Archives for category: Unions

The Economic Policy Institute is one of the very few think tanks in Washington, D.C. that cares about the status of working people. When one of its reports gets attention, critics are fast to point out that it is funded by unions. The same critics are silent when a think tank is funded by one or more billionaires, who like low taxes.

The value of the federal minimum wage has reached its lowest point in 66 years, according to an EPI analysis of recently released Consumer Price Index (CPI) data. Accounting for price increases in June, the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is now worth less than at any point since February 1956. At that time, the federal minimum wage was 75 cents per hour, or $7.19 in June 2022 dollars.

We are currently in the longest period without a minimum wage increase since Congress established the federal minimum wage in 1938.

As shown in the chart below, a worker paid the current $7.25 federal minimum wage earns 27.4% less in inflation-adjusted terms than what their counterpart was paid in July 2009 when the minimum wage was last increased. They earn 40.2% less than a minimum wage worker in February 1968, the historical high point of the minimum wage’s value.

After the longest period in history without an increase, the federal minimum wage today is worth 27% less than 13 years ago—and 40% less than in 1968

Real value of the minimum wage (adjusted for inflation)

Note: All values in June 2022 dollars, adjusted using the CPI-U in 2022 chained to the CPI-U-RS (1978–2021) and CPI-U-X1 (1967–1977) and CPI-U (1966 and before).

Source: Fair Labor Standards Act and amendments.

Economic Policy Institute

Steven Singer asks a reasonable question: Why is a Gates-Funded, anti-union, pro-charter advocacy group part of Pennsylvania’s effort to end the teacher shortage?

That would be TeachPlus.

Singer begins:

So Pennsylvania has unveiled a new plan to stop the exodus with the help of an organization pushing the same policies that made teaching undesirable in the first place.

The state’s Department of Education (PDE) announced its plan to stop the state’s teacher exodus today.

One of the four people introducing the plan at the Harrisburg press conference was Laura Boyce, Pennsylvania executive director of Teach Plus.

Why is this surprising?

Teach Plus is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works to select and train teachers to push its political agenda.

What is that agenda?

Teach Plus has embraced the practice of widespread staff firings as a strategy for school improvement.

Teach Plus mandates that test scores be a significant part of teacher evaluation.

Teach Plus advocates against seniority and claims that unions stifle innovation.

Teach Plus has received more than $27 million from the Gates Foundation and substantial donations from the Walton Family Foundation.

How can an organization dedicated to the same ideas that prompted the exodus turn around and stop the evacuation!?

That’s like hiring a pyromaniac as a fire fighter!

Read on.

Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times writes here about the defeat of one of President Biden’s most important nominees for the U.S. Labor Department and why it is very bad news indeed for American workers.

David Weil withdrew his name as head of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division on April 7 when it became clear that he would never be confirmed. He was nominated almost a year earlier. Every Republican and three Democratic Senators opposed him: Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, and Mark Kelly, perhaps hoping to placate conservative voters in Arizona before the November election.

Hiltzik writes:

Having earlier served in the job during the Obama administration, Weil came under ferocious attack by business interests and Republicans from the start, because they knew of his commitment to enforcing the labor laws on the books and the court rulings that have upheld them... 

Moreover, Weil’s loss was a blow for Biden, who is certainly the most pro-labor president in decades, perhaps ever. 

Weil was superbly qualified to resume leadership of the Wage and Hour Division. He’s an expert in labor law who has served as a professor and dean of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, with a sharp eye for the multitude of ways that employers can cheat and abuse their employees, especially lower-income workers… 

Weil’s 2014 book The Fissured Workplace examined the many ways that employers had been abandoning their responsibilities for workers.

As Weil explained to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) during his July 15 confirmation hearing, his aim as administrator, as it was in 2014-2017, would be “strategic enforcement” of labor standards “to make sure we are targeting industries and employers who are really violating the law and who erode those kinds of standards,” while reaching out to employers to make sure they understand their responsibilities.

To Republicans and their patrons in the business community, however, any enforcement of labor law is too much.

They accused him of an “open bias against small business.”

Their evidence was his advocacy of such initiatives as the expansion of overtime rights to more than 4.2 million workers who had been treated as exempt from overtime pay and tightening the classification of employees as independent contractors — the key to the business model of gig firms such as Uber and Lyft.

Weil also expanded the definition of joint employers to impose responsibilities for workplace standards on big companies that sought to shed them through subcontracting and franchise arrangements. 

It should be clear that these regulations would all improve pay and working conditions for workers. But they would cost employers, so business painted Weil as the enemy. The posturing by Republican committee members sometimes sounded as though they had received their talking points intravenously from the International Franchise Assn., one of Weil’s principal critics….

As Weil observes, the labor market is one of unequal power in which employers dominate. This observation is not new, leftist or extremist. In the landmark 1937 Supreme Court case known as Parrish, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes (reaching back to an 1898 decision upholding safety rules for mine workers) noted that fear of being fired often forces workers to bow to working conditions they know to be unfair or detrimental to their health.

“The proprietors lay down the rules,” the earlier decision stated, “and the laborers are practically constrained to obey them.” Parrish, which upheld a Washington state minimum wage law, marked a sea change in the court’s approach to labor law. Hughes, by the way, had been placed on the Court by Herbert Hoover.

Weil traces an arc in government-protected worker rights beginning with enactment of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935 and especially the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938. The latter installed an expansive definition of “employment,” and therefore of worker rights and employer responsibilities, at the heart of federal labor law. 

The FLSA made clear, he says, that “government plays a critical role saying, these are baseline rules of the game that can be built upon, whether through unionization or more progressive employers who understand the benefits of treating their workers well” — a foundation created by standards such as the minimum wage and an understanding on when the paid workday starts and stops.

Courts began to narrow the FLSA’s reach within a few years, followed by the Republican Congress, which enacted the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 over a veto by Democratic President Harry Truman. 

The 1970s brought about more erosion in the basic understanding of worker rights and employer responsibilities.

“More and more workers were in situations where they were seeing daily violations of these basic rules, from being told you punch in for your time only after you’ve prepared your work station or you punch out before you do clean-up, and you get paid at straight time, not overtime, even after 40 hours” a week, Weil observes.

“If someone had the guts to stand up and say, ‘That’s not right,’ they were fired, in direct violation of the law,” Weil says. “The persistence of those practices create an environment where no one wants to raise their head up and talk about other problems that occur because they see these violations of the most basic rights that workers are supposed to have. Forget about the risk of saying you see a health and safety problem or discrimination, for decades the riskiest thing you could do in an American workplace is to say, ‘I want to have a union here.’

“To me,” he says, “those rights are not exercised if the basic rights are being systematically violated.”

In “The Fissured Workplace,” Weil tracked how employers had been offloading their employees to labor subcontractors, temp agencies and franchisees and redesignating one-time members of their payrolls as independent contractors. 

“In 1960,” he wrote, “most hotel employees worked for the brand that appeared over the hotel entrance. Today, more than 80% of staff are employed by hotel franchisees and supervised by separate management companies.”

Not long after his book appeared, the gig platforms such as Uber and Lyft emerged. Weil recognized them as new iterations of an old story.

“When the platform model came out with this whole false narrative that they were providing ‘flexibility’ without all that messy employment stuff, to me the platforms were just another form of fissuring,” Weil says. “Their idea was to control the brand, and completely divorce themselves from those responsibilities.” 

In a Los Angeles Times op-ed in 2019, when Uber and Lyft were fighting a California law that would designate their drivers as employees, Weil acknowledged that some companies operated in a gray area where their workers sometimes acted like employees and sometimes like independent contractors. 

“Uber and Lyft are not among those close, gray-area cases,” he wrote. “Their status as employers is really quite clear.” (Uber, Lyft and other gig companies spent immense sums to pass Proposition 22, which exempted them from the California law — though the law has been put on hold by a state judge.)

Weil’s position earned him the enmity of the gig companies. They opposed his confirmation through their now-defunct app-based Work Alliance, which tweeted during his Senate hearing that he supported “an outdated workforce model” that was shunned by gig workers who “love their flexibility and independence,” which the companies asserted Weil’s policies would “take away.”

In contrast to the gig firms’ efforts to create a hybrid employment standard that would only make permanent their abusive business models while denying workers basic employment protection, Weil has advocated extending workplace standards to beyond those who are classified as employees. 

In a 2020 paper, Weil and labor law expert Tanya Goldman proposed a framework of concentric circles in which basic protections such as freedom from discrimination and retaliation, and the guarantee of safe and healthful working conditions and a minimum wage would be linked to all work, rather than to legal definitions of employment.

Further protections, including the right to overtime pay, unionization and workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance, would belong to a second circle of workers who would be presumed to hold employment status unless their employers could make a hard-and-fast case that they were independent contractors. 

A third circle would encompass indisputably independent workers. They still would be entitled to unemployment and workers’ compensation, and could arrange on their own for other benefits such as retirement funding. 

The virtue of this concept is that it divorces essential protections from pettifogging debates over the definition of “employee.” Weil acknowledges that some of these changes would require congressional action. 

There lies the rub. Weil’s nomination foundered in large part on Senate procedure. The narrowness of the Democratic majority forced delays in a floor vote on his appointment that lasted into this year, when Biden was required to renominate him. By then, the business community had built up a head of steam against his confirmation. 

When it became clear that no Republican would vote for him, nor would three Democrats, Weil withdrew his nomination.

“The principal reason they didn’t want me in this role,” Weil says, “is that I had a record of enforcing the law.”

Michael Hiltzik, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, reviews the context of the drive for unions at Starbucks. it’s CEO, billionaire Howard Schultz, wants to portray the far-flung coffee shop empire as worker-friendly, and he is flatly opposed to unions. He insists that the unions bring an adversarial edge and downplays the likelihood that unions would mean higher wages and benefits at the cost of profit margins.

Hiltzik writes:

Many American consumer companies, including Amazon and McDonalds, have been dealing with a surging interest in unionization by their employees, spurred in part by the pandemic-driven recognition that their employers have consistently undervalued their contributions to business success.

But few such union drives are as high-profile as the one at Starbucks. One reason may be the company’s warm and comforting image and its efforts to project a friendly relationship between customers and workers, who are designated in company parlance as “partners.” That’s very much at odds with the image of an employer so cold to the welfare of its workers that they’re spurred to organize.

Another may be the rapidity of the unionization drive’s expansion, which began with pro-union votes at three Buffalo-area stores. Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union that is organizing union votes, says 223 Starbucks locations in 31 states have filed for votes with the NLRB.

That’s a fraction of the roughly 9,000 company-operated stores in the U.S., but reports of new successful votes are streaming in on virtually a daily basis. Five stores in the Richmond, Va., area voted for unions by overwhelming margins on April 19 alone, and workers at the company’s Seattle Reserve Roastery, a flagship tourist draw in Starbucks’ home city, announced a successful vote on April 21.

Workers United says 28 Starbucks stores have now voted to unionize, up from nine that had done so as of April 1.

“Because Starbucks is a front-facing company considered ‘essential,’” Workers United organizing chief Richard Minter says, “the pandemic exacerbated the employer-employee relationship. The partners were left in the crosshairs without the resources necessary to handle what was happening, without the right precautions and protocols that allowed them to feel safe.”

The company has mounted a fierce counterattack against the organizing drive. In videotaped town hall presentations, written communications to workers and managers, and in meetings with workers around the country, Schultz has repeatedly characterized unions as a menace to the company’s economics and future.

“Outside labor unions are attempting to sell a very different view of what Starbucks should be,” he wrote in an open letter posted on the company’s website April 10.

Employees “supporting unionization are colluding with outside union forces,” he wrote. “The critical point is that I do not believe conflict, division and dissension — which has been a focus of union organizing — benefits Starbucks or our partners…”

The union threat, Shultz said in a town hall meeting shortly after his reappointment as CEO, extends beyond Starbucks: “Companies throughout the country [are] being assaulted in many ways by the threat of unionization.”

Starbucks, in an anti-union FAQ posted on its website, warns that “unions get their revenue from dues, which could come out of your pay each week or month.” It says, “unions use dues to pay for their office overhead, staff salaries and other expenses,” though it doesn’t mention the expense of negotiating contracts and enforcing their provisions, which are of course the chief duties of unions.

The company also has hired the law firm of Littler Mendelson, which boasts of its skill at guiding companies “in developing and initiating strategies that lawfully avoid unions.” These include advising management on “precise and compliant messaging to employees … that may include informational signs and posters, home letters, meeting materials, testimonial videos, social media postings, handouts and campaign websites.”

Followers of labor-management relations will recognize that Schultz’s words come directly out of the canonical corporate anti-union playbook:

Paint the unions as “outsiders.” Imply that their only goal is to add members. Say they’ll disrupt the smooth working of the company or even drive it out of business. Say they’ll make it impossible for workers to deal directly with management. Talk about how much money workers will lose to dues…

Starbucks is plainly aware of the complaints about pay and working conditions that are fueling the organizing drive. The company has displayed on its website a poster it says reflects “issues we have been hearing from partners…”

Starbucks is not new to the arena of fraught labor relations. Its animosity toward unions dates back to Schultz’s 1987 acquisition of the company, then a local chain of coffee spots in Seattle. At that time, Starbucks employees were represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. Former workers say Schultz promised to honor the UFCW contract but almost immediately tried to renegotiate it.

It’s conceivable that Schultz honestly sees himself as the hand that can improve Starbucks’ relationship with its workers, and that unions will only get in the way. He’s adept at projecting sincerity, as when he says in an employee video of the worker meetings that “it was difficult and emotional at times to hear the challenges and the issues that partners are facing.”

Unlike some other companies, Starbucks has not turned a cold shoulder to unions that have been voted in at its stores; Workers United says the company has begun to meet with union representatives at two of the Buffalo stores that touched off the organizing trend, though they have not reached contracts.

The real question is whether the company will draw the right lessons from the union organizing drive: that unions and management can be partners, not invariably adversaries, that demonizing unions won’t improve labor relations, and that workers’ interest in unionization doesn’t mean they hate the company.

Matthew Cunningham-Cook of The Lever reports that workers at Starbucks are voting to join unions. The Lever is a blog launched by David Sirota, co-author of “Don’t Look Up” and former speechwriter for Senator Bernie Sanders.

Big events continue to happen on the Starbucks Workers United front. On Tuesday, five Starbucks stores in greater Richmond, Virginia, voted to unionize. On Thursday, they won an election at the 100-employee-plus Starbucks Reserve Roastery flagship store in Seattle — one of the largest Starbucks stores to organize so far. Then, on Friday, the shamefully underfunded National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint over Starbucks’ February mass firing of union leaders in Memphis. Then again on Friday, the first Starbucks store in Colorado unionized. Struggling to keep track of it all? Reporters at Law360 developed this tool to track the growth of Starbucks workers’ efforts.

Harold Meyerson writes here about Jennifer Abruzzo’s request to the National Labor Relations Board to ban “captive audience” meetings, in which employers lecture their employees about the dangers of joining a union. Abruzzo is the recently appointed general counsel of the agency, where she has worked for many years. She is in a hurry to restore the original purpose of the NLRB, which was to create a level field for employers and employees.

Meyerson writes in The American Prospect:

By now, it’s clear that Jennifer Abruzzo, the general counsel at the National Labor Relations Board, is both an originalist and an adherent to the belief that the National Labor Relations Act is a law whose interpretations must have some relation to current realities.

One of those realities is that a succession of Board and court rulings over many decades has eroded the act itself, and with it, the very worker rights the act was written to ensure. One of those erosions is the “captive audience” meeting, which employees are compelled to attend, at which their managers subject them to arguments against their going union. The very fact that attendance is compulsory underscores the imbalance of power between boss and worker, such that the meetings constitute an implicit—and sometimes explicit—threat to the workers. The authors of the NLRA meant to give workers the right to freely choose whether to unionize. Compelling workers to attend these meetings (and forbidding union advocates from holding even voluntary meetings at the worksite), Abruzzo argues, erodes that right of free choice.

In a memo she sent to NLRB staff today, Abruzzo announced she would ask the Board to ban such captive audience meetings for violating both the letter and spirit of the NLRA. The act, she wrote, “protects employees’ right to listen as well as their right to refrain from listening to employer speech concerning the exercise of their Section 7 rights”—that is, their rights to freely choose whether or not to unionize and to have a voice on the job. “Forcing employees to listen to such employer speech under threat of discipline—directly leveraging the employees’ dependence on their jobs—plainly chills employees’ protected right to refrain from listening to this speech,” she asserted.

Today’s memo is of a piece with Abruzzo’s previous memos, all of which seek to restore the NLRA to what its authors intended: an act enabling workers to freely choose whether to organize and, if they do so choose, to bargain collectively. As I’ve reported in my profile of Abruzzo, which appears in our April print issue, she has emerged as the most potent champion of worker rights that the government has seen in a great many years, and as such, by happy coincidence, as the most potent ally of the generation of workers we’ve seen unionizing on campuses, at Starbucks, and now, at an Amazon warehouse.

Abruzzo writes lots of these potentially very impactful memos. I’ll try to keep you posted on them as she turns them out.

There was a time—more than half a century ago—when labor unions promised to guarantee fair wages, decent working hours, and secure benefits for American workers. Unions raised many people from poverty to the middle class. Yet today, unions—especially in the private sector—are at a low point, due to anti-union activities by corporate America. But recent organizing efforts at two of the nation’s largest employers—Amazon and Starbucks—show promise of change.

One woman is in a position to protect the rights of workers to join a union: Jennifer Abruzzo. The American Prospect has written about her, and I am sharing some of those articles here.

Harold Meyerson wrote:

One gap between American public opinion and American public policy has been growing steadily wider over the past dozen years. Public support for unions rose to a high point of 68 percent last year, while the actual rate of membership in unions, continuing its 70-year descent, hit a new low last year of a bare 6 percent of private-sector employees.

In democracies, the common response to realities so at odds with public sentiment is something like “there ought to be a law.”

In this case, there is. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), enacted in 1935, gave workers a legal right to form unions and bargain collectively. For a decade, it worked as intended, as a previously moribund union movement grew to encompass fully one-third of the nation’s workforce. For the next decade, despite a Republican Congress limiting the law’s scope with the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, unions held their own. Thereafter, membership percentages began a slow but relentless decline, as court decisions and the ferocious opposition of American business to worker rights turned the NLRA on its head. Though the Act remained on the books, the penalties employers faced for violating its terms—by intimidating or even firing workers seeking to unionize—were so minimal that employer lawbreaking became common practice and successful unionization campaigns became rarer and rarer.

Eventually, Democrats became aware that the weakness of federal labor law not only triggered deunionization and hollowed out the middle class, but also reduced workers’ support for the Democratic Party. But Republicans are implacably opposed to unions, and a critical mass of Democrats are implacably opposed to abolishing the filibuster and restoring majority rule in the Senate. So while you can write a bill like the PRO Act, which would patch many of the holes in the NLRA, you can’t get it passed, and consequently, you can’t reverse labor’s decline.

Or can you?

Last summer, on a party-line vote, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Jennifer Abruzzo as general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which oversees union recognition contests and investigates and adjudicates disputes over violations of the NLRA. While not a member of the Board itself (which by custom consists of three appointees from the president’s party and two from the opposition’s), the general counsel functions as the NLRB’s chief prosecutor, directing its roughly 500 attorneys across the nation on what kind of cases to bring and what remedies to seek. It’s a powerful position, but no previous general counsel had used that power quite like Abruzzo has.

Just two weeks after she was confirmed in late July, Abruzzo sent out her first memo to staff attorneys, a common practice for new general counsels, laying out the kind of cases attorneys should file. Her stated intention was to reverse the Trump-appointee-dominated Board’s anti-worker rulings that, she wrote, had “overruled legal precedent.” But she added that she also wanted to pursue other cases “not necessarily the subject of a more recent Board decision, [that] are nevertheless ones I would like to carefully examine,” because they, too, ran counter to the NLRA. For example, in cases where employers refused to recognize a union even though a majority of workers had indicated through signing affiliation cards that they wished to form one, she advised the Board attorneys to consult the Joy Silk Mills case for the appropriate remedy.

“Even labor lawyers had forgotten about Joy Silk,” says Catherine Fisk, a professor of labor law at the University of California, Berkeley. And no wonder: The Joy Silk ruling, which was promulgated in 1949 by a Board dominated by Harry Truman’s appointees, was substantially overturned in 1969 in a Supreme Court case known as Gissel, and the NLRB, dominated by Richard Nixon’s appointees at the time, wasn’t inclined to defend the Truman Board’s remedies.

Under Joy Silk, employers who refused to recognize a union’s legitimate majority status had been compelled to recognize the union and to enter into bargaining with it, except in rare instances. Under Gissel, employers who refused to recognize a union’s legitimate majority status were compelled merely to run or rerun an election among their employees to determine union status, except in rare instances. That enabled employers to delay recognition and bargaining, in some cases for years, and to intimidate workers from voting in a union in a much-delayed election.

The abandonment of Joy Silk made a huge difference in employer behavior. As a 2017 article in the Santa Clara Law Review documented, eliminating Joy Silk’s standard for the remedy when employers refused to recognize their workers’ pro-union preference led to an immediate increase in employer violations of the NLRA’s letter and spirit. In the five years before Joy Silk was struck down, charges of employer intimidation totaled about 1,000 cases a year. Once the softball remedies of Gissel became the standard, charges exploded to a peak of 6,493 in 1981, after which they fell along with unionization efforts generally. Under Gissel, intimidation became the norm.

Abruzzo believed it would take going back to Joy Silk to make workers’ right to form unions—a right ensured by the NLRA—real again. Many employers, Abruzzo told me, are “abusing [the law’s] processes in order to coerce employees to change their minds and vote against the union, where it obviously enjoys majority support.” When Joy Silk was the standard, “there were many more elections that were untainted” by employer intimidation. And if the company, under a revived Joy Silk, enters into a bargaining process that it prolongs by stalling and refusing to reach an agreement, Abruzzo further believes the NLRB should compel it to compensate workers for what they would have made under a promptly negotiated contract, “if the employer had bargained in good faith from the start.”

Nothing in the PRO Act, or any labor law proposal over the past few decades, even touches on reviving Joy Silk. As one union official puts it, “we have a general counsel that’s pushing the envelope beyond what unions themselves have been pushing for.”

THE JOY SILK MEMO was just the beginning for Abruzzo. In short order, a flurry of other memos followed.

She called for increasing employers’ “back pay” payments to employees that they’ve illegally fired to include payments for the financial sacrifices the employees made due to the firing, such as withdrawals from 401(k)s or taking out loans. Her new standards also required employers to compensate unions for the expenses they incurred in fighting their employer’s illegal behavior. She proposed treating employers’ “captive audience” meetings, in which workers are invariably compelled to hear management’s case against unionizing, as an unfair labor practice, for which an appropriate remedy would be allowing the union to hold meetings with workers at their worksite as well. She recommended that costs to workers and unions be paid in full in any settlement agreements, while eliminating any “non-admission of guilt” language from such settlements to establish a pattern of violations if such were to exist. She recognized student athletes in lucrative college sports as employees under the NLRA. She ensured rights, protections, and remedies for immigrant workers under the NLRA.

And she instructed attorneys to hasten remedies under the NLRA’s 10(j) section by more frequently seeking cease-and-desist injunctions against offending employers. Abruzzo encouraged filing these injunctions not only when a worker in an organizing drive was illegally fired, but when an employer threatened to fire such workers, or to shut down the worksite if the workers go union. Both of those actions are also illegal under the NLRA. Abruzzo’s goal is to make sure that efforts to unlawfully thwart employees’ rights to form a union can “be nipped in the bud” while the organizing drive is still proceeding.

The Biden administration is clearly the most pro-union administration in American history, with its backing of the PRO Act, its recommendations for greater worker rights in the federal government, its extension of higher wage standards on federally funded projects, its preference for unionized companies in its domestic production bill, its groundbreaking demand for a fair union affiliation vote in a Mexican factory under the terms of the revised NAFTA, and the president’s own pro-worker message to the employees at Amazon’s Alabama warehouse. Even without Abruzzo’s efforts, this would be a significant step forward in the posture of a presidency toward the labor movement.

But few observers would dispute the assessment of Celine McNicholas, a former NLRB special counsel who is now the general counsel and director of policy and government affairs at the Economic Policy Institute, who tells me, “Installing Jennifer Abruzzo as the NLRB’s general counsel will be the most impactful action that the Biden administration took in its first term for working people.”

JENNIFER ABRUZZO HAS SPENT 23 of her 58 years as an attorney at the NLRB, starting out as a field attorney in the Miami office, rising to the position of deputy attorney for the Florida region, then moving at the Board’s request to its Washington, D.C., headquarters, where she rose to be deputy general counsel during the Obama administration. During the Trump years, she rotated out of government to the Communications Workers of America (CWA), where she served as special counsel until the Senate confirmed her nomination last summer.

Abruzzo grew up in a working-class family in the (then as now) working-class neighborhood of Jackson Heights, Queens. Her father was an electrical engineer at ConEd; her mother was an X-ray technician at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. Both were union members. Jennifer, her parents, and her siblings (she’s the eldest of four) lived in a three-room apartment. “Not three bedrooms,” she clarified. “Three rooms. But I had a roof over my head and food on the table, and having those union benefits definitely helped us.”

She attended parochial schools, then went to college at New York state colleges: SUNY Binghamton and SUNY Stony Brook. An early marriage brought her to Miami, where she had her son, divorced, and went to work in the human resources department of a South American–oriented branch of Deutsche Bank.

“I was divorced with a young child and needed to support us both,” she said, “so I ended up going to law school, the University of Miami Law School, at night,” while working at the bank during the day. No labor law classes were available at night, but Abruzzo took an evidence class with Michael Fischl, a former NLRB attorney who taught labor law in the daytime.

Fischl, now a law professor at the University of Connecticut, recalls that he taught that evidence class “with a heavy labor and employment law emphasis.” In a class of roughly 100 students, he says, Abruzzo “stood out for her thoughtfulness and the depth of her engagement,” so much so that she was invited to join a social justice and legal theory book group with other faculty members and students.

“It’s hard enough to work and go to law school at the same time,” Fischl says. “Add to that being a single mom. I’m reminded of that line about Ginger Rogers, that she did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in heels.”

When an attorney’s position came open in the NLRB’s Miami office, Fischl recommended Abruzzo for the job, though she’d had just a year in private practice. At the NLRB, she spent a good deal of her time representing immigrants from both Central and South America, as well as Haiti.

“What drew me to the NLRB?” Abruzzo says. “Coming from a union household helped, but what that instilled in me was a very strong work ethic, and also being empathetic towards others who might not have as much as we did … I just wanted to ensure that I did everything I could to ensure that people were treated equitably.”

“I WOULD DESCRIBE JENNIFER as the master mechanic of the NLRB,” says Jody Calemine, the general counsel and chief of staff at CWA. “She’s worked there at every level, she knows what works, what doesn’t work. She has encyclopedic knowledge of the case law, knows all the arguments inside and out, and she truly believes in the Act.”

When McNicholas worked as an NLRB special counsel while Abruzzo was deputy general counsel during Obama’s presidency, “she helped me figure out how the agency worked,” McNicholas says. “All the regional offices are overseen by general counsel’s division of operations. She brought a field perspective to the job.”

Abruzzo’s attentiveness to the concerns of the Board’s far-flung staff is already the stuff of legend. Her zeal to make the NLRA work again has won her a particular following among the many young attorneys who work there.

“I’ve seen her with her young attorneys,” says Julie Gutman Dickinson, an attorney in private practice who represents unions and workers who are misclassified by their employers as independent contractors rather than employees. “They see this general counsel who is brilliant, who believes in the Act, who articulates their beliefs so eloquently and who works so hard.”

One of those young attorneys is Aaron Samsel, who works in the Board’s Washington headquarters. After going to work for the Board right out of law school, he left during the Trump presidency, but when Biden nominated Abruzzo for the general counsel’s post, he decided to go back. “Among all my colleagues, both staff attorneys and supervisory attorneys, there’s this feeling of profound relief to have a general counsel who they feel has their back,” Samsel says. “She really listens when people bring concerns to her, and she understands it all. She can get into the minutiae of handling a case.”

That understanding of how workers and employers actually interact in an organizing campaign underpins many of Abruzzo’s directions to her staff. Her directive on filing 10(j) injunctions against employers threatening their workers during organizing campaigns is based on her knowledge that the long-established practice of winning back-pay settlements for illegally fired workers years after they’ve been fired does nothing to stop such conduct when it’s being used to thwart a unionization campaign. “10(j) injunctions are the teeth of the Act,” says Gutman Dickinson, who under its terms has won a number of such cease-and-desist orders and orders to reinstate fired workers, “and Jennifer completely understands that.”

The understanding of how workers and employers actually interact in an organizing campaign underpins many of Abruzzo’s directions to staff.

Abruzzo’s memos take aim not just at the timing but also at the insufficiency of the penalties the NLRB has commonly assessed against employers—chiefly, offering back pay to illegally fired workers and posting a notice somewhere in the worksite that the employer has been found in violation of the NLRA and made such a payment. Abruzzo points out that the Act doesn’t allow for punitive damages, so that truly enforcing it requires that fired workers be made financially whole. That means making the employer cover all loans, credit card fees, and withdrawals from savings and retirement funds that the worker has been compelled to make.

The NLRB should be looking, Abruzzo told me, at “how can we put people back to the way it was before all this unlawful activity occurred, at whether there’s been emotional distress that can be particularly linked to an unlawful discharge, in much the way our sister agencies [like, for instance, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] seek such compensation.”

Harvard labor law professor Ben Sachs explains, “For decades, the lament of labor lawyers and organizers has been that the NLRA remedies are like a bad joke, so weak that it’s economically rational for employers to violate the law. Now, she’s done something that really wasn’t in the collective legal imagination: figured out how to increase remedies without congressional action. She’s found a number of ways to do exactly that.”

“Making employers who’ve broken the law pay the union back for its organizing expenses could be of major importance,” Sachs says. “She’s been imaginative in an arena where many of us were just lamenting.”

Another remedy that wasn’t in the collective legal imagination is Abruzzo’s proposal to declare captive audience meetings an unfair labor practice, the remedy for which should be enabling unions to hold their own meetings with workers, at the worksite. She also has called for making employers provide unions with the home addresses of workers during organizing campaigns, a remedy that’s particularly important at a time when an unprecedented number of employees are working from home.

In her memos, Abruzzo has said Board attorneys should file cases based on the argument that the misclassification of workers as independent contractors when they are actually employees is in itself an unfair labor practice under the NLRA, for which the Board can provide a remedy that states the workers are employees and thus eligible to unionize. The Trump-dominated Board had ruled that such misclassifications were not an unfair labor practice. That’s one of the Trump rulings, Abruzzo has stated, that violates the NLRA and should be overturned. And on March 17th, following Abruzzo’s memos, NLRB attorneys filed a complaint against a port trucking company at the Los Angeles harbor for the unfair labor practice of misclassifying its drivers, which, if upheld by an administrative law judge, would compel the firm to compensate them for lost wages and expenses and to provide a union with access to the drivers in an organizing campaign.

Misclassification is at the heart of the gig economy and, increasingly, the economy at large. Depending on the “common sense” standard of whether, say, a driver of a company’s trucks is an employee or a contractor, such a ruling could affect such mega-companies as FedEx, Amazon, Uber, and Lyft, not to mention countless smaller employers.

Abruzzo is taking on worker misclassification, a critical issue for port truckers.

As labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein points out, due to the need to win support from Southern senators, the NLRA initially excluded farm and domestic workers (that is, Black workers) from the law’s guarantees. As a result of the civil rights and kindred movements, some New Deal measures, like the minimum wage, were finally extended to some of those workers in recent decades. This triggered a new tactic from employers, Lichtenstein says. “The guarantees of labor law have been chipped away to exempt other people: managers, and now ‘independent contractors.’ That exempts more and more people from New Deal standards and rights. It’s been a Republican project.”

Making misclassification a violation of the NLRA would go a long way, then, to revive not just the NLRA, but an entire suite of legal obligations—like the minimum wage and payments into the Social Security and unemployment insurance systems—that companies now evade by refusing to acknowledge their workers actually work for them.

BOTH THE QUALITY AND the quantity of Abruzzo’s directives have dazzled the labor and legal communities, while alarming management-side attorneys. At a recent American Bar Association meeting that Abruzzo addressed, one corporate lawyer was overheard remarking, “We may have to find a different country.”

Abruzzo’s suggested reforms certainly mark a departure from previous practices under Democratic as well as Republican administrations. In the assessment of one longtime union official, “the Board under Bill Clinton viewed the Act largely as they received it, accepting as precedents the interpretations that had watered it down. The Board under Obama sought to update the law to meet new developments in the economy, as they did in their joint employer ruling saying that the parent company shared in the liability of its franchisers if they violated the Act, a ruling that the courts subsequently struck down. With Abruzzo under Biden, the agenda is now to get rid of all the erosions of the Act that have essentially ended the worker rights the Act created and secured.”

NLRB veterans generally believe the Democratic majority on the current Board will establish rulings that are based on Abruzzo’s arguments. “The majority will likely be sympathetic to all her proposals,” says Wilma Liebman, who chaired the Board during Obama’s presidency. Liebman is concerned, however, that the Board may be stretched by the sheer number of precedent-challenging cases that Abruzzo brings before it.

Some labor attorneys are concerned for a different reason: that Abruzzo’s agenda is both too ambitious and too well publicized. “I’m surprised at how public she’s been about it all, putting out her theories step by step,” says one. “Does the publicity heighten the possibility that rulings will be challenged more quickly in the courts? She may be giving employers an unnecessary head start.”

The courts, after all, can overturn NLRB rulings, and no court since the 1920s has been as anti-labor as the Supreme Court is today. Every attorney and union official I’ve spoken with for this piece has been gloomy about the prospects of some of Abruzzo’s policies passing muster with such avowed union-haters as the Supreme Court’s Sam Alito and his five Republican colleagues. They point out, however, that it normally takes many years for NLRB rulings to reach the Supreme Court (“They’re too busy right now outlawing abortion,” one lawyer said), and that during that interval, Abruzzo’s suggested policies can make it significantly easier for workers to prevail, particularly the generation of young workers at universities and Starbucks and tech companies, who in growing numbers are moving to win a voice at work. A case in point: Shortly after she sent out her memo calling captive audience meetings an unfair labor practice, the union seeking to organize Amazon’s warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, put out a press release alleging just such violations, quoting her memo to bolster their case.

That may be one more reason, in addition to her determination to restore the worker rights encoded in the NLRA, and her general sense of justice, why Abruzzo looks to be in such a blessed hurry.

This just in:


On-site Contact
Rosalina Cardenas 

C: 213-280-1144


Follow Up ContactGlenn Goldstein

Organization & Field Services, AFT
C: 510-735-4815

Charter educators to strike on Thursday, April 28, as management continues to deny right to unionize

Educators demand Alliance College-Ready Public Schools begin negotiations on the educators’ first contract after three years and multiple PERB violations

Educators at four Alliance College-Ready charter schools will be going on a one-day Unfair Labor Practice strike on Thursday, April 28, in response to the Alliance Board of Directors continued refusal to negotiate the educators’ first contract after multiple orders by the Public Employment Relations Board to bargain.

WHAT: One-day Unfair Labor Practice strike

WHEN & WHERE: Thursday, April 28, 2022

· MAIN EVENT (rally with speakers, followed by march) — 11:30 a.m.
2301 S Union Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90007 (MAP)

· Picketing starts at 7:15 a.m. Main picket location is Gertz-Merkin 6-12.
2023 S Union Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90007

WHO: Teachers, counselors, and education professionals from Alliance College-Ready charter schools, and rally speakers (below).

· Emcees: Brittany Cliffe and Erin Belefski (UTLA Alliance educators)

· Jamie Garcia, UTLA Alliance educator from Burton Tech High School

· Jackie Goldberg, LAUSD School Board Member District 5

· Gloria Santos & Manuela Chaidez, parents of Alliance students

· Ron Herrera, President of the LA County Federation of Labor

· Jeff Freitas, President of California Federation of Teachers

· Cecily Myart-Cruz, President of UTLA

VISUALS: Strike picket signs, banners, educators leafleting the community, rally, speakers, DJ, march after rally to school for afternoon picket.

A supermajority of educators at the four Alliance charter schools (Alliance Burton Tech, Alliance Gertz-Merkin, Alliance Leichtman Levine Family Foundation ESAT, and Alliance Morgan McKinzie High School) voted to unionize over three years ago with United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA). Since that time educators have gone on multiple occasions to the Alliance Board of Directors to get the board to begin negotiations, but they have refused to bargain.

On February 28, 2022, the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) announced that Alliance College-Ready Public Schools is in violation of the Educational Employment Relations Act (EERA) for refusing to bargain with educators and once again ordered Alliance to negotiate.

However, the schools’ leadership have yet to meet with the educators to negotiate for their contract. 

Teachers, counselors, psychologists, and parents at the schools are coming together to ensure the highest quality of education at Alliance. Educators love their schools and students, and they believe that — through the collective voice that union membership and the bargaining process provides —  they can advocate for small class sizes, teacher and counselor recruitment and retention, health and safety, and a commitment to social, emotional, and educational support for students that will help build the schools Alliance students need and deserve.



About Alliance Educators United


Alliance Educators United is a movement of dedicated and passionate teachers, counselors, and education professionals in the Alliance College-Ready Public Schools committed to fulfilling the mission and vision of a college-ready education for all Alliance students. We are forming a union with United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) to have a collective and effective voice in the decision-making processes at our Alliance schools.


About UTLA


United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) is 35,000 educators in Los Angeles dedicated to quality public education

The American Federation of Teachers released the following statement about the U.S. Department of Education’s proposals to reform the federal Charter Schools Program, which grants $440 million annually to open or expand charter schools. Authorized in 1994, when there were a small number of charter schools, the CSP has never been reformed in its nearly three decade history. The industry captured the program and glossed over widespread waste, fraud, and abuse in federally-funded charter schools.

The AFT wrote:

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, April 20

Andrew Crook
AFT Responds to Department of Education on Charter School Regulations

WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten sent the following letter to the U.S. Department of Education responding to proposed regulations on Charter Schools Program grants.

The text of the letter follows, and it can be read online with additional footnoting and formatting here.

~April 11, 2022

Ms. Porscheoy Brice

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue SW

Washington, DC 20202-5970

Dear Ms. Brice,

The American Federation of Teachers welcomes the opportunity to comment on the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed regulations to the Charter Schools Program grant programs. These proposed regulations represent a positive development for America’s children, and if fully implemented, these improvements to the Charter Schools Program grant applications will not only advance equity, but also move to restore charter schools to their original purpose by integrating them into the broader education community.

We applaud the department’s proposed regulations, which seek to improve community integration of charter schools. We also applaud the department for taking steps to prevent for-profit charter schools—which studies have shown underperform, compared with both public schools and their nonprofit counterparts—from receiving charter school grants. These steps will undoubtedly improve educational outcomes for children in both charter and traditional public schools. As a union of 1.7 million educators, healthcare workers and public service workers, including educators at more than 250 charter schools, we appreciate that the department is seeking to increase collaboration between charters schools and traditional public schools

The AFT strongly supports the department’s collaboration priority:

We appreciate that the department is recognizing the need for collaboration between charter schools and district schools. Charter schools were originally intended to be vehicles for experimentation and collaboration, not walled gardens within our education system, and these proposed regulations reflect that the charter industry has strayed from that original intent. As a union of education professionals, we have concerns over the pervasiveness of noncompete and nondisclosure agreement practices in charter schools and the chilling effect that such agreements are already having on charter-district collaboration. 

We recommend that the Charter Schools Program grant applications be modified to have applicants certify that they will void all such noncompete/nondisclosure provisions, if they exist, during the life of the grant.

Noncompete clauses, which prevent charter teachers from taking jobs in traditional public schools for a set period of time (or within a geographic region proximate to the charter school), are obvious barriers to the department’s proposed priority of fostering district-charter collaboration. For example, according to Donald Cohen and Allen Mikaelian’s recently released book The Privatization of Everything, Summit Academy Schools of Ohio sued 50 teachers in three years for violating noncompete clauses.

There have been repeated suggestions that, beyond chilling collaboration, nondisclosure agreements prevented charter school teachers from blowing the whistle on fraud and malfeasance occurring at their schools.

We would ask that, in support of this priority, the CSP grant application be modified to include a certification by applicants that they either 1) do not utilize nondisclosure agreements and/or noncompete agreements at their schools, or 2) will void all such agreements for the life of the grant.

Collaboration between district schools and charter schools would be enhanced by putting district schools and charters on the same footing with respect to enrollment requirements:

Practices at certain charter schools have the effect of filtering out some subpopulations of students, leading to the concentration of higher-needs students in district schools. This behavior includes the counseling out of special education students; the use of entrance barriers that disincentivize enrollments of English language learners, low-income students and students with disabilities; and a reluctance to backfill when students leave the charter school. Charter schools that create enrollment barriers for ELLs, students with disabilities and low-income students are often already doing so in violation of federal law, but other disparate policies are not currently unlawful. The interests of district-charter collaboration would be furthered by asking applicants to disclose whether they engage in discriminatory enrollment practices.

Practices that exclude certain students from charter schools create divisions between district and charter teachers and administrators. In our experience, the prevalence of these practices varies significantly across the country and is unfortunately common in some states. The ACLU examined charter school enrollment barriers statewide in both Arizona and California, finding that more than 20 percent of California charter schools and 50 percent of surveyed Arizona charter schools utilized exclusionary enrollment practices.

These practices included denying applicants on the basis of prior academic performance, requiring application fees, capping special education enrollments, discouraging immigrant applicants and requiring parent volunteer hours.

While many exclusionary charter application practices amount to violations of the letter or spirit of the law (or both), charter schools are permitted under federal law to decline to backfill student vacancies created as a result of a student withdrawal or expulsion. When charter schools refuse to backfill vacancies, it both compounds existing student population disparities between district and charter schools and creates new ones. Student mobility is associated with lower student performance, so limiting midyear entrants gives charter schools an advantage that comes at the expense of the district schools that are required to accept all enrollments.

To preserve the department’s proposed priority of fostering district-charter collaboration, we suggest amending the proposed regulations to request that charter school applicants disclose information about their application, selection, turnover and backfilling practices. Specifically, applicants should certify that application materials are available in all languages spoken in the community; that they do not cap the number of students with a disability (or the type of students with a disability they accept); and that they do not charge a fee for applicants. If applicants currently operate charter schools, they should disclose annual student turnover figures for the past five years. The regulations should also be modified so that charter school applicants disclose whether they use admissions tests, consider past academic or behavioral issues during admissions, and backfill vacancies either midyear or between school years, and they should require applicants to disclose how they have recruited students from diverse populations across their catchment areas.

Unions can help facilitate a collaborative school atmosphere, and regulations should be modified to reward applicants who pledge to support their workers’ right to organize:

Collaboration between district school and charter school teachers would be easier if both groups were on the same professional footing. Unfortunately charter school teachers are often underpaid, and turnover in the industry is alarmingly high. Some charter schools operate with teaching staffs that are largely uncredentialed. Many operators in the charter school industry seem to have abandoned any attempt at employee retention, choosing instead to focus on building recruitment “pipelines” to solve the rapid turnover of their teaching force. The department’s laudable goal of fostering collaboration between district and charter schools will be difficult in high-turnover conditions and where significant disparities exist between district school and charter school staff.

We have seen, however, how beneficial it can be when charter and district teachers belong to the same union. In Chicago, several charter schools in the city are organized with the Chicago Teachers Union, with charter and district teachers belonging to the same union. The Chicago Teachers Union QUEST Center brings together both charter and district teachers for professional development courses. Unions can be the space where collaboration across district schools and charter schools can occur—but when charter teachers want to organize a union, their school management often stands in the way. In furtherance of the department’s stated goal of district-charter collaboration, as envisioned within these proposed regulations, we submit that the proposed regulations should be modified to reward schools that pledge not to interfere with teachers who wish to exercise their rights to organize and bargain collectively.

The AFT respectfully requests that language be inserted into the grant application to allow applicants to make a good-faith certification that they will remain neutral in any union organizing effort for the term of the grant award.

We applaud the department on the introduction of a community impact analysis and recommend a few minor improvements:

The AFT supports provisions that would have applicants analyze the impact of charter expansion on the schools that the applicant is, or would be, drawing students from. The focus on preventing charter school expansion from undermining district desegregation efforts is a welcome metric, and we are pleased to see it included in the impact analysis. We would suggest that the regulations be expanded to include an analysis on the fiscal impact of proposed charter growth.

Charter school growth is universally understood to negatively affect the financial condition of the sending districts. Credit ratings agencies and academia have reached a consensus on this point. The ratings agency Moody’s has opined that charter school growth can drag down the finances of their host districts, writing that “charter schools can pull students and revenues away from districts faster than the districts can reduce their costs.” Districts, being unable to reduce costs as quickly as they lose funding for charter schools, are left with diminished resources for students in their public schools. That finding has been bolstered by academic research, which has endeavored to estimate the net fiscal impact of charter school growth on district finances.

While charter school proponents have suggested that charter competition will improve district resources, academic and credit rating agency opinion has coalesced around the opposite conclusion.

Moody’s has said that “A city that begins to lose students to a charter school can be forced to weaken educational programs because funding is tighter, which then begins to encourage more students to leave which then results in additional losses.’’ University of Michigan researcher David Arsen has conducted research in Michigan that supports this conclusion, noting that “contrary to expectations, Michigan school districts respond to charter competition by devoting a smaller share of their spending to instructional services.”6 Faced with decreased revenues, which “decline more rapidly than costs in districts losing students to charter schools,” school districts are simply unable to free up the resources needed to improve education for the students remaining in traditional public schools.

For far too long, the Charter Schools Programs grant programs have ignored the economic reality of charter school growth and its impact on the resources available to traditional public school students. When charter schools expand, traditional public school students are left with fewer resources. We urge the department to amend its community impact analysis guidelines to ask applicants whether a credit rating agency has identified charter school growth as a credit negative for the sending district(s) from which the proposed (or current) school intends to draw its students.

We appreciate the proposed regulations’ increased attention to the problems of the for-profit charter school industry: The proposed regulations’ focus on tightening disclosure regulations around education management organization contracts is well-warranted and consistent with ensuring that CSP funds are allocated to high-performing charter schools. The for-profit charter school industry is disgraceful, and charter operators should not be able to evade the eligibility requirements of the Charter Schools Program by utilizing complex organizational structures and service contracts.

Research shows that for-profit virtual charter schools—which comprise a significant portion of all for-profit schools—are poorly serving America’s students. Additionally, a recent National Education Policy Center study found that for-profit virtual charter schools underperform compared with their nonprofit and publicly run counterparts, suggesting that profit-seeking itself undermines educational success.

We appreciate the department’s proposed regulations:

We thank the Department of Education for these proposed regulations, which will significantly improve outcomes for students in both charter and traditional public schools. While this comment contains some minor suggestions we feel would make these proposed regulations more robust, the substance and spirit of the proposed regulations are a welcome indication that the department is serious about unifying a fractured education system and improving educational outcomes for all children, regardless of the type of public school they attend.


Randi Weingarten

President, American Federation of Teachers


The American Federation of Teachers is a union of 1.7 million professionals that champions fairness; democracy; economic opportunity; and high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for our students, their families and our communities. We are committed to advancing these principles through community engagement, organizing, collective bargaining and political activism, and especially through the work our members do.

Randi Weingarten Fedrick C. Ingram Evelyn DeJesus

American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO
Communications Department • 555 New Jersey Ave. N.W. • Washington, DC 20001 • T: 202-879-4458 • F: 202-879-4580 •

Have you lost faith in our elected officials? Let me introduce you to my personal hero. Rosa DeLauro. I have met with her several times, and she was always attentive and thoughtful. I love her values, and I love her too. It’s a very small tribute to this great woman, but I take this opportunity to add her to the blog’s honor roll for standing up forcefully to the bullying of the charter lobby.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro is one of the most powerful members of Congress. She is a Democrat from Connecticut. She is an outstanding liberal who fights for children and working people.

Please read her bio.

Rosa DeLauro is the Congresswoman from Connecticut’s Third Congressional District, which stretches from the Long Island Sound and New Haven, to the Naugatuck Valley and Waterbury. Rosa serves as the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee and sits on the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, and she is the Chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, where she oversees our nation’s investments in education, health, and employment.

At the core of Rosa’s work is her fight for America’s working families. Rosa believes that we must raise the nation’s minimum wage, give all employees access to paid sick days, allow employees to take paid family and medical leave, and ensure equal pay for equal work. Every day, Rosa fights for legislation that would give all working families an opportunity to succeed.

Rosa believes that our first priority must be to strengthen the economy and create good middle class jobs. She supports tax cuts for working and middle class families, fought to expand the Child Tax Credit to provide tax relief to millions of families, and introduced the Young Child Tax Credit to give families with young children an economic lift.

Rosa has also fought to stop trade agreements that lower wages and ships jobs overseas, while also protecting the rights of employees and unions. She believes that we need to grow our economy by making smart innovative investments in our infrastructure, which is why she introduced legislation to create a National Infrastructure bank.

Rosa is a leader in fighting to improve and expand federal support for child nutrition and for modernizing our food safety system. She believes that the U.S. should have one agency assigned the responsibility for food safety, rather than the 15 different agencies that lay claim to different parts of our food system. Rosa fights against special interests, like tobacco and e-cigarettes, which seek to skirt our public health and safety rules.

As the Chair dealing with appropriations for Labor, Health, Human Services, and Education, Rosa is determined to increase support for education and make college more affordable for more American students and their families. She is also fighting to protect the Affordable Care Act so that all Americans have access to affordable care. Rosa strongly believes in the power of biomedical research and she is working to increase funding so that we can make lifesaving breakthroughs in science and medicine.

Rosa believes that we have a moral obligation to our nation’s veterans and their families, and her concern for these heroes extends to both their physical and mental well-being. Rosa supports a transformation in how the Department of Veterans Affairs is funded, including advanced appropriations for health services, to ensure its fiscal soundness; and she successfully championed legislation to guarantee that troops deploying to combat theaters get the mental health screening they need both before and after deployment, as well as championed legislation that now provides assistance to today’s Post-9/11 veterans choosing to pursue on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs.

Rosa belongs to 62 House caucus groups and is the co-chair of the Baby Caucus, the Long Island Sound Caucus, and the Food Safety Caucus.

Soon after earning degrees from Marymount College and Columbia University, Rosa followed her parents’ footsteps into public service, serving as the first Executive Director of EMILY’s List, a national organization dedicated to increasing the number of women in elected office; Executive Director of Countdown ’87, the national campaign that successfully stopped U.S. military aid to the Nicaraguan Contras; and as Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd. In 1990, Rosa was elected to the House of Representatives, and she has served as the Congresswoman from Connecticut’s Third Congressional District ever since.

Rosa is married to Stanley Greenberg. Their children—Anna, Kathryn, and Jonathan Greenberg—all are grown and pursuing careers. Rosa and Stan have six grandchildren, Rigby, Teo, Sadie, Jasper, Paola and Gus.

Download Congresswoman DeLauro’s Biography

Download Congresswoman DeLauro’s Official Photo

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and I in 2018: My hero.