December 17, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – This past year has been an exciting time for the labor movement — epitomized by the Fight For $15 movement sweeping the nation — there is a real sense that after decades on the downside, trade unionism is starting to gain real momentum once again. And this week on the LaborPress Radio Show/Podcast, we welcome WIN correspondent-extraordinaire Doug Cunningham to give his unique perspective on some of the biggest labor victories that happened across the country in 2015.
We start things off local with an overview of the newly-announced partnership between NYC houses of worship and the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust. The first phase of the plan is a $300 million investment to build some 800 units of union-built affordable housing in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Jersey City. Members of the coalition including NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. gathered at historic Riverside Church last weekend to make the formal announcement.
On this week’s show, we hear both AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust CEO Steve Coyle and Building and Construction Trades President Gary LaBarbera explain why the project is especially significant, and why it should actually be a model for the way New York City and the rest of the nation builds affordable housing.
Unlike other efforts to address the housing crisis, the new AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust partnership with NYC clergy promises to bring affordable living to struggling communities around the city — while simultaneously striking a blow against pervasive income inequality. In this case, with the creation of some 1,400 solid middle class construction jobs that offer workers longterm industry careers that not only pay better, but are safer, too.
The AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust has already helped create about 145,000 units of union-built affordable housing across the nation. Cunningham talks about some of those successes, while also assessing huge union gains in the auto industry. Doug also clues us in on what's been happening on west-coast ports, as well as the latest developments in the green economy.
Back at the start of the Great Recession, auto workers were inflicted with a two-tier wage system that lowered incoming salaries to as little as $14 an hour. This past March, however, UAW workers were able to bridge the gap in the two-tier system with new “step-up” provisions that are helping to rollback recession-spawned anti-worker policies.
Organized labor even saw a reversal of fortunes in the Deep South this past year when about 161 workers at a VW plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee assembly plant won collective bargaining rights after suffering a defeat just a year prior in 2014.
This week’s extended discussion with Doug includes lots more union victories — but we also talk about the Bernie versus Hillary debate raging inside organized labor, as well as which American city really holds the distinction of being at the forefront of resurgent worker rights — Seattle or New York City!
The answers may surprise you, so don’t forget to tune into to WWRL 1600 AM this Sunday morning at 11 a.m. Also visit www.lainvasora1600.com to catch up on any other LaborPress episodes you might have missed.