Striking Miners Remain Resilient And Strong

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By William Rogers for Left Labor Reporter. Idaho – After six months on strike, 250 miners at the Lucky Friday silver mine in Mullan, Idaho remain determined to continue their fight for a fair contract that protects hard-won union pay, benefits, and safety measures. In addition to maintaining a strong picket line for more than six months, the strikers, members of United Steelworkers Local 5114, have carried out an effective corporate campaign aimed putting their employer Hecla Mining on the defensive. In addition to the Lucky Friday silver mine in Idaho, Hecla owns mines in Mexico, Canada, and Alaska that mine silver, gold, lead, and zinc.

Open Letter To Union Leaders: Act On Climate

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By Staff of Labor Network for Sustainability – Working people, poor people, and frontline communities are most heavily impacted by the effects of climate change. We feel the force of this devastation first and worst—from more powerful hurricanes to wildfires, from rising sea levels to crop-destroying droughts and floods. Our families and communities receive the greatest blow and have the biggest stake in moving as rapidly as possible from a fossil fuel-based society to a sustainable energy society. Global warming represents an existential threat to the world’s people. We must act rapidly to avoid even more devastating climate change. But moving to 100% renewable energy will also impact jobs for many of us. So any transition, to be just, must protect workers and frontline communities impacted by the changes we must make from having to disproportionately bear rather than share the social cost. Organized labor with its allies is the strongest, best-organized force to turn this around. Who will speak for the global majority of working people and poor people if organized labor does not? The Earth is our only home. There is no Planet B. And there are no jobs on a dead planet.

Thousands Protest Tories And Austerity

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By Socialist Worker. Manchester, UK – Thousands of demonstrators are gathering at the Castlefield’s Arena in Manchester today, Sunday, to protest against Tory austerity. The Tories are beginning their annual conference in the city. The slogan of the protest, called by the People’s Assembly, is, “Tories out”. There is a sense that after seven years of brutal Tory rule, it’s possible to kick them out of office. Jane from Manchester told Socialist Worker, “There’s a change going on in people’s general attitudes, people can see the affect that inequality is having on their lives.

SCOTUS Is On The Verge Of Decimating Public-Sector Unions

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By Shaun Richman for In These Times – On Thursday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Janus vs. AFSCME, the case that will likely turn the entire public sector labor movement into a “right-to-work” zone. Like a lazy Hollywood remake, the case has all the big money behind it that last year’s Friedrichs v. CTA did, with none of the creativity. In Friedrichs, the plaintiffs argued that interactions between public sector unions and government employers are inherently political. Therefore, the argument went, mandatory agency fees to reimburse the union for the expenses of representation and bargaining were forced political speech, violating employees’ purported First Amendment right to not pay dues. The case ended in a 4-4 deadlock in March 2016, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, who had appeared poised to vote against the unions’ interests. Much like Friedrichs, the Janus case has rocketed through the federal courts. The National Right to Work Foundation, which represents the plaintiffs, petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case in early June. All briefs will likely be submitted by mid-January 2018, meaning SCOTUS could hold hearings almost exactly a year to the date that the Court last heard the same arguments. The defendants may argue for procedural delays, which could potentially kick the decision into the following court term in 2018-2019.

310,567 Signatures Block ‘Right To Work’ In Missouri

After a grassroots effort gathered 310,567 signatures, Missouri was forced to postpone the implementation of right to work till November 2018, when voters will determine its future. Photo: We Are Missouri

By Judy Ancel for Labor Notes – The results astounded everyone who thought they knew the Missouri labor movement: more than 300,000 signatures to repeal “right to work.” Thousands of union members and allies marched through the streets of the state capital August 18 to deliver 163 boxes of petitions signed by 310,567 Missourians. The signers called for a referendum to repeal the right-to-work law passed by the legislature earlier this year. The signatures gathered were more than three times the number needed. Although signatures were needed in only six of the state’s eight Congressional districts, there were enough to qualify from all eight, and they came from all 114 Missouri counties. The state was forced to postpone the August 28 implementation of right to work till November 2018, when voters will determine its future. The petition drive was coordinated by We Are Missouri, a coalition of unions both in and out of the state AFL-CIO. Volunteers from Missouri Jobs with Justice and the Sierra Club stepped up, too. Most of the money for the campaign came from Missouri unions, with contributions as low as $100 and as high as $83,000. Much bigger donations came from labor PACs representing the state AFL-CIO, Teamsters, and Carpenters. As of August 31, the labor side had raised $1.36 million and spent almost half of it.

What America Would Look Like If It Guaranteed Everyone A Job

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By Dylan Matthews for Vox Magazine – Imagine if a well-paying job, with benefits and a high enough salary to pay for rent, transportation, and food, were a human right. Imagine the US federal government established a policy whereby anyone who didn’t have a job and wanted one could go into a local office for a government agency — call it the Works Progress Administration — and walk out with a regular government position paying a livable wage ($15 an hour, perhaps) and offering health, dental, and vision insurance, and retirement benefits, and child care for their kids. Different people would do different things: teaching or working for after-school programs or providing child care or building roads and mass transit or driving buses and so on. But everyone would be guaranteed a job, including during recessions. Involuntary unemployment would be a thing of the past. No one who works would be in poverty. That’s a truly radical policy idea. But it has deep roots in the Democratic Party’s past, from the New Deal’s emergency employment programs to the Humphrey-Hawkins Act, a 1970s proposal that, as originally written, would have given unemployed Americans the right to sue the government. Today, there are even some actual proposals on the table. In May, the Center for American Progress issued a report calling for a “large-scale, permanent program of public employment and infrastructure investment.” But some labor economists, even left-leaning ones, are skeptical. None of the programs, they argue, have done enough work on the details.

Tens Of Thousands March In France Against Anti-Worker Reforms

Demonstrators walk during a protest against the labor reform on September 12, 2017 in Paris, France. (Photo: Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images)

By Jake Johnson for Common Dream – Led by the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), France’s second largest trade union, demonstrators flooded Paris and other major cities chanting: “Macron you’re screwed, the slackers are in the streets.” The “slackers” label came from Macron himself, who in a recent speech vowed to not “give any ground [on his labor reforms], not to slackers, nor cynics, nor hardliners.” Union leaders and France’s left opposition seized upon Macron’s comments and used them to rally workers ahead of Tuesday’s planned actions, which included around 180 protests and 4,000 strikes—the first nationwide demonstrations of Macron’s young presidency. In an interview on Monday, former Socialist Party presidential candidate Benoit Hamon slammed Macron’s “slacker” remarks as “insulting” to French workers. “Lazy people are the independently wealthy, who don’t need to work for a living,” Hamon retorted. “And a lot of independently wealthy picked Emmanuel Macron as their champion.”

Slave Labor Widespread At ICE Detention Centers, Lawyers Say

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By Mia Steinle for POGO – There are nearly 200 federal detention centers across the country. Here, people suspected of violating U.S. immigration laws wait for court hearings to find out if they’ll stay in the United States or be deported. While they wait, many detainees work as part of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “voluntary work program.” They clean, they cook, they do laundry, and they garden—some advocates say they keep the facilities running. For their labor, the detainees are supposed to be paid at least $1 per day, or just under $0.13 per hour for an 8-hour work day. This arrangement has the blessings of both ICE and Congress, the latter of which set the rate over a half a century ago and hasn’t changed it since. However, a growing body of legal experts says paying detainees $1 per day not only violates state minimum wage laws, but also violates the 13th Amendment of the Constitution, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude in all instances except as punishment for people convicted of crimes. Experts argue that, because the majority of detainees have not been convicted of crimes, they should be fairly compensated for their labor. From California to Colorado to Massachusetts, detainees have recently taken legal action against the for-profit companies and local governments that operate the majority of ICE detention centers.

The Cure Worse Than The Disease: Expelling Freeloaders In An Open-Shop State

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By Chris Brooks for New Labor Forum – The United States is likely to be an entirely open- shop country in the near future. Republicans dominate over two-thirds of state legislatures, over half of all governorships, both houses of Congress, the White House, and a majority of seats on the Supreme Court. As the GOP proliferates, so does anti-union legislation. Twenty-eight states have already passed open-shop—so-called “right-to-work”—laws, which allow workers to receive the benefits of unionization without being a union member or paying fees for union representation. Over the next couple of years, the Supreme Court is likely to make right-to-work the law of the land in the public sector and it is possible Congress will pass federal legislation to do the same in the private sector. Right-to-work laws create two interlocking problems for labor unions. First, unions are legally required to represent all workers in a bar- gaining unit that the union has been certified to represent. In open shops, the “duty of fair representation” requires unions to expend resources on nonmembers who are covered by the union contract. This is known as the free-rider problem. Union activists often refer to workers who opt out of paying for the benefits of unionization as “freeloaders.”

Ending DACA Lowers Wages And Tax Revenue, And Degrades Labor Standards

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By Daniel Costa for Economic Policy Institute – Tuesday morning Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration will “wind down,” and in six months, end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a Department of Homeland Security initiative put in place in 2012 that temporarily deferred the deportation of approximately 800,000 young immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. DACA has been an unqualified success and has benefited not only the DACA recipients themselves, but also the country and the economy. The young immigrants who met the requirements and passed the necessary background checks for DACA were promised by the federal government that they would not be removed from the United States for two years at a time, as long as they kept applying to renew, kept a clean criminal record, and were either enrolled in school or graduated, or serving in the military or honorably discharged. Because of these requirements, we know that nearly all of the recipients are deeply integrated into their local American communities and labor markets. Along with protection from removal, DACA recipients are entitled to receive an employment authorization document (EAD), allowing them to be employed in the United States legally, along with certain other benefits

Organizers Say Quaint Baltimore Seafood Business Masks Shocking Labor Abuses

Demonstration at the labor department offices in Lampung, Indonesia in 2015. (IUF)

By Bruce Vail for In These Times – Phillips Seafood is a Baltimore-based company that trades on its historic connections to the Chesapeake Bay blue crab fishery. The signature dish at its restaurants is the famed Maryland-style crab cake, and its dining rooms feature models of antique fishing boats and romanticized images of the bay watermen culture that is fading fast. But organizers say it’s mostly fake—a cover story for a rapacious, globalized business that preys on poor Indonesian women to extract rich profits for its U.S. owners. That’s the story being told by a multinational federation of labor organizations committed to helping those Indonesian workers, according to Hidayat Greenfield, the Asia-Pacific regional secretary of the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF). A loose alliance of unions in 129 countries around the world, the IUF is spreading the word to Phillips’ U.S. customers about the company’s human rights abuses in Indonesia. Last month, representatives of the IUF’s U.S. affiliate, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, were in Ocean City, Md. handing out informational pamphlets at a Phillips restaurant where the company is currently enjoying its seasonal bonanza of business from beachgoers at the resort town.

Reviving The Strike

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By Jane McAlevey for The Bullet – Barb Tiller is a mother of four boys, a wife, and a highly skilled operating-room nurse who has been working at Tufts Medical Center in Boston for 27 years. On July 12, for the first time in her life, she walked off the job along with 1,200 other nurses – almost all women – in the largest nurses’ strike in Massachusetts’s history, and the first in Boston for 31 years. “Nurses don’t stand up for ourselves,” says Tiller. “We stand up for our patients; we stand up for our families when we go home. We stand up for everyone else. But we can’t work under these conditions anymore – like being locked in the operating room with no water, no bathroom break, no meal break, for 12 hours at a time.” Alyssa Gold, a cardiology nurse whose 16 months at Tufts mirrors the duration of the contract negotiations between the nurses and hospital management, says, “I was excited to start working at Tufts because the best learning for nurses happens in Boston hospitals.” Five years into nursing, which she refers to as her calling, Gold agrees with Tiller about the dire need for change. In the days leading up to the strike, Gold faced some of the fears and self-doubt that hospital managers count on.

I Am Not A Hero Teacher

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By Staff for Gad Fly On The Wall Blog – I’ll tell you one thing I don’t need. I don’t need the state, federal or local government telling me how to do my job. When I plan my lessons, I need the freedom to teach children in the way that seems most effective to me – the professional in the room. I also don’t need some bureaucrat telling me how to assess my students. I don’t need some standardized test to tell me what kids have learned, if they can read or write. I’ve spent an average of 80 minutes a day with these children for five days a week. If I can’t tell, I don’t deserve to be in the classroom. And I don’t need my principal or superintendent setting my colleagues and me against each other. We’re not competing to see who can do a better job. We should be collaborating to make sure everyone succeeds. What do I need? My union, for one. I need my right to collective bargaining. I need the power to gather with my colleagues and co-workers so we can create the best possible work environment for myself and my students. I need due process, tenure, so I can’t be fired at the whim of the school board or administrators without having them prove my inequities.

Charleston Workers Renew Region’s Ties To Highlander Center

Fight for $15 activists from Charleston, South Carolina, and other communities around the South recently gathered for an organizing workshop at the Highlander Center in Tennessee. (Photo by Kerry Taylor.)

By Kerry Taylor for Facing South – Seventy years ago, a group of cigar factory workers from Charleston, South Carolina, traveled almost 500 miles to the Highlander Folk School, a leadership training school founded in East Tennessee in 1932. There, the workers introduced the school’s musical director to a gospel song that had boosted their spirits during a protracted strike the previous year. Highlander staff taught the song to thousands of labor and civil rights movement activists over the years and, as its popularity spread, “We Shall Overcome” became an anthem for human rights causes worldwide. It has been sung by left-wing college students in India, anti-apartheid protesters in South Africa, and civil rights supporters from Birmingham, Alabama, to Belfast, Northern Ireland. In the footsteps of the tobacco workers, three Charleston food and hospitality industry workers attended an educational and organizing workshop at Highlander earlier this month sponsored by Raise Up for $15. Since the summer of 2013, Raise Up has been the Southern expression of the national “Fight for $15″ — the Service Employees International Union-backed movement for a livable wage and union rights for low-wage workers.

Eugene Debs And The Kingdom Of Evil

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By Chris Hedges for Truth Dig – Debs burst onto the national stage when he organized a railroad strike in 1894 after the Pullman Co. cut wages by up to one-third but did not lower rents in company housing or reduce dividend payments to its stockholders. Over a hundred thousand workers staged what became the biggest strike in U.S. history on trains carrying Pullman cars. The response was swift and brutal. “Mobilizing all the powers of capital, the owners, representing twenty-four railroads with combined capital of $818,000,00, fought back with the courts and the armed forces of the Federal government behind them,” Barbara W. Tuchman writes in “The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914.” “Three thousand police in the Chicago area were mobilized against the strikers, five thousand professional strikebreakers were sworn in as Federal deputy marshals and given firearms; ultimately six thousand Federal and State troops were brought in, less for the protection of property and the public than to break the strike and crush the union.” Attorney General Richard Olney, who as Tuchman writes “had been a lawyer for railroads before entering the Cabinet and was still a director of several lines involved in the strike,” issued an injunction rendering the strike illegal.