Elizabeth Bukey: Author Archive

Elizabeth Bukey, former Communications Associate, is a graduate of Carleton College. She holds a BA in Russian and previously served as the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Legislative Assistant for Civil Rights and Religious Liberty. Elizabeth is the first American Rights at Work chili cook-off champion, and as a half-marathon and NaNoWriMo finisher, is often found in running attire or typing on an old-school iBook.


The status quo is insane

In case anyone is wondering if labor law reform is really needed, the case of Blackstone Hotel in Chicago provides an answer. Workers there formed a union in 2008, but have since faced an onslaught of federal law violations by the hotel. And now, after a year and a half of negotiation, they still don’t have a contract.

Last week, an NLRB administrative law judge ruled that the hotel illegally tried to get employees to decertify the union, and laid off workers and changed employee health plans without involving the union. As Crain’s Chicago Business reports:

Alexis Canalos, a researcher for Local 1, estimates Blackstone workers are owed at least $250,000 in back wages and health premiums.

I’m glad the NLRB is holding the hotel accountable. But despite this victory, the workers are still waiting for a contract. Read more »


Join us for the sixth annual American Rights at Work Awards Celebration

What do Matt Damon, Howard Zinn, and the American Pie movies have in common?  The answer is movie producer Chris Moore, who will be presenting at our annual American Rights at Work Awards Celebration on June 28.

Moore is a producer of Good Will Hunting, the American Pie movies, and The People Speak – a film inspired by the work of historian Howard Zinn.  The People Speak features stars like Damon, Danny Glover, and Kerry Washington performing the letters, diaries and speeches of everyday Americans, giving voice to those who spoke up for change throughout U.S. history. Moore will present a special tribute to Zinn, whose work brought to light the extraordinary power of ordinary people in creating social change.

Buy your tickets now for our annual event, where we celebrate the recipients of the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award who, like her, champion workers’ rights as human rights. Emcee Jim Hightower—former Texas Agriculture Commissioner and nationally-renowned commentator, writer, speaker, and author—will keep us on our toes as we honor founding American Rights at Work Board member Beth Shulman (In Memoriam), and green real estate developer Gerding Edlen Development, Inc.

Read more »


Taking on the assault on public employees

Anti-worker pundits and politicos have been attacking public sector workers, but anyone with a lick of sense knows it wasn’t workers who created the economic crisis.  AFSCME President Gerald W. McEntee has a nice rebuttal to attacks on public sector workers.

McEntee points out that public sector workers like librarians, corrections officers, cops and firemen are hardly rolling in money:

AFSCME’s non-teaching public employee members earn, on average, $45,000 a year to protect the public and the most vulnerable members of our society. After a career of service, our members retire with modest pensions of about $19,000 per year. And, unlike most private sector workers, our members typically contribute towards this pension benefit.

And while anti-worker voices say it’s unfair for public sector workers to have better benefits than private sector, they’re right.  They just have their solution backwards:

What is truly galling for private sector employees is the outright refusal of our political and economic elites to recognize and deal with stagnant wages and eroding retirement and health security. Our nation’s problem is not that public service workers have decent pensions, it is that so many other employees don’t.

It’s not a coincidence that a higher percentage of public sector workers belong to unions and they have fair wages and benefits.  Unions exist to give workers the power to making a decent living and have respect on the job.  When our labor laws catch up to our values, the American Dream will be back in reach for millions of workers—in all sectors of the economy.


Big shocker: Unions improve mine safety

We’re not making it up, people: mineworkers who belong to unions have more freedom to raise safety concerns without fearing retaliation.  That’s according to workers who testified at this week’s congressional hearing on the Upper Big Branch disaster.  As one worker put it, “As a union person we have the right to refuse to do work we think is unsafe,” whereas at a non-union mine like Upper Big Branch, “if you refuse, they tell you to get your bucket and go home.”  And if workers quit because of safety concerns?  They’d be barred from working within a 90-mile radius of a Massey mine.

Read more »


A privilege to make a decent living?

Another anti-worker editorial board is afflicted with the bizarre idea that that union workers are a “privileged class.” But when did making a decent living become a privilege in America? Oh, that’s right: when unscrupulous corporations drove down wages, exploited weak labor laws to keep workers from forming unions, and drove our economy off a cliff—all while raking in record-setting pay and bonuses.

The answer to an economy out of balance isn’t to let greedy corporate CEOs drag down wages and benefits until no one can afford to pay for health care, a home, or retirement. The answer is more workers forming unions — so they can bargain for fair wages, benefits, and economic security.

Read more »


Workers’ rights sacrificed “At the Altar of the Bottom Line”

Cross-posted from www.FixOurJobs.org:

At the Altar of the Bottom Line book cover imageStressed. Exhausted. Exploited. Abandoned. In a new book, Tom Juravich exposes and examines the degradation of work in the United States today. At the Altar of the Bottom Line, based on in-depth interviews with workers, lifts up the experiences of working people from diverse sectors of our economy.

Juravich, a writer, researcher, and professor at the University of Massachusetts Labor Center, spent six years interviewing workers in four different occupations:

Read more »


Pink hearts and Megan Fox

pink heartThousands of teachers and other education professionals are wearing pink hearts to school today.  Why?  Because with schools across the country facing budget cuts, an estimated 300,000 educators may receive a pink slip by the end of this school year.  The American Federation of Teachers’ “Pink Hearts, Not Pink Slips” campaign is drawing attention to the impact on students, schools and communities when drastic budget cuts result in layoffs.

One PTA in Los Angeles enlisted actress Megan Fox to create a funny—and pointed—video dramatizing the effects of budget cuts on California schools. Check it out:

Read more »


Join us at the Good Jobs, Green Jobs National Conference

Want to hear innovative companies discuss the importance of working with unions to support workers’ rights, sustain the environment, and benefit the company’s bottom line?

Join American Rights at Work at the 2010 Good Jobs, Green Jobs National Conference taking place from May 4-6, in Washington, DC.

We’re proud to join our partners at the Blue Green Alliance as a sponsor and convener of this event, and excited to host a panel highlighting real-life examples of how working in partnership with employees and their unions helps companies weather turbulent times while increasing demand for green products and services.

Our Socially Responsible Business Director, Nikki Daruwala, is moderating the panel and will be joined by Michael Peck of Gamesa USA; Molly Bordanaro, Senior Vice President at Gerding Edlen Development, Inc.; Ron Kenedi, Vice President at Sharp Solar; and William “Butch” Johnson, CEO of Flambeau River Paper.

Please register and join us at the session Partnerships That Work: Good, Green Employers on Tuesday, May 4, 2:30-4:00 p.m. at the Hilton Washington Hotel.

We hope to see you there.


Fight like hell for the living

Cross-posted from www.FixOurJobs.org:

As our friends at Interfaith Worker Justice point out, “Mother Jones is often quoted as saying, ‘Pray for the Dead, Fight like hell for the Living.’” While all of us continue to hold the victims of the Upper Big Branch mining disaster in our thoughts and prayers, we are also renewing our commitment to stand up for workers’ rights. As has been widely reported, the mine had been repeatedly cited for safety violations:

Massey Energy is actively contesting millions of dollars of fines for safety violations at its West Virginia coal mine where disaster struck yesterday afternoon…This deadly mine has been cited for over 3,000 violations by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), 638 since 2009…

Read more »