E-News: November 21, 2019

Rhode Island AFL-CIO Union Directory

An updated Union Directory listing union goods and services in R.I. can be found on our website at www.RhodeIslandAFLCIO.org under the “Resources” tab.

Here is the direct link—-> Union Directory

Please use this directory to find where you can buy union and use services in Rhode Island.

This is a Press Advisory Op-ed

Corporations must take responsibility for their employee’s healthcare coverage

It is hard to ignore the importance that a healthy workforce plays in our economy. In recent years, Rhode Island has made great strides in reducing the number of residents who are uninsured. According to Healthsource RI, only 3.7% of Rhode Islanders were uninsured in 2018, down from 11% in 2012. This is good news for all of us.

Unfortunately, while this progress has helped many, there is a loophole in the Rhode Island healthcare system allowing certain large corporations to avoid their responsibility to provide adequate coverage to their workers. Instead they shift employee healthcare costs to the state budget from their own balance sheet. Successful companies like Walmart, CVS, and Bank of America cost taxpayers millions of dollars a year by exploiting this loophole. This is corporate welfare and needs to be stopped.

Nearly one-in-four Rhode Islanders receive their healthcare from Medicaid programs, which is vital to the health and wellness of our state’s population. Medicaid works for our seniors, children, and working families. It is not fair when wealthy corporations use Medicaid programs to shift the cost of paying for low-wage workers’ healthcare to all of us as taxpayers without paying their fair share. This is even more offensive to Rhode Islanders’ sense of fair play when these corporations pay their CEOs exorbitant salaries.


George Nee, President of Rhode Island AFL-CIO who was awarded the George Meany service award by the Narragansett Council Boy Scouts of America.

Out on the informational picket line for adjunct professors at RIC with Secretary-Treasurer Maureen Martin

WJAR Channel 10: Adjunct professors demonstrate at RIC for higher pay


Apprenticeship Week

Pictures from Building Futures Apprenticeship Works Conference last Friday.


Common Ground R.I.: Construction Trades Council offers more tools to prevent, overcome substance abuse

Specialized training aimed at dealing with opiod and substance use in the workplace was launched recently by the Rhode Island Building & Construction Trades Council (RIBCTC).

The council and its signatory contractors are working with Building Futures and the Occupational and Environmental Health Center of Rhode Island to provide solutions to substance use in the construction industry with training called Opioids & Construction: Why It Matters and What You Can Do. That was announced at the fourth in a series of workshops – Opiods and Your Work Force – held at Local 51 of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada in Riverside.  

In a prepared statement emailed to Common Ground, Michael F. Sabitoni, president of the RIBCTC said: “For several years, the Rhode Island Building Trades and its partners have recognized the need to conduct seminars, provide in-depth discussions with experts and aggressively spearhead proactive programs to further educate our industry leadership and assist our members in getting the help and resources they need to overcome substance and opioid misuse.

“The series of workshops are just one way in which we have been finding solutions to the opioid crises,” he said. “Other successful initiatives include member assistance programs and employee assistance programs so individuals can confidentially address mental health issues they are facing, including addiction. We are also aggressively working with health care providers to educate members and caregivers of other alternatives to opioid pain medication. Those of us in organized labor agree that a cultural shift is needed so that people feel they can ask for help and take time off without worrying they will be stigmatized, judged, or even lose their job.”  


Common Ground R.I.: Fun-run honors Hannah Wertens, raises more that $18,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters of R.I.

PROVIDENCE – The spirit of Hannah Wertens permeated the area around the Roger Williams Park Carousel on Oct. 28 as participants kicked off the annual Halloween hike to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rhode Island (BBBSRI).

Presented by the Rhode Island Building & Construction Trades Council (RIBCTC) in partnership with the Rhode Island AFL-CIO and Rhode Island Chapter of Associated General Contractors, the 11th annual 5K fun run honored women in the building trades and the Labor Movement in memory of Hannah, a little sister who passed away in 2018.

Heather was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) at age 2, according to her mother, Debbie Kirchner. The cancer went into remission but returned when Heather was 5, and she beat it again. However, it returned when she was 13, and the chemotherapy and radiation treatments “wreaked havoc on her organs,” which led to her passing at the age of 15.

In addition to those treatments, she endured two bone marrow transplants, Kirchner said, and Heather contracted acute myeloid leukemia from a donor. However, the medical regimens and setbacks never changed Heather’s upbeat personality and spirit.

“She sparkled. She was always positive and had a great love of Jesus and God,” Kirchner said of her daughter. “She would do things even when she was not feeling good….And she always wanted to help people.”


Common Ground R.I.: R.I. ranks fifth for states with strongest unions

Editor’s note: The following article was written for SmartAsset and posted on the Yahoo Finance and Rhode Island AFL-CIO ENews websites.

Unions can be effective tools for collective bargaining. They represent workers in negotiations with management to uphold workers’ rights, including fair wages. According to a 2018 report on full-time workers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nonunion workers earned just 82 percent of the median weekly amount that union member workers earned.  

Being able to make a fair wage is necessary in order to budget properly and build up your saving account. But the power of unions in the U.S. varies significantly across different locations. Some states are union hotbeds, where organized labor is a major player in business and politics. In other states, unions don’t hold as much sway. SmartAsset decided to see where unions are the strongest.

To find the states with the strongest unions, we analyzed data across the following eight metrics: number of union members, the percentage of workers who are union members, five-year change in union membership, average annual wage for all occupations, average annual wage for middle school teachers, the salary ratio of teachers to all occupations, the average wage for firefighters and the salary ratio of firefighters to all occupations.


As you prepare buying food for Thanksgiving Dinner remember to buy Union Made by shopping where our brothers and sisters work at Stop & Shop, Shaws and Eastside Marketplace.

AFL-CIO: Union-Made in America Thanksgiving

When you buy union, you’re supporting good jobs in American communities, jobs that provide living wages and benefits, safe working conditions, and dignity and respect for work. Look for these quality products, produced by union members, when preparing for your Thanksgiving feast.

The following list comes to us from Union Label and the products are made by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM); the Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics and Allied Workers (GMP); the Machinists (IAM); UNITE HERE; the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW); the United Steel Workers (USW); the United Farm Workers (UFW); and the Teamsters (IBT).


Quote of the Week

“When we stand together, when we fight together, we win!” —AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler (IBEW) at the Maryland State and D.C. AFL-CIO 2019 Convention

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UPCOMING EVENTS:                                                        

Informational Picket:

District 1199 SEIU New England

When: Tuesday, November 26 at 3:30 p.m.

Where: 500 Prospect St. Pawtucket

Details: Caregivers at Blackstone Valley ARC have dedicated their lives to care for Rhode Islanders living with developmental disabilities. It’s hard work, and we don’t earn a lot for what we do. Most Direct Support Professionals earn around $13 per hour, just $27,000 per year for full time work. Low wages mean short staffing and high turnover, which hurts consumers. And we deserve at least $15/hour and good raises for everyone so we can take care of our own families.

ARC workers fought hard and won Medicaid increases in this year’s state budget to improve services for consumers.

Join caregivers as they picket for better staffing and a living wage.

For more info contact (401) 457-5099 or RI@SEIU1199.org


Voices in Labor:

Joe Hill, IWW organizer and songwriter was executed by a Utah firing squad after being convicted of murder on trumped-up charges. While in prison, Hill sent a telegram to IWW leader Big Bill Haywood: “Goodbye Bill. I die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time in mourning. Organize!” In a later telegram, he added, “Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don’t want to be found dead in Utah. His ashes were supposedly sprinkled in every state of the union, except Utah. However, it is said that the IWW still keeps a small vial of some of his remaining ashes.  – 1915

The nation’s first automatic toll collection machine was used at the Union Toll Plaza on New Jersey’s Garden State Parkway. – 1954

The National Writers Union was founded, representing freelance and contract writers and others in the trade. In 1992 it merged into and became a local of the United Auto Workers. – 1981



As the first segment in our Women at Work series, Erica Hammond sits down with RI AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer and CLUW RI Chapter President, Maureen Martin, and South Kingstown School Committee Vice-Chair and NEARI representative, Sarah Markey, to talk about the Rhode Island Coalition of Labor Union Women, the importance of collective bargaining rights in the workplace, the need for income equity in all workplaces, especially where marginalized communities make up a majority of the workforce.

And in the second half of the show, Bob Delaney sits down with Erica Hammond, Sabine Adrian, and Fatima Martin, staff members at the RI Institute for Labor Studies and Research for the second half of a series around the Institute’s overgrowing Teacher Assistant program and how many municipalities have expressed a large need for TAs in their classrooms; the appeal of working school hours and a school calendar schedule, the benefits of a good-paying job with benefits and the fact that most positions are within bargaining units.

                                          Cox Channel 14 & FIOS Channel 33

                                        Tuesday @ 7pm

                                        Thursday @ 8pm

                                        Saturday @ 5pm