Until she got her first Pfizer shot on July 16, Cindy Cervantes toiled in the Seaboard Foods pork processing plant in Guymon, Oklahoma for most of the pandemic without a vaccine — working unprotected in an industry devastated by Covid-19 illnesses and deaths. “In one day, at least 300 people were gone” from the plant, sick from Covid, Cervantes says. Still, “Seaboard wanted a certain number of hogs out. They kept pushing people, the chain was going even faster. People were getting injured, and we were losing even more people.” Six of her coworkers have died from Covid-19, and hundreds have gotten sick, she says. Ravaged by the pandemic, the roughly 500,000 U.S. workers in meatpacking, meat processing and poultry are not getting much help from the industry or the government.
Last year, as the meatpacking industry’s frontline workers were infected with Covid-19 and the industry pushed claims of a meat shortage, companies in the U.S. exported more than $22 billion in meat products, continuing an upward trend in foreign sales since 2016. Trade data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that in 2020 the value of American meat exports reached its highest level since 2014. Companies exporting meat products from the Midwest also fared well, increasing sales by about $500 million from 2019 to 2020.
Bronx, New York - Essential workers who distribute 60% of the city's fruits and vegetables to supermarkets and restaurants have entered day three of a work strike—the first in 35 years–at Hunts Point Produce Market in the Bronx, where NYPD officers were dispatched to break up a picket line on Monday night. If workers and company representatives do not arrive at a speedy agreement, New Yorkers could see a significant decrease in the amount of produce that lands at grocery stores and supermarkets by the end of this week, a union spokesman warned. 1,400 workers walked off the job at the Hunts Point Produce Market—part of the world's largest food terminal—on January 17th, the result of a wage dispute.
Warehouse workers at XPO Logistics’ Verizon facility “marched on the boss” on October 1 in a marked escalation following months of worker complaints and legal filings over abuse, joined by community groups and elected leaders including Rep. Steve Cohen. They delivered a letter to management from Memphis NAACP and community groups, putting XPO on notice for health and safety issues, misconduct, discrimination and sexual harassment. The letter also demanded transparency into the independent investigation of those issues and the death of an employee and called for a joint meeting with the company and its supply chain customers.
By Coalition for a Prosperous America and American Sustainable Business Council. Washington ~ The Coalition for a Prosperous American (CPA) and the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) released a letter to Congressional leadership today urging against holding a vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement after the November elections. ASBC and CPA collectively represent over 250,000 American businesses across the country, including farms and ranches. CPA also includes labor organization members. The letter states in part: American voters’ trust in national leaders has been ebbing. Both major party presidential candidates oppose the TPP. A lame duck session vote on the TPP would further erode citizen’s trust in government. Legislators who have been defeated or are retiring would vote, but are no longer accountable to voters.
By RT. Female workers at McDonald’s are sick of being treated like meat. They are accusing the Golden Arches of not protecting employees against sexual harassment. Backed by the minimum wage campaign “Fight for $15,” workers are taking to the streets to demand better treatment. McDonald’s claims to have a zero tolerance policy towards sexual harassment, but over a dozen sexual harassment complaints against the fast food giant paint a different story. In the past month alone, 15 different sexual harassment complaints have been filled with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against McDonald's. As a result, workers in 30 US cities joined in a lunchtime protest to draw attention to what some believe is a widespread problem. Protesters held demonstrations outside of the restaurant.
By Warren Heyman & Andrew Tillett-Saks for Jacobin. Democrats have historically been the grudging partners of the labor movement, the more willing of the two major political parties to make concessions when pressured. Labor has thus often taken a more thoughtful and calculating approach to neoliberal Democrats, recognizing their distinct interests but maneuvering strategically at arm’s length to partner when possible. The AFL-CIO’s decision to wait to endorse Clinton until she defeated Bernie Sanders is an example of this more clear-eyed calculation. By contrast, the breakaway caucus unions represent a new way of dealing with these types of politicians, shifting from strategic alliances to sycophantic servitude. In pledging allegiance to Clinton so immediately and so fervently, the four breakaway unions appear to have lost the ability to identify labor’s own interests and enemies.
By Steven Singer in Gadfly on the Wall Blog. As a public school teacher, I can never recall being at a training where charter operators taught us how to do things better with these time-tested strategies. I do, however, recall watching excellent co-workers furloughed because my district had to meet the rising costs of payments to our local charters. Moreover, if the freedom to experiment is so important, why not give that privilege to all public schools, not just a subset? The reality is much different than the ideal. In the overwhelming majority of cases, charter schools are vastly inferior to their more traditional brethren. To understand why, we need to see the differences between these two kinds of learning institutions and why in every case the advantage goes to our much-maligned, long suffering traditional public schools
By Giovanna Vitale and Jack Temple for #FightFor15. Fast-food workers announced Friday that an unprecedented wave of strikes and actions calling for $15 and union rights will hit this primary season to hammer home to candidates that the nearly 64 million Americans paid less than $15 an hour are a voting bloc that cannot be ignored. Workers will also continue to collect signatures on their Fight for $15 Voter Agenda, a five-point platform that launched late last year and calls for $15 and union rights, affordable child care, quality long-term care, racial justice and immigration reform—issues identified by underpaid workers as key factors in whether they will go to the polls for a candidate.
By Dave Johnson for Campaign for America's Future - After a decades-long effort to place ideologically committed “movement” members in the judicial branch of government, funded by extremely wealthy individuals and their corporations, it looks like the resulting corporate/conservative wing of the Supreme Court is ready to make a ruling that would bankrupt public-employee unions. And clearly already-decimated private-sector unions will be the next target. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Monday in the case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. In this case the Court is asked to overturn a unanimous 1977 case that said public-employee unions can charge nonmembers a fee to cover the cost of the services the unions are required by law to provide those nonmembers.
By Ned Resnikoff for Aljazeera - Current and former McDonald’s workers who accuse the fast-food giant of illegal union-busting will get their day in court on Monday, when an administrative law judge is expected to begin hearing arguments in a major unfair labor practice suit. The Obama administration's National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will represent the workers in a case that could have wide-ranging consequences for the McDonald’s franchising model.
By Clark Mindock of IBTimes - U.S. Senate aides brown-bagged their lunches this week in support of cafeteria workers on Capitol Hill hoping to unionize. The aides were aligning themselves with a broader push by federally contracted workers to unionize and demand higher wages in one of the most expensive cities in the country. Senate cafeteria workers associated with the movement have alleged that the company contracted to provide meals in the underbelly of the Capitol has illegally retaliated against their organizing efforts. The workers are employed by private employer Restaurant Associates, which is contracted to run a subsidized business that feeds senators and their staff.
By David F. Ruccio in Anticap.wordpress.com. Finance is adopting sophisticated analytics to ensure business performance from high-dollar employees. Cambridge neuroscientist and former Goldman Sachs trader John Coates works with companies to figure out how monitoring biological signals can lead to trading success; his research focuses on measuring hormones that increase confidence and other desirable states as well as those that produce negative, stressful states. In a report for Bloomberg, Coates explained that he is working with “three or four hedge funds” to apply an “early-warning system” that would alert supervisors when traders are getting into the hormonal danger zone. He calls this process “human optimization.” People who do the most basic, underpaid work in our society are increasingly subject to physical monitoring, too.
By Clark Taylor in In These Times. Much has been made over how Uber, the car service that enables users to hail a car within minutes of pressing a few keys on their smartphones, is jumpstarting the “gig-economy.” Frequently lost amid the discussion over disrupting existing industries, however, is the fact that workers in this new economy often get the short-shrift. That fact was made extremely evident in a recent order against the company written by U.S. District Judge Edward M. Chen in which he found that the terms Uber imposes upon its drivers as a condition of driving for the company, including a forced arbitration clause, are unconscionable and unenforceable under California law. In plain English, he ruled that the provisions were so unfair and one-sided in favor of Uber that they could not be enforced in a court of law.