By Dominic Rushe and Tom Pietrasik for the Guardian. Momentive’s workers are not alone in their grievances. In 2016 dollars, the average hourly wage of a high school educated worker was $18.29 in 1973, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Last year it was $17.25. Ignoring minor bumps and dips, it’s fair to say that a quarter of the US workforce (those with no more than high school education) have seen their wages barely keep up with inflation for more than 40 years – a period that enjoyed decades of spectacular economic growth, particularly for the top 1%. Chatting over a beer after a day on the lines, Benny Patrignani, Dominick’s brother, says he has hope that Trump will bring change. “Both parties are so busy hitting each other, they haven’t been interested in us,” he says. The choice, he said, was: “Do you want to die by drowning or die by fire?”
By Alexandra Bradbury for Labor Notes – The Staples boycott is over, and the union won. The Postal Workers (APWU) announced January 5 that the Postal Service will terminate its deal with Staples, closing down the 540 “mini-post offices” inside stores by the end of February and nixing plans to expand them to all 1,600 locations. The union fought for three years against the deal, which amounted to contracting out post office work to the low-wage, non-union office retailer. Staples opened its first postal counters in 2013. They offered a selection of the services APWU members provide at post office windows, including stamp sales, first-class domestic and international mail, and priority and express mail. Customers paid the same rates they would in a real post office — but Staples got a discount from the Postal Service, and pocketed the difference as profit.
By Anne Meador for DC Media Group – Immigrant workers around the country on February 16 flexed their economic muscle with a strike called “Un Dia Sin Inmigrante,” or “A Day Without Immigrants.” Planned at a three-day conference in Boston on February 10, the series of boycotts and strikes are intended to gain leverage for foreign-born immigrants, visa holders and undocumented immigrants at a time when migrant communities are scapegoated and discriminated against. Recently, Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids have swept through cities, detaining and deporting many people who allegedly lack proper documentation to reside in the U.S. “Now more than ever, it is important for the immigrant rights movement to have an offensive strategy,” said Maria Fernanda Cabello, a spokesperson for Movimiento Cosecha, in a press release.
By Ed Childs for Workers World – Well in advance of the Harvard University Dining Service strike, we knew we would need to build a solidarity coalition to take on the Harvard Corporation. We spent months laying the groundwork. (For Part 1, about strike preparations, go to tinyurl.com/z3goecw.) Once the strike began the coalition was critical. Harvard Medical School students staged two walkouts in support of the striking HUDS workers. The Student Labor Action Movement played a big role; they organized a dinner for us on campus where faculty, administrators, deans, parents and our workers spoke. Campus environmentalists saw worker health as necessary for a healthy campus environment. The Jewish group Hillel hosted meetings and fed us, and rabbis spoke at our rallies.
By Staff for Occupy.com. Community leaders, elected officials, faith leaders, labor unions, student groups and racial justice organizations came out firing last week again Nissan for its civil rights abuses against African-American workers, leading protests in Nashville and Atlanta ahead of further actions planned across the South. Specifically, the coalition, called Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan (MAFFAN), is launching region-wide efforts to educate consumers about Nissan’s treatment of workers at its manufacturing plant in Canton, Mississippi. Of the roughly 5,000 workers at the carmaker’s Canton plant, an estimated 80 percent are African-American. Now, calls are growing to let the workers form a union, something that hasn’t been allowed. “The right to organize and form a union is a basic right here in America. It’s how workers represent their interests and make sure that their workplace rights are respected,” said Georgia State Senator and Atlanta mayoral candidate Vincent Fort.
By Lorraine Chow for Eco Watch – “This report verifies the dynamic role that our energy technologies and infrastructure play in a 21st century economy,” said DOE Senior Advisor on Industrial and Economic Policy David Foster. “Whether producing natural gas or solar power at increasingly lower prices or reducing our consumption of energy through smart grids and fuel efficient vehicles, energy innovation is proving itself as the important driver of economic growth in America, producing 14 percent of the new jobs in 2016.” The solar industry is particularly shining bright. “Proportionally, solar employment accounts for the largest share of workers in the Electric Power Generation sector,” the report, released on Jan. 13, states.
By Dianne Feeley for Labor Notes – Last week auto workers from Chicago and Detroit made a pilgrimage to the birthplace of auto workers’ sit-down strikes to lend solidarity to workers who’ve been locked out for eight months and counting. Honeywell locked out 320 aerospace workers with Auto Workers (UAW) Local 9 in South Bend, Indiana, on May 9 after they voted 270-30 to reject the company’s offer. Another 40 Honeywell workers with Local 1508 at in Green Island, New York, are also locked out. Honeywell was demanding the power to change health care premiums and deductibles unilaterally. The rejected proposal would also have eliminated cost-of-living increases and retiree health care…
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 Curtis Black for The Chicago Reporter – On a frigid evening near the close of 2016, while going to a meeting at Goose Island, I was a bit startled to recall another frigid gathering there eight years earlier. In 2008, Barack Obama was president-elect, the economy was collapsing, and the workers at Republic Windows and Doors occupied their factory to protest its sudden shutdown. You stepped inside the building and saw the very serious faces of blue-collar workers, mainly black and Latino, who had taken a very serious step at great personal risk in order to take back some control over their future—and perhaps set an example for the rest of us.
By Philip Guelpa for WSWS – With the strike of 700 workers against Momentive Performance Materials in Waterford, New York, north of Albany, entering its third month and the plant manned with scab labor, it is clear the company is determined to break the workers’ resistance to sweeping concessions. At the same time, the International Union of Electrical Workers/Communications Workers of America (IUE/CWA), Locals 81359 and 81380, have collaborated in the slow strangulation of the strike. The company is seeking major cuts in health care, pensions and other benefits.
By Staff of Teamsters – Union members aren’t the only ones hurt when labor’s slice of the workforce pie gets smaller, a report confirms. In fact, research by the Economic Policy Institute shows all workers today are making less than they would if union density was at its 1979 level. Between 1979 and 2013, the share of private-sector workers in a union fell from about 34 percent to 10 percent among men, and from 16 percent to 6 percent among women. For women, the result is $718 less in pay per year. But for men, lost pay balloons to nearly $2,725 a year. As EPI notes, “Unions keep wages high for nonunion workers for several reasons. Union agreements set wage standards that nonunion employers follow.
By Michael Safi for The Guardian – At least 1,500 workers have been sacked from Bangladesh garment factories after protests forced a week-long shutdown at dozens of sites supplying top European and American brands. Tens of thousands of workers walked out of factories this month in the manufacturing hub of Ashulia which make clothes for top western brands such as Gap, Zara and H&M, prompting concerns over supply during the holiday season. The protests were sparked by the sacking of 121 workers, but soon evolved into a demand for the trebling of workers’ pay from the current monthly minimum of 5,300 taka (£54).
By Staff for Tele Sur – Petrobras has decided to go to court with a request for conciliation to continue the negotiation with the unions. Oil workers in Brazil began a strike Friday that has paralyzed all activities at Petrobras’ refineries and maritime platforms, union leaders say. According to the Federation of Petroleum Workers, or FUP, the largest trade union in the sector, workers rejected the salary increase proposed by the state-owned company and affiliated unions have already approved the federation’s calls for the use of strikes. The FUP also called the adjustment in salaries “insufficient,” and said Petrobras is in breach of the 2016/2017 Collective Work Agreement.
By Aviva Chomsky for NACLA – Donald Trump’s election left many immigrant rights activists in a panicked thought loop. What did he actually say he would do? If he was saying he would deport “criminal aliens” and “build a wall,” is that really any different from what we’ve already seen under the Obama administration? Could he really deport 11 million people? Would he really eliminate President Obama’s signature successful pro-immigrant action, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which granted temporary legal status to hundreds of thousands of undocumented youth? If he did, what would happen to these young people?
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.