A critical voice like Dr. Michelle Washington’s or AFGE Local 2028 President Kathleen Dahl’s was so powerful the status quo wanted to shut it down. Without their courage, more veterans would have died from a severe shortage of mental healthcare providers and the Legionnaires outbreak that VA employees exposed. They spoke out, and their union, AFGE, stood behind them and fought for their right to do their jobs serving veterans.
But that’s about to change if certain members of Congress get their way.
The Official Time Reform Act of 2017 would severely restrict workplace rights for federal workers, and would financially penalize union reps who volunteer to help their coworkers. This means whistleblowers and other frontline employees may not get the protection they need when they try to do their jobs, and the American people, including veterans, will suffer.
The bill is just the latest attempt by some politicians in Congress to attack federal workers and their unions. The bill passed in a House committee earlier this month, but it will have to pass both the full House and Senate to become law and you can be sure the labor movement will continue to oppose this strongly.
Here’s today's labor history:
On March 25, 1894, populist Jacob Coxey led the first “Poor People’s March” on Washington, in which jobless workers demanded creation of a public works program. Though they numbered no more than a thousand, the unemployed protesters became known as “Coxey’s Army.”
On March 25, 1911, a fire broke out on the top floors of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company’s Asch Building in New York City. Unable to escape because they had been locked in by their employer, 146 workers died, most of them young immigrant women. The tragedy inspired a worldwide movement for workplace safety and a crackdown on sweatshops.
Today’s labor quote is by United Press reporter William Shepherd, who happened to be in Washington Square on March 25, 1911 and phoned in his report while watching the Triangle Shirtwaist factory tragedy unfold:
“The floods of water from the firemen's hose that ran into the gutter were actually stained red with blood. I looked upon the heap of dead bodies and I remembered these girls were the shirtwaist makers. I remembered their great strike of last year in which these same girls had demanded more sanitary conditions and more safety precautions in the shops. These dead bodies were the answer.”
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