02-19-2017  4:03 am      •     

Donna Hammond is the business manager for the electricians union, IBEW (the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.) She represents workers in Washington at the City of Portland, Multnomah County, the Portland School District, as well as at television stations, KGW and KATU, radio station KQAC and union central itself, the AFL-CIO. Hammond talked to Lisa Loving about why she loves unions.

TSN: What kinds of workers does your union represent?
DH: The IBEW represents inside construction electricians, low-voltage electricians, residential electricians, AFL-CIO members and organizers, broadcast engineers and material handlers.

TSN: What are the benefits of a union job?
DH: A few of the benefits of a union job are: Wages, Hours, Working Conditions, and Job Security
The union is responsible for negotiating the wages for employees and establishing step increases for different classifications. The union also negotiates the employees start and stop hours and when overtime will be paid. The union supports safe working conditions, and at IBEW we have a drug-free workplace policy in our contract which requires pre-employment testing along with random testing.
The security that comes along with being a union member is knowing that there's someone in place who will assist you in discussion and working through workplace issues. If an union member is called into a discussion by their supervisor and the union member believes that the results of the discussion could lead to discipline or other adverse consequences, the union member has the right to request union representation at the investigatory interview.

TSN: How does a young person begin to think about getting a job covered by your union?
DH: I am a beneficiary of working class parents who were union. I was blessed to have been raised by two parents who were also active union members. Just about everyone I knew was a union member…teachers, construction workers, butchers, bus drivers, machinists, mechanics, laborers. And, because of their union membership and benefits, their wages were significantly more than the non-union counterparts. And, their quality of life was different.
When I was seventeen, I remember sharing with a friend about job selection on day when we were on the bus. He had two job offers and wanted to know which one he should select, one was union and the other was not. The other consideration for him was a difference in pay…the union job had a lower starting salary than the non union job. I remember sharing with him that even though the union job had a lower starting salary, he should select the union job because of the security and the scheduled pay increases. I ran into him again about two years later and he looked broke down as he told me he regretted not taking the union position. The non-union job looked more attractive but it did not last long.
Another story: my niece was just offered two positions in Denver, Co. She called and asked for employment advice. She said that the non-union position paid more money and that she would have to pay union dues with the other position. I reminded her of her union upbringing that she had forgotten. She had walked on picket lines, carried picket signs, advocated Jobs for Justice, walked door to door… and had been the voice to workers who did not have a voice to their management. And that the union dues that she would be required to pay for membership were a small price to pay for job security, secure wages and benefits, and union representation. She responded… I knew that, I was just testing you Auntie Donna.

TSN: What is the most important thing to know about union jobs and the role unions play in the workplace?
DH: It's important that young people know and remember who brought them the eight-hour workday, the weekend, paid vacations, health-care benefits, and pensions.
Employers did not wake up one morning and say, "the workers need"…NO! These are the benefits that workers receive because of unions.
Unions also dictate working conditions for all workers. When union market share declines, conditions decline for all workers. When unions were forming, they would negotiate a contract at one factory or mill. Then the factory on the other side of town would provided the same benefits to their workers –even without a union.
They did it to keep the union out. But, the workers benefitted because of the union at the other workplace.

Unions are still needed. Without unions, workers could kiss their _ _ _ goodbye.

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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