The Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation Weekly Report comes out every Thursday with news and updates relevant to the Gulf Coast labor movement. To subscribe, click here.

VA Employees Reject Trump Contract

AFGE members at the Department of Veterans Affairs overwhelmingly voted against ratifying an unfair collective bargaining agreement imposed by an anti-worker labor panel appointed by the Trump administration. The AFGE National Veterans Affairs Council (NVAC), which represents over 265,000 VA employees nationwide, including Houston’s AFGE Locals 1454 and 1633, has demanded management return to the bargaining table.

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Plumbers Continue Fight for Licensing

Last legislative session, a move to end the Texas Plumbing Licensing Board and place regulation of plumbing in the Department of Licensing and Regulation failed after plumbers rallied statewide against potential risks to public safety. Ultimately, the Legislature could not pass a bill to continue the agency, but an order by Gov. Greg Abbott gave the current Legislature a chance to revisit the issue. The work of The United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters and the Southwest Pipe Trades Association, with support from the Texas AFL-CIO’s United Labor Legislative Committee led the successful campaign.

Houston State Representative Senfronia Thompson has introduced a bill to fund the board. Leonard Aguilar, the political director of the Southwest Pipe Trades Association, says he remains hopeful that the bill will pass this session.

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Cy-Fair AFT Teachers Highlight COVID Concerns

As Cy Fair ISD experienced its highest weekly COVID-19 case count this school year, educators from Cy-Fair AFT are speaking out about their concerns and the need for additional safety measures. “Our teachers, we’re already hanging by a thread,” Cy-Fair AFT President Nikki Cowart said.

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UFCW Local 455 Fights for Worker Safety as COVID Cases Spike at Kroger

Nearly 350 Houston-area Kroger workers have caught COVID since Dec. 28, and two have died. UFCW Local 455 is calling on the retailer to “deep clean” stores daily, enforce mask rules and reinstitute hazard pay, the $2 per hour pay bump workers received in the early months of the pandemic.

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IUPAT DC 88 Continues Work to Hold Irresponsible Contractors Responsible

IUPAT DC 88 and the Exploitation Free Zones coalition are continuing their pressure campaign on irresponsible contractors. The goal is to let community members know that contractors with a history of failing to pay prevailing wages are working on several area school district projects in Sheldon ISD, Spring Branch ISD, and Fort Bend ISD.

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Pay gap for Texas women grows

Nationally, women earned 81.5% of the $1,007 median weekly salary for men in 2019 — about $821. That number is lower for Texas women, who earned a median weekly salary of $772, about 80.9% of the weekly earnings of their male counterparts.

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Latest Workforce Numbers Show Value of Union Membership

Late last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released figures from 2020, showing major job losses across the country. Although union jobs declined as well, they did so at a much lower rate than non-union employment. Unions have enabled American workers to fight for safe working conditions, hazard pay, and to prevent layoffs throughout the COVID pandemic.

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NFL Players Union Endorses Amazon Warehouse Workers Unionization Drive

“Everyone deserves to have a voice and we’re proud that you’re even considering taking the step to unionize,” JC Tretter, a center for the Cleveland Browns and president of the NFLPA, said in the video. “Remember this union stands behind you and is inspired by your actions.”

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IATSE Offers Its Members’ Services to Build Vaccination Sites

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees sent a letter to President Biden on Monday, offering the White House COVID Response Team and FEMA the labor union’s infrastructure and members to contribute to building or converting vaccination sites across the country.

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Teamsters at Hunts Point Produce Celebrate Victory After Week-long Strike

The warehouse workers and drivers that collectively make up Teamsters Local 202 hailed the ratification of the contract on Saturday. This came after the vote was taken at 10 a.m. at a so-called neutral zone within the distribution hub’s property. The contract was approved by 97% of the union’s members.

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Biden Signs Executive Order Killing Schedule F, Restoring Collective Bargaining Rights

Last fall, Trump signed an executive order establishing a new job classification within the government’s career civil service called Schedule F for “employees in confidential, policy-determining, policy-making or policy-advocating positions,” and calling on agencies to identify and convert eligible employees to the new classification.

Employees converted to Schedule F would lose virtually all of their civil service protections and could be fired without cause. Trump’s efforts to undermine the civil service was strongly opposed by AFGE and Congressional Democrats, and the order has now been reversed by President Biden.

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Biden Signs ‘Buy America’ Order to Boost US Manufacturing

President Joe Biden took steps Monday to encourage the federal government to buy more American-made products, a move that the AFL-CIO has advocated forcefully for to protect U.S. jobs and juice an economy severely hobbled by the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

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Activists Continue to Call for Accountability for January 6th

Groups from across Texas are continuing to call for Ted Cruz, Ken Paxton and other GOP leaders who fomented the attack on the US Capitol on January 6th. Cruz and Paxton has continued to spread lies about the overwhelming victory of Joe Biden last November. The Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation has also called for accountability for Cruz, Paxton and other officials who violated their oaths of office.

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Harris County Authorizes Funds for New Voting Machines

This week, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia voted to authorize $54 million for new voting machines in Harris County. The machines include a paper printout to increase ballot security, and will be in use in the May 2021 elections.

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City of Houston Clarifies Rules to Ensure City Employees have Access to Assistance Programs

On Tuesday, the Houston City Council voted to ensure that the 22,000 city workers have access to assistance funds. HOPE Local 123 advocated for this clarification, which ensures that city workers have the same access to support as all other residents.

City of Galveston Launches Rental Assistance Program

The City of Galveston is accepting applications for a rental assistance program to help those who have faced financial hardship caused by the pandemic. The deadline to apply is Friday, January 29th at 4:30pm.

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Federal and Local Authorities Continue Vaccine Drive

The Biden Administration and local authorities have continued to ramp up efforts to vaccinate front line workers and vulnerable populations in the 1A and 1B categories. You can find the full list of Texas vaccine providers here, and Harris County and Galveston have both launched signup sites. You do not need to be a resident of a county or city to register.

To register for a vaccine, click on the links below.

The City of Houston and Fort Bend County have currently suspended registrations through the end of the week while awaiting new supplies. If you are looking for a provider in any region in Texas, click here.

The PRO Act passed the House last spring with support from COPE endorsed members Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Rep. Al Green, Rep. Sylvia Garcia, and Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, but now that Democrats control the Senate and White House, we can make it law.

The PRO Act would amplify worker power by expanding union membership, ban “right-to-work” laws, reform decades-old labor laws, and end employer intimidation or interference in union drives.

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Official account of the Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation.