Future Of Low-Wage Worker Movement May Depend On NYC Law

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By Max Zahn for Waging Nonviolence. New York City – Flavia Cabral doesn’t equivocate. She joined the fast food worker movement, she said, for a single reason: to put her daughter through college. Cabral, 53, of the Bronx, earned $7.25 per hour at McDonald’s when she stood alongside coworkers in her first single-day strike four years ago. Over 10 strikes later, she makes $12 per hour, thanks to a statewide minimum wage hike that will gradually elevate her pay to $15 by the end of 2018. Still, her goal remains out of reach. “I don’t have enough savings for my daughter to finish college,” she said. “I want her to graduate.” Cabral’s predicament is emblematic of one facing the Fight for $15: how to move beyond its titular demand to address other barriers that are keeping fast food workers from a middle class life. These obstacles include insufficient hours, non-union workplaces and crippling expenses like housing, health insurance and college education.

The Work Lives Of Uber Drivers: Worse Than You Think

In addition to showing solidarity with immigrants, people of color, and workers nationwide, the actions will also take on Uber, a central figure in critiques of the U.S. "gig economy." (Photo: Reuters)

By Katie Wells, Kafui Attoh, and Declan Cullen for Working Class Perspectives – To be an Uber driver is to work when you want. Or so Uber likes to say in recruitment materials, advertisements, and sponsored research papers: “Be your own boss.” “Earn money on your schedule.” “With Uber, you’re in charge.” The language of freedom, flexibility, and autonomy abounds, and can seem like a win for workers. But the reality of our research shows something very different. The price of flexibility in the gig economy is substantial. Last year we conducted 40 in-person interviews and online surveys with Uber drivers in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Our project—which creates one of the first independent, qualitative datasets about the rideshare industry—found that the economic realities of precarious work are a far cry from the rosy promises of the gig economy. In exchange for flexible schedules, Uber retains near total control over what really matters for drivers, namely the compensation and costs of work. Aman bought a Lincoln Town Car in 2012 after he been approved to drive for Uber Black, the brand-new private car service. As an Ethiopian immigrant in Washington, D.C., he had supported himself by driving a taxi so he already had the chauffeur license that was then required. In 5 or 6 hours of driving, he earned what would have taken him 8 hours in a taxi.

Murphy Oil May Be The Last Workers’ Rights Case

Workers’ strike in Milwaukee in January of 2014. (Photo: Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association/flickr/cc)

By Celine McNicholas for Portside – Yesterday, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed its brief in NLRB v.Murphy Oil, which will be argued in the Supreme Court in October. The case will determine whether mandatory arbitration agreements with individual workers that prevent them from pursuing work-related claims collectively are prohibited by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The brief makes clear what is at stake for workers if the Supreme Court were to rule against the NLRB in this matter. The NLRA guarantees workers the right to stand together for “mutual aid and protection” when seeking to improve their wages and working conditions. Employer interference with this right is prohibited. However, increasingly, employers are requiring workers to sign arbitration agreements that force them to waive their rights to collective actions, and handle workplace disputes as individuals. In practice, that means that even if many workers faced the same type of dispute at work, each individual employee must hire their own lawyer, and must resolve their disputes out of court, behind closed doors, with only their employer and a private arbitrator.

Why Did Nissan Workers Vote No?

Workers voted 2,244-1,307 against joining the United Auto Workers, after a 12-year campaign to organize the mile-long Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi.

By Chris Brooks for Labor Notes – There’s no sugar-coating a loss this dramatic: 2,244-1,307 against the United Auto Workers, after a 12-year campaign to organize the mile-long Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi. After four attempts, the UAW has yet to win a plant-wide vote at a foreign-owned auto plant in the South. The August 4 loss can be laid to three factors: Nissan’s fierce anti-union campaign, the union’s failure to build a strong organizing committee that acted like a union on the shop floor, and Nissan workers’ reluctance to rock the boat and risk losing a job that pays far higher than they could expect to make almost anywhere else. UAW strategists felt that the demographics were in their favor, since 80 percent of the Nissan workforce is Black. Data shows that Black workers are more likely to vote for a union than are their white counterparts. But they also had to contend with the fact that Nissan brought well-paid jobs to an area with very few. Even though Nissan workers make less than workers at the Big Three automakers, they still take home some of the highest blue-collar wages in the state. “People drive two hours to get to this plant because they’ve never had a job like this before,” said Robert Hathorn, a pro-union frame worker.

How D.C. Grocery Workers Got Their Groove Back

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By Alan Hanson for Portside – In 1983, newly hired grocery workers in D.C. earned $6.95 an hour—more than twice the federal minimum wage at the time, and worth nearly $17 in today’s dollars. It took just two years to reach top pay of $10.44 an hour, worth $25.45 today. “Back then you had to know someone to get hired at Safeway,” said Jibril Wallace, a Safeway file maintenance clerk in D.C. “My sister was my ticket to getting a job.” But beginning in 1996, Local 400 agreed to create new tiers featuring lower pay and benefits in four of its next five contracts. By 2013, starting wages had plummeted to $7.60 an hour—a mere 35 cents above the federal minimum wage, and only 65 cents more than starting pay 30 years earlier. By then the union had also given up its pay progression based on months of service. Instead workers progressed up the scale based on hours worked. Most part-time workers would not see the top rate of $14.50 for 10 years or longer. This decline was hardly unique to Local 400. UFCW has done a poor job organizing regional nonunion competitors such as Food Lion and Harris Teeter and national ones such as Walmart and Whole Foods.

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.

States Seeking To Preempt Minimum Wage Increases By Cities

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By Staff of National Employment Law Project. State legislatures around the country are attempting to bar cities and counties from passing their own minimum wage laws through “preemption” laws that take away a locality’s power to enact such measures. Local minimum wage laws play a key role in ensuring that a worker can afford the basics in cities or counties where the cost of living is higher than in other parts of the state. While proponents of preemption often claim that their main concern is to avoid a “patchwork” of wage levels within a state, in reality, these bills are motivated by a desire to block higher wages. Ultimately, preemption of local minimum wage laws is a priority for big business. Advocates, workers, and legislators who support an economy that works for all should oppose the preemption of local minimum wage laws. Many States Authorize Cities & Counties to Enact Local Minimum Wage Laws; Over 40 Cities & Counties Have Successfully Enacted Such Laws.

Mississippi Autoworkers Mobilize

Danny Glover (center) joins Nissan workers for the March on Mississippi, March 4, 2017 (Ariel Cobbert / Daily Mississippian)

By Michelle Chen for Dissent – The workers at the Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi, had high hopes when the state-of-the-art factory complex moved in fourteen years ago to a small, majority black town where more than a quarter of residents live in poverty and decent jobs are scarce. As the manufacturing economy stagnated in the early 2000s, Nissan brought a streak of Clinton-era economic optimism into this struggling corner of the South. The global auto giant erected a multinational enterprise that is now the largest local employer, with more than 5,000 blue-collar jobs for an area with a workforce of fewer than 8,000. The factory’s launch was intended to make Canton a keystone of Mississippi’s “advanced manufacturing” growth agenda, promising decades of job development. But paint technician Morris Mock sees his hopes evaporate every day on the line. After fourteen years at the plant, he says, “People are hurting inside of my factory.” His fellow coworkers have been concerned by what they see as increasingly unstable working conditions and general deterioration in benefits and safety protections. A few years ago they campaigned to organize with the United Auto Workers (UAW). Since then, he says, the workers have faced growing hostility from management for seeking to unionize…

NY Times Employees Walk Out To Demand Respect And Save Jobs

Workers’ strike in Milwaukee in January of 2014. (Photo: Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association/flickr/cc)

By William Rogers for Left Labor Reporter – Hundreds of employees at the New York Times on June 28 took a collective coffee break and walked off the job to protest a plan by management to restructure the newspaper’s editing process and eliminate jobs. The restructuring plan, which will result in the loss of more than 50 out of 100 jobs in the editing department, was announced after The Times management spent 18 months trying figure out how to reconfigure the editing process. During that time, employees whose jobs were at risk were demeaned by management who compared their important work to “dogs urinating on fire hydrants” and dismissed it as “low-value editing.” The walkout was at once a demand that management respect the work done by copy editors and others involved in the editing process and a plea to save their jobs. In a letter addressed to The Times top newsroom management, editing staff who are members of the News Guild CWA Local 31003, said that after 18 months of mistreatment by management, “we are finding it difficult to feel respected.” During that time, copy editors and other editing staff have been tested, inspected, and, in some cases, rejected, as management tried to figure out how to make its editing staff do more with less. They also endured restructuring experiments that didn’t work.

Minimum Wage Tracker

Wisconsin Jobs Now / Flickr

By Staff of The Economic Policy Institute – The federal minimum wage has not been raised since 2009. In the absence of action at the national level, many states and localities have raised their own minimum wages. Explore the map to see how these rapidly changing laws differ across the country, and read EPI’s recent research explaining the benefits of raising the minimum wage and eliminating the subminimum wage for tipped workers.

Bradley Foundation Fueled Campaign Against Paid Sick Leave Laws

The Independent Women's Forum is advocating against the interests of millions of women in the workplace. (Image: Pixabay; Edited: JR / TO)

By Lisa Graves for PR Watch – The Bradley Files provide new insights into who underwrote recent efforts to undermine popular public policies that help women and families, such as paid sick leave laws. The Bradley Foundation did, through funding the controversial Independent Women’s Forum. The files indicate that Bradley gave the Independent Women’s Forum more than one million dollars over the years. That includes nearly half a million dollars in the past three years in response to its proposals for a campaign against public support for requiring paid sick leave, providing better child care policies, addressing the wage gap, and ensuring Americans can access life-saving medical treatment through the Affordable Care Act, known as “Obamacare.” The Independent Women’s Forum said the campaign — dubbed “Working for Women” — would cost at least $720,000 last year. Bradley staff recommended a gift of $200,000 in 2016 to cover more than a quarter of that budget. In 2015, the group had sought $350,000 from Bradley for the precursor to that project. Bradley obliged by providing nearly half the amount requested, $150,000.

Scores Of Farm Workers, Activists March On Ben & Jerry’s

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By Wilson Ring for Associated Press – MONTPELIER, Vt. – Scores of dairy farm workers and activists marched Saturday to a Ben & Jerry’s factory to push for better pay and living conditions on farms that provide milk for the ice cream maker that takes pride in its social activism. Protesters said Ben & Jerry’s agreed two years ago to participate in the so-called Milk with Dignity program, but the company and worker representatives have yet to reach an agreement. “We can’t wait any more. We are going to pressure them and see what happens,” said Victor Diaz, a Mexican immigrant now working on a farm in Vergennes. The march that began Saturday morning in Montpelier ended mid-afternoon at the plant in Waterbury, about 14 miles away. Organized Will Lambek said the marchers presented a letter to company CEO Jostein Solheim who said the company was committed to joining the program.

Indonesia: 4,220 Striking Miners Fired

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By Staff of Act Now! – In partnership with IndustriALL which represents 50 million workers in 140 countries in the mining, energy and manufacturing sectors and is a force in global solidarity taking up the fight for better working conditions and trade union rights around the world. Over 4,220 Indonesian workers have been fired for striking, and the Indonesian government must ensure the workers are reinstated. US company Freeport-McMoRan has fired 3,000 workers over the last month at the massive Grasberg copper and gold mine in West Papua. The firing violates the workers fundamental rights, the collective bargaining agreement and Indonesian law. The workers had struck in protest against the company’s unilateral decision to put them on long-term leave of absence related to a dispute between Freeport and the Indonesian government. The conflict has spread to Java, where over 300 workers have been fired at a joint venture between Freeport and Mitsubishi known as PT Smelting, which processes copper from Grasberg. The Indonesian government cannot allow Freeport and Mitsubishi to abuse workers in this way. The volatile situation could result in an outbreak of violence that would be difficult to contain.

Veteran Organizer Gives Inside Look At The First $15 Minimum Wage Campaign

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By Jonathan Timm for In These Times – Back in 2011, as the Occupy Wall Street movement was still spreading through the country, a smaller standoff was unfolding at Sea-Tac, the international airport in the small, eponymous town between Seattle and Tacoma that serves both cities. Along with some of her coworkers, Zainab Aweis, a Somali Muslim shuttle driver for Hertz car rental, was on her way to take a break for prayer, when her manager stepped in front of the doorway. “If you guys pray, you go home,” the manager said. As devout Muslims, Aweis and her fellow staff were dedicated to praying five times a day. Because it only takes a few minutes, their employer had previously treated the prayers like smoke breaks—nothing to worry about. Suddenly, the workers were forced to choose between their faith and their jobs. “I like the job,” Aweis thought, “but if I can’t pray, I don’t see the benefit.” As she and others continued to pray, managers started suspending each Muslim worker who prayed on the clock, totaling 34. The ensuing battle marked a flashpoint in what would eventually be the first successful $15 minimum wage campaign in the country. The story of these Hertz workers, and the many others who came together to improve their working conditions, is recounted in Beyond $15…

U.S. Renewable Energy Jobs Employ 800,000+ People And Rising: In Charts

China leads the world in renewable energy jobs. In the U.S., solar and wind industry employment has skyrocketed in recent years, but now the Trump administration is trying to stop it. Credit: Kevin Grayer/Getty

By Paul Horn for Inside Climate News – Renewable energy jobs are growing around the globe as prices fall and interest in clean power rises. Worldwide, 9.8 million people are now employed in the renewable energy industry, including 3 million in the booming photovoltaic solar sector, up 12 percent from just a year ago, a new study shows. The United States has seen explosive growth in renewable energy jobs over the past three years, led by solar jobs (up 82 percent) and wind jobs (up 100 percent), according to new numbers released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Each year, IRENA counts employment in renewable energy by technology and country, including in energy generation, related construction, manufacturing of renewable energy equipment and maintenance. The numbers tell the story. In 2016, solar was creating U.S. jobs at 17 times the rate of the national economy, rising to more than 260,000 jobs in the U.S. solar industry today. In the U.S. wind industry, now with over 100,000 jobs, a new wind turbine went up every 2.4 hours this past quarter. One driver of this rush to build out solar and wind capacity over the past few years was the expected expiration of key federal tax credits, which were ultimately renewed but with a phase-out over time for wind and solar.