Today's Fair Shots - May 19th, 2017
1-Sign On for a 'Fair Trade' Renegotiation of NAFTA
2-Tesla Not So Cutting Edge When It Comes to Treatment of Workers
3-Austin Mayor: Besides Harming Immigrants, SB 4 Seeks to Shut Up Local Officials
4-Parker: Abbott Has 'Most Bigoted, Racist Record in the Country'
5-Do Something! Sign Statement in Support of Fasting Yale Graduate Students Who Are Seeking Union Contract
1) President Trump has given notice that the White House plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The devil will be in the details, AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka suggests:
The administration's formal announcement that it intends to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement offers potential for progress, but a good outcome is far from guaranteed. While the president has called NAFTA the worst trade deal in history, his administration has given conflicting signals as to its priorities, raising the prospect that some of NAFTA's most problematic elements could remain intact.
Working people have set a high standard for the deep reforms we are seeking in new trade deals and policies: we must elevate and effectively enforce workers' rights and environmental standards, eliminate excessive corporate privileges, prioritize good jobs and safeguard democracy. This is the standard we will use to judge any renegotiation. The labor movement has been working to reform America's flawed trade policies for more than a quarter-century, and we will continue to fight to fix a trade deal that has wreaked havoc on working families across North America.
Meanwhile, Bob Martinez Jr., President of the International Association of Machinists, posted this statement:
NAFTA represents the failed trade model that we warned about. Since its implementation, hundreds of thousands workers in the U.S. and Canada have lost their jobs as company after company have moved production to Mexico, a country where fundamental human rights do not exist. NAFTA should be dissolved immediately. If policymakers insist on renegotiating it, real and enforceable labor standards based on ILO Conventions must be included in the core of the agreement, investor to state dispute mechanisms must be deleted and rules of origin must be strong. Among other things, Mexico must demonstrate that fundamental human rights are enforced and effective, before enjoying the benefits of the trade agreement.
Do something! Brother Bob Cash of the Texas Fair Trade Coalition passes along this link for you to sign a petition calling for a fair version of NAFTA: https://petitions.signforgood.com/ReplaceNAFTA/?code=CTC
2) Tesla may be the cutting edge of tomorrow in autos, but its labor practices appear to lean toward the heart of yesterday's sweatshops, the Guardian reports in an expose on safety in the factory.
Tesla makes its autos in the same factory where United Auto Workers once assembled Toyotas. It's clear from this article that any remnant of those decent working conditions is still around only by accident. Incredibly, Tesla's famous leader, Elon Musk, is talking down the value of the company in the article:
When Tesla bought a decommissioned car factory in Fremont, California, Elon Musk transformed the old-fashioned, unionized plant into a much-vaunted "factory of the future", where giant robots named after X-Men shape and fold sheets of metal inside a gleaming white mecca of advanced manufacturing.
The appetite for Musk's electric cars, and his promise to disrupt the carbon-reliant automobile industry, has helped Tesla's value exceed that of both Ford and, briefly, General Motors (GM). But some of the human workers who share the factory with their robotic counterparts complain of grueling pressure - which they attribute to Musk's aggressive production goals - and sometimes life-changing injuries.
Ambulances have been called more than 100 times since 2014 for workers experiencing fainting spells, dizziness, seizures, abnormal breathing and chest pains, according to incident reports obtained by the Guardian. Hundreds more were called for injuries and other medical issues.
In a phone interview about the conditions at the factory, which employs about 10,000 workers, the Tesla CEO conceded his workers had been "having a hard time, working long hours, and on hard jobs", but said he cared deeply about their health and wellbeing. His company says its factory safety record has significantly improved over the last year.
Musk also said that Tesla should not be compared to major US carmakers and that its market capitalization, now more than $50bn, is unwarranted. "I do believe this market cap is higher than we have any right to deserve," he said, pointing out his company produces just 1% of GM's total output.
"We're a money-losing company," Musk added. "This is not some situation where, for example, we are just greedy capitalists who decided to skimp on safety in order to have more profits and dividends and that kind of thing. It's just a question of how much money we lose. And how do we survive? How do we not die and have everyone lose their jobs?"...
However, some Tesla workers argue the company's treatment of injured workers discourages them from reporting their injuries. If workers are assigned to "light duty" work because of an injury, they are paid a lower wage as well as supplemental benefits from workers' compensation insurance, a practice that Tesla said was in line with other employers and California law.
"I went from making $22 an hour to $10 an hour," said a production worker, who injured his back twice while working at Tesla. "It kind of forces people to go back to work."
"No one wants to get a pay cut because they're injured, so everyone just forces themselves to work through it," added Adam Suarez, who has worked at the factory for about three years.
Tesla said it was determined to further improve its safety standards. "While some amount of injuries is inevitable, our goal at Tesla is to have as close to zero injuries as possible and to become the safest factory in the auto industry worldwide," the spokesperson said.
Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/18/tesla-workers-factory-conditions-elon-musk?CMP=share_btn_tw
3) Austin Mayor Steve Adler points up today in an Austin American-Statesman column that SB 4, the "sanctuary cities" bill that will be challenged in court over its usurpation of immigration law, also seeks to prevent local officials from exercising their right to free speech.
In fact, the new law criminalizes efforts by officials to refuse cooperation with immigration officials that is now voluntary under federal law:
For decades, the Texas Legislature has been a backseat driver, second guesser and insufferable micromanager to Austin. Now, our Legislature and governor have crossed the line by imperiling our most basic freedoms. Not only did state lawmakers recently pass the governor's sanctuary city bill that went way beyond federal immigration law, but the Texas attorney general just filed suit against me and others for speaking out against it.
We speak out because, if this law goes into effect, Austin and other Texas cities will be forced to make our communities less safe. And we're speaking out even though this new law would, incredibly enough, allow our state attorney general to remove local elected officials from office if they endorse a different policy, even one that's in accordance with federal immigration law...
Police chiefs all over the country tell us that statutes like Texas' new law will drive people into the shadows and make Austin less safe. I said that I expected that this law would be challenged in court. And for endorsing this view, the Texas attorney general has sued me for speaking out.
Don't get me wrong - I'm glad we're going to court. Since the Legislature went into session in January, Austin has had to sit on the sidelines while state lawmakers have treated our community's safety like a political football. Now we get to have a federal judge decide whether the United States or one state determines federal immigration policy. We are eager to protect local police discretion to keep our communities safe and to protect individual constitutional rights.
But what is particularly worrisome for me and other mayors is the part of the law and the lawsuit intended to shut us up by threatening our jobs if we don't endorse a policy we know is wrong. I was elected by the people of Austin and will keep speaking out for them. No one, elected or not, should ever feel pressured by the government not to speak their mind, even as they otherwise follow the law.
I will do my best to keep Austin safe and will go to court to do so. That's the job I was elected to do, and I'll keep doing it as long as the people keep me in office.
Read more: http://www.statesman.com/news/local/adler-glad-going-court-over-immigration-law/1a5GlLAfqxXmh5buyodNeL/
4) Also in the "But Tell Us What You Really Think" department, frequent Dallas Morning News columnist Richard Parker called out Gov. Greg Abbott today:
Congratulations, Greg Abbott. You are now officially the sitting governor with the most bigoted, racist record in the country.
That is no small achievement, sir. And while I don't profess to know what's actually in your heart, your policies and track record as a politician are clear. As we wrap up another legislative session, it's useful to reflect on your tenure. During your administration, Texas will have adopted or defended laws that are anti-Mexican, anti-Hispanic, anti-black and oh-so-slyly anti-LGBT.
And under your watch, Texas has steadily slipped among states in a variety of economic rankings. You, Mr. Abbott, make George W. Bush and Rick Perry look like history's giants.
It's all been simmering for a while, actually, but it's finally come to a boil with your so-called crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities, an issue invented of whole cloth to demonstrate your anti-Mexican credentials without using the word Mexican. You called it an emergency so the legislature would actually allow local police to ask people their citizenship status, a law that threatens sheriffs, cops, mayors and bureaucrats with jail unless they do more than federal law requires. You made the whole thing up in a way that would make Donald Trump proud.
But there is was no emergency. Heck, there wasn't even a problem.
Read more: https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2017/05/17/abbott-represents-one-bigoted-governorships-country
5) Do Something! Via AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka and UNITE HERE President D. Taylor, here is an opportunity to sign on in support of fasting Yale University graduate students. The students voted for collective bargaining but are being stonewalled by the university in contract negotiations while Yale leaders hope for the Trump National Labor Relations Board to overturn the right of graduate students to unionize.
The link provides a simple sign-on:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At the request of UNITE HERE President D Taylor, I am sharing with you his note about the fight for a union Yale graduate students are waging, and encouraging you to sign onto the International Solidarity Statement (http://bit.ly/2qvBcVd), which you can read and add your name to by clicking on the link. Secretary-Treasurer Shuler, Executive Vice President Gebre and I have signed onto the statement, and Liz will be representing the Federation at an event at Yale this coming Monday. Below, please find President Taylor's message about the long and valiant campaign these workers have been fighting.
Richard L. Trumka
Graduate teachers at Yale have been fighting for a union for over 25 years. In February, graduate teachers won their NLRB elections, but since that time, the Yale administration has refused to negotiate with their union, UNITE HERE Local 33. Despite calls from 12,000 members of the Yale and New Haven community including over 100 faculty of Yale and the Yale Law School, the Yale administration continues to stall in the hope that a Trump-appointed NLRB will overturn graduate teachers right to organize. On April 25th, 8 courageous graduate teachers began an indefinite fast to protest the university's intransigence. Since that time, graduate teachers have been fasting, committing acts of civil disobedience, marching, picketing, and occupying the plaza in front of the Yale President's office 24-7 with an encampment called 33 Wall Street. We are asking you to sign onto this statement which is both a celebration of the struggle of these young workers and a clear demand that the Yale administration stop its assault on workers' rights.
D Taylor, President UNITE HERE