Unions pushing for pocketbook proposals from 2020 Democrats

LAS VEGAS — Ardently liberal, pro-labour and anti-corporate cash, the field of Democrats running for president may look like a union activist’s dream. But some key labour leaders are starting to worry about the topics dominating the 2020 conversation.The candidates are spending too much time talking about esoteric issues like the Senate filibuster and the composition of the Supreme Court and not enough time speaking the language of workers, several union officials said. Those ideas may excite progressive activists, they said, but they risk alienating working-class voters.“They’ve got to pay attention to kitchen-table economics,” said Ted Pappageorge, president of the Las Vegas Culinary Union that represents 60,000 hotel and casino workers. “We don’t quite see that.”Terry McGowan, president of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139, in Wisconsin, said many of the issues driving the 2020 primary so far are distractions.“The people that are into politics, the people who like sideshows, they’re into that,” he said, citing the debates over reparations for slavery and immigration as examples. “The masses just want to feed their families.”The unease may be an early warning sign for Democrats, who watched as many white, working-class voters, including many union members in key Rust Belt states, chose Trump three years ago. Democrats are hoping to win back some of those voters next year, a challenge that is made harder, some argue, by labour’s struggle to build its membership and influence its rank and file. Democrats’ early messages may not help, some said.“You see where some of the party’s being driven. It’s no secret,” said Rusty McAllister, executive secretary of the Nevada AFL-CIO.McAllister pointed to “Medicare for all” — the health care proposal of choice for several candidates — as an example of Democrats’ not seizing on labour’s top priorities. Many unions already organized and fought for private health insurance for their members. “That’s not something that I think that labour is as much focused on as some of the progressives are.”Such concerns — which stretched from the progressive-minded organizing halls of Nevada to the Rust Belt precincts — were typically focuse on the conversation, not the candidates. The early 2020 primary has included detours into debates over the Senate filibuster, the composition of the Supreme Court and breaking up technology companies.Ken Broadbent, business manager of the Pittsburgh-based Steamfitters Local 449, worried that Democrats are too focused on environmental plans like the Green New Deal, a blueprint for shifting the U.S. economy away from fossil fuels, and will neglect the importance of swing-state Pennsylvania’s rich natural gas deposits in creating jobs.“Jobs is where we’ve got to keep things focused,” Broadbent said.To be sure, many unionists are excited about the presidential field. Contenders include liberal stalwarts like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose campaign became the first in U.S. history with a unionized work force, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who joined striking Stop & Shop workers on a picket line in New Hampshire on Friday. California Sen. Kamala Harris hired a top Service Employees International Union executive for her campaign and made her first proposal one to raise teacher’s pay.Former Vice-President Joe Biden made clear that he plans to appeal to union workers, if he gets in the race. “You are coming back,” he told the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers last week. “We need you back.”Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the competition in the crowded field has amplified workers voices and issues.She noted that prominent presidential candidates quickly supported Los Angeles public school teachers when they struck in January. Warren, Sanders, Harris and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker have all proposed various taxes on higher-earning families, a departure from most past Democratic hopefuls who have treaded carefully on the issue.“It feels different than at other times,” Weingarten said. “There is far more attention and focus on working people’s economic needs.”Major endorsements are likely several months away, especially because the labour movement is treading carefully after complaints that its leadership was too quick to back Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primary over Sanders.For labour, much is at stake. Despite Republican gains, particularly with trade union members, labour remains an essential part of the Democrats’ coalition. Unions spent $169 million in 2018 on federal elections, largely on Democrats’ behalf, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Democrats won union workers by a strong 59%-39% margin in 2018, according to AP VoteCast, a national survey of the electorate.But other big donors and — small, online ones, too — increasingly compete with labour’s organizing muscle as key to Democratic victories. Activists on a broad array of issues, from gay rights to criminal justice, compete with unions for candidates’ attention. And the labour movement itself is split on its priorities, with some pushing for a focus on trade while other who represent more diverse workforces want to zoom in on immigration.All this comes as Republicans have pushed several state laws weakening organized labour. And, last year, the Supreme Court ruled that government workers can’t be forced to contribute to the unions that represent them in collective bargaining, dealing a blow to public service union’s pocketbooks.As candidates court unions for endorsements, labour leaders say they are listening for a comeback plan.Any proposal aimed at workers “must include ensuring the opportunity to join a union, no matter where you work, since that’s the best way to raise wages, improve working conditions, create family-sustaining jobs and begin to fix our rigged economy and democracy,” said SEIU president Mary Kay Henry.At a National Association of Building Trades Unions in Washington on Wednesday, several Democratic contenders talked about outlawing so-called “right to work” laws that prevent unions from automatically deducting dues from members, said the group’s president, Sean McGarvey. But, he added, he heard “very little about the actual structural changes to the National Labor Relations Act, or things they could put in place to give people a real free choice to join a union.”Michelle L. Price And Nicholas Riccardi, The Associated Press read more

Senior automotive figures recognised in Birthday Honours list

Four senior UK automotive executives have been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to the industry. News of the awards follows a series of positive industry announcements, with vehicle manufacturers targeting all-time production records following major global manufacturers committing billions of pounds to UK automotive.Dr Ian Robertson (HonDSc), Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Sales and Marketing BMW, becomes a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG).Dr Robertson’s career in the motor industry spans more than 30 years. He began his career as an engineering graduate trainee within the UK automotive industry in 1979 and has held a variety of senior roles, leading the successful global revival of brands MINI and Rolls-Royce before taking his current position on the BMW Board of Management.Lewis Booth, Formerly Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Ford Motor Company, becomes a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).Mr Booth began his career with Ford in 1978 and rose through the ranks fulfilling a range of financial and operational roles and is also well-known throughout Ford’s higher echelons for his passion of both people and products.Jerry Hardcastle, Vice President Vehicle Development and Design, Nissan Technical Centre Europe, becomes an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).Mr Hardcastle played a key role in securing production of the Nissan LEAF in the UK from 2013, which will boost jobs, skills and R&D investment in the Sunderland area. He also Chairs the Automotive Council’s Technology Group sub-committee, a body which enables close collaboration between industry and government on a range of technology priorities.Neil Samuels, Facilities Manager, Member of the Manufacturing Diversity Council, Ford Motor Company, becomes a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).Mr Samuels began his career as a technician apprentice with Ford over 29 years ago and rose through the ranks to become a senior manager of Ford sites across Europe. In his position, and as someone of Afro-Caribbean heritage, he has been recognised for his extensive work both locally and nationally for shining a positive light on diversity.Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window) read more