Labor unions face an uncertain future as membership numbers decline. But labor activists and scholars point out that growing numbers of Latino members could help strengthen labor’s message as unions broaden their causes to include civil rights, gender and immigration issues while they focus on voter engagement and registration.
“We are in robust dialogue in this country to recognize union strength and worker power as a way to achieve success on so many fronts,” says Maria Peralta, national political director at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). “Whether it is health care or the environment, engaging Latinos on different levels can shift the power of the economy.”
Labor organizers point to unions’ growing dependence on brown and black members, including a significant number of immigrants, particularly in the service and health care industries. Scholars who study unions point to the decline of manufacturing jobs and the rise of service-oriented jobs. This in turn has broadened the conversation around workplace issues to include conditions that apply to workers in these service-oriented areas —and many of these conditions apply to nonunion workers as well.
SEIU backs the The Fight for 15 campaign, which initiated a walkout by McDonald’s workers demanding to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and address issues of sexual harassment and violence against workers.
With the growing dependence of Latino families in their ranks, unions have been more vocal about immigrant rights and legislation, for instance praising the passage of the House’s bill on Tuesday to give citizenship to the so-called Dreamers and temporary protected status, or TPS, holders.
“The building trades industry cannot afford to lose long-standing and experienced professionals, currently in high demand due to labor shortages and to maintain a highly skilled workforce,” stated Ken Rigmaiden, general president of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. The union is part of a broader coalition, Working Families United, which put out the statement supporting the House bill.
Armando Ibarra, chair of the Chicano and Latino Studies Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of The Latino Question: Politics, Laboring Classes and the Next Left, says union power extends beyond the workplace.
“Union power is in its membership, in its union members that can knock on doors, and they have a collective agenda, both political and economic on the job site and in their communities,” Ibarra says. As Latinos grow in union ranks, it makes their voices more relevant.
Despite labor’s decline, Latino growth
The percentage of workers who belong to a union has dropped from 20 percent in 1983, when comparable numbers were first collected, to 10.5 percent in 2018.
Yet statistics reported by LCLAA show a steady increase in the number of Latinos joining labor unions. Latinos make up almost 17 percent of the workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and are projected to be more than 20 percent by 2026. Currently, 9.3 percent of Latino workers are in unions.
Latinos in particular are affected by substandard working conditions, according to a report from the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA). Latinos make up the largest number of workplace deaths and injuries, and labor laws allow children as young as 12 to work on farms. With Latino workers heavily represented in agriculture, this law often has a high impact on the educational attainment and safety of young Latinos.
Workplace issues addressed by union activists, such as a demand for predictable work schedules, sexual harassment and a right to know cause after a job termination can help resonate with a broader audience, according to Laura Bucci, an assistant professor who studies labor unions at St. Joseph’s University.
Labor can’t outspend businesses, says Bucci, but it’s good at acting as a connective tissue in communities, “a group of people you have to reckon with in some way in November, and that changes political outlooks. If you have a group of people who can door knock for you, then that is something easier to see as a threat or a benefit,” Bucci states.
“There’s a reason that labor has been under attack for the past 40 years,” Ibarra says. Those who oppose labor’s influence see them not just on economic terms but as a “working class movement.”
For Latinos, unions have been an effective apparatus to mobilize their voting power in states that are less hostile to organized labor. This, in turn, has helped Democrats.
Ibarra points out the transformation of Nevada into a growing Democratic state largely because of Sen. Harry Reid’s embrace of labor organizers fueled by Latino workers in the service union.
Democrats, who align with labor on issues such as higher minimum wages and immigration, should recognize that labor participation helps translate Latino numbers into tangible votes, Ibarra told NBC News. Similarly, labor needs the support of legislators at a time when their influence is continuously challenged.
Democratic presidential hopefuls have been publicly supporting the Fight For Fifteen.
Julián Castro marched alongside SEIU President Mary Kay Henry and the Rev. William Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival in a show of support for the strikers. Castro, as well as Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar support a $15 minimum wage for U.S. workers. Both Beto O’Rourke and Mayor Pete Buttigieg released videos on Twitter to show their support for the striking Fight for Fifteen workers, as well.
In a recent event, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez went back to her bartending days to raise awareness of low wages, high housing costs and hostile work environments, all common in the service industry, which disproportionately impacts women.
“I remember working in a restaurant and you’d have people say something inappropriate or touch you and it’d be the 28th of the month and you’d have a rent check to pay,” she said.
As income inequality becomes an increasingly resonant issue and Democrats continue to point out the disproportionate impact of the GOP tax cuts in favor of the wealthy, labor-based campaigns like #FightFor15 may indeed trigger greater empathy for progressive Democratic policies, such as the Green New Deal. In a recent announcement, the SEIU was the first major union to support the sweeping environmental campaign introduced by Ocasio-Cortez.
In a press release issued by Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU, stated, “For labor unions like ours, climate change is an environmental issue, an economic opportunity and a political challenge that we know can destabilize our communities. This is an opportunity to tackle economic inequality and re-industrialize America with a green economy through jobs that, with the right training, can provide career ladders for many low-wage workers who struggle to afford the high cost of living.”
Ahead of 2020, Latino labor leaders see an opportunity to energize their ranks as well as voters in their communities. But they say this also requires leadership that reflects the membership on the ground.
“We need to make sure that Latinos are at the highest levels of all the different unions,” says Hector Sanchez, executive director for The Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA).
Hispanics need to be, Sanchez says, “in all the strategic infrastructure of the labor movement, and also in the political infrastructure of the nation.”
Democrats’ impeachment report cites Trump obstruction and withholding aid, warns of ‘grave harm’
WASHINGTON — The Democratic-led House Intelligence Committee released a report Tuesday containing a summary of the evidence it has collected in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
The 300-page report cited two instances of misconduct by the president: obstruction of the House inquiry and withholding an official White House meeting and U.S. military aid from Ukraine on the condition of investigating a Trump political rival.
“This report chronicles a scheme of the President of the United States to coerce an ally, Ukraine, that is at war with an adversary, Russia, into doing the president’s political dirty work,” said Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., at a press conference outlining his committee’s findings.
The House Intelligence Committee voted 13-9 in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday evening to send the report to the Judiciary, which will start proceedings on Wednesday.
While the report, which was also prepared by the House Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees, didn’t explicitly include recommendations of articles of impeachment, it strongly implies that obstruction could be one. The report noted that past presidents who were the subject of impeachment inquiries, unlike Trump, complied with subpoenas and requests for information from Congress.
On obstruction, which was described as a “campaign of intimidation,” the report cast Trump’s efforts to “flout” congressional oversight as unprecedented because of his refusal to hand over documents and make certain witnesses available. But it also noted that “the House gathered overwhelming evidence of his misconduct from courageous individuals who were willing to follow the law.”
“No other President has flouted the Constitution and power of Congress to conduct oversight to this extent,” the report said.
“If left unanswered, President Trump’s ongoing effort to thwart Congress’ impeachment power risks doing grave harm to the institution of Congress, the balance of power between our branches of government, and the Constitutional order that the President and every Member of Congress have sworn to protect and defend.”
The report also constructed a detailed timeline of Trump’s alleged efforts to withhold military assistance to Ukraine, as well as an official invitation to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to meet with Trump in the White House. The timeline was based on the testimony of various aides and diplomats who have been questioned by impeachment investigators.
Ukraine “desperately wanted and needed” U.S. security assistance as well as a White House meeting between its president, Zelenskiy, and Trump, Schiff said.
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“At the same time, there was something President Trump desperately wanted and believed that he needed — and that was an investigation that would damage the rival that he feared the most, Joe Biden, as well as an investigation into a debunked conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in our last election,” he said.
The report included a number of new details that stemmed from AT&T phone records obtained by the House, which showed someone who was using a phone number associated with the Office of Management and Budget called the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, in early August during the period when the U.S. aid to Ukraine was frozen. That same day, call records show Giuliani also called the White House Situation Room five times as well as the OMB number.
To freeze the security assistance — which was announced to Trump administration officials on July 18, and not reversed until Sept. 11 — Trump inquired about the aid starting in mid-June and around July 12 “directed that a hold be placed” on the aid to Ukraine, the report said.
“In making the decision to move forward, we were struck by the fact that the President’s misconduct was not an isolated occurrence, nor was it the product of a naïve president,” the report said.
“President Trump does not appear to believe there is any such limitation on his power to use White House meetings, military aid or other official acts to procure foreign help in his re-election.”
The president’s conduct, which put “his own personal and political interests above the interests of the American people,” Schiff said, is “exactly why they prescribed a remedy as extraordinary as the remedy of impeachment.”
“We have a very difficult decision ahead of us to make,” said Schiff, who explained that it will be a decision made by the House Judiciary Committee in conjunction with the House Democratic Caucus.
The report puts the White House summary of Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president at the center of the inquiry, calling it “stark evidence of misconduct” and “a demonstration of the President’s prioritization of his personal political benefit over the national interest.”
But, the report claimed, this conversation was “neither the start nor the end of President Trump’s efforts to bend U.S. foreign policy for his personal gain.”
“Rather, it was a dramatic crescendo within a months-long campaign driven by President Trump in which senior U.S. officials, including the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Acting Chief of Staff, the Secretary of Energy, and others were either knowledgeable of or active participants in an effort to extract from a foreign nation the personal political benefits sought by the President,” the report said.
Download the NBC News app for full coverage of the impeachment inquiry
During his Tuesday remarks, Schiff said Americans should care deeply about whether the president is “betraying their trust in him” and betraying the oath he took to the Constitution.
“If we don’t care about this, we can darn well be sure the president will be back at it doing this all over again,” he said.
The release came ahead of a Tuesday evening meeting scheduled for the panel to consider and vote on adopting the report. The report, along with views provided by Republicans, will then be sent to the House Judiciary Committee, which is taking over the next phase of the inquiry.
Much of the evidence came from 17 closed-door interviews with key witnesses, and over two weeks of public hearings last month with a dozen of those witnesses.
In their public testimony, a number of those 12 witnesses confirmed and elaborated on the efforts allegedly made by Trump, his associates and administration officials to get Ukraine to announce investigations into those two issues, and why they believed delayed U.S. aid to Ukraine would only be released once that nation followed through on those demands.
Republicans on the House Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs committees released a 123-page minority report Monday evening that argues that Democrats have failed to establish any impeachable offenses by Trump. They said that they didn’t find that Trump engaged in any wrongdoing, and that there was no quid pro quo.
Republicans said there was no evidence that Trump improperly withheld $391 million in military aid to Ukraine or pressured Zelenskiy to investigate Joe Biden to help benefit his 2020 re-election campaign, arguing that much of Trump’s action regarding Ukraine actually stems from his “longstanding” skepticism of the country due to “its history of pervasive corruption.”
On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold its first impeachment hearing, which its chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said will “explore the framework put in place to respond to serious allegations of impeachable misconduct like those against President Trump.”
Nadler extended an invitation to Trump and his counsel to participate in Wednesday’s hearing, but the White House said Sunday that they had declined the offer. The president is in London this week for the 2019 NATO summit.
It has not yet been decided how many hearings Judiciary might hold or what charges potentially might be wrapped into articles of impeachment. Some lawmakers have recently raised the possibility that other cases could be considered, such as those stemming from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Corbyn tax grab: How Labour will hijack YOUR holidays by adding HUNDREDS to air fares
JEREMY CORBYN’S plans to pile huge taxes onto Britons to pay for the Labour’s Party’s multi-billion pound spending spree could soon include a measure that would cost you hundreds of pounds more just to fly abroad for a holiday.
Joe Biden’s eventful week leaves him looking more durable than before
WASHINGTON — Some days, as we’ve written over the past few months, Democratic co-frontrunner Joe Biden looks much weaker than the conventional wisdom suggests.
Other days, he looks much more durable than what you read on Twitter.
And this week, Biden’s been in the latter category — he’s looked pretty strong when it comes to the fundamentals on paper. Certainly stronger than in his debate performances.
On Tuesday, Kamala Harris suspended her presidential campaign, underscoring Biden’s almost unmovable strength with African-American voters.
On Wednesday, his campaign released a blistering ad/video on President Trump’s reception and performance on his most recent overseas trip.
On Thursday, he picked up the endorsement from former Obama Secretary of State and 2004 presidential nominee John Kerry, who campaigns with Biden today in Iowa.
And last night, the Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg camps began to fight each other, leaving Biden above the fray (at least for now).
Speaking of the fray, however, what also stands out for Biden this week was his confrontation with that Iowa voter yesterday.
There are two ways to look at it: One, Biden took tough/hostile/inaccurate questions to an 11 on the dial, when it probably needed to be only a six or a seven. (“You’re a damn liar, man…Let’s do push-ups together here, man, let’s run… Get your words straight, Jack.”) Remember, Biden’s campaign pledge has been to offer “strong, steady, stable leadership.”
Two, he showed voters some fight that they might not have seen recently, especially when the conversation turns to his family.
Impeachment inquiry update: Deadline for the White House
Today at 5:00 pm ET is the deadline for the Trump White House to decide if it will mount a defense in the House’s impeachment inquiry, NBC’s Geoff Bennett says.
Bennett reminds us that, in his Dec. 1 letter, White House counsel Pat Cipollone refused to participate in Wednesday’s House Judiciary hearing but left open the possibility of participating in future impeachment hearings if Democrats made certain concessions.
As for yesterday’s big impeachment development, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she asked key Democratic chairmen to begin drafting articles of impeachment against President Trump.
“Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders and our heart full of love for America, today, I am asking our chairmen to proceed with articles of impeachment,” she said, per NBC News.
Tweet of the day
2020 Vision: Warren vs. Buttigieg — it’s on
After polls showing how Pete Buttigieg has eaten into Elizabeth Warren’s earlier support among white Democrats with college degrees, the two campaigns began engaging on Thursday – 60 days out from the Iowa caucuses.
Asked by reporters whether Buttigieg should release more information from his time as a consultant at McKinsey, Elizabeth Warren responded with an eager yes, per NBC’s Deepa Shivaram.
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“I think that voters want to know about possible conflicts of interests. It is even more important that the candidates expose possible conflicts of interests right now and that means for example, that the mayor should be releasing who is on his finance committee; who are the bundlers who are raising big money for him; who he has given titles to and made promises to. And he should open up the doors so that the press can follow the promises that he is making in these big-dollar fundraisers.”
Top Buttigieg communications adviser Lis Smith fired back, “If @ewarren wants to have a debate about transparency, she can start by opening up the doors to the decades of tax returns she’s hiding from her work as a corporate lawyer – often defending the types of corporate bad actors she now denounces.”
On the campaign trail today: It’s another big day in Iowa
Joe Biden stumps with John Kerry… Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar and John Delaney all attend a farmers union presidential forum in Grinnell… And Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Julian Castro and Tom Steyer attend a U.S. Conference of Mayors forum in Waterloo… Before he’s in Iowa, Buttigieg stumps in New Hampshire… As do Elizabeth Warren, Tulsi Gabbard and Michael Bennet… Michael Bloomberg speaks with CBS’ Gayle King… And Andrew Yang raises money in Dallas.
Dispatches from NBC’s campaign embeds
While campaigning in New Hampshire, Tulsi Gabbard was indirectly asked about rhetoric that’s inferred she’s a preferred candidate of leaders like Vladimir Putin, NBC’s Julia Jester reports:
Gabbard: We are at great risk of nuclear catastrophe but there is no shelter. Within my first week as President, I will call for a summit between the United States and Russia and China to begin the talks necessary to deescalate these tensions [applause] and work to end this new cold war to begin to try to put back together some of these treaties that were put in place to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world that have been so eroded or torn apart or thrown in the trash can —
Audience member: They’re gonna call you a Russian.
Gabbard: They already are.
Audience member: I know.
Gabbard: My interest is the safety, security, and future of the American people and it doesn’t matter what kind of rhetoric is being put out, nothing will detract me from that mission.
And a confirmation from three of our embeds: Jester, Gary Grumbach and Amanda Golden — Bernie Sanders will receive an endorsement from the New Hampshire Postal Union on Friday. It will be the second largest union to endorse Sanders so far this cycle.
Data Download: The number of the day is … three
That’s the number of House Democrats who have endorsed Pete Buttigieg. No U.S. senators or governors have said they’re backing him so far, either, putting the South Bend mayor significantly behind his fellow top Democratic contenders in the endorsement race.
More, from NBC’s Sami Sparber: “Former Vice President Joe Biden leads the field, with 30 total endorsements from House members, senators and governors, according to NBC News’ tally of FiveThirtyEight’s endorsement tracker. Meanwhile, the other members of the Top 4 – Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders – clock in at 12 and six major endorsements, respectively. Before she dropped out of the race Tuesday, California Sen. Kamala Harris had racked up 19 major endorsements, putting her in second place. With 13 endorsements, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker actually leads both Warren and Sanders.”
The Lid: I know you are, but what am I?
Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at new polling that shows where Americans lay the blame for political polarization.
ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss
New phone records showing Rudy Giuliani’s frequent contact with the White House have security experts worried that foreign intelligence services may be listening in to the president’s calls.
Administration officials are questioning the accuracy of some of those call logs.
The New York Times digs into Buttigieg’s time at McKinsey.
John Kerry endorsed Biden yesterday.
Trump Agenda: No other choice
Nancy Pelosi says the president left Democrats “no choice but to act” on impeachment.
Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer is blocking a resolution on an Armenian genocide measure for now — at the White House’s request.
Another House Republican is calling it quits.
2020: Joe versus the farmer
Here’s Mike Memoli’s full look at Joe Biden’s heated exchange with an Iowa farmer yesterday.
The Washington Post looks at how Democratic senators who are running for president are up against a big impeachment scheduling question.
Cory Booker is making a new diversity push on the campaign trail.
The House Ethics Committee says Duncan Hunter shouldn’t vote on the House floor after his guilty plea.
Democrats are still trying to get Steve Bullock to run for Senate.
Michael Bloomberg is out with a big new gun control plan.
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