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Shuler Joins Graduate Teachers Seeking Recognition of Their Union at Yale's Commencement

Shuler Joins Graduate Teachers Seeking Recognition of Their Union at Yale's Commencement
Liz Shuler joins graduate teachers who voted for a union at Yale.
Liz Shuler
Liz Shuler joins graduate teachers who voted for a union with UNITE HERE Local 33 at Yale's commencement.

Thousands of supporters rallied today at Yale University's commencement in solidarity with the graduate teachers who formed a union with UNITE HERE Local 33. The university has refused to recognize the union and come to the negotiating table. 

Eight union members who were on a hunger strike broke their fast today. 

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler joined the graduate professionals and delivered remarks from the rally

Let me read you a bit of Yale’s mission statement.

Yale is committed to improving the world today and for future generations....We carry out this mission through the free exchange of ideas in an ethical, interdependent, and diverse community of faculty, staff, students, and alumni.

So my question is this: How are you improving the world by denying student-workers a voice on the job?

How are you fostering a free exchange of ideas by refusing to bargain?

Do you really want Yale to be the Walmart of the Ivy League?

Do you really want Yale to be the Walmart of the Ivy League?

Liz Shuler

Shuler reminded the university that under the law, graduate teachers are employees. Some have speculated that Yale's stalling tactics are because it hopes a newly engineered National Labor Relations Board put in place by the Trump administration could roll back gains won by graduate teachers. 

Shuler said:

Yale teaching assistants meet the common law definition of employees. They also meet the common sense definition.

They work. For pay. And they voted democratically to form a union.

It is time for Yale to acknowledge what is right in front of them.

Brave, proud union members who decided to make this campus their home.

When these student-workers look at that Yale degree on the office wall of whatever amazing job they do next, will they remember a university that did right by them? Or will they remember just another employer that made their lives harder for power and greed?

Yale, you can fix this today.

If you need someone to beat, stick to Harvard.

Jackie Tortora Mon, 05/22/2017 - 13:41
Posted: May 22, 2017, 5:41 pm

Paid family leave policies show corporate America's disdain for low-wage workers and their babies

Becoming a parent is one more aspect of life poisoned by economic inequality in the United States, with people who are paid more than $75,000 a year twice as likely to get paid leave as people who are paid less than $30,000. And even companies that have touted their parental leave programs leave many of […]
Posted: May 22, 2017, 12:32 pm

Is Class Really Forgotten?: Working-Class Studies Association 2017 Awards

Over the last week, I’ve read a couple of pieces in which elite academics highlight their discovery of the importance of class, both noting how the topic has been neglected by academia and ‘the elite’. In a Financial Times interview … Continue reading
Posted: May 22, 2017, 11:23 am

Trumpcare in Trump Country: The Working People Weekly List

Trumpcare in Trump Country: The Working People Weekly List

Every week, we bring you a roundup of the top news and commentary about issues and events important to working families. Here’s this week’s Working People Weekly List.

Trumpcare Is Already Hurting Trump Country: "The mere threat that Obamacare will be dismantled or radically changed—either by Congress or by President Trump himself—has persuaded several big insurance companies to stop selling policies or significantly raise premiums."

More Protests, Tough Questions at Shareholder Meeting of Oreo-Maker Mondelez: "It was deja vu all over again at the annual shareholder meeting Wednesday for Mondelēz International, a global snack food company known for brands like Oreo cookies and Ritz crackers."

Why I’m Fasting with Other Graduate Students at Yale: "Our intention is not to starve Yale out or close down discussion by inflicting violence upon ourselves. Quite the contrary: We are fasting to draw attention to Yale’s continued refusal to sit down and have a conversation with us about our union, our issues, and our contracts. This is why I joined the fast."

Offshoring of Oreo-Maker Jobs Dominates Mondelēz Shareholder Meeting: "Mondelēz International’s offshoring of jobs and the company’s relentless cost-cutting came under repeated criticism at the Mondelēz annual shareholder meeting on May 17 in Lincolnshire, Ill. Outside the shareholder meeting, members of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM), United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and other unions protested the company’s 2016 decision to move 600 Nabisco factory workers’ jobs from the Southside of Chicago to Salinas, Mexico."

Yale: Negotiate with Your Graduate Teachers: "In February, the graduate teachers voted to be represented by UNITE HERE. But Yale University has refused to negotiate with them. If they stall long enough, more appointees by President Donald Trump will be seated at the National Labor Relations Board. How quickly do you think those appointees would vote to roll back the rights of graduate workers?"

Celebrating AAPI Resistance in the Labor Movement: "As we look back at the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance’s first action at the founding convention to march for justice after the beating of Rodney King 25 years ago, we’re proud of our deep roots of solidarity and resistance. Today, with millions of people mobilizing in marches and protests across the nation, from the Women’s March to the People’s Climate March, we are living in a time where we cannot stand silent when Muslim, immigrant, refugee, women and LGBTQ communities are constantly under attack. As a refugee from Ethiopia and an immigrant from the Philippines—and both as parents—we take these attacks personal and are concerned about the type of world our own children are growing up in."

Fellow Workers: "John Sayles—who will appear at the May 16 DC LaborFest screening of "Matewan"—is an American independent film director, screenwriter, editor, actor and novelist. He has twice been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for "Passion Fish" and "Lone Star." The screening is Tuesday, May 16, 7 p.m. at AFI Silver Theatre; tickets here. Sayles will receive the LaborFest’s Tony Mazzocchi Labor Arts Award and do a Q&A after the film."

Kenneth Quinnell Sun, 05/21/2017 - 07:07
Posted: May 21, 2017, 11:07 am

'Together and Unified,' AT&T Workers Launch Three-Day Strike

Forty thousand AT&T workers in 36 states launched a three-day strike on Friday afternoon, as they continue their push for new contracts with the telecom giant, the tenth largest company in the U.S.

It’s the first strike ever for 21,000 retail and call center workers and technicians in the company's wireless division, Mobility. They're joined by 17,000 AT&T wireline workers in California, Nevada, and Connecticut, as well as DirecTV technicians in California and Nevada. All are members of the Communications Workers (CWA).

Posted: May 20, 2017, 2:46 am

40,000 AT&T Workers Begin 3-Day Strike

Around 40,000 members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) at AT&T walked off their jobs Friday, for a three-day strike, as pressure continues to mount on the corporation to settle fair contracts. In California and Nevada, around 17,000 AT&T workers who provide phone, landline and cable services have been working without a contract for more […]
Posted: May 20, 2017, 1:17 am

Stand with Striking AT&T Workers This Weekend

Stand with Striking AT&T Workers This Weekend
AT&T Workers Fighting For Good Jobs
CWA

This afternoon, 40,000 working people at AT&T announced they were going on strike. After months at the bargaining table, the employees haven't been able to win a fair union contract. AT&T's leaders seem dead set on lining their own pockets at the expense of workers making them billions.

The strike includes 21,000 retail and call center workers employed by AT&T Wireless across the country (in 36 states and Washington, D.C.), and 19,000 AT&T West and DIRECTV employees in California, Nevada and Connecticut. This is the first time AT&T wireless workers have gone on strike, which could result in closed retail stores this weekend, and may be the largest strike of retail workers at a national company is U.S. history. The workers plan to return to work on Monday.

Show your support for the striking workers at an AT&T retail store this weekend. Find a location near you and RSVP. If you can't join a picket line, send an email to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson saying you stand with working people fighting for good jobs.

Follow the striking workers on Twitter @UnityAtMobility or Facebook.

 

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/19/2017 - 15:40
Posted: May 19, 2017, 7:40 pm

Trumka Delivers Petitions to Angela Merkel on Behalf of Working People at T-Mobile and Volkswagen

Trumka Delivers Petitions to Angela Merkel on Behalf of Working People at T-Mobile and Volkswagen
Richard Trumka with Angela Merkel
AFL-CIO

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka attended the Labour 20 conference last week in Germany, where he hand-delivered petition signatures to Chancellor Angela Merkel on behalf of workers at T-Mobile and Volkswagen, seeking justice for the working people employed by the German companies in the United States. Skilled trades workers at Volkswagen's Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant voted in 2015 to join a union, but the company refuses to negotiate with them. Among other complaints, T-Mobile was ordered last month by a federal administrative judge to shut down an illegal union set up by management.

The Labour 20 brought together unions from G-20 countries to working to advocate pro-worker positions to their labor ministers. The assembled countries made commitments to clean up global supply chains, provide decent work, ensure living wages, and integrate migrants, women, refugees and young people into their workplaces.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/19/2017 - 14:54
Posted: May 19, 2017, 6:54 pm

Offshoring of Oreo-Maker Jobs Dominates Mondelēz Shareholder Meeting

Offshoring of Oreo-Maker Jobs Dominates Mondelēz Shareholder Meeting
BCTGM Protests Modelez/Nabisco
BCTGM

Mondelēz International’s offshoring of jobs and the company’s relentless cost-cutting came under repeated criticism at the Mondelēz annual shareholder meeting on May 17 in Lincolnshire, Ill. Outside the shareholder meeting, members of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM), United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and other unions protested the company’s 2016 decision to move 600 Nabisco factory workers’ jobs from the Southside of Chicago to Salinas, Mexico.

Inside the meeting, BCTGM Vice President Jethro Head introduced an AFL-CIO shareholder proposal that urges the company to form a labor-management committee to seek alternatives to plant closings. Head highlighted the impact of recent plant closings, explaining that "these communities are the poster child for economic insecurity that is plaguing so many American cities and towns."

UFCW Vice President Mark Lauritsen spoke in favor of the shareholder proposal on behalf of the International Union of Food Workers (IUF), a world-wide federation of trade unions: "Mondelēz workers around the world are demoralized and worried about the future direction of the company," he said, adding that "Mondelēz should be investing for the future rather than endlessly cutting costs."

BCTGM Secretary-Treasurer Steve Bertelli questioned Mondelēz CEO Irene Rosenfeld’s $16.7 million total compensation package that she received in 2016. He contrasted her lavish pay to the company’s low manufacturing worker wages in Salinas and asked, "Shouldn’t our company’s CEO pay be reasonable relative to all company employees?"

Anthony Jackson, a former Mondelēz employee whose job was offshored from Chicago to Mexico, challenged Rosenfeld’s business plan for the company: "Rather than improve revenue growth, the company has cut costs to increase its profits," Jackson said. "Why not treat your workers fairly and improve the company’s reputation in the communities it operates?"

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 05/18/2017 - 13:30
Posted: May 18, 2017, 5:30 pm

Yale: Negotiate with Your Graduate Teachers

In February, the graduate teachers voted to be represented by UNITE HERE. But Yale University has refused to negotiate with them. If they stall long enough, more appointees by President Donald Trump will be seated at the National Labor Relations Board. How quickly do you think those appointees would vote to roll back the rights of […]
Posted: May 18, 2017, 1:01 pm

Trump’s rollback of environmental rules will fail to bring back coal, report says

“Can Coal Make a Comeback?” asks a new report by Columbia University researchers. Spoiler alert: In its first few pages, the report states that President Donald Trump will almost certainly fail to bring jobs back to coal country or dramatically boost coal production. Rolling back environmental regulations, as the Trump administration frantically sought to do during its […]
Posted: May 17, 2017, 12:30 pm

How We're Surviving Right to Work: Conversations Are the Building Blocks for Milwaukee Teachers

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Dispatches from the Front Lines of Right to Work

The open shop is the rule for private sector workers in 28 “right-to-work” states, for public sector workers in 25 states, and for federal workers all over this country. That means workers covered by a union contract get to enjoy the benefits of representation without being members or paying dues.

Posted: May 16, 2017, 6:16 pm

How We're Surviving Right to Work: Boston Postal Workers Use Grievances to Build the Union

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Dispatches from the Front Lines of Right to Work

The open shop is the rule for private sector workers in 28 “right-to-work” states, for public sector workers in 25 states, and for federal workers all over this country. That means workers covered by a union contract get to enjoy the benefits of representation without being members or paying dues.

Posted: May 16, 2017, 5:53 pm

How We're Surviving Right to Work: Oil Refinery Workers Get People in Motion

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Dispatches from the Front Lines of Right to Work

The open shop is the rule for private sector workers in 28 “right-to-work” states, for public sector workers in 25 states, and for federal workers all over this country. That means workers covered by a union contract get to enjoy the benefits of representation without being members or paying dues.

Posted: May 16, 2017, 3:53 pm

Want To Speak Out About Politics at Work? Here Are 3 Things You Need to Know.

In the past several months, there’s been a noted uptick in political speech at work. That speech has often made national news, from Sally Yates’ dismissal as interim attorney general to IBM workers organizing against their employer’s support of Donald Trump. In the early days of the Trump administration, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance’s strike against […]
Posted: May 16, 2017, 12:55 pm

Yale: Negotiate with Your Graduate Teachers

Yale: Negotiate with Your Graduate Teachers
Yale: Negotiate with graduate teachers
UNITE HERE Local 33

In February, the graduate teachers voted to be represented by UNITE HERE. But Yale University has refused to negotiate with them. If they stall long enough, more appointees by President Donald Trump will be seated at the National Labor Relations Board. How quickly do you think those appointees would vote to roll back the rights of graduate workers?

Graduate teachers are teachers. Once they walk into the classroom, their job becomes indistinguishable from that of a tenured faculty member. When they counsel students outside of class, they aren't giving them only part-time counseling. When they spend endless hours grading papers and tests, their work benefits the university and helps create the environment that attracts students and investors in the school.

Eight UNITE HERE Local 33 members are fasting to protest the university's refusal to bargain with graduate teachers. The teachers also have marched, picketed and committed acts of civil disobedience. They've done all this because they want a seat at the table, something they have earned with their hard work:

We’ve done all this for a simple reason. We want a voice and a seat at the table. Our members, like many young workers in this economy, have to deal with intense economic insecurity. We face punishing competition in a declining career track. Women experience an epidemic of sexual harassment in academia. People of color are systemically marginalized. We want change, and we’ve been told to wait for too long.

Take action today, and send a message to Yale demanding it negotiate with its graduate teachers.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 05/15/2017 - 15:24
Posted: May 15, 2017, 7:24 pm

Celebrating AAPI Resistance in the Labor Movement

Celebrating AAPI Resistance in the Labor Movement
Tam Ngoc Tran
AFL-CIO

As we look back at the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance’s first action at the founding convention to march for justice after the beating of Rodney King 25 years ago, we’re proud of our deep roots of solidarity and resistance. Today, with millions of people mobilizing in marches and protests across the nation, from the Women’s March to the People’s Climate March, we are living in a time where we cannot stand silent when Muslim, immigrant, refugee, women and LGBTQ communities are constantly under attack. As a refugee from Ethiopia and an immigrant from the Philippines — and both as parents — we take these attacks personal and are concerned about the type of world our own children are growing up in.

As unfortunate as it is to say, the Asian American and Pacific Islander community is no stranger to oppression. We have seen firsthand how xenophobia allowed the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act and the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. We have felt the pain of families torn apart with the increased deportations and criminalization of Southeast Asian brothers and sisters. We have witnessed hate violence against Muslim or perceived-to-be Muslim friends and family members at the hands of white supremacists.

For us in the labor movement, we know what’s at stake. With national "right to work" impending, access to affordable health care on the line, threats to safety for workers living and working in their communities, we cannot let these hateful attacks define the norm for generations to come.

That’s why during this year’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we center organizing, resistance and fighting back as a key to the fabric of our diverse AAPI history and heritage. Together with our allies in the labor movement, we’re declaring #NoMuslimBanEver during this National Week of Resistance and broader Month of Action.

As many of our Muslim comrades come from African and Asian countries, we stand up with black and brown immigrants who deserve to live and work with dignity, without fear of deportation, hate or criminalization. From Know Your Rights trainings and in-language materials to the recent release of the Racial and Economic Justice Toolkit from the Race Commission, we are committed to shifting the ugly narrative surrounding Muslim and immigrant communities within our own unions and communities.

As organizers and leaders in the labor movement, we value that the labor movement welcomes all working people, regardless of race, faith or other perceived identity. Today’s fight transcends any major political party. It is a test of what our country has grown to be, a test of morality, of humanity, of the common decency and respect for who we are as people. We strive to elevate the struggles that millions of our Muslim, immigrant and refugee brothers and sisters face, and to ensure our communities find safety instead of harassment, refuge instead of deportation, access to health care instead of illness.

Only by organizing at the intersections of who we are can we realize the shared struggles, the potential and drive forward. This is no time to remain silent, to stay neutral or to sit on the sidelines. This is the time to organize, resist and fight back and show our true colors and strength. This is the type of world we are proud to raise our children in — a world where we stand up for what’s right, not what’s easy.

Resistance is powerful, but collective resistance is unstoppable. Will you join us in resistance this APAHM and throughout the coming months as we lead up to our biennial convention, 25 Years of Resistance: Organize & Fight?

@Tefere_Gebre is the executive vice president of the AFL-CIO. Johanna Hester is the national president of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance. To learn more about APALA and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, click here. This post originally appeared at Medium.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 05/15/2017 - 14:18
Posted: May 15, 2017, 6:18 pm

Fellow Workers

Fellow Workers

John Sayles—who will appear at the May 16 DC LaborFest screening of "Matewan"—is an American independent film director, screenwriter, editor, actor and novelist. He has twice been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for "Passion Fish" and "Lone Star." The screening is Tuesday, May 16, 7 p.m. at AFI Silver Theatre; tickets here. Sayles will receive the LaborFest’s Tony Mazzocchi Labor Arts Award and do a Q&A after the film.

"OK, fellow workers, we’re moving on!"

The late Haskell Wexler, who served as cinematographer on four feature films with me, would often call out that phrase when it was time to end one sequence or location and start on the next, and it occasionally got a laugh from the more seasoned grips and gaffers. There is an "above the line"/"below the line" divide that operates on Hollywood film sets, and cinematographers, with their unique expertise and generally higher salaries, can be considered close to royalty behind the camera. But in fact, to make a movie production function with any sort of efficiency, the participants do have to treat each other as "fellow workers," with even the biggest stars having to defer to or depend on somebody far down the pay scale from time to time.

Our movie "Matewan," set during a West Virginia coal miners’ strike in 1920, was inspired partly by Ronald Reagan’s first symbolic act upon becoming presidentbusting the air traffic controllers’ union. This was only one front in a decades-long war that has left the majority of America's workers unrepresented. Between the courts, Congress and the constant barrage of Charles and David Koch, and Walmart-financed anti-union propaganda, we are heading back to the every-man-for-himself labor battleground that "Matewan" depicts. One bad argument often used against union standards (or even a decent minimum wage) is their devastating effect on small and marginal businesses. Of course, the elimination of child labor and the 12-hour day was equally devastating, which is just tough beans. If safety, environmental or labor standards make it too expensive to harvest any sort of mineral wealth, then leave it in the ground ‘til its value goes up. What anything "costs," whether it is a war or a mining or manufacturing process, can’t be measured in dollars alone.

The mainstream movie business is a mix of both unions and guilds (I’m in four guilds—directors’, writers’, actors’ and editors’) with a few of the union specialties or locals actually harder to get into than the guilds. These organizations engage in collective bargaining for us and monitor residuals, should that happy situation occur. I’ve been through two prolonged strikes with the Writers Guild of America, East, (WGAE) (my last two novels were written during these) where little ground was gained but punishing rollbacks were averted. Making a movie or television show with union employees can be more expensive ("reality TV" being popular with networks because you hire neither SAG-AFTRA actors nor WGAE writers), but it is also safer, more efficient and often of a higher quality (especially in "production value") than the alternative. There has been a good deal of production flight from areas where these unions and guilds are strong to either foreign countries or "right to work" states, where some of the jobs can be low-balled. I’m one of the writers on a TV miniseries currently shooting in Budapest for 1890s New York Citya decision that will save the production company a certain amount of money and make the production designer’s life a nightmare.

The price of coal did go up after the Mine Workers (UMWA) union was able to organize most of the mines (with some heroic negotiation between then-union President John L. Lewis and former President Franklin Roosevelt). But I would be very surprised if the owners’ profit margin went down, and that profit margin is nowhere mentioned in the Bible or protected by the Bill of Rights. And though the Taft-Hartley Act forbids the WGAE, SAG-AFTRA or the Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) from striking in sympathy with each other, the existence of those unions and guilds provides a service that has little to do with what union scale they can negotiatethe recognition in an otherwise extremely hierarchical business that we are, in fact, "fellow workers."

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 05/15/2017 - 12:18
Posted: May 15, 2017, 4:18 pm

Bosses are stealing billions from their workers' paychecks, but it's not treated like a crime

 Here’s a kind of theft almost no one goes to prison for. When an employer doesn’t pay workers the money they’ve earned, it has the same effect as if they got paid and then walked out on the street and had their pockets picked. But somehow wage theft—not paying workers the minimum wage for the hours […]
Posted: May 15, 2017, 12:30 pm

Springsteen’s Born to Run: Memoir as “Repair”

Few rock music memoirs have caught the attention of esteemed novelists such as Richard Ford, whose New York Times review of Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run (2016) exalts the musician as not simply an extraordinary artist and showman but a … Continue reading
Posted: May 15, 2017, 8:21 am

Executive Paywatch: The Working People Weekly List

Executive Paywatch: The Working People Weekly List

Every week, we bring you a roundup of the top news and commentary about issues and events important to working families. Here’s this week’s Working People Weekly List.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka Unveils Paywatch: "Workers ought to get a bigger share of the wealth that they produce. They haven't gotten a raise—our wages have been stagnant for nearly 50 years while CEO pay climbs every single year without exception."

Manufacturing Talks with Trump 'Not Very Satisfying,' AFL-CIO Leader Says: "The head of the country's largest organization of labor unions Saturday described recent talks with President Trump about manufacturing in the United States as 'not very satisfying.' 'He only talked about eliminating regulations,' AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told the Tribune-Review during a stop in Southwestern Pennsylvania."

I Was Arrested for Protesting Against Sexual Harassment at Yale. I Won’t Stop: "In February, we voted to unionize in elections held in eight departments. Since then, Yale has ignored its obligation to bargain with us in a bid to buy time until President Trump can seat new appointees to the National Labor Relations Board to void our votes."

The Higher-Education Crisis Is a Labor Crisis: "A unionization drive at Vanderbilt University shows how austerity in higher education is hurting educators and students."

Haitian Workers Call for Renewal of Temporary Protected Status: "This May Day, members of UNITE HERE rallied around the country for justice for all races, all religions and all immigrants. In Florida, their actions brought special attention to the plight of Haitian workers and urged the Trump administration to prevent the expiration of Temporary Protected Status for more than 50,000 Haitian nationals living and working in the United States."

We Will Defend and Resist: Prepare for Workplace Raids and Audits: "During the 2016 election, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump made it clear that his administration would be more aggressive in pursuing immigration enforcement. This likely means more aggressive workplace actions, including raids that result in the immediate arrest of working people. Our new We Will Defend and Resist toolkit explains the processes and players involved in worksite enforcement and provides resources and guidance on how to prepare for and respond to a raid or audit."

A Winning Week for Corporations and Wall Street—Paid for by Your Health and Retirement: "Corporations and Wall Street won big last week, and working people will pay a high price for it. Here are three things Congress did for Big Business that will harm working people’s health care and retirement:"

Texas AFL-CIO: Immigrant Working People Will Suffer Under S.B. 4, but So Will State as a Whole: "On May 7, from the privacy of his office, and broadcast over Facebook Live, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed S.B. 4, the harshest bill in the nation that aims to punish so-called sanctuary cities."

More Fake Facts About CEO Pay from the American Enterprise Institute: "The right-wingers at the American Enterprise Institute just can’t seem to accept the fact that runaway CEO pay is increasing inequality. Their latest solution to the growing gap between CEO and worker pay: abolish the weekend! According to AEI, if everybody worked a 60-hour workweek, then the CEO-to-worker pay ratio would be only 132:1 instead of 347:1."

Would You Be as Brave as This Man?: "Moises Sanchez handles irrigation pipes at a melon farm in Honduras for an Irish multinational fruit company called Fyffes. He has been threatened for his union activism, and his brother was chopped on the face with a machete."

5 Things You Need to Know from the AFL-CIO's New Executive Paywatch Report: "Today, the AFL-CIO released the 2017 edition of its Executive Paywatch report. The Executive Paywatch website, the most comprehensive, searchable online database tracking CEO pay, showed that in 2016, the average production and nonsupervisory worker earned some $37,600 per year. When adjusted for inflation, the average wage has remained stagnant for 50 years."

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/12/2017 - 14:30
Posted: May 12, 2017, 6:30 pm

Book Review: How Electrical Workers Powered Up Their Union

For unions in corporate America, it’s always been hard times. Even in labor’s heyday—the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s—unions had to struggle for everything. Plus, back then organizers risked being tarred as stooges for Moscow.

Posted: May 12, 2017, 5:03 pm

In Grim Times, Brazil's Young Workers Take Charge of Future

In Grim Times, Brazil's Young Workers Take Charge of Future
Brazilian worker mobilization
Courtney Jenkins

Among the millions of Brazilians who waged a recent 24-hour general strike to protest proposed legislation that would weaken labor regulations, many were young workers, some newly mobilized by the government’s attempts to impose drastic cuts on pensions, salaries and social security and dismantle labor rights, including provisions on vacations, overtime and working hours.

"The labor law reform bill being debated in the National Congress penalizes mainly young people and specifically young black workers, as young workers are primarily employed in precarious jobs and are the majority of the unemployed," said Julia Reis Nogueira, national secretary of Racial Equality in Brazil’s Central Workers’ Union (CUT), a Solidarity Center partner. "When you put together the generational and racial question, this group will be the main victims of this disastrous reform."

USW member Al Vega was among four U.S. young worker union leaders meeting with Brazil union activists. Credit: Al Vega

"Any of these ‘reforms’ will make it hard for young people to retire with dignity," said Al Vega, director of policy and programs at MASSCOSH, where he focuses on strategies for bringing young adults into the U.S. labor movement. "The economic climate has really mobilized young people. They do feel like it is an all-out attack on the working class."

Vega, 35, was among four U.S. participants in a recent youth and race exchange delegation sponsored by CUT and the AFL-CIO. Over five days, they learned about Brazil’s current political, economic and social environment and heard firsthand about the challenges facing young workers, especially those of Afro-Brazilian descent, in seeking good job and an end to rampant discrimination.

"Institutional racism is keeping them from jobs," Vega said.

Afro-Brazilian Youth Face Rampant Discrimination, Violence

Although Afro-Brazilians make up 53% of Brazil’s population—more than 100 million people—their unemployment rates are typically 35% higher than those of white workers and their income is some 50% less than that received by white Brazilians. Afro-Brazilians are more than twice as likely to experience poverty than white Brazilians.

Rampant discrimination is behind much of this disparity. It is still common for firms to require pictures on résumés, and to make skin color a preference for selection processes. Workers’ educational levels make little difference: Afro-Brazilian men with a college education were paid only 70% of the wages made by white Brazilians. Afro-Brazilian women with a college degree receive only 41% of salaries paid to white Brazilians.

The economic struggles of Afro-Brazilians are framed within the country’s long legacy of slavery, which manifests in continuing brutality: One Afro-Brazilian youth is killed every 23 minutes in what some have called an "undeclared civil war," according to a 2016 report by a Brazilian Senate committee. The committee issued the report in response to "a culture of violence based on racism and prejudice." A Human Rights Watch report found that police in the state of Rio de Janeiro killed more than 8,000 people between 2006 and 2016, including at least 645 people in 2015—and three-quarters of those killed by police were black men.

Young Afro-Brazilians seeking jobs are doubly disadvantaged, with unemployment for all young adults (ages 15-24) nearing 25% in 2016. When young workers do find jobs, half are in the informal economy, where wages are low, work often dangerous and job stability non-existent.

The crisis for young workers is a crisis for Brazil: Nearly one-quarter of the country’s working population was between ages 15 and 24 in 2012.

Young Workers Standing up for Their Future

Signs from May Day rally in São Paulo. Credit: Courtney Jenkins

Young people know "there’s no hope for them if they don’t change the system," Vega said. "They want to figure out how to get more and more young people involved. This is not the time to be on the sidelines. This is the time to get involved."

In Brazil, a deep economic recession brought on by plummeting export commodities prices and increased inflation are manifesting in increasing unemployment, now at a record high of 13.7%—more than 14.2 million Brazilians were without a job in March. With young workers and workers of color especially hard hit by rising unemployment and proposed legislation that would undermine fundamental worker rights, they are standing up for their future by mobilizing in the streets and through unions and other associations.

Vega, a member of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9358 and young worker representative on the Massachusetts AFL-CIO Executive Board, was energized to hear from Brazilian delegates representing the Chemical Workers, Bank Workers, Teachers, and Retail and Commercial Workers Union Confederations who shared organizing strategies to reach youth of color in Brazil.

The unions are all members of CUT, Brazil’s largest labor federation, which was founded by rural and urban workers in 1983 as part of the ongoing struggle against the military dictatorship, which took power in 1964. In 2009, CUT created a National Secretariat for Youth and a National Secretariat of Racial Equality. Both secretariats functional locally in all 27 Brazilian states. This structure "has enabled a permanent dialogue between national and state-level youth leaders, in order to collectively construct policies and actions to promote the working youth in the country and to combat racism," Reis Nogueira said.

"I was getting inspired to see these young people have representatives across Brazil," Vega said. "That’s one of the key things I heard—because they have those formal positions, they can make sure their issues are being connected."

Cross-Movement Building Connects Workers in Similar Struggles

Brazil unions are partnering with a range of organizations with common goals. Credit: Courtney Jenkins

CUT also is expanding on cross-movement building in Brazil to connect with human rights organizations on organizational strategies and joint struggles for human rights and democracy. Delegates met with representatives of some of those organizations, including the youth wing of the Workers' Party; Fora do Eixo, a progressive independent media collective; and representatives of the students' movement.

The delegation, which traveled to Brazil at CUT’s invitation, is part of the federation’s outreach strategy.

Other U.S. participants included Rachel Bryan, an Electrical Workers union member engaged in criminal justice reform work; Sheva Diagne from the AFL-CIO; and Courtney Jenkins, a member of the American Postal Workers Union who is president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists’s Baltimore chapter and coordinator of the young worker program in his union.

Vega said: "The overall experience was very eye-opening, inspirational, to see what a labor move can look like when there is a true belief in what they want to achieve."

This post originally appeared at the Solidarity Center.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 05/12/2017 - 12:52
Posted: May 12, 2017, 4:52 pm

A Winning Week for Corporations and Wall Street—Paid for by Your Health and Retirement

Corporations and Wall Street won big last week, and working people will pay a high price for it. Here are three things Congress did for Big Business that will harm working people’s health care and retirement: 1. 7 million fewer people will get workplace health benefits. Last Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the so-called American […]
Posted: May 12, 2017, 12:30 pm

Interview: The Pitfalls of 'Buy American'

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Backed by a huge banner reading “Buy American—Hire American,” President Trump declared in March that his administration would make the U.S. the “car capital of the world” again.

“For decades, I have raised the alarm over unfair foreign trade practices that have robbed communities of their wealth and robbed our people of their ability to provide for their families,” Trump said. “They’ve stolen our jobs, they’ve stolen our companies, and our politicians sat back and watched, hopeless. Not anymore.”

Posted: May 11, 2017, 9:28 pm

Immigrant Nurses Demand Equal Pay—And Win

 It started when a few nurses at Temple University Hospital told stewards that they weren’t being paid for their experience. One of the first to speak up was Jessy Palathinkal, who had become a nurse in India in 1990. She got her U.S. nursing license when she moved here in 1995. But when she started […]
Posted: May 11, 2017, 12:42 pm

The Trump Administration is About to Put Nursing Home Profits Ahead of Nursing Home Patients

Some of the most heart-wrenching stories of abuse, mistreatment and neglect you’re likely to hear involve nursing homes. As America’s baby boomers age, and nursing home populations continue to grow, big corporations have, not surprisingly, started to take note. In fact, the vast majority of nursing homes in the United States – 70%, according to […]
Posted: May 10, 2017, 1:26 pm

5 Things You Need to Know from the AFL-CIO's New Executive Paywatch Report

Today, the AFL-CIO released the 2017 edition of its Executive Paywatch report. The Executive Paywatch website, the most comprehensive, searchable online database tracking CEO pay, showed that in 2016, the average production and nonsupervisory worker earned some $37,600 per year. When adjusted for inflation, the average wage has remained stagnant for 50 years. AFL-CIO President […]
Posted: May 9, 2017, 11:35 pm

Peter Winkels, a Hormel Strike Leader, 1948-2017

Peter Winkels, the former business agent for Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local P-9—which gained worldwide fame for its 1980s strike against the highly profitable Hormel Co.—died on April 23. Winkels, who had suffered from diabetes and other illnesses, was 69.

Posted: May 9, 2017, 8:23 pm

How Black Lives Matter Came to Philadelphia’s Schools

When teachers in Seattle planned a Black Lives Matter action in response to an incident of violent racism last October, our caucus of teachers in Philadelphia got inspired.

Seattle’s John Muir Elementary had received bomb threats after planning a motivational event where elementary students on their way into school would be greeted by hundreds of African American men. After the threats, the union’s representative assembly voted to support the event, and thousands of educators wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts to support their students of color.

Posted: May 8, 2017, 4:13 pm

Will the British Working Class Stand Up and Fight Back?

I spent my teenage years in 1980s Thatcher’s Britain. Working-class people struggled in a grim environment. Three million people were unemployed, local services and the NHS were underfunded, and attacks were launched against unions (as a result of the miners’ … Continue reading
Posted: May 8, 2017, 11:09 am

Beyond $15: New Book Shows Why Community Allies Are Crucial

Editors’ note: The nation’s first successful fight for a $15 minimum wage ordinance was won in the small city of SeaTac, Washington, in 2013. A new book by one of the campaign’s leaders, Jonathan Rosenblum, tells how they did it.

Posted: May 5, 2017, 4:04 pm

Philadelphia Union Wins Equal Pay for Immigrant Nurses

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It started when a few nurses at Temple University Hospital told stewards that they weren’t being paid for their experience.

One of the first to speak up was Jessy Palathinkal, who had become a nurse in India in 1990. She got her U.S. nursing license when she moved here in 1995. But when she started working at Temple, her placement on the pay scale was as though those five years of nursing never happened.

She asked why. Human Resources told her the hospital didn’t count years of experience in foreign countries.

Posted: May 5, 2017, 2:03 pm

Predatory Lenders Making American Nightmares From American Dreams

Yes, Donald Trump is President, and he accomplished this upset in part by shattering the working-class firewall in long time Democratic, heartland strongholds of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio. We cannot respond only with resistance.  An effective defense, in the Rust … Continue reading
Posted: May 1, 2017, 11:30 am

More than Cash: What It Really Takes to Address Poverty

What will it take to address poverty? If you build a school for girls in northern Nigeria or give a girl in the Philippines $2000, it might seem like you’re providing her with the things she needs to improve her … Continue reading
Posted: April 24, 2017, 11:36 am

Universal Basic Income: A “Social Vaccine” for Technological Displacement?

John Kenneth Galbraith once said that the beginnings of wisdom were to never trust an economist. Those of us that spent most of our adult lives in deindustrialized communities understood his point. As the mills and factories closed in working-class … Continue reading
Posted: April 17, 2017, 11:36 am

The Working Class at the Oscars

A scene in Denzel Washington’s movie of Fences is not in August Wilson’s original play, and it illustrates how a spate of Oscar-nominated films this year uncharacteristically reveal basic insights into working-class ways of living a life. Troy Maxson is … Continue reading
Posted: April 10, 2017, 11:19 am

Classing the Resistance

One of the founding goals of new working-class studies was to counter the tendency for academic and political discussions to downplay class in favor of other aspects of identity and inequality. Most critical and public attention to cultural identity and … Continue reading
Posted: April 3, 2017, 12:01 pm

Class on the Small Screen

Every year when I teach the sociology of work, I’m filled with the same nagging doubt: are my cultural references out of date? Are they still relevant for my students of nineteen and twenty, who were only just born in … Continue reading
Posted: March 27, 2017, 11:05 am

Playing Chicken: Discovering a Diverse Working Class in Trump Country

Since the election of 2016, much has been written about rural working-class voters who helped elect Donald J. Trump to the presidency.  Most of those stories have assumed that the rural working class is overwhelmingly white.  But if we look … Continue reading
Posted: March 21, 2017, 9:36 am

OSHA's Injury Tracking Rule: A Reasonable and Urgent Step Forward for Worker Safety and Health

By Eric Frumin, Safety and Health Director, Change to Win

The Department of Labor has finally entered the age of “Big Data.” The Labor Department is making a significant step forward into the 21st Century by requiring employers in the highest-risk sectors to electronically provide OSHA information that employers have been recording since shortly after the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1971.

Unfortunately, until now—in contrast to its sister agency the Mine Safety and Health Administration, as well as other federal labor and public health agencies—OSHA has failed to make most of the covered employers send these data directly to the Labor Department.

This is exactly the data OSHA needs to effectively target its limited number of inspections as well as its compliance assistance programs. It is unfathomable that OSHA did not have easy access to it before.

OSHA has hard evidence for why this step is needed. But that evidence seems to matter little to the corporate trade associations and their GOP allies who oppose virtually every new agency mandate, no matter how well-founded or ultimately helpful to the employers themselves. In this case, they claim that public disclosure will somehow irreparably harm employers.

However, since 1997, OSHA has already required a small subset of affected employers in only the highest-risk sectors to provide their annual statistical summaries of worker injuries and illnesses to OSHA on request, in part for the purpose of assisting the agency in targeting enforcement inspections. This is called the OSHA Data Initiative (“ODI”). In 2005, OSHA finally released these summary data to the public on OSHA's website, and only as a result of an order from a Federal District Court in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by The New York Times.

Fortunately, OSHA has proceeded to use the ODI data for targeting its inspections to specific establishments with self-reported high rates within these already high-risk sectors, and often with remarkable results. While 23 states have exercised the option to run their own enforcement programs in the private sector, very few of them have made use of these important targeting data. Some have relied instead on equivalent state workers' compensation data, but most—including California, the biggest state program—have not, nor has Federal OSHA forced them to adopt this technique.

After sending letters to the worksites with the highest rates, OSHA then inspected roughly 25 percent of these pre-notified employers under its Site-Specific Targeting (“SST”) emphasis program, and found violations in roughly 70 percent of all inspected sites. With these ODI data in hand, OSHA has been able to assure that its inspectors are going to the workplaces with serious hazards and likely violations. The DOL Inspector General reported that for FY 2011, SST inspections “resulted in more [violations] per inspection (4.7 average) than other targeting programs (2.8 average).”

Such inspections are critically important to OSHA's overall prevention mission. As the RAND Corp. found in its often-ignored but revealing 1998-2005 study of OSHA inspections in relatively small manufacturing plants in Pennsylvania, inspections which both found any violations and imposed penalties resulted in a cumulative 20 percent drop in workers' compensation claims over the following two years (A. Haviland et al, “What kinds of injuries do OSHA inspections prevent?” Journal of Safety Research, August 2010).

Equally important, RAND found that even for violations of the Personal Protective Equipment standard, there was a 17.5 percent reduction in claims for overexertion injuries—indicating that the violations prompted employers to do a wider evaluation of their overall safety and health problems.

The RAND Corp. findings also were confirmed by a joint Harvard University-California Berkeley study for a comparable period, which also reported that inspections with penalties by California state inspectors were associated with a 9.4 percent annual drop in rates of workers' compensation claims (D Levine et al, “Randomized Government Safety Inspections Reduce Worker Injuries with No Detectable Job Loss,” Science, 309: 907, 2012).

OSHA has been severely underfunded for much of its existence. The Obama administration immediately sought to remedy that gap, and saw both federal and state plan enforcement funding in particular jump by 13 percent in 2010. However, the Republican congressional leadership has consistently refused to provide any further funding, and frequently sought to cut resources for enforcement in DOL appropriations bills. But the existence of the SST program, based on these fundamental targeting data, has helped DOL to find a key point of leverage against employers who would ignore their basic job safety and health obligations.

So it is a welcome relief that OSHA will now be able to formalize this vital targeting tool, and apply it as a critical additional criterion in designing other targeted emphasis programs in industries where individual employers report persistently high injury rates, like nursing homes, heavy manufacturing, poultry processing, warehousing, waste-handling and other dangerous sectors.

But beyond the mere summary rate information about individual worksites, an additional wealth of valuable information has simply lain fallow in employers' worksite records, awaiting the review by an actual OSHA inspector as part of the rare on-site inspection. The additional data, including details on individual worker injury and illness cases, will now be available to OSHA inspectors, workers, employers and others as a result of OSHA's recent rulemaking. For 34,000 large, sophisticated worksites with more than 250 employees each, OSHA will now require that they annually submit to OSHA both the lists of significant work-related injuries and illnesses, as well as the employer's required “Incident Report” describing the circumstances and underlying causes. None of the submitted information will include personally identifiable data.

Equally important, OSHA will make these reports public, so that workers, counterpart employers, public health researchers and the media will be able to understand in much greater detail the nature of the hazards and injuries that workers face on a daily basis.

For decades, workers at these sites have already had a legal right to all of these lists of injuries, including workers' names, as well as their own Incident Reports. But finally, all workers will now have the easy ability to obtain this important information without having to request it from their bosses—and risk the consequences of being labeled “troublemaker,” or worse. (Since the vast majority of America's private-sector workers have no job-security protection, employers can easily discipline, terminate or otherwise discourage workers from “asking too many questions.”)

It is certainly reasonable to expect that this new scrutiny will promote more accurate recordkeeping by large employers concerned with assuring that accurate information is publicly available.

However, we also expect that this heightened attention by the employers themselves will promote better use of existing records for prevention purposes, by both large and small employers, because of the additional attention that these records will now receive within the enterprise.

Workers' enhanced access to the details found in the Logs and Incident Reports at larger worksites will also promote prevention. As workers learn about the history of incidents that affect them, they will be better prepared to request employer action to fix such hazards going forward. The availability of the Incident Reports will also reveal past problems with the investigation of those incidents (such as “blame the victim” conclusions rather than failures of the employer's training and supervision regimens). Such omissions or misguided excuses interfere in the identification of root causes of those problems in the first place. Without root cause identification, the hazards will continue and resulting injuries and illnesses will recur.

In response to this proposal, employers and their GOP allies have raised several false alarms, including a supposed concerns about confidentiality of workers' personal information. Such concerns are misplaced: OSHA will not even collect workers names or any other information most likely to allow those outside the workplace to identify individual workers. Assuming employers comply with the reporting framework, OSHA will neither hold such data, nor be subject to any unauthorized release of it.

Corporate trade associations also have complained about the “threat” of misuse or misinterpretation of their own injury reports, once OSHA makes them public, supposedly rendering the Fortune 500 or even the smaller businesses the subject of unfair comparisons which will irreparably harm the companies' reputations. This barely passes the laugh test. First, much of this data has already been on OSHA's website for more than a decade. During the public comment period, industry representatives were repeatedly pressed to identify examples of such unfair comparisons and wounded reputations. They could not. The truth speaks for itself.

And since when does Google censor corporate press releases or websites? In the age of Citizens United, corporate America certainly need not feel any threats to its mythical rights to free speech.

But if the truth hurts, so do infections—a good warning sign of problems needing attention. Injury/illness rates may be so-called “lagging indicators,” and in individual companies or industries other “leading indicators” may be preferable for guiding prevention efforts. But corporate managers are certainly misguided—and putting their workers in continued peril—if they ignore either historical trends or recent incidents. OSHA will now give both them and their at-risk workers the ability to see those trends and incidents in similar or identical situations well beyond the walls and horizons of their own worksites and companies.

In sum, OSHA's willingness to obtain this information and share it will provide an important service to corporate managers, their workers and others with tangible interest in this issue: investors, prospective workers, and community leaders. If we were looking for a cheaper and more efficient system to engage that interest, it would be hard to do so.

The other important innovation is OSHA's new provision requiring employers to assure that employers' reporting procedures are reasonable, and that employers train workers about both the procedure and their right to report injuries without any discrimination or retaliation. And for the first time, OSHA incorporates that prohibition on retaliation directly into its enforceable regulations.

OSHA has good reason to do so. There is ample evidence that some employers systematically discourage workers from reporting work-related injuries and illnesses, on a scale large enough to affect not only the validity of the statistics at individual worksites but, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nationally as well. Indeed, the Government Accountability Office's recent analysis of employer practices found a shockingly common pressure on medical providers to modify their treatment decisions such that the cases will no longer meet OSHA's recordability criteria.

“Disincentives for reporting and recording injuries and illnesses can result in pressure on occupational health practitioners from employers or workers to provide insufficient medical treatment that avoids the need to record the injury or illness. From its survey of U.S. health practitioners, GAO found that over a third of them had been subjected to such pressure” (US Government Accountability Office, “Enhancing OSHA's Records Audit Process Could Improve the Accuracy of Worker Injury and Illness Data,” GAO 10-10, October 2009).

For several years, OSHA also has been very concerned about employers' deliberate policies which discouraged worker reporting of recordable cases, and taken action within its highly limited existing authority under Section 11(c) to stop them. However, OSHA was not the only party to the rulemaking that emphasized that employers affirmatively seek to reduce their reported injuries—without necessarily preventing them. As the National Federation of Independent Business, one of the largest and most sophisticated corporate lobbyists, stated it:

“[T]he proposed rule will make small businesses less likely to report injuries. NFIB expects that … many small businesses will report fewer injuries because the negative consequences of logging too many injuries will be so great.”

The stakes are simply too high for OSHA to allow employers to continue with these abusive policies, and its decision to make use of its full statutory and enforcement authority is long overdue.


Eric Frumin is the Safety and Health Director for Change to Win, the partnership of four national labor unions founded in 2005 representing 4 million workers. He is a leading national trade union spokesperson on issues of job safety, health and disability, including OSHA standard setting and enforcement, and occupational disease and injury surveillance. He also has directed the safety and health programs for Change to Win-affiliated unions since 1974, and testifies frequently before congressional committees on workplace safety and health and related issues.

This BNA Insights does not represent the views of Bloomberg BNA, which welcomes other points of view.

Reproduced with permission from Copyright 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033) www.bna.com

Originally published in BBNA’s OSH Reporter on June 30, 2016.

Posted: July 5, 2016, 1:28 pm

Americans Troubled By Income Inequality Across Party Lines; Wage Theft Hurts America's Most Vulnerable; Missouri Governor Vetoes Bill, Averting Right-to-Work State

It's growing apparent to many Americans that even if you do all the right things, like get a college education, that chances are you won't get ahead. In a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, six in 10 Americans said the government should do more to fix income inequality, and that the only people who actually advance are the few people at the top.
Inequality Troubles Americans Across Party Lines, Times/CBS Poll Finds - The New York Times

Advancement is a problem in America, especially for the low-wage workforce. But Americans who work these low wage jobs are more likely to have their wages stolen. It's the lack of resources that keeps many of these vulnerable workers from pursuing the money they've rightfully earned. But thankfully, there are places like Community Legal Services in Philly that offer free legal aid to victims.
Wage theft hits those who can least afford it - Philly Voice

Unions not only protect workers from labor violations like wage-theft, but they also offer guidance in the collective bargaining process, ensuring fair pay and benefits which sustains the middle-class. Governor Jay Nixon vetoed a bill that prevented Missouri from being the 26th right-to-work state. “This extreme measure would take our state backward, squeeze the middle-class, lower wages for Missouri families, and subject businesses to criminal and unlimited civil liability,” Mr. Nixon said.
Missouri: Bill to Curb Unions Is Vetoed - Associated Press

Posted: June 5, 2015, 5:09 pm

200 Adjunct Professors Successfully Form a Union; New York State Requires Nail Salons to Post Manicurists’ Bill of Rights; Ohio “Bans the Box” on State Government Applications

Last week, over 200 part-time adjunct professors at Ithaca College organized and successfully formed a union with the Service Employees International Union. Sarah Grunberg, teaching in the Sociology department said: "This will not only make the college stronger as a whole but will also continue to set an example nationally that part-time faculty deserve better working conditions and that coming together can and does facilitate positive change."
Ithaca College Part-time Faculty Join SEIU Local 200 United - The Lansing Star

In hopes of improving working conditions for manicurists in New York. Effective immediately, every nail salon in New York is required to post a bill of rights in plain sight for nail workers and their customers. Thanks to The New York Times for their investigative reporting which revealed widespread exploitation in the nail salon industry, manicurists in New York will now be aware of their employee rights.
New York Nail Salons Now Required to Post Workers’ Bill of Rights - The New York Times

For those living in Ohio who have served their time in prison and are looking for work, Ohio just became the 17th state to 'ban the box' on state government applications. "The box" is on job applications that prospective employees must check to disclose past convictions. By removing it, ex-offenders will have a better chance at finding work.
Ohio 'bans the box' on state applications - The Associated Press

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted: June 1, 2015, 6:16 pm

Fast-food Workers Protested McDonald's Shareholder Meeting; Los Angeles Will Raise Wages to $15 by 2020; New Documentary Stresses the Importance of Responsible Consumerism

Last week, while McDonald's had their annual shareholder meeting, fast-food workers protested outside their headquarters calling for $15 an hour. The workers chanted "supersize my check" and delivered 1.4 million petition signatures calling for McDonald's to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. 
McDonald's workers: 'supersize my check' - USA Today

The fight for $15 gained another victory, Los Angeles broke will increase their minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020. It's another major victory for low-wage workers across the country and shows a clear change in American politics, proving that when working people stand-up and speak-out they can change social standards and improve their lives.
A Fascinating Minimum-Wage Experiment Is About to Unfold - The New Yorker

But the pressure can't only come from workers going on strike and protesting their conditions, people need to be responsible consumers to see real change in all industries. That's according to a new documentary called "The True Cost" which depicts the devastation of the Rana Plaza collapse where 1,129 Bangladesh garment workers died and 2,500 were injured.
There Are No Easy Answers to Fashion’s Cruelty - The Daily Beast

Posted: May 26, 2015, 4:00 pm

Facebook Boosts Wages to $15/hr; Nail Salons Aren't the Only Ones Violating Human Rights; Oppression and Inequality are Violence in Another Form

Great news, Facebook boosted pay to $15 an hour for its contract workers! Just yesterday, Facebook announced it would require its US contractors and vendors to pay their workers at least $15 an hour, provide paid time-off for sick days and vacation and offer good benefits. 
Facebook gives low-wage workers a boost - CNN Money

On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the formation of a task force to protect manicurists of nail salons from labor and health violations just days after the New York Times reported widespread human rights violations within the industry. But nail salons aren't the only industry that has issues, little oversight is all too common for workers in agriculture, the hydraulic fracturing oil industry and restaurants.
Nail salon workers aren’t the only ones who need more protections - Washington Post

Labor and civil rights have been at the forefront of the media with protests in Baltimore, and strikes in cities across the country demanding economic and social justice. Columnist of the New York Times Mark Bittman wrote a piece explaining the relationship between health, education, income inequality and race. "When people are undereducated, impoverished, malnourished, un- or under-employed, or underpaid and working three jobs, their lives are diminished, as are their opportunities."
No Justice, No...Anything - New York Times

 

 

 

Posted: May 13, 2015, 8:14 pm

Elected Leaders Finally Taking Action to Help America's Low-wage Workers

After federal contract workers went on strike calling for living wages and a union, Charles Gladden a US Senate cafeteria contract worker shocked Capitol Hill when it was revealed he is homeless. Catherine Rampell, a Washington Post columnist, reconnected with Charles a few weeks after she first broke the story. Gladden told Rampell he was thankful for the financial support, but hopes that "his situation will inspire greater support for policies that help homeless and low-wage workers more broadly," like a Model Employer Executive Order.
‘Band-Aid’ solutions for a homeless Senate worker - Washington Post

For working parents, it's oftentimes a struggle to balance work and family life even with a nine-to-five schedule. Now imagine how hard that would be working two jobs in either the retail or food service sector, where schedules are usually inconsistent from week-to-week. That's one of the many reasons fast-food workers across the country are calling for a union. Workers need to have a voice when decisions on scheduling, time-off, sick days and related issues are being decided.
The next labor fight is over when you work, not how much you make - Washington Post

Last week fast-food workers cheered as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's announced the establishment of a state wage board which would examine and recommend raising wages for New York's fast food industry. But Gov. Cuomo didn't stop there, yesterday he created a new task force to conduct nail salon investigations after a report by The New York Times revealed widespread health, safety, wage and hour violations in New York's nail salon industry.
Cuomo Orders Emergency Measures to Protect Workers at Nail Salons - New York Times

Posted: May 11, 2015, 7:40 pm

Wall Street Employees Collectively Receive Billions in Bonuses; Cambodian Garment Workers Face Government Crackdown; Workers' Fight Against Wage-Theft

On average, Wall Street Bank employees earn around $190,000 annually. But guess how much 167,800 employees received in bonuses last year? I won't give it away, but to put it in perspective, it's over the $17 billion that could lift the wages of over 2 million people working in fast-food to $15 an hour.

Wall Street's Yearly Bonuses Could Double the Pay for All of America's Minimum Wage Workers - The New Republic

The minimum wage is low in America, but it's even lower for Cambodian garment workers. After being over worked and underpaid, workers have continued to push for higher wages, facing deadly strikes. Last January, garment workers got a raise of $128 a month. However, this is well below the government's own living-wage calculation from 2013, which found that a living-wage is between $157 and $177 a month.

Cambodian garment workers rise up and face a crackdown - Al Jazeera

When you're living paycheck to paycheck, you're living on the edge of poverty. But it's even worse for many day laborers in Washington D.C., who work for contractors who disappear and wind-up never paying them for the wages they're owed.

Workers' Fights - Washington City Paper

Posted: March 12, 2015, 5:29 pm

Our Global Supply Chain, from China and Bangladesh to the West Coast Ports

It's New York fashion week, the week where top designers have the latest in fashion modeled. But what happens behind the scenes in our global fashion supply chain in places like Bangladesh. Over a year ago, Bangladesh made headlines when the Rana Plaza factory collapsed, killing more than 1,100 garment workers. The Bangladesh garment industry has over 4 million workers, 80 percent women, who are paid poorly and work in unsafe conditions.  
Fast fashion’s lack of American-made clothing (VIDEO) - MSNBC

It's rather difficult not to have purchased at least one item that says "Made in China". BBC investigated the conditions of factories in China and uncovered that on top of low wages and poor working conditions, factories charge new factory recruits a fee, which is sometimes up to an entire months pay. Apple banned the practice, which is called bonded labor. But the BBC's investigation found that Pegatron, a supplier for Apple, breached Apple's standards by charging the fee to their employees.   
Apple bans 'bonded servitude' for factory workers - BBC News

An estimated $1 trillion dollars in goods from places like Bangladesh and China moves through west coast ports each year. For several months now, there has been a labor dispute between shipowners and longshoremen. Yesterday, port operators locked out workers, and are expected to do it again throughout President's Day weekend.    
Port lockouts and the sea's importance in supply chain - Market Place


 

 

Posted: February 13, 2015, 6:50 pm

US Maternity Leave is Messed-Up; Middle-class is Shrinking and Income Inequality is the Culprit; Bad Non-Union Jobs Might Be Killing People

We all know the middle-class is in deep trouble. But maybe you didn't know why many haven't really noticed until recently. That's because until 2000, Americans moved up and out of the middle class, which is not the case anymore. The percent of working people who have dropped out of the middle-class has increased significantly, which is why more and more people are visiting food pantries and  are forced to rely on public assistance.
Middle Class Shrinks Further as More Fall Out Instead of Climbing Up - New York Times

"I have trouble diagnosing just what went wrong in that odyssey from sleek distance runner to his death at 54, but the lack of good jobs was central to it," said Nickolas Kristof, New York Times. Kevin who worked hard and benefited from good middle-class union jobs, until many of those jobs went down the drain and Kevin hurt his back. Because Kevin hurt his back, he was laid off and forced to go on disability.   
Where’s the Empathy? - New York Times

In the US, disability is oftentimes used as an alternative to paid maternity leave and if you're lucky, your employer will offer paid maternity leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act is weak, women are eligible for unpaid leave up to 12 weeks if they're full-time employees for a company with 50 or more employees, which excludes many women working two part-time jobs.   
Can the U.S. Ever Fix Its Messed-Up Maternity Leave System? - Bloomberg Business
 


 

 

Posted: January 28, 2015, 6:16 pm

McDonalds workers filed Civil Rights Lawsuit; Former Target CEO of Canada Took Home $61 Million U.S. Dollars; Republicans Refocus Policy and Messaging on Stagnant Middle Class

McDonalds workers filed a civil rights lawsuit after three Virginia stores fired a total of 17 minority staff members in May. Workers say that they were told by supervisors that there were "too many black people" working at the franchises. In the complaint, workers said store managers told them at the time that it was "too dark" in the restaurants and that they "need to get the ghetto out of the store."

Fired McDonald’s workers say they were dismissed for being minorities - Washington Post

Target announced it would close its Canadian branch in the next four months laying off their 17,600 employees. But before the big announcement, last spring Canadian Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel took home a total of $61 million in U.S. dollars after leaving his post, which is more than the fund setup to pay all 17, 600 Target employees ($56 million in U.S. dollars) over the last four months.

Target CEO's Golden Handshake Pretty Much Matches The One For All 17,600 Canadian Employees - Huffington Post Canada

The Republican party seems to be finally acknowledging income inequality. At a closed-door meeting last week, Republican Majority  Leader Mitch McConnell encouraged Republican members to refocus policy on the stagnant middle class. Republicans have already been acknowledging a wealth gap showing a significant change in messaging.

Talk of Wealth Gap Prods the G.O.P. to Refocus - New York Times

Posted: January 22, 2015, 7:00 pm