Yesterday, I reported that several major labor unions expressed support for Barack Obama's statement that he supports the right of all Americans to marry, regardless of their sexual orientation. More unions expressed their support for the president and marriage equality in a move that, as I pointed out yesterday, is good for Obama, for unions and for LGBT Americans:
This is a great development for a number of reasons. One, it's a clear statement from unions that they recognize that LGBT families are working families, too. Two, it gives Obama strong public support on an issue that he is certain to be attacked on. Third, it is a good way to attract new people to the labor movement who might have otherwise not paid much attention to unions because they had other issues that were more important to them. If it is clear that unions support LGBT families -- which it is -- there is more reason for people to move out of issue silos, recognizing that they have allies they can work together with to improve everybody's situation.
UNITE HERE President John Wilhelm (via press release):
We applaud President Obama's statement in support of marriage equality. Our members support full equality for LGBT Americans in all matters governed by civil law, and we are grateful for the President's
courage and leadership. Today the United States took an important step towards fulfilling the Constitution's promise of equal protection under the law. UNITE HERE stands with working families of all descriptions in the ongoing struggle for social and economic justice.
I am proud that UNITE HERE is on the side of justice for the LGBT community. Thanks, and congratulations on this important step, to all those in our Union who work to achieve full equality for our LGBT members, and for all our members. I have been especially grateful that Cleve Jones, a life-long warrior for equality, has become such an important leader in UNITE HERE. President Obama’s announcement is an important step. The struggle continues.
United Auto Workers President Bob King:
“The UAW applauds President Obama’s remarks on same-sex marriage, and we regard it as a historic and courageous leap toward equality for all Americans.
We oppose all discrimination and believe there is a definite connection between civil, human and workers’ rights. This belief continues to define us today.
Solidarity means economic and social justice for all, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. This commitment to civil and human rights for all helped fuel many early UAW organizing victories. The UAW helped organize African-American workers during the 1930s when companies used race as a divisive anti-union strategy. In 1955 we were the first industrial union to establish a Women’s Department, its mission to encourage female participation in the predominantly male UAW – and to ensure that a woman’s place was in her union. We were arm in arm with the civil rights movement in the 1950s and ‘60s.
The ongoing struggle for civil and human rights for everyone – including LGBT Americans – cannot be separated from the fight for justice for all workers. That’s something the UAW has known from the start.”
The trailer, yes I said trailer, for the Republican budget. Seriously.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued a statement condemning the extreme right-wing budget proposed by House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI), saying it was yet another Republican assault on America's working families:
Just as Republican governors and state legislators are assaulting the rights of working Americans under the guise of budget crises, Rep. Ryan and Republican leaders in Congress are using the federal budget to further their own political agendas. Their credo is that tax giveaways to the super rich and Wall Street should be paid for on the backs of working people.
They are holding the federal government hostage, along with hundreds of thousands of jobs and the services millions rely on, while simultaneously proposing irresponsible budget cuts. It is clear that they are not concerned with fiscal responsibility, but rather undermining their political opponents. This is simply further evidence of their determination to protect their friends on Wall Street at the expense of American jobs, seniors, our children and our future.
As we recover from the worst economic crisis of our time, cuts to essential programs threaten to push us back into recession, or even depression. Shame on those Republicans more worried about the politics of their choices than the economic consequences.
"It is morally unacceptable and economically indefensible for House Republicans to put forth a budget that doubles down on a cuts-only approach to our economy at a time when our children and families continue to struggle to get by.
"Today, half of all Americans are either poor or low-income. Three million more children live in poverty today than when this recession began. And we've already slashed more than 300,000 education jobs at a time when our children and our public schools desperately need resources and support to compete in a 21st-century knowledge economy.
"This budget prioritizes huge tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations, while likely cutting money from public education and programs such as Title I that go directly to support low-income children in the classroom. It would end Medicare as we know it and leave seniors without access to affordable, high-quality healthcare, and it would make college more costly. It would do nothing to help Americans find good jobs, keep their homes, and ensure our children have a better and brighter future.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten attended the International Summit on the Teaching Profession and came away with a renewed sense that high-stakes standardized tests are hurting the U.S. education system and its students.
I think the first thing we have to do is move off the test fixaton. Top-down, test-driven accountability as a salvation has not proven to work. People will say, “Oh, she’s anti-accountability.” But I’m for making sure teachers can really teach and for multiple measures to assess teachers, like peer review, self-reflection, administrative review and assessment of student learning. But right now there are a disproportionate number of points [in many teacher evaluation systems] allocated to test scores.
The president gets a lot of credit for saying in his State of the Union, “Let’s not teach to the test.” NAEP [the National Assessment of Educational Progress] scores from the last decade had a better rate of growth than in this decade, and that says a lot about the effects of top-down, test-based accountability. We have to get away from that concept. I think if there’s a reset button where we get away from that, we can unleash creativity. We can unleash the Common Core, we can work on teacher quality through what we know works: cooperative environments. Then I think we’ll have a different conversation in America.
She noted that countries that do better in educating their students than the U.S. don't share our test obsession:
None of the other countries use test scores to evaluate teachers. They use portfolios, demonstration lessons, peer processes. There are multiple ways of trying to assess, “Have I taught it and have kids learned it?” But very few countries are as fixated on student testing having a consequential effect on teachers’ lives. Student testing is very consequential for students.
The AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers, the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO and a broad coalition of public sector unions announced their support for an investment of $4 billion in upgrading private infrastructure and providing jobs as part of the 'Better Buildings Challenge', a combined project of the Obama administration and the Clinton Global Initiative. The White House announced the first 14 partners that will be joining the project on Friday:
The Better Buildings Challenge is part of the Better Buildings Initiative that President Obama launched in February to catalyze private sector investment in commercial building upgrades and make America’s commercial buildings 20 percent more efficient over the next decade. The Better Buildings Initiative is co-led by the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and former President Clinton. Earlier this month, the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness recommended to President Obama prioritizing the Better Buildings Initiative as an important way to support job creation. The initial partners in the Better Buildings Challenge include private sector companies, financial institutions and local governments.
“Improving building energy efficiency on a large scale is a challenge we can’t afford not to take,” said Secretary Chu. “It will create jobs, reduce energy waste, save our businesses and institutions money, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”
“The Better Buildings Challenge harnesses the creativity and ingenuity of leaders across the public and private sectors to ensure America leads the world in tapping the potential of saving energy to create jobs” said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality. “Upgrading the energy performance of the built environment will cut waste, lower pollution and spur market growth."
“The Better Buildings Challenge will make American businesses more competitive in the global economy by saving them billions in energy costs – savings they can spend on growing, expanding and hiring new workers,” said Laura Tyson, member of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and professor of Global Management at UC Berkeley. “It will help put construction workers and contractors back to work and it will increase the production of energy-efficient products at U.S. manufacturing facilities. The first round of partners committing to the Better Buildings Challenge today are taking an important step to support job creation across the country.”
The partners are: Abundant Power, Best Buy, Citi, the city of Atlanta, the city of Los Angeles, Green Campus Partners, the Green Sports Alliance, Lend Lease, Metrus Energy, Renewable Funding, the Seattle 2030 District, Transcend Equity, Transwestern and USAA Real Estate Company.
The labor unions announced their support via press release:
The unprecedented investments in energy upgrades announced today as part of the presidential Better Buildings Challenge initiative will reinvigorate the economy, put Americans back to work on energy-saving retrofit projects, and build on the Clinton Global Initiative’s work last June with the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers, a broad coalition of public sector unions, and the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, labor leaders said today.
The investment commitments, which are part of the Better Buildings Challenge initiative launched earlier this year to spur job creation by harnessing private sector investment in energy upgrades in commercial and industrial buildings, were unveiled at a White House roundtable event featuring President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton, AFT President Randi Weingarten, corporate executives and university presidents. The challenge calls on chief executive officers, university presidents, and state and local leaders to invest in energy-saving upgrades on commercial buildings.
At the White House event today, the labor movement committed to work to invest $150 million in energy-efficient retrofit projects in the coming months.
President Obama announced that nearly $4 billion of investments have been committed already, including $2 billion by workers’ pension funds, CEOs, mayors and university presidents for energy-saving upgrades. This builds on 14 private sector commitments announced at the Clinton Global Initiative conference in June, including the labor movement’s aim to invest $10 billion in pension fund assets in job-creating infrastructure projects over the next five years.
"The Better Buildings initiative has all the right components to make a real difference—it will create profitable investment opportunities for worker pension funds, create badly needed good jobs, increase America’s competitiveness around energy savings, and address the dangers of climate change,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
“This is about smart investments in America’s future,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said at the White House event. “The initiative is a win-win-win. It puts skilled laborers back to work on projects that will cut energy bills and pollution, reduce our dependency on foreign oil and create tens of thousands of new jobs. It’s exactly what America needs now to strengthen our economy.”
The Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO said the initiative will have a profound impact on the U.S. construction industry, which is suffering a 14 percent unemployment rate nationwide, by providing apprenticeships and jobs.
“It will create much-needed pathways for Americans to gain access to job and career training while making great strides to address our critical energy and environmental challenges,” said Mark H. Ayers, president of the Building and Construction Trades Department.
The AFT has been retrofitting its headquarters building in Washington, D.C., to become LEED Silver certified, and the AFL-CIO has committed to a Better Buildings Challenge retrofit of its headquarters, expected to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent.
“We not only are asking others to commit to energy-saving retrofits, but we’re also doing it ourselves,” Weingarten said.
Over the past year, the AFL-CIO, AFT and BCTD have been working with a broad coalition of pension funds, money managers, public officials and employers to focus investment in our nation’s infrastructure projects, with a particular emphasis on energy-efficient retrofits.
The AFL-CIO has exceeded its initial Clinton Global Initiative commitment of working with existing real estate-focused investment funds to invest between $10 million and $20 million of additional capital in energy-efficient retrofits of commercial, industrial, institutional and public buildings over the next six months.