By Bill Hughes for Baltimore Post-Examiner – On Capitol Hill, on Tuesday afternoon two stalwarts of the cause of Organized Labor, John Sweeney and Elizabeth Powell, were awarded with the “Roving Ambassador for Peace” award. Sweeney is the President-Emeritus of the AFL-CIO and Ms. Powell is the Secretary-Treasurer of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU). The ceremony was held in the headquarters of the AFL-CIO, on the eighth floor, with a splendid view of the White House and Washington Monument in the background. Friends and family members of the honorees were in attendance. They were joined by officials of the AFL-CIO, such as Ms. Elizabeth Shuler, its Secretary-Treasurer, and Mark Dimondstein, a member of its Executive Council, also the President of the APWU.
By Robert Lafolla and Steve Holland for Reuters – In response to President Trump’s nomination of Alexander Acosta for labor secretary, Fight For $15 published the statement of Aiesha Meadows McLaurin, a Burger King worker from Chicago, IL: “Workers in the Fight for $15 just proved that when we stand together, even fast-food CEOs and presidents can’t ignore us. Working Americans need a labor secretary who will have our backs, not one who will hold us back. We look forward to learning more about Mr. Acosta’s record as the confirmation process unfolds. If confirmed, we will hold Mr. Acosta accountable as labor secretary and do whatever it takes to make sure that our voices are heard loud and clear in Washington. No matter who becomes labor secretary, we won’t back down for one second in our fight. We’ll keep taking to the streets, standing up and speaking out until we win $15 and a union rights for all.”
By Shaun Richman for In This Time – If Donald Trump’s first week as president wasn’t depressing enough, Thursday brought a report that showed union membership fell in 2016. Union members are now just 10.7% of the overall workforce and only 6.7% of the private sector. Those are the lowest levels since the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) began tracking them in the early 1980s—and possibly the lowest since the 1920s. Bosses and union haters will crow that unions are dying institutions and even our friends may write eulogies. But this funeral is for the wrong corpse. What may be dying is the system of collective bargaining that developed in the years after World War II.
By Staff of Z Communications Daily Commentary – At first glance it is a factory: heavy machinery, crates, palettes, industrial barrels and men doing manual labor. Little catches the eye, except maybe the homemade banners hanging up around the warehouse. They’re in Greek, so you might not be able to read them, but you can tell these are not the stock decorations from the ‘IKEA industrial chic’ catalog. Over a couple of days, you might also notice that you’re unlikely to see those men doing the same specific jobs, day after day, as you would in most factories. They seem to rotate their roles, mixing up batches of soap, pouring them into frames and cutting it into bars, but also cleaning toilets, taking product orders and coordinating distribution.
Liam Barrington-Bush for ROAR Magazine – At first glance it is a factory: heavy machinery, crates, palettes, industrial barrels and men doing manual labor. Little catches the eye, except maybe the homemade banners hanging up around the warehouse. They’re in Greek, so you might not be able to read them, but you can tell these are not the stock decorations from the ‘IKEA industrial chic’ catalog. Over a couple of days, you might also notice that you’re unlikely to see those men doing the same specific jobs, day after day, as you would in most factories. They seem to rotate their roles, mixing up batches of soap, pouring them into frames and cutting it into bars, but also cleaning toilets, taking product orders and coordinating distribution. However, overall, when you walk into VIO.ME, it mostly looks like countless other industrial workplaces in the north of Greece and beyond.
By Seth Kershner for In These Times – Retail is the nation’s largest employer. Since 1980, the number of jobs in retail has reportedly grown nearly 50 percent, from 10.2 to 15.1 million. At the same time, real wages for retail workers have fallen by 11 percent while on-call scheduling, involuntary part-time work and “clopening”—where workers are required to lock up the store late at night and reopen the next morning—have wreaked havoc with workers’ lives. Not surprisingly, the retail sector also has one of the lowest rates of unionization in the economy—around the 5 percent mark under which unions have virtually no influence. It didn’t used to be this way. Retail had 15 percent union density in the 1970s, according to sociologist Peter Ikeler…
By Joseph Jankowski for Activist Post – The “official” unemployment rate (U3) released each month is, to put it in the most straight-forward way possible, a completely misleading and politicized statistic. The U3 unemployment rate, which is one of 6 ways the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the amount of people out of work, is defined as the “total unemployed, as a percent of the civilian labor force.” This is the 4.7% number which came out today and the statistic that soon-to-be former President Barrack Obama has boasted so proudly over. You remember this, right? …
By Ebony Slaughter-Johnson for Other Words – The economic concerns of the white working class and people of color are more alike than different. A little over 80 years ago, NAACP founder W.E.B. Du Bois wrote “Black Reconstruction in America,” a groundbreaking essay that looked at the racial politics of the post-Civil War years. The major failure of those years, Du Bois insisted, was that poor whites and poor blacks failed to form an alliance around their mutual economic interests and challenges. Instead, white elites doubled down on their efforts to divide poor people of different races.
By Joseph E. Stiglitz for Project Syndicate – NEW YORK – As US President-elect Donald Trump fills his cabinet, what have we learned about the likely direction and impact of his administration’s economic policy? To be sure, enormous uncertainties remain. As in many other areas, Trump’s promises and statements on economic policy have been inconsistent. While he routinely accuses others of lying, many of his economic assertions and promises – indeed, his entire view of governance – seem worthy of Nazi Germany’s “big lie” propagandists. Trump will take charge of an economy on a strongly upward trend, with third-quarter GDP growing at an impressive annual rate of 3.2% and unemployment at 4.6% in November.
By Dr. Andy Coates for All Unions Committee for Single Payer Health Care – HR 676. Albany, NY – Just north of where the Mohawk River joins the Hudson, in upstate New York, the highly skilled members of IUE/CWA Local 81359, have been on strike since the beginning of November. A chemical plant, once owned by General Electric, today Momentive Performance Materials, would like to drive workers back to a minimum wage with no benefits. The IUE/CWA local endured setbacks in two recent contracts and this time has said NO MORE. One important issue is the right to retire at age 60–with health benefits. The company wants to eliminate retiree health benefits altogether. This would make retirement unaffordable. The workers at the plant live with a high risk of illness due to occupational exposure to dangerous chemicals.
By Dave Jamieson for The Huffington Post – In response to reports that Donald Trump will nominate Andy Puzder as U.S. Secretary of Labor, the Fight for $15 released the following statement from Carl’s Jr. cook Rogelio Hernandez from Santa Monica, Calif. and Hardee’s cashier Lacretia Jones from Richmond, Va.: “Putting one of the worst fast-food CEOs in charge of national labor policy sends a signal to workers that the Trump years are going to be about low pay, wage theft, sexual harassment and racial discrimination. Instead of taking on the rigged economy, it seems like Trump wants to rig it up even more. Puzder is paid more in one day than we each make in one year working at his restaurant chains, and that’s the way he wants to keep it.
By Aldous Huxley for Eats Shoots N’ Leaves – I’ve written before on how the decline of organized labor beginning in the late 1970s gave birth to the backlash that fueled Donald Trump’s election. Labor’s deterioration weakened worker protections, kept wages stagnant and caused income inequality to soar to the highest levels in over eight decades. It also made workers feel they needed a savior like Trump. In other words, his unlikely victory follows a straight line from the defeat of the Labor Reform Act of 1978 to the election of 2016.
By Kate Aronoff for In These Times – If one mantra seems to have dominated the progressive response to this year’s presidential election, it’s an apocryphal one cribbed from a long-dead Swedish Wobbly: “Don’t mourn, organize!” Exactly what that organizing looks like, however, remains up for debate. Jane McAlevey’s latest book, No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age, sets out to shed light on that question, drawing on case studies from recent history and McAlevey’s three decades of experience in the labor and environmental movements.