When Caroline Renard moved to Los Angeles 10 years ago, she had zero connections to Hollywood. But she was determined all the same to break into the industry and did all sorts of side gigs — from working at Veggie Grill to driving for DoorDash and Lyft to babysitting — all to pay the bills while she worked on her craft. And that hard work eventually paid off. She moved up from production assistant on set to an executive assistant at Disney before becoming a writer’s and showrunner’s assistant until she became a staff writer on a show. But throughout that decade breaking into Hollywood, she oftentimes noticed she was one of the few or only Black women in the room.
Workers Rights and Jobs
An Italian social scientist and professor, Marco Grasso, has resigned from his post as director of a research unit at Università degli Studi Milano-Bicocca (UNIMIB) in Milan, Italy, over the academic institution’s partnership with oil and gas major Eni, DeSmog can exclusively report. In February this year, UNIMIB and Eni signed a five-year “Joint Research Agreement,” (JRA) in which the university and the fossil fuel company pledged to collaborate on “research projects of common interest” related to the energy transition, according to an Eni press release. In a video promoting the partnership, the company’s CEO Claudio DeScalzi said it would be “crucial for the [energy] transition but also the transformation of Eni.”
North Carolina - Each day on his commute to the clinic, Dr Crister Brady traverses the rolling farmland of Eastern North Carolina, gliding past the neon-green tobacco fields where many of his patients live and work. Brady’s clinic, the Prospect Hill Community Health Center, is one of ten federally qualified health centers operated by Piedmont Health Services Inc. The nonprofit provides comprehensive primary care services to patients who are uninsured or who receive coverage from Medicaid and Medicare. Brady’s desire to care for underserved communities dates back to his experience providing “street medicine” to the unhoused. Today he aims to use his credibility as a physician to chip away at the artificial divisions designed to separate caregivers from their patients and each other.
Lawrence, Kansas - Employees at a second Chipotle location are unionizing, this time in Lawrence, Kansas. The young workers are forming an independent union, and facing harsh—and likely illegal—pushback from management. A majority of workers’ signatures were collected on a petition to submit to the National Labor Relations Board, only to have that petition thrown away by management. So now they’re filing an unfair labor practice charge as they push to form a union. Quinlan Muller has worked at Chipotle for four years, at three different stores. “The Mass Street location is one of the most difficult stores I’ve worked at. We are understaffed, employees aren’t properly trained, and it’s not, like, the cleanest compared to other Chipotles.”
Iowa City, Iowa - On a chilly Friday morning In Iowa City, a handful of graduate students and members of UE Local 896 enter their union office and prepare to call as many fellow workers as they can. Most calls go to voice mail, but those who answer will hear something like this: “Hi there, this is Caleb from our labor union. We’re just checking in with folks to see if you’ve had a chance to vote in our recertification election?” We briefly explain the importance of the election to those who don’t know. We need a majority of all 1,932 TAs and RAs, not just members, to vote yes to keep the union legally recognized. If you don’t vote, you are counted as a no against the union. And this is all because of a 2017 law change here in Iowa. Currently, we are in the second week of the recertification election process, and we’re not alone.
Amazon’s vast distribution network is staggering. There’s the invisible lacework of surveillance algorithms and artificial intelligence. There are the visible footprints: trucks, robots, hulking warehouses. And then there are the workers. It takes more than a million people, most of them low-paid and grindingly exploited, to pick, sort, unload, ship, and deliver packages to customers’ doors within days of an order. Last week workers took aim at disrupting this symphony of human capital with walkouts at four distinct warehouse types in the company’s logistics chain—a cross-dock near Chicago, a delivery station and a fulfillment center near Atlanta, and in Southern California, one of the company’s large air hubs. The walkouts weren’t centrally coordinated. But they were all timed to coincide with the company’s Prime Day promotional sales rush, which ran October 10 to 12.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - The Philadelphia Museum of Art and the PMA Union, an affiliate of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, District Council 47, reached a three-year agreement, union leaders and PMA museum director Sasha Suda announced Friday. The PMA’s board of trustees and the union’s executive committee approved the deal’s terms on Friday. The union’s 180-worker membership voted overwhelmingly in favor of the contract on Sunday. The vote was 99 percent in favor. “I feel good about the terms. They met everything that we asked for,” Adam Rizzo, PMA union president, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “The museum caved on every single issue that we were fighting for. We won everything we asked for,” Rizzo added.
Hollywood, Florida - Weeks after a big strike vote, 450 hotel workers at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida, have reached a tentative agreement on a four-year contract that boosts minimum hourly pay to $20, halts subcontracting, and restores daily housekeeping. “This is an incredible victory for workers in South Florida,” said Wendi Walsh, secretary-treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 355, in a statement. “This was possible because workers decided to fight back, willing to risk it all. Hospitality workers are the backbone of South Florida’s economy and finally the value of their contribution is being recognized with wages they can live on.” Like their counterparts across the country, hotel workers in Florida have been on high alert as management has tried to clobber their union in a cost-cutting bonanza while raking in record profits.
For months, 140,000 union railroad workers have been stuck at an impasse with their employers, who are united under the banner of the Association of American Railroads. The terms of the dispute should be familiar to most workers: attendance policy, staffing, and wage increases. Despite record profits, rail employers have cut staffing, placing enormous burdens on workers that aren’t reflected in their pay. By all accounts, railworkers are in a militant mood. An attendance policy prompted rail unions to attempt to strike earlier this year. In July, 99 percent of union members who cast ballots voted to authorize another strike, prompting President Joe Biden to intervene in August. In order to avert a strike, Biden appointed a presidential emergency board (PEB) to reach a compromise and settle the dispute.
After 19 days of an open-ended strike demanding their human and labor rights, Palestinian workers at Yamit have suspended their strike. The workers’ committee has reached this decision following an agreement with the company to meet their demands. The agreement, which still needs to go through legal procedures in Israeli courts states the following: The workers get back to work and continue the negotiations with Yamit for a period of three months. During this period, the workers receive an increase of around 200$ on their wages. The Palestinian workers are paid a holiday usually given to Israeli workers in July on an annual basis. Workers who finish work at Yamit should receive an end of service benefits based on the number of years they have been working for the company.
Minnesota - About two dozen Amazon employees in Shakopee walked off their jobs Thursday night to support a colleague whom they said was unjustly fired earlier this week. The former employee, Farhiyo Warsame, also showed up at the walkout as her colleagues chanted her name. The employees chanted, clapped, and confronted a manager about Farhiyo’s termination for two hours, through chilly temperatures and darkness. As Farhiyo spoke to the crowd in front of the building, an operations manager with the company, flanked by a pair of other employees wearing neon vests, came out the front door.
Organizers of a national workers strike say tens of thousands are walking off the job today in more than two dozen U.S. cities to protest systemic racism and economic inequality that has only worsened during the coronavirus pandemic. “We are…building a country where Black lives matter in every aspect of society—including in the workplace,” said Ash-Lee Henderson, an organizer with the Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of over 150 organizations that make up the Black Lives Matter movement.Dubbed the “Strike for Black Lives,” labor unions, along with social and racial justice organizations from New York City to Los Angeles, are participating in a range of planned actions. Where work stoppages are not possible for a full day, participants are either picketing during a lunch break or observing moments of silence to honor Black lives lost to police violence, organizers said. “The Strike for Black Lives is a moment of reckoning for corporations that have long ignored the concerns of their Black workforce and denied them better working conditions, living wages, and healthcare."
Think of the clarity that this moment has provided you with who sustains you. Who sustains us. The farmworker. The health worker. The delivery worker. The cleaners. The grocery store workers. Can you hold on to this clarity as we step through the portal? That what sustains life is not those that choose profit, but those that ensure care. And can you remember that it is those that sustained us who were forced to keep on working? Can you remember once we are through this portal that we lived through once a period where almost all inessential travel was stopped. Where people chose to stay home, and often consume less. And yet climate change marched on. That individual action is not enough to stop the climate catastrophe. Can you remember that in this moment, it was not corporations or privatization that protected us? But social services and mutual aid.
The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred multiple crises in our country including a public health crisis and an economic one. The need to protect the health of Americans and the need to protect their livelihoods might seem to require disparate approaches. But, as unlikely as it may seem, we believe that rewriting the rules of how workers can act collectively is a key solution to both. Why? COVID-19 poses particular and grave challenges to working people, and, in the context of the pandemic, threats to workers’ health are a threat to public health. As has become painfully obvious, moreover, the costs of the pandemic are being borne disproportionately by low-wage workers, a population made up primarily of workers of color. As they work to keep the economy moving, these workers are being asked to put their lives on the line in ways that are both unacceptable and unnecessary, especially as the country faces the many facets of our nation’s structural racism.
Chief executives the nation over have spent this past spring scheming to keep their pockets stuffed while their workers suffer wage cuts, layoffs, and even death by COVID-19. The personal fortunes these execs have pocketed have corrupted our politics and turned our legislatures into dysfunctional chambers that can seldom accomplish anything that doesn’t involve enhancing the financial well-being of already wealthy people. Wealthy execs, in their haste to become ever wealthier, are even privileging their own financial futures over our health. The factories and plants they run are forcing workers to labor without adequate protections or social distancing. The pharmaceutical firms they manage are refusing to share research clues on possible coronavirus cures for fear of losing out on incredibly lucrative patents for vaccines and treatments.