Working In These Times

Monday, Dec 5, 2016, 1:49 pm  ·  By Joe Allen

The Teamsters Election Shows Hoffa’s Days Are Numbered

Supporters at a Teamsters United event in 2015. (Teamsters United / Facebook)  

This article was first posted at Jacobin.

Teamster general president James P. Hoffa managed to hang onto power in the recent international Teamster election—but barely.

He was challenged for general president by Fred Zuckerman and the Teamsters United reform slate. Along with his running mate Tim Sylvester, the former president of New York Local 804, Zuckerman spent the last two years crisscrossing the country meeting with thousands of rank-and-file Teamsters infuriated by sell-out contracts, bankrupt pensions, and cascading corruption scandals.

Besides narrowly losing the election in the United States to Zuckerman by 709 votes, Hoffa lost his “home local” 614 in Pontiac, Michigan, and Detroit Local 299, led for decades by his father Jimmy Hoffa, Sr. Hoffa eked out a win by a mere six thousand votes out of 213,000 cast in the United States and Canada in the closest election in Teamsters’ history.

Back in 1996, Teamsters reformer Ron Carey, the first rank-and-file elected leader of the union who battled and defeated Hoffa and his supporters across the country in a bruising reelection campaign, denounced Hoffa as “an empty suit and a front for the mob.”

Today, he seems not to be wearing any clothes at all. The election results have torn to shreds the foundation of his political machine and may reduce him to a mere figurehead in the union.

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Friday, Dec 2, 2016, 5:53 pm  ·  By Steve Horn

Carrier is “Gaming the System” and Trump Just Played into Its Hands

President-elect Donald Trump took a victory lap at Carrier’s plant in Indianapolis this week. (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)  

Indianapolis, IndianaAs one of their first orders of business, President-elect Donald Trump and Mike Pence, his vice president, helped strike a deal between the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) and the Carrier Corporation to keep more than 1,000 jobs at Carrier’s Indianapolis manufacturing plant.

The company had originally planned to send all but 300 research and headquarters jobs at the facility to Monterrey, Mexico, where workers reportedly earn $3 an hour. Carrier later decided to keep an additional 800 or so jobs in Indiana in exchange for a reported $7 million in tax breaks over 10 years.

Carrier was a frequent target of Trump during his presidential campaign, in which he promised to protect jobs and penalize companies for leaving the United States. After tweeting about a deal in the works with Carrier on Thanksgiving, Trump and Pence spent the next several days hashing out its parameters before the president-elect announced on Twitter on November 29 that they had reached an agreement. Trump took a victory lap at Carrier’s plant in Indianapolis this week. 

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Thursday, Dec 1, 2016, 4:22 pm  ·  By David Moberg

The Hope From Audacity: Fight for $15 Pulls Off “Most Disruptive” Day of Action Yet

A new report from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) credits Fight for $15 with winning an increase of $61.5 billion in annual wages over its first four years. (ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)  

Chicago—The movement known as Fight for $15 started in New York City as a surprise one-day strike. The workers’ demands then were simple and bold. They wanted a minimum wage of $15 an hour and the right to organize a union.

The workers who initiated the campaign could no longer tolerate lengthy debates over penny increases to the state, local and federal minimum wages. They called for more than double the federal minimum wage, which stood then—and now—at $7.25 an hour.

This was a dream that seemed not only aspirational but downright crazy when Fight for $15 first launched. And it was put forward by some of the workers with the greatest need—occupants of the virtually interchangeable jobs of the vast modern low-wage economy. These are the jobs that people take not just as a first job, but as the first of dozens of similar jobs in a career with little progress.

To mark its fourth anniversary this week, the Fight for $15 organization staged its largest and “most disruptive” national action to date, which included strikes, non-violent civil disobedience and actions at major airports like the Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

Even though it still has a long way to go, Fight for $15 had reason to celebrate.

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Wednesday, Nov 30, 2016, 12:29 pm  ·  By David Bacon

Punishing Employers Who Hire Undocumented Immigrants Isn’t the Answer—Solidarity Is

Malone ignores the active role that immigrant workers have played, in cooperation with others, in organizing in the workplace, and in political action in defense of workers' interests. (Carlos Fernandez/ Flickr)  

The following was written in response to a previous post.

It is clear in the article that its author, Buzz Malone, feels he is defending the interests of workers against employers. The article's thrust, however, calls for the enforcement of employer sanctions—punishing employers for hiring undocumented workers. I'm writing this letter because, with the election of Donald Trump on the most overtly anti-immigrant platform in decades, the proposals in this article present a greater danger than they would at any other time. In many ways they line up with the kind of immigration enforcement we can expect from the Trump administration.

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Tuesday, Nov 29, 2016, 1:13 pm  ·  By Jim Naureckas

What Paul Krugman Gets Wrong About the Working Class

Only if we see economic stratification and racial resentment as interrelated—rather than presenting them, as Krugman does, as mutually exclusive explanations—do we have a viable strategy for dealing with either one. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)  

This article was first posted at FAIR.org.

In the wake of a disastrous Election Day, does the Democratic Party need to present economic policies that have more to offer the majority of voters? Don’t bother, argues New York Times columnist Paul Krugman (11/25/16).

Krugman begins by acknowledging what some have denied—that class played some role in what happened on November 8: “What put Donald Trump in striking distance was overwhelming support from whites without college degrees,” he writes. “So what can Democrats do to win back at least some of those voters?”

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Wednesday, Nov 23, 2016, 12:46 pm  ·  By Elizabeth Grossman

Will Workplace Safety Survive a Trump Presidency?

Occupational health and safety advocates are concerned about what will happen to OSHA’s already small budget under the Trump administration and the new Republican-controlled Congress. (Ianqui Doodle/ Flickr)  

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump repeatedly promised to bring back U.S. factory jobs. The message resonated with blue-collar workers and Trump’s success is credited, in large part, to voters who have seen their jobs disappear and livelihoods diminish as U.S. manufacturing companies moved toward automation or just plain moved—to places with lower labor costs, like Mexico. Trump also campaigned on a promise to eliminate regulations, a position now central to his incoming administration’s policies.

Trump’s transition team has said he will introduce a moratorium on new regulations and cancel executive orders and regulations “that kill jobs and bloat government.”

We don’t yet know his picks to head the Department of Labor or Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), but those reported under consideration for Secretary of Labor have expressed opposition to Obama administration policies, such as paid family leave and requirements widely considered to increase pay equity for women and workers of color.

How does Trump’s promise to reduce and eliminate regulations square with creating good, living-wage jobs? How will his presidency affect workplace health and safety? What will happen to the gains made during the Obama administration?

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Tuesday, Nov 22, 2016, 6:38 pm  ·  By Michelle Chen

Trump Vows to Disrupt Trade—Progressives Need to Push Him in the Right Direction

One of Trump's first policy announcements was that he would immediately kill the already-stalled TPP negotiations. (cool revolution/ Flickr)  

The one election issue tying together populist voices on the right and left was trade—or so it seemed. Donald Trump’s upset win, fueled in part by Rust Belt rage against free trade deals and globalization, could hand liberals an unexpected opportunity to push a fairer set of trade rules, if they can shift the debate away from Trump's reactionary “bull in a China shop” spectacle and toward a concrete movement to advance a people-centered alternative, based on social-justice principles not return-on-investment.

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Friday, Nov 18, 2016, 5:48 pm  ·  By Dave Kamper

Jane McAlevey Is Right About Labor’s Problem—But Wrong About the Solution

Trying to find an ideal “model” is a distraction. Organizing is hard. It is expensive, risky and even in ideal circumstances fails a lot. (SEIU 775/ Flickr)  

No one who cares about the future of the American labor can disagree with the conclusion of Jane McAlevey’s new book, No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age.

She calls for a “bottom-up organizing model, one that encourages and equips workers to resist the multifaceted assault on their interests inside and outside the workplace.” That sort of organizing is necessary for unions to survive and thrive, McAlevey writes, outlining both her book’s greatest virtue and its biggest problem. She is right that organizing needs to be what the labor movement does, but wrong in her analysis of why unions aren’t doing enough of it now.  

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Friday, Nov 18, 2016, 2:02 pm  ·  By Bruce Vail

Zuckerman Gives Hoffa a Run for His Money in Squeaker of a Teamsters Vote

The vote was a lot closer than most observers thought likely and shows the level of division within the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. (Hoffa 2016/ Facebook)  

Teamsters President James P. Hoffa appears to be headed for a narrow victory in his bid for election to a fifth term as head of the 1.3 million-member union. Unofficial vote totals show him beating challenger Fred Zuckerman with an estimated 100,000 votes, compared to some 95,000 votes for Zuckerman.

The tally was a lot closer than most observers thought likely and shows the level of division within the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

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Thursday, Nov 17, 2016, 11:41 am  ·  By Moshe Z. Marvit

Think It’s Tough for Labor Now? Just Wait Until Trump Takes Office in January

Donald Trump may be able to not only roll back many of Barack Obama’s accomplishments, but also change the face of labor law for decades to come. (AFL-CIO/ Facebook)  

In 63 days, organized labor is going to find itself in a new political reality, which it seems totally unprepared for. Donald Trump will be president; the Republicans will control the House and Senate and one of Trump’s first tasks will be to nominate a new Supreme Court justice. Though Trump was tight-lipped about specific policy proposals, his campaign and the current constitution of the Republican party do not bode well for labor.

Trump’s actions will largely fall into one of four categories: judicial, legislative, executive and at the level of federal agencies. Each potential move will take various levels of cooperation from other branches of government and varying amounts of time to complete.

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