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<< November 2014 >>
S M T W T F S
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SANDY'S WRATH: DONATE

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What's New at MTD
Austal USA Cited for the Third Time in Five Years for Serious Health and Safety Violations
WASHINGTON, DC—Navy shipbuilder, Austal USA, was cited November 18, 2014, by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), for 12 serious health and safety violations. This was the third citation in the last five years.

The company was cited and fined for a dozen health violations including fall hazards; improperly secured gas cylinders; improper wiring, exposing workers to possible electrical shock, and other electrical hazards; failure to prevent accidental machine startup; improper machine guards exposing workers to potential amputations, puncture and being caught in machines; failing to properly store and label hazardous materials.  Some of the most concerning issues is the overexposure to copper fumes while welding, along with overexposure to aluminum dust. Fines totaled more than $40,000.

Austal USA, is the U.S. subsidiary of the Australian company Austal, LLC. The company builds the Independence Variant of the LCS Class high-speed for the U.S. Navy. 

“The government expects that contractors, such as Austal, should not only deliver a good product, but also conduct operations in a safe manner,” said Joseph Roesler, OSHA’s area director in Mobile, in a press release issued by OSHA. “The lack of attention to safety and health issues unnecessarily exposed employees to hazards at the Mobile facility, and these hazards need to be addressed and controlled throughout the shipbuilding process.”

“We have been saying for years that there are serious safety concerns in that shipyard,” said Ron Ault, president of the Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO. “These are some of the most egregious violations that are putting workers at risk right now, but, also down the road. The company is failing to provide proper ventilation allowing workers to be overexposed to copper fumes and aluminum dust.  That failure can lead to illnesses later in life. We’ve had reports of numerous workers experiencing chronic respiratory issues, headaches, and nose bleeds. And, workers are being fired for missing work because they can’t get rid of these respiratory and flu like symptoms. A quick look at the Safety data sheets related to the potential health hazards from being exposed to these materials at Austal is alarming. Flu & pneumonia like symptoms, chronic respiratory issues, memory loss, pulmonary fibrosis, kidney problems and cancer are some of the most distressing health effects.”

The Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO was contacted by workers seeking a union at the shipyard a few years ago and has been conducting an organizing campaign through their Mobile Metal Trades Council.

Austal receives billions dollars from their Navy contract and has received more than $100 million in funding from the state of Alabama. “With all of the government funding that this foreign company receives there is no excuse for ignoring basic health and safety laws,” said Ault. 

The Metal Trades Department is a trade department of the AFL-CIO. It was chartered in 1908 to coordinate negotiating, organizing and legislative efforts of affiliated metalworking and related crafts and trade unions. Seventeen national and international unions are affiliated with the MTD today. More than 100,000 workers in private industry and federal establishments work under contracts negotiated by MTD Councils. Workers retain membership in their own trade unions.

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Cecil Roberts addresses the Annual Metal Trades Department Conference
MTD Celebrates Another Successful Conference

Thank you to all who attended the Annual Metal Trades Department Conference. We hope you enjoyed the experience and will be able to incorporate some of what you learned at your Council.

The Department would like to thank the speakers who took time to come and share their knowledge and experience with us. Their presence helped make our Conference a success.

Christine Kenngott from the AFL-CIO Digital Strategies Department has put together a packet of information from her presentation for those that are interested in taking advantage of the services the AFL-CIO is offering our Councils. See the attached pdf or visit the link below for details.

MTD Digital Strategies


Download: MetalTradesDigital.pdf
Report: Right-to-Work States Get 'Free Ride' Off American Taxpayers

Reprinted from www.goiam.org

Workers in states with so-called “right-to-work” laws on average receive a disproportionate amount of public assistance, compared with the federal income taxes they pay, than workers in states that require every worker to pay their fair share for union representation, according to a report released by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Researchers say right-to-work laws encourage more workers to “free-ride,” not only unions’ efforts by not contributing dues or fees, but also the rest of American taxpayers.

“By paying more in taxes, workers in [non-right-to-work] states are subsidizing the low-wage, low-skill model of employment in right-to-work states,” reads the report entitled “Free Rider States.”

Researchers find that while right-to-work states may experience a small increase in employment, any economic advances are immediately undercut by “a significant decrease in total labor income, a considerable decline in state income tax revenues, an even larger drop in federal income tax revenues, and an increased depletion of public budgets.”

Also as a result, unions become “resource-starved, causing [them] to underperform,” reads the report. “The true intent of a right-to-work law is to discourage union activity and reduce bargaining power for workers.”

As it currently stands, 24 states have right-to-work laws allowing non-union workers to receive the benefits of collective bargaining off the backs of their dues-paying co-workers. But the conservative push for more right-to-work laws is “evolving mutating,” says a recent report by the St. Louis/Southern Illinois Labor Tribune.

Conservatives are now targeting the city and county level, in a twisted effort to get the issue before the Supreme Court.

“Like a deadly disease mutating into an even deadlier form, right-to-work has mutated in a new, more sinister direction,” writes labor reporter Ed Finkelstein. “Quietly, the American City County Exchange (ACCE) – an initiative of the archconservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – has begun working to pass right-to-work laws at the city and county level. Or at least that appears to be its public goal. A review by the Labor Tribune of the group’s initial efforts clearly indicates a new right-wing strategy, one where RTW backers, whether they win or lose at the local level, expect legal challenges from the losing side that will ultimately get the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court. The legal challenges, funded by the National Right To Work Foundation or the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation, will wind up before what one reporter called ‘the corporate-friendly U.S. Supreme Court.’”

Read more on the right wing’s new right-to-work tactic here.

Statement from Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO President Ault on Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order

I am honored to be at the White House to witness the signing of the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order.  The Metal Trades Department and its affiliated unions have been advocating for and supporting this action for many years.

Our organizations have witnessed first hand the abuses of unscrupulous federal contractors wage theft of their workers and the unlawful retaliation when workers try to exercise their rights. The terms of the Contractor's federal contracts require them to obey and abide by the laws. Although the vast majority of contractors play by the rules, every year tens of thousands of American workers are not treated fairly. Many are denied overtime wages, not hired or paid fairly because of their gender or age, or have their health and safety put at risk by corporations contracting with the federal government that cut corners.  Today, President Obama is cracking down on federal contractors who put workers’ safety and hard-earned pay at risk.

This Executive Order means that there will be consequences that will actually deter this unlawful action.

We thank President Obama for issuing this Executive Order.

# # #

The Metal Trades Department is a trade department of the AFL-CIO. It was chartered in 1908 to coordinate negotiating, organizing and legislative efforts of affiliated metalworking and related crafts and trade unions. Seventeen national and international unions are affiliated with the MTD today. More than 100,000 workers in private industry and federal establishments work under contracts negotiated by MTD Councils. Workers retain membership in their own trade unions.

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