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Labor Rights

Reckoning With Labor Law’s Racist Roots

The maintenance of the racist Southern plantation system was the driving force behind the “compromise” struck by President Roosevelt and the Southern Democrats to exclude agricultural laborers from labor protections. In congressional debates this was clearly articulated. Representative Wilcox of Florida extolled, “You cannot put the Negro and the white man on the same basis and get away with it…” and Representative Cox of Georgia agreed, saying that it would be “dangerous beyond conception” to eliminate racial and social distinctions. Bargaining away racial equality, President Roosevelt and his coalition excluded agriculture from the FLSA.  There have been legal challenges to the agricultural exemption in the past but the exclusion has never been attacked squarely as unconstitutional because it was racially motivated. The Martinez-Cuevas case will be the first to squarely present this question before a court.

Who Controls Our Time?

As the bumper sticker has it, unions are “the folks who brought you the weekend.” Unions fought for the 10-hour day, and then the eight-hour day… and then our fight stopped. We never got to a six-hour-day fight. Instead we started to backslide. We not only lost the weekend; we lost control over our time. This slippage mirrors the decline in real wages over the last generation—both signs that organized labor has gotten weaker. In 1960 the paid work hours for U.S. workers were roughly comparable to those in Europe.

NLRB Deals Major Blow To Fight For 15

The reported settlement of a landmark case against McDonald’s at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) deals a blow to Fight for $15’s union ambitions, widening the chasm between the campaign’s astonishingly successful wage demand and its faltering union aspirations. The settlement, negotiated by Trump-appointed NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb, requires McDonald’s to pay damages for retaliatory measures taken against workers who organized with Fight for $15. However, the agreement prevents a ruling in the case, dealing a blow to labor.

South Korea Vows No Tolerance Against Labor Protesters

By Jack Kim for Reuters. The South Korean government vowed on Sunday to crack down on any more violent protests, a day after dozens were arrested during a rally against labor reforms, the largest street protest of President Park Geun-hye's term. Organizers say they will take to the streets again on Dec. 5. More than 60,000 people took part in Saturday's protest, according to police, and a group of a few dozen fought with the police at the front line, trying to break through barricades of police buses blocking off downtown Seoul's main thoroughfare. Police used water canons to disperse the crowd and sprayed liquid laced with an irritant found in chilli pepper to fight off protesters swinging metal pipes and sharpened bamboo sticks.

Mass Mobilization To Stop The TPP Announced, As Text Is Released

A mass mobilization in Washington, DC from November 14th to 18th has been announced to begin the next stage of the campaign to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP was made public 10 days from the actions. The protest, co-sponsored by 59 organizations, is being spearheaded by Popular Resistance and Flush The TPP and includes environmental, human rights, labor, climate change and good government groups. They have been organizing this mobilization for months knowing that the TPP would be made public around this time. On November 16th through 18th the groups will begin their protests on Monday morning at the US Trade Representative building on 17th Street with the message that the TPP betrays the people, planet and democracy. This will be followed that evening by a protest that begins at the US Chamber of Commerce and White House then marches along K Street and ends at the Reagan International Trade Center. The next day the groups will have an international focus protesting at multiple sites along Embassy Row to stand in solidarity with people around the world who are fighting to stop the TPP. On the final day the groups will focus on Congress.

Urban Outfitters Kills Off On-Call Scheduling Nationwide

By Sapna Maheshwari for Buzzfeed - Urban Outfitters is the latest retailer to abandon the controversial practice of on-call scheduling in its stores nationwide, just weeks after it was criticized for only stopping the practice in New York, where the state attorney general is investigating whether it breaches labor laws. The retailer, which also owns Free People and Anthropologie, said earlier this month it would stop scheduling employees for call-in shifts in New York, where Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the unpaid shifts may be violating state law. Other retailers that announced plans to abolish call-in shifts in recent months, including Gap, Victoria’s Secret and J.Crew, did not restrict the change to New York.

Warren Solidly Responds To Obama With The Facts On Trade

The Senate will soon vote on the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 – also known as “Fast Track.” President Obama has requested Fast Track authority from Congress to ease the passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive trade agreement with 12 countries that account for nearly 40% of the global economy. President Obama has repeatedly stated that the TPP is “the most progressive trade bill in history” because it has high labor, environmental, and human rights standards. The President claims the TPP will have “higher labor standards, higher environmental standards,” and “new tools to hold countries accountable.” But proponents of almost every free trade agreement (FTA) in the last 20 years have made virtually identical claims. The TPP is being hailed as the strongest free trade agreement yet. But this is not the first time this claim has been made. Proponents of previous trade agreements have made similar claims about every free trade agreement signed in the last 20 years, from the NAFTA agreement in 1993 to the more recent agreements with Colombia and Panama. By now, we have two decades of experience with free trade agreements under both Democratic and Republican Presidents. Supporters of these agreements have always promised that they contain tough standards to protect workers. But this analysis reveals that the rhetoric has not matched the reality.

Wisconsin Lawmakers Pass Right-To-Work As Thousands Protest

Spelling more trouble for organized labor in the U.S., Republican legislators in the Wisconsin state Senate approved a right-to-work bill here on Wednesday, sending the measure to a GOP-controlled Assembly where it's also expected to pass. Republican leaders chose to fast-track the bill in what's known as an extraordinary legislative session, allowing for less debate than usual. Debate over the bill drew an estimated 2,000 protesters to the state Capitol on both Tuesday and Wednesday, reminiscent of the passionate labor demonstrations surrounding Act 10 in 2011, though vastly smaller in scope. As with that earlier legislation, which stripped most collective bargaining rights from public-sector employees, vocal opposition from the state's unions wasn't enough to stop the right-to-work bill in its tracks.

Lessons From Coalition Of Immokalee Workers For Workers

Having received a Presidential Medal in January for its efforts to combat modern-day slavery, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, or CIW, and its Campaign For Fair Food hit the road this month as part of its “Boot the Braids” campaign against Wendy’s. The tour spanned colleges and universities throughout the Northeast and Midwest to educate students, as well as create and solidify campus campaigns aimed at pressuring Wendy’s to join the CIW’s Fair Food Program, the only industry-wide social responsibility program in U.S. agriculture. Wendy’s is the last holdout of the big five fast food corporations — McDonald’s, Burger King, Yum Brands! and Subway — from the program, which has extended the Fair Food Code of Conduct to more than 30,000 workers, who make up over 90 percent of the Florida tomato industry. The many improbable successes of the CIW offer important lessons for countless other campaigns, especially those by low-wage workers in other industries.

About 2,000 Protest Against Right-To-Work At Wisconsin Capitol

About 2,000 construction workers, electricians, carpenters and other union members rallied at the Wisconsin state Capitol on Tuesday, pushing back against a fast-tracked right-to-work bill backed by Republicans and Gov. Scott Walker. The gathering was larger than most at the Capitol, but paled in numbers and intensity to the protests seen four years ago when Walker pushed through his measure that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers. Rallies then lasted for weeks and grew as large as 100,000 people. “Let’s be loud today and let them hear us,” Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, said at the rally where people sang, chanted and booed references to Republicans pushing the issue. Right-to-work laws, in place in 24 states, prohibit private-sector companies from reaching labor agreements in which workers have to pay fees to the unions as a condition of employment.

More Refinery Workers Join Strike In The US

The first nationwide strike at U.S. oil refineries since 1980 is spreading to two BP plants in the Midwest. The United Steelworkers union notified BP Plc. that workers at refineries in Ohio and Indiana would strike late last night, joining a walkout that began last week at nine other refineries. A BP spokesman said the company expects to continue operating with replacement workers and doesn’t expect a significant effect on production. About 3,800 steelworkers began a strike last Sunday at refineries from California to Kentucky, saying that negotiations with Shell Oil Co. had broken down. Shell is negotiating the national contract for other oil companies.

Walmart: Stop Racist Threats Of Violence Against Workers

Markeith Washington was working on the overnight remodeling crew at the Richmond, CA Walmart Store which was supervised by Art Van Riper. Van Riper was notorious among associates for screaming insults, calling the crew "a bunch of lazy ass workers." During one night of work in September of 2012 while Markeith was tying a rope around his own waist to aid in moving a heavy counter, Van Riper said to him, "if it was up to me, I'd put that rope around your neck." Shocked at this hateful comment, Markeith simply responded, "That's not right." Markeith and his fellow remodel crew associates were understandably outraged by Van Riper's threat. They bravely joined together to demand discipline for Van Riper and respect on the job by taking actions including talking to management, sending a letter to Walmart and even participating in a work stoppage strike.

Cambodia’s Garment Workers Aren’t Backing Down

Last January in Phnom Penh, the garment industry seemed to be coming apart at the seams: protesters thronged through the streets, several died after security forces opened fire and union leaders were detained for weeks without trial. A year on, the unrest has subsided and workers are getting a modest wage hike, but the systematic suppression of unions continues to breed bitter outrage. Last December, hundreds of workers rallied at the South Korean Embassy to demand justice at the Korean-owned Cambo Kotop factory, following the alleged illegal dismissal of union leaders who had planned a strike. They were opposing a court order to return to work.

Really Walmart? Calling The Police On Your Own Workers

Meet Ismael Nunez, an 11 year associate who has been standing up for better working conditions at Walmart for it’s associates and customers. Understaffing in the store and associates earning a living wage are just some of the things Ismael has been speaking up about. Recently, Ismael was disciplined for productivity despite being tasked to do the job of several people. What’s more, a manager called the police on Ismael and had him escorted from the store. Walmart managers at the Klamath Falls store wanted to send a clear message to workers: if you speak out, you will be disciplined. Walmart should be rewarding hardworking associates like Ismael not calling the police on them.

Why 2,600 Kaiser Mental Health Workers Are On Strike

Kaiser Permanente’s 2,600 California mental health clinicians are on strike today, and we’re staying out all week. Mental health clinicians hate to strike. We got into this profession to help people. But every day we are forced to apologetically explain to Kaiser members why they cannot get the timely, appropriate care they pay for with their monthly premiums—care that Kaiser is required by law to provide. That’s because, despite its huge profits, Kaiser does not staff its psychiatry departments with enough psychologists, therapists, social workers, and psychiatric nurses to treat the ever-growing number of patients seeking mental health care.
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