Support for labor unions on the rise

By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

The good news is in: 71 percent of Americans support labor unions. This is an all-time high and so encouraging as America celebrates our federal Labor Day holiday.

I’ve had some interesting labor experiences this past week while visiting my sister Jane in Minneapolis. Wednesday, we went by Starbucks and saw that it was closed due to striking workers. We cheered them on and went across to Caribou coffee for our drinks. Then a mailer showed up at Jane’s house addressed to her son, who is a Minnesota school teacher. It read “Stop Funding Racism with Your Union Dues.”

Hmmm, I thought, this is curious. Union dues to fund racism? Sounds fishy to me.

The flyer featured a photo of young African American woman holding teaching materials and said, “Your union really negotiated a contract that undermines the Civil Rights Act.”

I started to dig deeper and learned that the union has negotiated terms that guarantee a diverse work in Minnesota. That is what this group is calling “racism” – racism against white folks apparently. The mailer’s return address was from the “Freedom Foundation,Cincinnati OH”. At the bottom it says “CancelUnionDues.com”.

Yup, you guessed it – it’s a full-on attack on teachers’ unions, which I learned from reading an interview this week with AFT president Randi Weingarten. As part of an on ongoing attack on teachers by the right, this flyer was directed at the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers.

As for the Freedom Foundation mailer, the Maryland State Education Association has this to say about them:  The Freedom Foundation [is funded by] conservative donors, including the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, that supports conservative and libertarian organizations.

“When educators are aware of who’s funding [these anti-union campaigns], and what their agendas are, then the charade of these emails falls away pretty quickly,” said Adam Mendelson, a spokesperson for the Maryland State Education Association.

For a shot in the arm about labor rising, I recommend both President Weingarten’s Labor Day blog post along with AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler’s remarks to the Federation of International Football Associations titled Don’t Leave Workers Behind. Young people are excited about organizing unions – they get it – and we must be there to support them.

My path from strawberry and blueberry fields to college

By Alma Hernandez, NCL Child Labor Coalition Summer 2022 Intern

Alma attends the University of South Florida, where she is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Public Health.

Alma Hernandez (far right) is joined by fellow National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Association  farmworker youth interns Jose Velasquez Castellano and Gizela Gaspar. NCL CLC Coordinator Reid Maki is also in the photo.

Imagine being a five-year-old child – happy and carefree. The age where you either attend pre-K or start kindergarten. But can you imagine a five-year-old working in farm fields in hot 90-degree humid weather with her parents? I was that child. I wore a long-sleeved shirt, jeans, closed-toed shoes, and a hat to protect me from the hot sun. At five years old, I was unaware of how difficult agricultural labor is. My mom had enrolled me at the Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA), a Migrant and Seasonal Head Start program, but she also wanted to teach me to value my education.

My mother’s life lesson started during the weekend after I did not want to wake up for school. My mother remembers that I was full of confidence when asked if I wanted to go to work with her and my father. However, I did not know what was in store for me.

Arriving at the fields around 7:30 am, I first saw endless rows of strawberry fields. I felt enthusiastic. My task: collect as many bright red strawberries as I could and place them in my pink Halloween bucket. After filling my bucket, I would give the strawberries to one of my parents. Around 12, I felt the heat. It was around 90 degrees. The humidity made it feel worse. I felt like I was in 100-degree weather; I did not like that at all and wanted to go home. I was already tired and asked if we could leave. My mom said no; I had to stay until they finished. And so I kept working.

I do not recall what happened the rest of the time I was there, but I remember what happened afterward. I went home and sat on the stairs of the house with a red face, a headache, and clothes covered in dirt, and reflected on the decision I had made to join my parents in the strawberry fields. I went inside. I was so tired that I ignored dinner and skipped a shower and went straight to bed just to wake up the next day, to repeat another day of long, hard work. My parents had me help them one more day; and convinced that my lesson was learned, they let stay home where, in the next few years, I could help take care of younger siblings when my parents could not find childcare.

Although my work in the strawberry fields was short-lived, I have much more experience harvesting blueberries. I started working on blueberry farms when I was 12 years old and worked every summer until I was 16. The blueberry season starts in the summer after school ends in Florida.

My family and I would leave Florida near the end of June and start the 17-hour drive to Michigan. Unlike the strawberry season, I liked picking blueberries because I did not have to bend down low to the ground all day; blueberry plants grow higher. My job was to fill up my six buckets. Once they were all filled, I would carry all the buckets to place them into plastic containers and have them weighed. On average, six buckets would be 42 to 45 pounds, and depending on who we were working for, the average pay was 0.45 to 0.55 cents a pound. I had to pick as many pounds as I could. On good days, I would be able to pick 200 pounds or more; on many other days, I would pick less.

The clothing I wore was also the same: long sleeves, jeans, closed toes shoes, and a hat to protect myself from the sun. The weather in Michigan is not as humid as it is in Florida; usually, it was in the mid-80s to low 90-degrees however it was still hot being there all day. We would go in each morning at 8:30 or later depending on how wet the blueberry plants were and leave the fields around 8 or 9 at night.

I did not like going to a new school in Michigan every September just to leave in late October and return to Florida and start school. The curriculum was very different; I would excel quickly in Michigan since what I was learning I had already studied in Florida. But I also did not like how every time I would go to a new school, I’d be the “new girl,” struggling to make friends but knowing I would soon be migrating. “What is the point?” I would wonder. So I always kept to myself and only spoke when I was spoken to, and to this day I still do.

I also did not like the “what did you do during the summer?” question on the first day of school when I returned to Florida because all I did was work all summer and had no fun. Work caused my parents to miss many school functions that other parents would attend. Sometimes, it felt like a lack of support, but I understood that this type of work was their only way to generate income to provide for the family.

This summer, after four years away, I came back to Michigan with my family for the blueberry harvest one more time. Now that I am 20 and reflecting on my family’s agricultural experience, I appreciate my parents for what they have done for my siblings and me. They wake up early every day, go to work, come home to cook, and still spend a little bit of time with my younger siblings. I help around as much as I can because I know they cannot do everything on their own, especially now that they are getting older. I know they are tired and have no rest days. But thanks to them, I am the first person in my family to go to college and serve as an example to my siblings which proves to them that there is a reason for our parent’s sacrifices.

Dispatches from Durban: May 15-20, 2022

Reflections on the 5th Global Conference on the elimination of child labour in Durban, South Africa: May 15-20, 2022

Reid Maki is the director of child labor advocacy at the National Consumers League and he coordinates the Child Labor Coalition.

The recently-concluded week-long “5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour” in Durban, South Africa was convened against the backdrop of the announcement last July of an alarming rise in child labor numbers after two decades of steady and significant declines in global child labor totals.

The global conference, which typically comes about every four years, brought together an estimated 1,000 delegates from foreign governments and small number of representatives of NGOs. It also brought together for the first time at one of the quadrennial child labor conferences dozens of participant youth advocates as well as a number of child labor victims and survivors.

The conference had the difficult mission of righting the ship and trying to reverse the rising child labor numbers, which seem destined to rise further as the COVID pandemic’s impact will continue to be felt for years. Sadly, the pandemic threw 1.6 million children out of school, often for prolonged periods and some of those children entered work and may never return to school.

We would first like to thank the South Africa government for the herculean task of organizing a global conference during a still raging pandemic, all against a backdrop of devastating floods in April that savaged the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and Easter Cape and killed nearly 500 people, destroyed 4,000 homes and displaced 40,000 people.

As the conference opened, Guy Ryder, the Director General of the International Labour Organization, which helped advise the government of South Africa on the organization of the conference, suggested that the rise in 8 million child laborers from 152 million to 160 million likely represented complacency and a loss of focus by global governments on the child labor problem and must be rectified. He noted increases in child labor impacting children under age 11 and urged delegates to redouble their efforts. “We need to increase our efforts, and pay particular attention to child labor in agriculture,” said Ryder, who added that child labor advocacy is threatened by a “perfect storm” created by COVID’s enduring impact, rising food insecurity, and debt crises that are expected to impact 60 nations in the coming years.

South Africa’s president Cyril Ramamphosa delivered a stirring welcome. He noted that his country’s embrace of child rights is not just a matter of principle. “The assertion of the rights of children was a direct response to the deprivation, discrimination and deliberate neglect that had been visited on the black children of this county by successive colonial apartheid administrations,” said Ramamphosa. “Child labor perpetuate the cycle of poverty, denying young people the education they need to improve their circumstances. It condemns communities to forms of economic activity and labor that limit any prospect of advancement or progress.”

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi noted the particular challenge that the sub-Saharan African region is facing with the highest rates of child labor and one in five children are in child labor.

Satyarthi urged listeners to embrace the idea that every single child can be protected from child labor. “Let us march from exploitation to education,” he urged, calling for children to have a “fair share” of resources. The amount needed to ensure all children have access to needed resources is only $53 billion – not much considering the wealth of many nations, said Satyarthi who also noted that the G7, which is about to meet on June 26th, has never focused attention collectively on child labor. “This needs to change,” he urged.

The conference opened with a pledge by European Union (EU) Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen that the EU will create a new $10 million euro initiative to reduce child labor in agriculture. Child labor must return to the political agenda, she urged.

The six-day conference, attended by 1,0000 delegates in person and an estimated 7,000 online, according to organizers, featured workshops and side events, and included three meetings every other day by separate groups of employers, workers, and governments. Readers can find a conference agenda here with video links to many sessions.

Twenty-four side events focused on many related topics including child labor in supply chains, a decent work agenda, youth-led activism, small-scale mining, livelihoods skills development, African priorities, partnership in Latin America to end child labor, due diligence legislation, data and research needs, labor inspections, artisanal fisheries and aquaculture, and a child-labor-free zone in Ghana. For a complete list and to view specific side events, please go to agenda, scroll each day’s offerings and click links to the videos.

Attendees learned a lot about specific intervention efforts, and the struggles many nations are engaged in, including Malawi, which has recently been hit by two cyclones and where there is a shortage of 50,000 schools – less than half of the children have access to education, said the nation’s Education Minister Agnes Nyalongje. She pleaded for international help, noting that 12 years of sustained aid could create generational change in Malawi and fix its troubled education system.

It’s difficult to summarize the hundreds of hours of content but readers may get a sense from the CLC’s twitter stream which included four to five dozen original tweets at @ChildLaborCLC.

The conference’s concluding “Call to Action” document emphasizes the need for urgent action, because “the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, armed conflicts, and food, humanitarian and environmental crises threaten to reverse years of progress against child labour”. The document includes commitments in six different areas:

  • Make decent work a reality for adults and youth above the minimum age for work by accelerating multi-stakeholder efforts to eliminate child labour, with priority given to the worst forms of child labour.
  • End child labour in agriculture.
  • Strengthen the prevention and elimination of child labour, including its worst forms, forced labour, modern slavery and trafficking in persons, and the protection of survivors through data-driven and survivor-informed policy and programmatic responses.
  • Realize children’s right to education and ensuring universal access to free, compulsory, quality, equitable and inclusive education and training.
  • Achieving universal access to social protection.
  • Increasing financing and international cooperation for the elimination of child labour and forced labour.

As is often the case at conferences, many of the side conversations are of great interest. We had many great conversations with Simon Steyne, who recently retired from the International Labour Organization but continues his child labor advocacy. Simon is campaigning to bring about a child-labor-in-agriculture conference in the coming year. With 70 percent of global child labor in agriculture and rising child labor rates, a focus on agriculture at this time is absolutely essential, Steyne argued.

What might have been improved at the conference? It seems that a relatively small number of Civil Society participants were invited to the conference, included few from the Americas and Asia. The pandemic and travel distances certainly impacted in-person attendance. And we know a lot of NGO participants were able to join online. We hope that a broader spectrum of Civil Society is invited to future global child labor conferences. NGO delegates often possess in-the-field, grass roots knowledge lacked by government and employer groups and NGO presence is a key element in the fight to reverse accelerating incidence of child labor.

The Civil Society advocates and experts who were there enhanced the conference greatly, mostly through the two dozen side events. We were delighted to be joined at the conference by CLC members Bank Information Center and GoodWeave, which organized the side event “Child Labour Free Supply Chains: Tackling Root Causes from Maker to Market” — included panelist Thea Lee, the deputy undersecretary for International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Labor, who was ubiquitous at the conference. CLC-member Action Against Child Exploitation (ACE) also presented a side event: “Promoting an Integrated Area-based Approach to the Elimination of Child Labour: A Case of the Child Labour Free Zone in Ghana,” with Yuka Iwatsuki, president of ACE among the panelists.

In addition to thanking our gracious South African hosts and the ILO for its organizing role, the CLC also wishes to express appreciation to our valued partners the Global March Against Child Labour and the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation for enhancing the conference significantly through organizing side events and bringing the voices of youth advocates to Durban.

Tara Banjara. 17, was among the youth advocates who appeared as a panelist. Tara said she is from a community in India where there are no schools and “no one had an idea about what education is.” She was four and half when she went to work on roads with her mother. They cleaned garbage and rubble out of potholes. The work was exhausting and difficult and went on till she was rescued by Bachpan Bachao Andolan’s Bal Ashram.

Today, Tara is the first girl to complete grade 12 exams in her entire family. She asked attendance participants gathered in Durban and the thousands on line: “Is this our fault that if we are born in a small village, we do not have the right to live our childhood with freedom?” She asked.

“We want freedom. We want the right to education,” Tara said, sharing her dream of becoming a police officer some day and working at the grassroots level to ensure that all children have equal rights and freedom. In one of the conference’s emotional high points, Tara asked attendees to stand and make a pledge: “Let us all pledge to create a world where every child is free from slavery; every child gets an education and an opportunity to fulfill their dreams.”

National Consumers League applauds Biden Administration’s new heat stress initiative

September 24, 2021

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Reid Maki, reidm@nclnet.org(202) 207-2820

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), America’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization, celebrates the White House announcement on September 20 of a new multi-agency effort to protect American workers from heat-related illnesses. The initiative includes the launch of a process to create a federal heat standard to protect workers.

The administration’s actions will add protections for outdoor workers in agriculture and construction, as well as for delivery workers, and will cover indoor workers in warehouses, factories, and kitchens.

NCL and the Child Labor Coalition (CLC), which it co-chairs with the American Federation of Teachers, have long supported efforts to develop a federal heat standard. NCL and the CLC have been active in a large coalition of groups led by Public Citizen, Farmworker Justice, and the United Farm Workers Foundation, that has been calling for greater protections from heat-related occupations.

The following statement may be attributed to NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

“Heat stress endangers millions of workers, and a federal heat standard is long overdue. We’re grateful that the Biden Administration has responded robustly with this comprehensive, multi-agency initiative. Heat stress affects low-wage workers and people of color disproportionately. The COVID pandemic has reminded us how essential millions of American workers are, and this summer’s searing temperatures demonstrate the need for increased protections. When this effort is completed, countless American workers will be safer than they are today.”

The following statement may be attributed to NCL Director of Child Labor Advocacy, and CLC Coordinator Reid Maki:

“NCL and the CLC have tried for decades to protect child farmworkers, whose back-breaking work in the fields puts them and their families at higher risk of heat-related illnesses. Children are more vulnerable to heat illness than adults; they have a greater surface area to body mass ratio, they sweat less, and their rate of acclimatization is slower.

Weak U.S. child labor laws for the agricultural sector allow an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 children to work unlimited hours on farms, often beginning at the age of 12—as long as the child farmworker is not missing school attendance. In some instances, exemptions allow even younger children to perform farm work. The CLC has been working to close those loopholes and protect the health and safety of child farmworkers for over two decades.

The Biden Administration’s heat stress initiative will address the factors that create social vulnerabilities and disproportionate impacts. The initiative will also provide cooling assistance to households, allow the use of schools as cooling centers, add tree cover to reduce urban heat, and launch related measures such a “heat resilience challenge.”

“NCL thanks the U.S. Department of Labor and other involved agencies for this bold action and applauds the many advocacy groups, farmworker organizations, unions, and other colleagues in the Heat Stress Network, who have fought to bring about these protections,” said Greenberg.

About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

NCL celebrates Labor Day 2021

September 6, 2021

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League was in the forefront of improving conditions for workers at the turn of the 20th Century. In the 1880s in the United States, many American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in order to eke out a basic living. Children as young as 5 or 6 toiled in mills, factories, bakeries and mines across the country, earning a fraction of adult wages. NCL’s Florence Kelley wrote some of the key labor protections we take for granted now – the first minimum wage laws, maximum hours laws, and child labor protection laws.

For example, NCL was instrumental in the Supreme Court case of Muller vs Oregon in 1908, which set the first maximum hours laws for workers in the United States, applying only to women at the time but expanding later to include men.

Labor unions, which had first appeared in the late 18th century, also grew more prominent and vocal. They began organizing strikes and rallies to protest poor conditions and compel employers to renegotiate hours and pay.

In the wake of this massive unrest and the maiming and murder of striking workers in many trades, Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories. On June 28, 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed it into law. We celebrate Labor Day each year to remember the working men and women – and children – who struggled to achieve labor rights and protections and continue to do so today.

Public approval of unions is at 68 percent, including 77 percent of young people. It is with that backdrop that NCL once again calls on Congress to enact three critically important bills:

The Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act), the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (FWMA), and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act; these laws will strengthen labor laws and give workers greater opportunities to organize and form unions, protecting the most vulnerable in our labor force

“Decades of industry lobbying have made it increasingly difficult for workers to organize,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “Employers enjoy unprecedented and unfair advantages during union organizing drives, which has led to far fewer opportunities for workers to make their voices heard in the workplace. NCL supports these bills to protect the right to organize and democracy in the workplace for America’s workers.”

About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

National Consumers League applauds the awarding of the prestigious Iqbal Masih Child Labor Award for the Elimination of Child Labor to Norma Flores López and the International Labour Organization

June 11, 2021

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org(412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org(202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), America’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization and a leader in the fight to reduce child labor globally, welcomes the awarding of the Iqbal Masih Child labor Elimination Award to the Norma Flores López and the International Labor Organization on Thursday.

Iqbal Masih, for whom the award was named, was sold into slavery in his native Pakistan as a rug weaver at age 4, and escaped his captors at age 10. He became a prominent voice against child labor before he was murdered for his activism at age 12.

Norma Flores López, who is a member of NCL’s Board of Directors, works closely with NCL on the Child Labor Coalition (CLC), which NCL founded and has co-chaired since 1989. The following statement is attributable to NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

Norma began working in U.S. fields as a small child, and as a teenager began to speak out against the exploitation of farmworker children – something NCL and the CLC has combatted for decades. She has been a tireless advocate against child labor and has shared her experiences and expertise at numerous international conferences, in newspapers, and on television news magazines, including 60 minutes. Today, Norma heads the CLC’s Domestic Issues Committee, helping us to develop strategies to equalize protections for children who have entered work at early ages. We’re so pleased that Norma’s passion and commitment for protecting children has been recognized with this prestigious award. NCL also works closely with the International Labour Organization, and applauds its recognition as a leading player in the fight against child labor.

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

NCL applauds U.S. Department of Labor’s withdrawal of the Trump Administration’s ‘Independent Contractor Rule’

May 6, 2021

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org(412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org(202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), America’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization, welcomes yesterday’s withdrawal of the Trump Administration’s “Independent Contractor Rule,” which would have too narrowly defined who is an “employee” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

“The Trump Administration’s ‘Independent Contractor Rule’ would have been bad for American workers, especially women and those who toil in low-wage industries. It would have made it easier to classify workers like construction workers, farmworkers, Uber- and Lyft- drivers, janitors, and care givers as ‘independent contractors,’ denying them the rights and benefits ’employees’ have. It would have left workers already vulnerable to wage theft and safety risks even more at risk,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg.

In its announcement about the impending rule’s withdrawal, the U.S. Department of Labor noted that the FLSA requires employees be paid “at least the federal minimum wage for every hour they work and overtime compensation at not less than one-and-one half times their regular rate of pay for every hour over 40 in a work week.” Withdrawing the new rule preserves these essential worker rights and other protections granted by the FLSA.

DOL rightfully noted that independent contractor designations are not necessary to provide workers with flexible hours—something proponents of the new rule had suggested. “Employment and flexibility are not mutually exclusive,” said DOL.

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

National consumer organization throwing support behind three major labor rights bills in Congress

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org(412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org(202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), America’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization, founded in 1899 to advance the needs of consumers and workers, is backing three important federal bills aiming to even the playing field between workers and employers. The three pieces of legislation—the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act), the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (FWMA), and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act—would strengthen labor laws and give workers greater opportunities to organize and form unions, protecting the most vulnerable in our labor force.

“Decades of industry lobbying have made it increasingly difficult for workers to organize,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “Employers enjoy unprecedented and unfair advantages during union organizing drives, which has led to far fewer opportunities for workers to make their voices heard in the workplace. NCL is pleased to support several legislative initiatives that would help right the course for America’s workers.”

According to a recent Gallup Poll, roughly two-thirds of Americans approve of unions—a number trending upwards up from about half in 2009.

“Consumers are recognizing that they are harmed when workers do not have a strong voice,” said Greenberg. “Industry abuses are more likely to go unchecked, resulting in unsafe and dangerous products making it to the marketplace. And when workers are fairly compensated on the job, they can afford to buy the products they create, stimulating further demand that benefits the economy.”

About the bills

The Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act) would enhance collective bargaining rights, impose penalties on employers if they retaliate against workers who are trying to organize, and update labor laws to protect workers. The bill passed in the House of Representatives with bipartisan support this spring on a 225-206 vote. The bill currently awaits action in the Senate. Of 50 Democratic and independent Senators, 45 are currently committed to supporting the bill. If the Senate passes the bill, President Biden has pledged to sign it.

NCL strongly supports the PRO ACT and urges the Senate to swiftly pass this important measure.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act (FWMA) passed the House October 30, 2019, and was the product of bipartisan negotiations between leading Democrats and Republicans to modernize laws and treat with dignity and fairness our 2.4 million farmworkers, half of whom are undocumented immigrants. On March 18, 2021, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, H.R. 1603, passed the House again by a bipartisan vote of 247-174, with 30 Republicans joining Democrats in support. H.R. 1603, like the earlier version of the legislation.

“America’s farms and food systems depend on immigrants who pick our crops. But because so many don’t have legal status, they live in fear of deportation and cannot challenge illegal or unfair treatment in their jobs or in their communities,” said Greenberg. “FWMA provides a path to lawful permanent residency for these workers. Under the bill’s provisions, farmworkers would be able to improve their wages and working conditions and seek enforcement when their rights are violated. It also makes America more food-secure by ensuring that farmers have workers to harvest their perishable crops.”

The FMWA is a pro-consumer, pro-worker, and pro-agriculture bill that NCL strongly supports. NCL urges the Senate to pass this legislation and send it to President Biden’s desk for his signature.

The Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act (PSFNA, HR 3463 and S 1970), would set a minimum nationwide standard of collective bargaining rights that all states would have to provide to state and local workers.

There are nearly 17.3 million public sector workers across the country. Unlike private-sector workers, there is no federal law protecting the freedom of public sector workers to join a union and collectively bargain for fair wages, benefits, and improved working conditions.

Currently, 20 states do not provide all state and local public sector workers the ability to collectively bargain for fair wages and benefits.

Among the bill’s provisions is a requirement that public sector employers recognize labor unions chosen by a majority of the employees voting, and that they bargain with the labor organization over wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. If states fail to meet these standards, the bill gives the federal government the authority to intervene on behalf of public-service workers, ensuring their rights to form a union and negotiate with their employer.

NCL strongly supports the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act and urges swift Congressional action in both the House and the Senate so that President Biden can sign the bill into law.

“America would be unrecognizable without the gains made by working families and unions,” said Greenberg. “The movement needs an even playing field to do its job. These three bills are a good start, and NCL is proud to support each of them.”

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

NCL supports Bessemer, AL Amazon workers’ right to organize

March 26, 2021

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org(412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org(202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League has issued the following statement:

Since our founding in 1899, the National Consumers League (NCL) has supported the right of workers to organize and form unions. In our fight for labor and consumer protections, our work has continued to champion these fundamental rights.

In keeping with that mission, NCL is aware of the efforts of workers at the Amazon plant in Bessemer, AL to form a union and supports the workers’ right to do so. The employees are seeking a stronger voice in controlling the pace of work, productivity expectations, and other matters such as breaks and concerns about physical demands.

We have partnered with Amazon on issues of great import to consumers, including fighting fraud and supporting financial literacy for teens and appreciate the company’s dedication to those concerns and its pledge to support a $15 an hour minimum wage nationally, not only for its workforce but for every hourly worker. President Biden has called the Bessemer, AL election a “vitally important choice” for workers. We agree and hope that Amazon honors that choice.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL)

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

National Consumers League applauds confirmation of Marty Walsh as U.S. Labor Secretary

March 23, 2021

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org(412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org(202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), America’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization, welcomes the Senate confirmation of Marty Walsh as U.S. Labor Secretary. Walsh will be the first Labor Secretary in more than 50 years with a union background. During his confirmation hearing, Walsh spoke out against systemic racism and pledged to do the hard work of enacting policies that address the issue. “It’s not simply just throwing fancy words out there, but in policies, it’s actually doing the work, rolling up our sleeves,” he told Senators.

The following statement is attributable to NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

We look forward to Marty Walsh’s confirmation as Secretary of the Department of Labor. His background as a union leader in the building trades and as a former state legislator and the mayor of Boston will suit him well for the position. In recent years, we have seen worker rights and worker protections seriously eroded; Marty Walsh will fix that. He will restore badly needed protections and support workers’ right to collective bargaining.

Walsh was a proponent of Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which passed the House last year. It would add labor protections for workers and make it easier to organize. He will work to ensure that the labor inspectorate is revitalized and he will restore the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as an entity that safeguards the health and safety of workers. He is also a supporter of raising the minimum wage, which has not kept up with inflation and should receive a major increase.

The National Consumers League works closely with the Department of Labor in pursuing strategies to reduce global child labor. We know that Walsh views the exploitation of children in child labor and the forced labor of children and adults as a human rights abuse that deserves concerted action. We look forward to Marty Walsh’s leadership at this vital cabinet position as the nation emerges from a dreadful pandemic that has impacted so much of the American workforce.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL)

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.