tax avoidance" by such stakeholders; and
Ensuring that Nike seeks to pay tax where value is created.
These principles will help ensure that Nike’s board is fully informed regarding the impacts of offshore tax avoidance strategies and considers them when exercising its oversight responsibilities. The AFL-CIO is considering filing similar shareholder proposals at other companies that have been named as Appleby clients in the Paradise Papers, such as Facebook, Alphabet and Allegan.
This Thanksgiving, make sure your meal is an ethical one with these tips from our friends at Labor 411. Here are the supplies you need to make sure your family meal helps support other working families.
Once the feast is over, keep up the spirit of Thanksgiving by fighting Black Friday creep. A growing number of big-name retailers are staying open for shopping hours on Thanksgiving. This trend means that workers must interrupt their time with family and friends to face hoards of early holiday shoppers. Please sign Labor 411's petition urging the CEOs of Walmart, Target and Toys R Us to give their employees the day off on Thanksgiving, and save your holiday mall-going for Black Friday and beyond.
Kentucky farmers who hire migrant workers aren’t always happy to see Stephen Bartlett.
So the Farm Labor Organizing Committee’s Bluegrass State organizer enjoys telling a story about a Green County tobacco grower.
"After organizing a successful mediation with this farmer and his H-2A guest workers, he told me he needed a union, too," said the Louisville-based Bartlett, who spoke at the recent Kentucky State AFL-CIO convention in Lexington.
Organizing immigrant labor on Kentucky farms might seem like mission impossible. Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump won almost 63% of the Bluegrass State's vote and carried every rural county. But Bartlett, with FLOC leaders and lawyers behind him, made it mission accomplished.
Last month, he helped seven Mexican H-2A guest workers win apparently the first-ever tobacco workers’ strike in Kentucky, a state-long synonymous with "brown gold."
Wayne Day, the Garrard County farm owner, gave in after about three weeks and paid the workers $20,000 in back wages and attorney’s fees, Bartlett said.
The strikers, who have returned to their homes, stopped working for Day because over a three-year span, he refused to pay thousands of dollars he owed them, Bartlett said.
The H-2A farm worker federal minimum wage in Kentucky is $10.92 an hour. Day paid his workers only $7 an hour in 2015 and $8 an hour in 2016 and this year. Sometimes he paid them at an even lower piece rate, according to Bartlett.
Bartlett said that after the workers discovered that Day was cheating them, they contacted him and joined the union. They don't speak English, but he speaks Spanish.
Bartlett said that on Sept. 19, he handed Day a letter demanding that he pay the workers back wages to reach the H-2A minimum wage. Day told the workers that if they didn't like what he was paying them, they could go home, according to the state FLOC organizer.
The farm workers stayed put and went on strike Oct. 11. Bartlett said they hope to return to work on other farms next spring. They also said they would help him organize other immigrant workers.
Bartlett said most farmers treat their H-2A workers fairly and obey the law. "I tell them that FLOC has no gripe with farmers who do right by their workers. Our dispute is with the large corporations that squeeze the farmers and their laborers."
Bartlett said the Green County farmer told him about his problems with the big tobacco companies that buy his leaf. "He said the price he gets has been stagnant for two decades. We mean it when we say to farmers that FLOC could be their union, too. Family farmers in Kentucky and elsewhere absolutely need a union to collectively fight for better prices."
Bartlett said FLOC’s aim is to raise tobacco worker wages to $15 an hour. He said that’s possible only if growers get a fair price for their tobacco.
"I look forward to helping FLOC make more inroads into the farm worker sector here and to the day we achieve a broad agreement that would signify greater justice and dignity for those who are most marginalized—immigrant and migrant farm workers," Bartlett said.
"FLOC is proud to be part of the AFL-CIO and to join the righteous struggle for a true economic democracy that will insure the respect and dignity the workers deserve. After all, it is the workers who create all the wealth, not the capitalists, using their bodies and creative minds to transform raw materials into useful products."
Two Workers Assassinated in Mexico: NAFTA Renegotiation Is More Important Now Than Ever
The need to fundamentally improve the labor provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement took on a new urgency over the weekend, as a group of armed civilians, calling themselves the “Tonalapa Community Police,” (Policía Comunitaria de Tonalapa) attacked striking workers, killing two, at the Media Luna mine in Guerrero, Mexico. The murders occurred just five hours south of Mexico City, where representatives from the United States, Canada and Mexico are in the midst of their fifth round of talks about rewriting NAFTA.
The aggressors, meanwhile, were released after being briefly detained by an army squadron.
The striking workers, who want to be represented by the National Union of Mine, Metal, Steel and Related Workers of the Mexican Republic (Los Mineros) and are demanding the removal of the employer-dominated "labor" federation CTM (Confederación de Trabajadores de México), identified local CTM leaders as among those responsible for the attack. The practice of false unions siding with the employer over workers is a common feature of Mexico’s failed labor relations model. Employer-dominated "labor" federations are antithetical to the idea of democratic worker-led unions whose goal is to help workers build better lives.
The strike, which has been joined by residents of nearby communities of Cocula, Eduardo Neri and Tepecoacuilco, began in response to longstanding demands over pay, safety equipment and decent food. The workers and local residents maintain that the mine has broken a string of promises to its employees and the communities. The Mexican mining company, Media Luna, is owned by a Canadian global corporation, Torex Gold Resources.
Workers—no matter what country they live in—must have the freedom to join and act together to improve their wages and conditions of work. Armed attacks intimidate workers, keeping families in fear as they keep wages down and workplaces less safe.
Such attacks, which are common in Guatemala, Colombia and other U.S. trading partners, are one hallmark of a repressive labor system. These attacks should not be tolerated by responsible employers, the Mexican government or the U.S. government. This deplorable use of violence against a community standing up for itself is inconsistent with any notion of a "level playing field" or "free" or "fair" trade. How can trade be free if people aren’t?
This incident is a prime example of why working people across North America are united in demanding new, effective labor rules in NAFTA that will ensure that all three governments effectively uphold high labor standards and show zero tolerance for violence and intimidation.
Learn more about the improvements needed to the NAFTA labor chapter here. Get involved by asking your member of Congress to speak up about labor abuses in Mexico and how NAFTA must address them.
Cookie Crumbles for Laid Off Vets: "Will Attig, head of the Union Veterans Council, AFL-CIO, said the rally was calling out corporations for sending veterans’ jobs overseas. 'It’s shameful and unpatriotic that veterans come home and have their job ripped from them by a greedy corporation.'"
GOP Tax Plans Could Fuel the Suburban Revolt Against Trump: "After a suburban firestorm in last week's elections, House Speaker Paul Ryan is now asking his Republican members from suburbia to put out the fire with gasoline. In the House of Representatives, Republicans representing white-collar districts were understandably unnerved by a roaring backlash against President Donald Trump in last week's elections, which carried Democrats to sweeping victories from northern Virginia to leafy communities outside New York, Philadelphia and Seattle. Just days later, the House leadership is now pressing those same suburban representatives to back a tax reform bill that independent analysts say will raise taxes on many of their constituents, particularly in Democratic-leaning states and around the major metropolitan areas with the highest real estate values."
Puerto Rico’s Second-Class Treatment on Food Aid: "Of all Puerto Rico’s continuing miseries seven weeks after Hurricane Maria’s devastation, the most blatantly unjust is that islanders have been denied the more generous and swifter food relief distributed to storm victims this year in Texas and Florida under the emergency food stamp program."
Working People Are Tackling High Drug Costs Through State-Level Reforms: "Despite all of the talk in Washington, D.C., about health care, Congress and Donald Trump have done nothing to deal with the No. 1 health care problem facing working people. Surging health care prices—especially prescription drug prices—are putting ever-increasing pressure on family budgets, workers' health plans and public health programs."
Be Thankful for These Companies on Thanksgiving: "Thanksgiving is a time to be spent with family and friends, and NOT a day to boost retail sales. This year, our friends over at Labor 411 wanted to thank the companies that have made the pro-working families decision to stay closed on Thanksgiving Day."
2017 Election Update: New Jersey Labor Candidate Victories Rise to 964: "Labor won big this year, and the news just got better. After a tight race for Florence Township Council, our brother from LIUNA Local 172, Frank Baldorossi Jr., prevailed. The final vote tally was 645–624, a difference of only 21 votes. We also congratulate IBEW Local 351 Brother Steve Light, who was elected to serve as a member of the Absecon City Council, and our brother from IBEW Local 3, Michael Soriano, who secured a major victory in his race for Parsippany mayor."
Workforce Intermediaries Advance Equity and Diversity Through Apprenticeship: "As we kick off National Apprenticeship Week, it is more important than ever to shine a light on the ways government agencies, employers and joint labor-management programs can focus their resources on fostering greater equity, diversity and inclusion in the American workforce. Registered apprenticeship programs are a big part of the answer. Workforce intermediary partnerships that promote and operate apprenticeship programs are powerful vehicles for delivering career opportunities."
Working People Stand Up to Nabisco's Outsourcing on National Day of Action
Yesterday, at more than 100 big-box stores across the United States, working families and activists leafleted with Nabisco workers to urge consumers to boycott Nabisco snacks like Oreo, Ritz Crackers and Chips Ahoy that are made in Mexico! Nabisco and parent corporation Mondelēz International continue to outsource hundreds of good, middle-class jobs and exploit working families across borders and oceans for reportedly around $1 per hour with little to no benefits.
Working people like Anthony Jackson illustrate the human impact of the decisions made by Nabisco and Mondelēz:
“This was going to be my career,” said 41-year-old Anthony Jackson. In 2011 Jackson, a Navy veteran, was hired to operate the machine that blends sugar and oil to make the sticky sweet white Oreo icing that Americans of all ages love.
On Veterans Day this year, Jackson demanded that Nabisco/Mondelez “do the right thing” and restore the hundreds of jobs his fellow workers lost when the company made the decision to outsource production. Jackson said that among the hundreds who lost their jobs, many are veterans like him.
Here are some key tweets from actions around the country yesterday, which used the hashtag #CheckTheLabel:
Flight Attendants at ATI Ratify First Contract: Flight attendants at Air Transport International approved their first contract with 65% of the vote. The flight attendants, who are represented by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), will see immediate pay raises and defined schedule and work rules.
First Contract Secured for IBEW Members at NAES: For the first time in 26 years, the NAES Co-Generation plant in Linden, New Jersey, has secured a contract with the Electrical Workers (IBEW). After a hard-fought campaign, 90% of the employees voted to ratify the new contract.
Video Game Performers Reach New Deal: SAG-AFTRA members who work in the video game industry approved a new agreement with industry management. The new agreement provides for additional payments for more session work, improves transparency in the industry and provides for better working conditions.
Chocolate from Cargill Plant in Pennsylvania Now Union Made: When the employees at the Cargill plant in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, wanted to improve workplace safety and address unfair workplace rules, they reached out to the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) for help. Now, chocolates made by the majority Latino workforce will be union made.
Chicago Graduate Workers Win Union Vote: In a vote that could boost organizing campaigns across the country, University of Chicago graduate employees have voted for a union by more than a 2-1 majority.
UAW Members at Bath Marine Avoid Strike and Reach Agreement: The Bath Marine Draftsmen Association ratified a collective bargaining agreement, with 78% of the vote, averting a strike. The four-and-a-half-year contract contains a strong economic package while preserving and strengthening the workplace flexibility language that was at issue.
House Republicans Throw Trillions of Dollars at Millionaires and Corporations, Hope Nobody Will Notice
Congressional Republicans, knowing how much their new tax bill stinks, seem determined to ram it through Congress before the rest of the country figures out how truly awful it is.
How shockingly awful is the "Trickle Down Tax Giveaway Act of 2017" (H.R. 1)? You may want to ask your children to leave the room because the following information could be upsetting.
47% of the tax breaks would ultimately go to the richest 1% of taxpayers, who would receive an average annual tax cut of $62,300;
$1.5 trillion of the tax giveaways in this bill would not be paid for, and it just so happens that the Republican budget would cut $1.5 trillion from Medicare and Medicaid;
At the same time, 24% of households would pay higher taxes under this bill—on average $2,000 more;
The Republican bill would give huge tax breaks to companies that outsource jobs, eliminating U.S. taxes on profits earned from sending jobs overseas; and
The bill would pay for a portion of these tax giveaways by ending the tax deduction for student loan interest; punishing states that make the kind of investments that create good jobs; making it harder to raise financing for infrastructure projects; increasing the health care tax burden for people with high medical bills; ending the tax deduction for union dues; and ending the tax deduction for educators who buy essential supplies for their students.
In short, working people would pay the price for trillions of dollars in tax giveaways to people who do not need them.
Every Democrat in the House of Representatives voted against this monstrosity of a tax bill, while 13 Republicans had the common decency to vote against it.
So what is next? The Senate will vote on its version of the "Trickle Down Tax Giveaway Act of 2017" shortly after Thanksgiving, and Republicans say they plan to pass this bill into law before Christmas.
Take action now by letting your member of Congress know that you oppose making working people pay for tax giveaways to millionaires and big corporations that outsource jobs.
Make a call now to your senator and oppose the GOP #TaxReform plan at 844-899-9913.
Working People are Tackling High Drug Costs Through State-Level Reforms
Despite all of the talk in Washington, D.C., about health care, Congress and Donald Trump have done nothing to deal with the No. 1 health care problem facing working people. Surging health care prices—especially prescription drug prices—are putting ever-increasing pressure on family budgets, workers' health plans and public health programs.
Consider this: the average annual cost of a brand-name drug grew to $5,807 in 2015, more than three times what it was in 2006 ($1,788), according to AARP’s most recent analysis of widely used brand-name prescription drugs. There also have been instances of immense overnight increases in the price of some generic drugs. For example, drug manufacturer Rodelis raised the price of Seromycin, its off-patent tuberculosis drug, from $500 to $10,800 for a 30-day supply.
While federal policy makers ignore the problem with drug prices, working people are calling on their elected state representatives to take action. In two states—Nevada and California—working people have won important breakthroughs this year, establishing new rules requiring prescription drug corporations to be more transparent about their prices and the reasons for them, especially when drug prices go up by large amounts.
In Nevada, a coalition of unions spearheaded by the Culinary Workers Union and including the Nevada State AFL-CIO led the fight to win enactment of diabetes medication price transparency rules. Under this first-in-the-nation law, corporations that manufacture essential diabetes drugs must explain any price increases that are larger than the price increases for medical care overall. Between 2002–2013, the price of insulin jumped by nearly 200%. With 12.4% of adult Nevadans having diabetes, and 38.5% with pre-diabetes, such a large price increase hurt working people and their health plans and raised serious concerns about whether these increases were justified. The new law also requires prescription drug manufacturers to provide the state with a list of all of their sales representatives operating in Nevada, and those sales representatives must submit annual reports disclosing their activities. Further, a nonprofit group in Nevada that advocates for patients or funds medical research has to disclose any payments, donations or anything else of value it receives from a prescription drug manufacturer or certain other drug-related corporations or lobbying groups. The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Yvanna D. Cancela, who represents Nevada’s District 10 and is a member of Culinary Workers Union Local 226.
In California, a two-year fight led by the California Labor Federation resulted in enactment of a law that requires prescription drug manufacturers to provide health plans, public purchasers such as the state’s large public employee health plan (CalPERS) and pharmacy benefit managers 60-day advance notice of price increases greater than 16% over a two-year period. The manufacturers also are required to explain to state regulators the factors behind the price increase. Pharmacy benefit managers are required to notify workers' health plans of these large price increases so steps can be taken to deal with these increases, including negotiating better deals when possible. Drug manufacturers also are required to notify the state when they start selling new expensive drugs (costing $670 or more per month). The legislation was authored by Sen. Ed Hernandez, who represents California’s 22nd Senate District and is a doctor of optometry.
The United States is the only major economy without any government oversight or regulation of prescription drug prices. Federal law gives drug corporations unchecked monopoly rights for brand-name drugs over long periods, and there is little, if any, competition in the sale of some generic drugs. Companies are not even required to explain or justify their pricing decisions. While patients and their private health plans are "free" to negotiate with drug companies, in reality they face a take-it-or-leave-it proposition: pay the company’s price or go without a needed drug.
With the new Nevada and California state drug price transparency laws, working people are sending a powerful signal that they want and need real action on health care prices. Requiring prescription drug corporations to justify big price increases is an important reform that could cause drug manufacturers to reconsider excessive price hikes, give workers' health plans better tools to negotiate fairer prices, and lead to improved prescription drug policies from federal and state lawmakers. Hopefully, Congress and President Trump are paying attention and will start making even bigger changes to bring down prices, like authorizing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices for seniors and people with disabilities, and stopping corporate abuses of federal patent laws.
Teresa Mosqueda (OPEIU) will join the soon-to-be majority-woman Seattle City Council; Braxton Winston (IATSE) will be the first union member to serve on the Charlotte, North Carolina, City Council; and Keith Kazmark (AFT) was re-elected as mayor of Woodland Park, New Jersey. Their communities will benefit from the kind of legislation that improves the lives of working people.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has been a strong advocate for electing our members to public office:
The only way we can change the economic rules is by committing ourselves to independence in politics. The rules are written by the people we elect, and for nearly four decades, they have been written to ensure working people are the losers. Electing people like Teresa, Braxton and Keith ensures that we have a seat at the table. We will continue to work to elect candidates who share our vision to build strong unions, raise wages, and support quality public education, health care for all, modern infrastructure, American-made energy, voting rights, civil rights and worker rights.
You can watch and share their speeches from the Convention on Facebook.
President Charlie Wowkanech of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO has helped 900 union members win election since he began the program two decades ago:
We started this work 20 years ago because we knew that no one represents working families and their unions better than working people themselves. Who better to fight for high-quality public education than teachers and paraprofessionals who dedicate their lives to teaching our children? Who better to fight for quality, affordable health care than our nurses and health care professionals who dedicate their lives to healing others? And, who better to fight for important public services than the people who every day put on a uniform to serve their communities? If you really want to see government that serves working people, put working people in charge.
President MaryBe McMillan of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO was rightfully proud of the caliber of the union member recruited to run for Charlotte City Council:
We are excited and proud to have one of our own on the Charlotte City Council. As both a community activist and a union activist, Braxton built connections across the Charlotte community. Braxton is smart, energetic and committed to justice for all working people. With his vision and leadership, I’m confident that he will make Charlotte a better place to live and work.
And President Jeff Johnson of the Washington State Labor Council highlighted another important aspect of this work in building our movement:
To say we won a seat on the city council just scratches the surface of what Teresa’s victory means for us. Yes, we have a champion for working people at the table, and I couldn’t be more proud of her, but we also have a movement of workers who are more energized, more engaged and more active because they fought to elect one of their own. Today, the long arm of worker power stretches from the shop floor to City Hall.
AFSCME President Lee Saunders, chair of the Executive Council Political Committee, put these victories in a broader context:
This message was re-emphasized by AFT President Randi Weingarten, who saw a number of AFT members win elections last week:
AFT member Keith Kazmark was one of countless union members, including AFT members in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, elected or re-elected on an Election Day on which Americans delivered two messages. They won’t support fear-mongering and race-baiting, and they will elect candidates who truly care for and fight for people and for the values that are important to working folks—public education, affordable health care and good jobs. Union members connected with voters on these values because these are the values we fight for every day on the job and through our unions. Congratulations to Keith and all of the union members who won on Election Day. We need more union members like Keith in our mayor’s offices and our statehouses and on our school boards.
If you had the chance to hear them speak at convention, then undoubtedly Keith, Braxton and Teresa made an impression on you. Each of them give great hope for the future of our movement.