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Nicaragua this week became the third country to ratify the International Labor Organization (ILO) convention on domestic workers. An ILO “convention” sets international labor standards, and the “Decent Work for Domestic Workers” convention addresses issues such as working conditions, wages, benefits and child labor while requiring nations to take measures to making decent work a reality for domestic workers.

Uruguay in April 2012 was the first to ratify the convention, followed by the Philippinesin August. The convention goes into effect one year after the second country approves it.  

Many countries exclude domestic workers from labor lawspartially or completely (including the United States), denying them basic labor protections that most other categories of workers can take for granted, such as a minimum wage or limits to hours of work. Such exclusion—together with discrimination and a profound devaluation of work associated with traditional, unpaid female roles has—led to a wide and disturbing range of abuses against domestic workers around the world, many of whom are migrants and an estimated 30 percent of whom are children under the age of 18. There are 14 million domestic workers in Latin America.

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The murder earlier this year of a Bangladeshi union organizer is part of an escalation of attacks on the nation’s 4 million garment workers who seek to change abusive working conditions, says Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS).

Akter, who just ended a visit to the United States sponsored by Vanderbilt University and the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), worked closely with her BCWS colleague and factory union organizer, Aminul Islam, who was murdered earlier this year, his body found beaten and tortured. Islam also was a leader of Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation (BGIWF),  As recently as mid-September, Bangladesh police fired rubber bulletsand tear gas at tens of thousands of garment workers rallying outside factories in an industrial area near Dhaka.

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Ann Hernandez gets up at 4:30 a.m. every day to deliver the Los Angeles Times newspaper to Martin Sheen's neighborhood...and he thinks that's pretty cool. Hernandez works 365 days a year, ”even Christmas. Check out Sheen'™s thank you video  and visit www.aflcio.org/ThankYou to upload your own video or send an e-card, thanking someone whose work you appreciate.

(Sharing this from Jackie Tortora at the AFL-CIO Now blog.)

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Michael Frank headed over to a rally in East Grand Forks, Minn., last night, one of many he’s taken part in over the past year. Frank, along with 1,300 other workers, was locked out of the American Crystal Sugar factory a year ago, and last night’s event was part of the workers’ ongoing efforts to urge the sugar beet processing company return to the bargaining table.

“They don’t want to sit down with us,” said Frank, a 33-year veteran with with company and currently day warehouse foreman. “We didn’t do anything to deserve this.”

The company locked out the workers Aug. 1, 2011, during bargaining talks over a successor contract between American Crystal Sugar and five local unions of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco and Grain Millers (BCTGM) at various locations in Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa.

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Mon Aug 13, 2012 at 11:42 AM PDT

Voter Fraud Scare Is A Fraud

by Tula Connell

Yet another study shows that supposed rampant “voter fraud” is nearly nonexistent.  WaPo reports on a study today that finds one voter fraud case for every 16 million prospective voters.

An analysis of 2,068 reports of alleged election fraud over the past 12 years by News21 shows that in-person voter impersonation on Election Day, which has prompted 37 state legislatures to enact or consider tougher voter ID laws, was virtually nonexistent.

News21, a Carnegie-Knight investigative reporting project, found 10 cases of alleged in-person voter impersonation since 2000. With 146 million registered voters in the United States, those represent about one for every 15 million prospective voters.

Yet those who seek to restrict voting rights have done so in the name of ending voter fraud. As a result, 16 states have passed restrictive voting laws.

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How would you like a 100 percent boost in wages?

If you’re in the top 1/1000th of the U.S. income earners, you already got one. Since 1980, a household making $1.5 million in 2010 has received a pay increase of more than 100 percent, after adjusting for inflation, according to New York Times reporter David Leonhardt (click on chart at left to expand).

Leonhardt points to inequality and a long-term slowdown in the economy as behind the nation’s current woes. This economic slowdown began after the 2001 recession, which never had a strong recovery.

From the fourth quarter of 2001 through the fourth quarter of 2007 (when the financial crisis began), the economy grew at an average annual rate of only 2.7 percent. By comparison, the average annual growth rate of both the 1990s and 1980s expansions exceeded 3.5 percent.
In 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality Is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It, author Chuck Collins summarizes we’ve moved from a nation of shared prosperity—the decades between World War II and the 1960s—to
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Over at the AFL-CIO Now blog, we asked readers their favorite Made in America items--and dozens and dozens responded. Topping the list of favorites? Slugger baseball bats, Miller beer and anything sweet and/or chocolate—Oreos, Hershey Kisses and Russell Stovers. Buicks and all U.S.-made cars, and a variety of guns—Rugers, Remingtons, Smith & Wessons—and ammo also topped the list of most favorite Made In America.

Next month, in the days leading up to the July 4 holiday, the AFL-CIO is running a Made In America series—including blogs and videos—to celebrate the contributions of U.S. workers to our economy and to highlight how Congress and policymakers can ensure the nation maximizes its greatest resource—America’s working people.

For those looking to Buy America, suggestions here are a great guide.

What are your favorites?

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Guide Dogs of America changes lives—thanks to the Machinists (IAM) union and, of course, some dedicated best friends.

As student Michael Moore says after taking part in the Guide Dog program:

It’s been seven years since I was able to walk like this.
Watch the video and share it with your friends.

(This is a crosspost from the AFL-CIO Now blog.)

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When the nation’s Poet Laureate, Philip Levine, gives a reading of his work tomorrow here at the AFL-CIO, he will recite poems that weave a lyrical web of words around his visceral understanding of the world of work. Levine, whom the Library of Congress named Poet Laureate in May, and who has written of his experiences working in Detroit factories in the post-World War II years, finds his verses especially resonate with America’s workers—and that’s in part because his portrayals are so honest. (To attend the event, which begins at 1 p.m. Nov. 15, RSVP here.)

“I hated many of the jobs I had—they were hard, they were dirty, they were brutal, working lousy hours,” Levine recalls of the time he spent working at forges, on assembly lines and around slag heaps. Yet he also notes:

When I became a union worker, things were a hell of a lot better.
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Adele Stan, journalist and labor union member, wrote this for us at the AFL-CIO Now blog, which shows the worm inside the Apple.

Go to any gathering, and you'll find nearly every person carrying an iPhone or an iPad, despite the Apple Computer's dismal record on labor practices. Apple executives must be laughing all the way to the bank--their Swiss bank, that is.

In its fourth quarter earnings report released last week, Apple Computer revealed that 2/3 of its on-hand cash --some $54 billion--is squirreled away outside the boundaries of the United States, presumably to avoid paying its fair share of taxes. In the meantime, reports Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM), a Hong Kong-based group, Apple's major manufacturing contractors routinely subject employees to forced overtime, wage theft and no breaks--and even unprotected exposure to toxins.

Apple, together with rival tech firm Google, have been lobbying for a "tax holiday" that would allow them to bring some of those billions into the U.S. at a lower tax rate, promising that to do so would create jobs. But, as we reported, a similar measure tried in 2004 created few jobs, and instead rewarded companies that had kept their money overseas. Where Apple has created jobs is in China, where the workers who make its slick products are made to work in deplorable conditions.

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While 25 million unemployed and underemployed U.S. workers are drowning, CEO pay skyrocketed by 23 percent, for an average salary of $11.4 million in 2010, according to the AFL-CIO Executive PayWatch. Released today, data compiled at PayWatch also show CEOs have done little to create badly-needed jobs, instead sitting on a record $1.93 trillion in cash on their balance sheets.

The 2011 Executive PayWatch features the compensation of 299 S&P 500 company CEOs and provides direct comparisons between those CEOs and the median pay of nurses, teachers, firefighters and others. For instance, while a secretary makes a median annual salary of $29,980, someone like Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf rakes in $18,973,722 million—632 times the secretary's salary. The pay gap between Wall Street and Main Street has widened egregiously—as recently as 1980, CEOs made 42 times that of blue-collar workers.

(Check out the 2011 Executive PayWatch to read case studies of six CEOs and find out how many firefighters it takes to make the salary of one CEO. You also can compare salaries of nurses, secretaries and others with CEOs and share the results with your friends on Facebook. Click here to share on Facebook.)

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Photo credit: Cornell University, Kheel Center
The Triangle factory after the March 25, 1911, fire.

We hope you will share this special AFL-CIO Now feature on the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire with your friends, family and co-workers as a way to recognize America's workers, past and present, who have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice so much to improve the lives of all workers.

When word got out two weeks ago that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker had ordered the windows of the state Capitol building bolted shut during the ongoing protests against his attacks on public employees, it was a chilling reminder of a similar action by the employers of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory.

Nearly 100 years ago to the day of Walker's order--which he rescinded after public outrage--146 workers, mostly young immigrant girls, jumped to their deaths from the 10-story building, unable to escape a fire because factory foremen had locked all the doors. The owners, Isaac Harris and Max Blanck, worried the workers would steal from the company.

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