Author Archives: Joe Doc

Make a Call to Stop Fast Track (NOW)!


- Congress just introduced a Fast Track bill that will allow massive trade deals to be negotiated behind closed doors. If Fast Track passes, it would virtually guarantee the passage of trade deals that will ship jobs overseas and sell out US workers for corporate profit.

Call your members of Congress and tell them to oppose Fast Track because it’s undemocratic and will drive down wages for workers like you.

Go to: and Fill out the form and the PA. AFL-CIO will call you, give you some brief instructions and then connect you to one of your members of Congress.


Workers’ Memorial Day Is Coming


- Workers’ Memorial Day is observed every year on April 28. It is a day to honor those workers who have died on the job, to acknowledge the grievous suffering experienced by families and communities, and to recommit ourselves to the fight for safe and healthful workplaces for all workers.

It is also the day OSHA was established in 1971. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their workers. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Memorial Day observances are fast approaching. The PA. AFL-CIO has been working with our Central Labor Councils, Community Service Liaisons, and affiliates to assemble a list of observances and events around Pennsylvania. Use the URL below to view the events coming up, and find one near you so that you can participate.

If your union or organization is holding any type of event to commemorate this important day that is not currently on our list, please send the information to us as soon as possible, so we can help promote it.

Please participate in these events and show your support for safer jobs. Our fight will continue until every worker can go to work and return home safe and healthy at the end of the day.


4/15: National Day of Action for fast food worker justice!

By Philly Jobs With Justice

- On Wednesday, April 14th, at 3:00 pm, Jobs with Justice, Philly Coalition of Labor Union Women, and SLAP @ Penn will be joining Fight for 15’s national day of action. We’ll join community members, fast food workers, clergy, and working families standing together to demand that fast food franchises pay their employees enough to live–at least $15 an hour.

McDonald’s is already feeling the pressure. Earlier this month, they tried to undermine the national day of action by enacting a slight, stingy pay raise–nowhere close to what these workers need. Let’s keep the fight hot and let these fast food corporations know that their workers deserve a living wage, not pocket change!

We need you out there with us! Here’s how to join:

• At 3 pm, we’ll rally at the McDonald’s at 40th and Walnut, one of the busiest McDonald’s franchises in the city.
• At 4 pm, we’ll start marching down Walnut towards the citywide convergence site at 30th & Market.
• If you can’t make it at 3 pm, you can still make the citywide convergence at 30th and Market; it’s set to begin at 4:30 pm.

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Continue the push for modernization (not privatization) of PA. liquor stores.

By UFCW 1776

- Some Republican legislators refuse to give up on liquor privatization. That is why we cannot afford to give up on the better/common-sense alternative: modernization.

Touch base with your legislator — let them know you are still paying attention the privatization debate and their stance on the issue. Remind them that modernization makes more sense for a number of reasons: convenience, jobs and much-needed revenue.

To Find who your legislator is and their contact information here, go to:


Workers Mobilizing To Stop Fast Track


- As you know, we have been sounding the alarm bells on Fast Track legislation and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) all year. After Pennsylvania lost half a million good manufacturing jobs to unfair trade deals of the past 25 years, we simply can’t afford another bad trade deal that will ship more US jobs overseas. Fast Track would eliminate any transparency or accountability from the process, and would ensure that corporate interests continue to write the rules behind closed doors.

We are asking members of Congress to oppose Fast-Track for TPP. The AFL-CIO toll free number for workers to call and leave their message with their U.S. Representatives in the Congress is 1-855-712-8441. Also the Communications Workers of America (CWA) have designated every Wednesday as National Call-In Day for their members and for all workers to use the toll free number 1-877-795-7862 to leave a message with their U.S. Senators in Congress to strongly oppose Fast Track. Please share these phone numbers with your friends and co-workers.

U.S. Senator Bob Casey opposes Fast Track. Senator Pat Toomey has not stated his position.

Across Pennsylvania, Area Labor Federations and Central Labor Councils are organizing meetings with their members of Congress in district offices to get a commitment on whether they support or oppose Fast Track.

Earlier this week, President Bloomingdale and Secretary-Treasurer Snyder attended a meeting with Republican Congressman Tim Murphy which was held at the Allegheny County Labor Council offices led by President Shea – and the Congressman agreed that Fast Track legislation is terrible for American jobs.

Workers have also been asking Congressman Tom Marino at his public meetings this week throughout the district what is his position on Fast Track. He has been telling us that he opposes it and supports fair trade.

Several other meetings are taking place this week and next, and we will keep you posted when we learn more about the positions of Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation.

This bad trade deal will destroy jobs and drive down the wages and benefits of all workers.

The members of our Congressional Delegation are back in their districts for one more week giving their constituents the opportunity to meet them in their offices and ask them where they stand on Fast Track and TPP. If you get an answer from your congressman, please let us know!

Submitting letters to the editor of your home town newspaper is good way to elevate this issue in the eyes of the public and build additional support among working families. Contact our Communications Director Jim Deegan to obtain materials for the letter writing campaign as well as talking points and fact sheets. He can be reached via email at

We are also asking our Area Labor Federations and Central Labor Councils to conduct a ten minute letter writing session before each meeting, collecting letters from local union leaders and activists to their members of Congress. The letter will be sent to President Trumka, and he will deliver them to Congress.

Keep building momentum, and help all of us fight back against Fast Track!

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Pennsylvania’s municipal pensions are underfunded by $7.7 billion, and here’s why

By Irina Zhorov, WESA

- Standing in a sun-drenched room, Jim Rosipal pointed to a framed assemblage on the wall. In it, a police officer’s uniform shirt, a medal for valor, a gas cap cover from the Harley Davidson he rode, and valve stem covers in the shape of little pigs. “Back in those days we were called pigs every now and then,” Rosipal said. “Didn’t bother us at all.”

Rosipal worked for the Monroeville Police Department for 28 years. After serving in the Vietnam War and a brief stint as a security guard, it was his first and last full time job.

“My dad was a policeman in Patton Township before it became Monroeville,” he said. “My brother was a policeman in Monroeville. So to me it was in my blood. I always wanted to be a policeman, and I always wanted to be a policeman in Monroeville.”

He retired 18 years ago, when he was 52 years old. He has some income – he performs drug tests, rates golf courses, and drives a hearse—but he relies on his pension for most of his support. “It’s my paycheck for the work that I did do in the past,” he said.

Rosipal has what’s called a defined benefit plan. That means he’ll receive pension checks—calculated based on his salary during his work years—until his death. It’s a kind of long term bargain public agencies make with their employees: relatively low salaries now in exchange for steady benefits upon retirement.

But the pension fund that cuts him a check every month is distressed. It has about 73 percent of the money it needs. In all, 562 municipalities in the state are at some level of distress, underfunded in total by $7.7 billion.

A problem for everyone, not just retirees

Most communities make contributions to their pension funds from their general funds. As a result, Tim Little, Monroeville borough’s manager, said any increase in pension contributions affects the services a municipality can deliver. That includes everything from maintaining roads, to making new hires for the local government, to programming in parks.

“It’s state law that you have to pay the pension obligation. You can’t get around that, you have to pay that,” Little said. “So when it comes time to making out the budget, you pit all the fixed costs into the budget and whatever’s left over you put into buying vehicles, repairing roads, buying commodities, salt, aggregate, whatever the case may be. So if your pension costs go up it’s just taking away from something else.”

In Monroeville taxes went up recently, but there’s still less money for road work than in the past. Some municipalities, like Allentown, have sold off assets to fund their pensions. Other inflexible costs have the same effect, but pension costs have been growing in many municipalities. In Reading, pension obligations will have risen by more than 800 percent from 2003 to 2016 estimates. In Lancaster they’ve gone up more than 200 percent since 2006. In Philadelphia in 2005 pension obligations made up 9 percent of the budget; today, that number stands at 15 percent. In Monroeville, pension costs make up 9 percent of the entire budget.

How we got here

There are many reasons why municipal pension funds in the Commonwealth are struggling (though, in actual dollars, they’re doing better than the state pension funds). Many funds lost money in market downturns, like the one in 2008, and have not been able to recover. Systemic issues make funding municipal pensions, especially for smaller jurisdictions, inefficient. But there are also factors affecting pension funds that municipalities actually have control over.

Here’s how it works: pensions are long-term commitments similar to mortgages, said Brian Jensen, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Economy League of Greater Pittsburgh. “You have a debt with your mortgage that has to be paid, maybe over a 30 year period, so you have an annual payment that’s due to the bank.” Each year a certain amount needs to go into a pension fund, made up of employee contributions and, if a municipality qualifies, state aid. The fund’s money is invested and whatever the investments earn also goes into the fund. The municipality is the funder of last resort, contributing the remainder of what’s determined to be the total necessary annual payment.

But what if estimates about the wildcat variable, investment returns, are wrong?

“If they don’t make that return, now they have a shortfall and there’s not a real effective way for the state then to make them make up that last year’s shortfall,” said Jensen. “It takes a long time to make back those underpayments in the pension plans.”

Pennsylvania law allows municipalities to assume a rate of return between 5 percent and 9 percent. Many municipalities skew toward the lower, more conservative end of that spectrum. But the cities with the highest unfunded liabilities—Philadelphia (7.85 percent), Pittsburgh (7.5 percent), Allentown (8 percent), Scranton (8 percent), Reading (7.5 percent)—have chosen to use higher assumed rates of return.

Those assumptions may be unrealistic, but they can help municipalities in the short term: it means less comes out of the general fund because more is supposedly coming from investments. All in all, funds may see less money annually than they should.

“There are so many games that get played with that number with respect to actuarial studies, lifespan, all this math that goes into that can be played, so to speak, so that you end up putting less in that you really should,” said Pittsburgh City Controller, Michael Lamb.

Lifespan is another big issue. A state law from the 1950s set the floor at 50 years of age for retirement for police officers in most cities. Back then, average life expectancy was 67.

Today, “if you’re 50, you’re probably going to live until well into your 80s,” Lamb said. “So you’ve worked 20 years, but you’re going to get a pension for 30, or more. So the math there is a problem.”

On the policy side, solutions can come at the state or local level, or both, according to Lamb. Municipalities can stop the funny math and make more realistic calculations and, therefore, payments that would result in more solvent pension funds. Municipalities can also try to secure more amenable contracts, like a higher retirement age, with unions during contract negotiations. Or the state can pass laws that do those things, and more.

However, in addition to policy issues there’s also the post-industrial reality of many Pennsylvania municipalities, one of diminished populations and tax bases. In many towns there are more retired people receiving pensions than young workers paying into them. The remaining taxpayers tend to make up the difference.

Rosipal, the retired Monroeville police officer, said he’s worried about the viability of his pension. “In my age I’d feel silly going on welfare or trying to get food stamps or something,” he said. “I don’t know how we’d survive without our pension.”

Cutting pensions in Monroeville hasn’t been on the table, though in places like Scranton—which has the most distressed pension fund in the state—that could be a real issue in the near future. But Rosipal is also worried about how his beloved town will stay vibrant. He said he watched Monroeville grow and now he’s watching it struggle.


Unions Can’t Beat Right to Work Just By Calling It ‘Unfair’—They Must Fight for Everyone

BY Rand Wilson

- Wisconsin is now the 25th state to adopt a so-called “right-to-work” law, which allows workers to benefit from collective bargaining without having to pay for it.

It joins Michigan and Indiana, which both adopted right to work in 2012. Similar initiatives, or variants, are spreading to Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico and West Virginia—and the National Right to Work Committee and the American Legislative Exchange Council probably have a well-developed list of additional targets.

Without aggressive action, the right-to-work tsunami will sweep more states. To defeat it, the first step is committing to fight back, rather than resigning ourselves to what some say is inevitable.
Everyone’s Interests

We’ll have to go beyond what we’ve mostly been saying so far, which is that right to work is “unfair” or “wrong.”

That argument certainly works for most union households and many of our community allies. But the real challenge is to convince a much broader public that a strong (and fairly-funded) labor movement is in their interest and worth preserving. Clearly most Americans aren’t yet convinced.

Many unions over the last few years have undertaken important campaigns along these lines. For example, teachers unions have positioned themselves as defenders of quality public education. Refinery workers have struck for public safety.

Nurses and health care unions have fought for safe staffing to improve the quality of care. And most notably, the Service Employees (SEIU) and others have waged the “Fight for $15” for fast food and other low-wage workers.

In its own way, each union is working hard to be a champion of the entire working class. Yet with the exception of SEIU’s Fight for $15, each is essentially focused on the issues of its core constituency at work. This still limits the public’s perception of labor.

Supporters of right to work cynically play on the resentment many workers feel about their declining standard of living. Absent a union contract, the vast majority have few, if any, ways to address it. To most, organizing looks impossible and politics looks broken.

Workers’ understandable frustration is fertile ground for the far right, which promises to improve the business climate and create more jobs by stripping union members of their power.

Thus, when we anticipate right to work’s next targets, the best defense should be a good offense—one that clearly positions labor as a force for the good of all workers.
‘Just Cause for All’

Here’s one approach that would put labor on the offensive: an initiative for a new law providing all workers with due process rights to challenge unjust discipline and discharge, “Just Cause for All.”

Such a law would take aim at the “at-will” employment standard covering most non-union workers in the U.S. At-will employees can be fired for any reason and at any time—without just cause.

While such a major expansion of workers’ rights as Just Cause for All would be unlikely to pass in most state legislatures—Montana did it in 1987, but it’s still the only one—it could become law in states that allow ballot initiatives.

A well-orchestrated attack on the at-will employment standard would force the extreme, anti-worker, and big business interests who back right to work to respond. If nothing else, imagine how competing initiatives would force a debate. On one side, extending due process protections and increased job security to all workers: a real right-to-work bill. On the other side, taking away fair share contributions for collective bargaining.

This strategy isn’t untested. When the Coors beer dynasty backed a right-to-work ballot initiative in Colorado in 2008, labor collected signatures for a counter-initiative, “Allowable Reasons for Employee Discharge or Suspension,” which would have overturned at-will employment. (Labor also supported a proposal that would have provided affordable health insurance to all employees and a measure to allow workers injured on the job to sue for damages in state courts.)

Fearing that the just cause proposal might pass, centrist business people offered a deal. In exchange for labor withdrawing its proposal, they provided financial support and manpower that helped labor defeat right to work in Colorado. (For more on this story, read Raymond L. Hogler’s “The 2008 Defeat of Right to Work in Colorado: Is it the End of Section 14(b)?” in Labor Law Journal.)

While it’s unfortunate that the labor initiative didn’t go before Colorado voters, the result was still encouraging—and instructive. By championing the interests of all workers, labor split business and blunted the right-to-work effort.

To win back “fair-share” participation in the three new right-to-work states and stop further attacks, we’ll need well-planned campaigns that include grassroots mobilization, direct action, paid and earned media, and focused electoral work.

Just Cause for All campaigns should be part of the strategy. Even if we lose, campaigns for due process and job security for all will help shift the debate on right to work, leave the labor movement stronger—and make labor and its allies once again the champions of the “99%.”

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Senate Right to Work Bill is an ALEC Ripoff Bill

By Sean Kitchen

- Last month, Mike Folmer, Scott Wagner of other Republicans senators introduced Right to Work legislation. Save the shock for another time, but the bill they introduced happens to be extremely similar to the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) model Right to Work legislation. On top of drafting model Right to Work Legislation, the organization has drafted model legislation on repealing prevailing wages and passing “paycheck protection,” which happen to be legislative priorities.Listed below are some parts of Senator Folmer and Senator Wagner’s bill and ALEC’s model legislation.

On “labor organizations”

“Labor organization.” An organization, or an agency or employee representation committee, plan or arrangement in which employees participate and which exists for the purpose, in whole or in part, of dealing with employers, public or private, concerning grievances, labor disputes, wages, rates of pay, hours of employment or conditions of work. (SB 650)

The term “labor organization” means any organization of any kind, or agency or employee representation committee or union, that exists for the purpose, in whole or in part, of dealing with employers concerning wages, rates of pay, hours of work, other conditions of employment, or other forms of compensation. (ALEC)

On “dues”

Dues, fees and charges.–No person shall be required to pay or refrain from paying dues, fees or charges of any kind to a labor organization or to a charity or other third party in lieu of the payments to a labor organization as a condition of employment or continuation of employment.

to pay to any charity or other third party, in lieu of such payments, any amount equivalent to or a pro-rata portion of dues, fees, assessments, or other charges regularly required of members of a labor organization; or

Becoming to remaining a member?

Membership.–No person shall be required to become or remain a member of a labor organization as a condition of employment or continuation of employment

(A) to resign or refrain from voluntary membership in, voluntary affiliation with, or voluntary financial support of a labor organization;

(B) to become or remain a member of a labor organization;


Section 5. Violations.

(a) Offense defined.–A person violates this act if the person:

(1) directly or indirectly imposes on another person a requirement or compulsion prohibited by this act;

(2) makes an agreement, written or oral, express or implied, to directly or indirectly impose on another person a requirement or compulsion prohibited by this act; or

(3) engages in a lockout, layoff, strike, work stoppage, slowdown, picketing, boycott or other action or conduct, the purpose or effect of which is to impose on any person, directly or indirectly, any requirement or compulsion prohibited by this act.

Any agreement, understanding, or practice, written or oral, implied or expressed, between any labor organization and employer that violates the rights of employees as guaranteed by provisions of this chapter is hereby declared to be unlawful, null and void, and of no legal effect. Any strike, picketing, boycott, or other action by a labor organization for the sole purpose of inducing or attempting to induce an employer to enter into any agreement prohibited under this chapter is hereby declared to be for an illegal purpose and is a violation of the pro-visions of this chapter.

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Workers Say the Fight for 15 Isn’t Just About Raises—It’s a Fight for Meaning in Their Lives

BY David Moberg

- If Douglas Hunter succeeds with his plans on April 15, the public’s attention this year may be diverted from grumbling about taxes to demanding higher wages for millions of low-income service workers—including many who earn so little at their jobs that they need public subsidies for a minimal standard of living.

Hunter, 53, is a leader nationally and in Chicago of the Fight for $15, an ambitious campaign that New York City fast food workers launched two-and-a-half years ago. But other cities picked up the call, then other occupations, from retail workers and childcare providers to adjunct professors. It has caught the imagination of the public as well and notched some notable victories, such as a $15 minimum wage in Seattle and Seatac in Washington state, as well as in San Francisco.

“We can’t wait. Jewel isn’t waiting. People’s Gas isn’t waiting,” he says, referencing a Chicago grocery chain and natural gas utility, respectively. “We need higher wages to support our families. Many people thought we were crazy two years ago when we walked off our jobs in New York and demanded $15 an hour. They don’t think we’re crazy now.”

Workers’ right to form a union free from employer interference, the second goal of the campaign, often gets less attention than the pay hike, and the protest actions have not yet produced a formal national or local union recognized as a bargaining agent by McDonald’s or any other fast food employer. But the movement is already becoming a de facto union through its organizing of workers into aggressive and effective direct action, its attraction of widespread labor and community support and its legal challenges to employer abuse of the franchise model of business organization.

On Tuesday, Hunter, a member of the national organizing committee, led a press conference in Chicago announcing plans for the April 15 protest, billed as “the largest low wage worker mobilization in modern history.” Organizers also describe the event as a strike for many workers, but the planned rallies will involve many who will not actually walk out of their jobs, including community groups, student organizations, social justice advocates (such as #BlackLivesMatter, raising the slogan than “black workers’ lives matter”), and faith organizations (such as religious activists who “fasted for 15” last weekend in Chicago).

Actions are planned for about 200 cities in the U.S. and for allied demonstrations around the world in countries such as Italy, Switzerland, France, New Zealand, Brazil, Japan and Bangladesh, many organized with help from the International Union of Foodworkers, a global union federation.

The low-wage workers beyond the fast food business had distinct complaints but identified with the problems fast food workers have with low pay, unpredictable hours, bad working conditions and unsympathetic managers—circumstances compounded for students who face growing debt for school as they simultaneously work for inadequate pay.

The April 15 rally will include students for the first time from more than 170 universities. “The fight for 15 on April 15 is not just about fast food workers,” Montserrat Cazeres, a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who is also a retail worker. “It’s about the future for students like myself. It becomes difficult when you have to choose between what you need for your class or if you’re going to pay your bills.”

Even after graduating, a growing share of university instructors are part-time, insecure, ill-paid adjuncts, such as Matt Hoffman, who divides his teaching among several universities. “Almost one third of us part-timers live near or below the poverty line,” he says. “Faculty across Chicago and across the nation have drawn a lot of inspiration from fast food workers in the Fight For 15. Contingent faculty are in the same boat. We struggle with our bills, we have no benefits, and we have little job stability.”

Many of these conditions have worsened, but what’s remarkable is that this dismal state of affairs has persisted so long with so little protest. Hunter says he can understand how people can change, from grudging acceptance of a miserable lot to a desire for change. An African-American from the city’s west side, Hunter is the single father and sole financial supporter of a 16-year-old daughter. For the past four years, he has worked at McDonald’s, now earning $9.25 an hour.

Hunter only joined the Fight For 15 a year ago. “I didn’t want to join. It took some time. I was committed to my job. I thought I was doing what I was supposed to do. But in reality I was not.” Managers discouraged him from getting involved: “Don’t be part of it,” they said. “They’re wasting their time.”

But his daughter changed his way of looking at the world.

“My daughter and I were having a discussion one night,” Hunter said. “I was complaining about what I wasn’t able to do. But she said, ‘What are you doing?’ I thought about it long and hard. I went to work the next day. The organizers came around, and I said, This is something I can do. I want to have a say. And my daughter supported me 100 percent. Now it feels good every day. She feels proud of me. “

As organizers explained his legal rights, and he saw that other strikers returned to their jobs, he grew more confident. He won recognition from other workers, winning positions of leadership, as well as from his daughter and her friends. He also developed a new sense of morality, a view that justified opposition to injustice and challenge to illegitimate authority. The movement also helped open up his social universe and expand his sense of solidarity with workers around the world—which is what Douglas says so excites him about the April 15 actions.

“I remember when we were out at Oak Brook last year,” he said. He was part of a protest on the McDonald’s Chicago suburban corporate campus that involved a sit-in blockade of a street leading to the office complex and arrests for the acts of civil disobedience.

“It was the first time I was arrested for doing something right.” For Duncan, the Fight for 15 has turned into a fight not just for money or a union, but a fight for meaning in his life and a moral community. That fight is part of what will continue to grow on April 15.

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Obama’s fourth veto protects unionization rules

By Gregory Korte

- President Obama vetoed a congressional resolution seeking to overturn new unionization voting rules Tuesday, keeping in place procedures that will allow a more streamlined process for workers to vote to unionize.

Republicans said those new rules would allow for “ambush elections,” and tried to roll back the new National Labor Relations Board rule with a congressional resolution of disapproval.

It’s the second veto of the year for Obama, and the fourth of his presidency. More vetoes are sure to come: the White House has issued 17 specific veto threats on bills working their way through Congress, and several others still being drafted in committee.

With Congress out of session for its Easter recess, Obama issued a “pocket veto” of the resolution. But as he’s done twice before, he also sent the Senate a veto notice “to leave no doubt that the resolution is being vetoed.”

The resolution passed the Senate 53 to 46 and the House 232 to 186, with all Democrats and three Republicans voting no. Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress could still override the veto, although Republicans are well short of the two-thirds majorities necessary.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the veto shows that Obama is passing up opportunities to work with the Republican-controlled Congress to help the economy.

“Ambush elections don’t help workers. Instead, they bully workers into accepting unionization as fast as possible. That’s not pro-worker. That’s pro-union, and there’s a big difference,” McCarthy said in a statement.

But Obama said the new rules were “common-sense, modest changes to streamline the voting process for folks who wanted to join a union.” If workers want to join a union, “they should be able to do so, and we shouldn’t be making it impossible for that to happen,” he said.

Obama also announced he would hold a summit on worker’s rights at the White House this fall. “Part of what we want to do is to make sure that we give workers the capacity to have their voices heard, to have some influence in the workplace, to make sure that they’re partners in building up the U.S. economy, and that growth is broad-based, and that everybody is benefiting just as everybody is contributing,” he said.

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