Working In These Times

Tuesday, Oct 14, 2014, 7:00 am  ·  By David Dayen

The Real World of Reality TV: Worker Exploitation

The 2007-08 Writers Guild strike drew big headlines, but many of the writers and editors that make Hollywood run are victims of wage theft and other basic labor law violations. (EvilMonkey / Wikimedia)  

On September 10, 16 editors on the Bravo reality show Shahs of Sunset walked off the job in Hollywood after informing their employer, Ryan Seacrest Productions, of their intentions to unionize. The next day, Bravo announced they would delay the premiere of the fourth season. 

“We thought it was about time, in the fourth season of a popular show, to get health care and pension benefits,” says Vanessa Hughes, one of the editors seeking representation through the Motion Picture Editors Guild, a division of the International Association of Stage and Theatrical Employees (IATSE). “We thought it’d take a day or so of picketing.”

But on September 26, Bravo announced they would take over production of the show, and the striking editors would be fired—leading workers to believe that Bravo would complete the season with scabs

MORE

Monday, Oct 13, 2014, 4:39 pm  ·  By Jordan McCurdy

Airport Workers Paid $9 an Hour and At Risk of Ebola Go on Strike

Workers at LaGuardia Airport stand a chance of catching infectious diseases like Ebola, yet lack basic provisions like goggles and decent gloves. (Spreng Ben / Flickr)  

Since the Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the nation’s first diagnosis of Ebola on September 30, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Academy of Sciences have demanded that airlines begin screening passengers arriving from African countries most affected by the pandemic for the disease. While this might contain the virus, it does so within the confines of each plane—leaving airline workers with increased exposure risks.

Dangers like this led LaGuardia airport workers to go on strike last week, demanding better health and safety protections. 

MORE

Monday, Oct 13, 2014, 11:50 am  ·  By Alex Lubben

Facebook Shuttle Drivers Demand a Union—And Some Sleep

The Bay Area's tech company shuttle buses have become a flashpoint for anti-gentrification activists in recent years, but working conditions for drivers at companies like Facebook have gone unnoticed. (Chris Martin / Flickr)  

The tech industry loves to celebrate its propensity for “disruption,” upending all of our old traditions to create better, more efficient ways of doing things. Less often trumpeted is the industry’s creation of a new underclass of blue-collar workers—the janitors, cooks, drivers and security guards who keep the sprawling tech campuses running smoothly but see almost none of the industry’s booming profits. And while tech’s aversion to organized labor has kept most of these workers from organizing, Silicon Valley may soon have to confront a growing unionized blue-collar workforce.

Facebook’s shuttle bus drivers are no exception. They ferry the social media giant’s employees from San Francisco and Oakland out to Facebook’s offices in Menlo Park every day and can’t afford to live where they work. 

MORE

Friday, Oct 10, 2014, 11:20 am  ·  By Marina Fang

Student Activists Demand Harvard Sever Ties with Teach for America

Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp speaking at Tulane University in 2008.   (Tulane University/Flickr)

Teach for America, long associated with recruiting elite college students to teach in low-income communities, is facing mounting opposition from students at the very universities from which it recruits.

On September 26, members of Harvard’s Students Labor Action Movement (SLAM) delivered a letter to the school’s president, Drew Gilpin Faust, demanding that Harvard discontinue its relationship with TFA unless the organization makes major reforms.

MORE

Thursday, Oct 9, 2014, 1:30 pm  ·  By Joe Berry and Helena Worthen

22 States Where Adjunct Faculty Are Organizing for Justice

Adjunct faculty recently voted to join the Northeastern University Adjunct Union in Boston. (United Students Against Sweatshops)  

A wave of organizing is sweeping contingent faculty. Below, a list of current campaigns in 22 states and D.C. shows how far and wide this wave has spread.

The new thing is the Metro Strategy, where multiple institutions are targeted at once so a whole regional workforce becomes unionized. This takes advantage of how contingent (also known as adjunct) faculty members typically commute among various campuses, facing equally bad working conditions everywhere they go.

MORE

Wednesday, Oct 8, 2014, 2:04 pm  ·  By Kevin Solari

Philadelphia Teachers Outraged After Union Contract Canceled by Unelected Reformers

If a negotiated union contract can be canceled at will, why should workers—or anyone else—put any faith in agreements negotiated with a city like Philadelphia? Public education cuts protest, 2012.   (Kara Newhouse / Flickr)

Public school teachers around the country have long insisted their profession is under attack, but rarely has that attack included a total scrapping of a teachers’ union contract. But that’s exactly what the Philadelphia School Reform Commission (SRC) did on Monday morning, canceling its contract with Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT).

MORE

Wednesday, Oct 8, 2014, 10:30 am  ·  By Amien Essif

After Defeating Democrats, Will Ohio Unionists Form a New Labor Party?

Three independent city council members backed by unions won city council seats in Lorain, Ohio. What's next? (angelfire.com/mi2/LorainOhio/)  

The relationship between the American labor movement and the Democratic Party has long been fairly predictable. For the better part of a century, labor has depended on the Democrats for favorable policy, and the Democrats have depended on labor for votes. Few from either side of the bargain anticipate an immediate future where that arrangement will be upset.

So when rumblings started coming out of Ohio late last year about breaking with the Democrats, many in the labor movement were startled. Last November, in the small county of Lorain, Ohio, local labor leaders who were intimately wedded to the Democratic establishment broke rank and supported three independent pro-labor candidates in county elections, all of whom won.

MORE

Tuesday, Oct 7, 2014, 4:42 pm  ·  By Bruce Vail

Teamsters Warehouse Workers Face a Bankruptcy Court Designed to Protect Bosses, Not Workers

C&S Wholesalers have eliminated thousands of union jobs in the past. Are more on the chopping block on the East Coast? (lyza / Flickr)  

Leaders of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters are mobilizing their forces in the wake of an unexpected attack by a notoriously anti-union warehousing company looking to undermine workers with back-room tactics in federal bankruptcy court.

The Keene, New Hampshire-based C&S Wholesale Grocers’s actions could prove to be an immediate threat to the livelihoods of about 1,100 Teamster members in the Mid-Atlantic region, the latest in a series of damaging anti-union maneuvers by the company. The action also highlights the growing market power of C&S, a low-profile company that has quietly grown into the nation’s largest warehousing corporation.

MORE

Tuesday, Oct 7, 2014, 3:50 pm  ·  By Kevin Solari

Illinois Teachers Join Wave of Suburban Strikes

Teachers in Waukegan are part of a larger trend set in motion in 2012 by Karen Lewis and the Chicago Teachers Union. (Fred Klonsky / preaprez.wordpress.com)  

After a breakdown in negotiations with district administrators last week, District 60 teachers in Waukegan, Illinois, are on strike. 

The issues under negotiation include professional development, length of school year and, perhaps principally, salary increases and healthcare benefits.

District 60 serves 17,000 students in the city near Chicago. On the district's website, the school board says teacher requests for increases in salary and healthcare benefits would threaten the solvency of the district, which has had financial troubles for much of the last decade.

MORE

Tuesday, Oct 7, 2014, 6:45 am  ·  By Sarah Lahm

Why Are Teach for America and a California Billionaire Investing in a Minnesota School Board Race?

Students at Patrick Henry High School, a public school in Minneapolis. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images for Free The Children)  

In the aftermath of a failed 2013 bid for mayor, former Minneapolis city council member Don Samuels is running for a spot on the school board. If he wins, he will undoubtedly be able to thank the extensive financing and canvassing support he’s received from several well-heeled national organizations, such as the Washington, D.C.-based 50CAN, an offshoot of Education Reform Now called Students for Education Reform (SFER), and various people associated with Teach for America, which has been called a “political powerhouse” for its growing influence in policy and politics beyond the classroom.

MORE

Next