Working In These Times

Friday, Feb 24, 2017, 12:38 pm  ·  By Sameerah Ahmad

Strawberries and Solidarity: Farmworkers Build Unity Around Driscoll’s Berries Boycott

Workers on both sides of the border launched a boycott of Driscoll’s berries. (Image by Vicko Alvarez of ScholaR Comics)  

Gloria Gracida Martinez was sent to the fields to pick fruits and vegetables when she was just 10 years old. She knows firsthand how demanding and dangerous the work can be. Now a teacher in Mexico, Gracida Martinez shared her memories in Spanish, sitting outside the Chicago-area La Catrina Cafe, which hosted an event about a boycott against Driscoll’s last year. Gracida Martinez is also a spokeswoman for the National Independent Democratic Farmworkers Union (SINDJA) in Mexico.

“I remember a heavy bucket of tomatoes, sometimes of cucumbers, and I remember being on my hands and knees in the dirt picking strawberries. I remember seeing other children, too. But something that really changed my life is when I saw an elderly person and it struck me. I wonder if he had spent his entire life in the fields?” she asked.

MORE

Thursday, Feb 23, 2017, 6:35 pm  ·  By Kate Aronoff

Why A French Socialist’s Case for Taxing Robots Is Better Than Bill Gates’ Idea

Deployed well, both a robot tax and a universal basic income could fit comfortably into a redistributive agenda. But any policy embraced by the 1 percent deserves as much scrutiny as its richest backers. (GEOFF CADDICK/AFP/Getty Images)  

Now that he won’t be labor secretary, Andy Puzder will be free to keep running his fast food empire the way he likes: with low wages, rampant wage theft and sky-high rates of sexual harassment. Because humans do pesky things like complain and demand decent hours and collective bargaining rights, Puzder has toyed with the idea of replacing them with robots. As he’s put it, machines are “always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case.”

Bill Gates and French Socialist presidential candidate Benoit Hamon would appear to have similar ideas for how to curb the impact of the kind of profit-hungry automation Puzder dreams of: Tax the bejeezus out of companies that use robots. But like other proposals with support from opposite sides of the political spectrum—like the idea of a universal basic income—the devil is in the details.

Hamon, who has drawn comparisons to Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, is running on a broadly left-wing platform in an election that includes far-right rising star Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Front. His plan, which also includes legalizing cannabis, would provide a 750-euro ($810) monthly income to all French citizens, financed partially by robots.

“When a worker is replaced by a machine,” he explains on his campaign website, “the wealth created benefits for the shareholders. I propose, therefore, to tax this wealth—by applying the social contributions on the whole of the added value and not just on the work.”

MORE

Thursday, Feb 23, 2017, 2:19 pm  ·  By Chris Brooks

“Don’t Dictate—Negotiate!” Illinois State Workers Authorize Strike

The vote is an escalation in the two-year conflict between the state’s largest union and Gov. Bruce Rauner. (AFSCME Council 31/ Twitter)  

This article was first posted by Labor Notes.

For the first time in four decades as a union, 28,000 Illinois state workers could be going on strike, facing down a Republican governor who campaigned on the promise to force a showdown with the union.

In a 20-day vote that ended February 19, members from the 70 locals that comprise AFSCME Council 31 voted in favor of strike authorization. 

“Eighty-one percent of members voted yes to give the bargaining committee the authority to call a strike,” said Roberta Lynch, executive director of Council 31, at a press conference announcing the results.

The vote is an escalation in the two-year conflict between the state’s largest union and Governor Bruce Rauner.

MORE

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017, 5:30 pm  ·  By Yana Kunichoff

Even Trump Can’t Stop the Tide of Green Jobs

Unlike traditional manufacturing jobs, green jobs in the clean energy industry have been on a steady upward swing. (AdamChandler86/ Flickr)  

Donald Trump was elected in November on a platform that included both climate denial and the promise of jobs for Rust Belt communities still hurting from deindustrialization. In the months since, his strategy to create jobs has become increasingly clear: tax breaks and public shaming of companies planning to move their operations out of the country.

Take the case of Carrier, a manufacturing plant in Indianapolis that produces air conditioners. Trump first threatened to slap tariffs on Carrier’s imports after the company announced it would move a plant to Mexico. Then, he reportedly called Greg Hayes, CEO of the parent company United Technologies, who agreed to keep the plant in the United States in exchange for $7 million in tax breaks. (Carrier later admitted that only a portion of the plant’s jobs would remain in the country.)

The company’s decision to keep jobs in the United States was declared a victory for the Trump PR machine, but it’s unclear that it can create a major change in access to jobs in the long-term. Hayes, announcing that the tax breaks would allow additional investment into the plant, noted that the surge of money would go towards automation. And with automation, eventually, comes a loss of jobs.

MORE

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017, 11:34 am  ·  By Sarah Jaffe

Interviews for Resistance: Protests Show Immigrants’ Economic Power Cannot Be Ignored

Across the country last week, immigrants went on strike to demonstrate what the country would be like if Donald Trump actually followed through on his promised deportations. (Sue Ruggles)  

Welcome to Interviews for Resistance. Since election night 2016, the streets of the United States have rung with resistance. People all over the country have woken up with the conviction that they must do something to fight inequality in all its forms. But many are wondering what it is they can do. In this series, we'll be talking with experienced organizers, troublemakers, and thinkers who have been doing the hard work of fighting for a long time. They'll be sharing their insights on what works, what doesn't, what has changed and what is still the same.

Across the country last week, immigrants went on strike to demonstrate what the country would be like if Donald Trump actually followed through on his promised deportations. The “Day Without Immigrants” actions kicked off in Wisconsin on Monday, February 13, where Voces de la Frontera and partner organizations held a “Day Without Latinos, Immigrants and Refugees” to protest Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke's plans to collaborate with the Trump administration to deport people. German Sanchez was one of the workers who went on strike that day. I also spoke with Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, for some background on the day's actions. Their interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

MORE

Tuesday, Feb 21, 2017, 12:45 pm  ·  By Elizabeth Grossman

Federal Hiring Freeze To Hit Rural and Minority Communities the Hardest

A consistent theme in the 2016 election was the inequity in economic recovery since the Great Recession. The federal hiring freeze won’t help. (Indian Health Service/ Facebook)  

President Donald Trump issued a memorandum last month freezing the hiring of civilian employees throughout the federal government with the exception of military personnel and “to meet national security or public safety responsibilities.” The order specifies that contracting “to circumvent the intent of this memorandum shall not be permitted.” In addition, it directs the Office of Management and Budget to come up with a plan to reduce the size of the federal government through attrition. Under this order, except in “limited circumstances,” any federal agency jobs vacant as of noon on January 22, 2017 cannot be filled.

The hiring freeze is item No. 2 on Trump’s “Contract with the American Voter,” highlighted as a measure “to clean up the corruption and special interest collusion in Washington, DC.” But economic analysts say it will do nothing to boost the overall job market. And a look at those who will be hardest hit by the freeze shows that it will disproportionately impact rural communities and communities of color. 

MORE

Friday, Feb 17, 2017, 12:19 pm  ·  By Michael Arria

The Deadly Reality of Construction Work

A new report identifies the specific vulnerabilities of being a Latino construction worker. (J J/ Flickr)  

Construction worker deaths are rising in New York and Latinos are especially at risk.

That’s according to a new report, released last month, by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH). Between 2006-2015, at least 464 construction workers died while on the job in New York. The study also found safety violations at more than 68 percent of construction site inspections. The penalties for such infractions are small.

Released in the shadow of Donald Trump’s controversial executive orders on immigration, the report identifies the specific vulnerabilities of being a Latino construction worker. While Latinos made up just 30 percent of the construction workforce in 2015, they accounted for 57 percent of the fatalities due to falls.

MORE

Thursday, Feb 16, 2017, 5:04 pm  ·  By David Goodner

BREAKING: Iowa Lawmakers Pass Sweeping Anti-Union Bill

Both the House and Senate, which are controlled by the GOP, approved the bill Thursday, passing the most sweeping and impactful changes to Iowa law in decades. (Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO/ Facebook)  

DES MOINES, Iowa – Lawmakers in Iowa have voted to dismantle the state’s 40-year-old collective bargaining law, dramatically weakening the power of public sector labor unions and leaving some 185,000 public workers unable to bargain over benefits, healthcare, vacations, retirement, and nearly all workplace issues outside of wages.

Iowa is a right-to-work state, and the new law would prevent voluntary union dues from being deducted from a public employee’s paycheck. It would also require regular recertification votes. Police officers, firefighters and transit workers are exempt from most of the bill’s provisions.

Republican lawmakers introduced their union-busting bill on February 7 and fast-tracked it through the legislative process. Both the House and Senate, which are controlled by the GOP, approved the bill Thursday, passing the most sweeping and impactful changes to Iowa law in decades. Gov. Terry Branstad is expected to sign the bill soon.

MORE

Thursday, Feb 16, 2017, 11:52 am  ·  By Sarah Jaffe

Interviews for Resistance: What New York Taxi Workers Teach Us About Fighting Back

On January 28, as protesters rushed to airports around the country seeking to defend refugees and migrants against Donald Trump's travel ban, taxi drivers with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance took the protest a step further and refused to pick up fares at JFK Airport. (Rick Reinhardt/ AFL-CIO America's Unions/ Flickr)  

Welcome to Interviews for Resistance. Since election night 2016, the streets of the United States have rung with resistance. People all over the country have woken up with the conviction that they must do something to fight inequality in all its forms. But many are wondering what it is they can do. In this series, we'll be talking with experienced organizers, troublemakers and thinkers who have been doing the hard work of fighting for a long time. They'll be sharing their insights on what works, what doesn't, what has changed and what is still the same.

On January 28, as protesters rushed to airports around the country seeking to defend refugees and migrants against Donald Trump's travel ban, taxi drivers with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance took the protest a step further and refused to pick up fares at JFK Airport. The taxi drivers' strike caught the imagination of the public and even spurred a massive campaign to #DeleteUber after the ride-hailing app lowered its fares in an apparent attempt to break the strike. (Uber has since apologized, repeatedly.) But the taxi workers have more to teach us than just this one action. 

MORE

Wednesday, Feb 15, 2017, 3:11 pm  ·  By Bruce Vail

BREAKING—Andrew Puzder, Trump’s Pick for Labor Secretary, Is Out

A lobbying effort aimed at convincing Republican Party senators to oppose Puzder was in full swing for the last week, including demonstrations Monday in more than 20 cities. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)  

With a key Senate hearing looming, President Donald Trump’s nominee for Labor Secretary withdrew his name from consideration Wednesday, backing down just as Democratic Party leaders and labor activists were unleashing their strongest attacks yet against hamburger chain executive Andrew Puzder.

Puzder decided to withdraw his nomination as the new chief of the largest federal labor agency as opposition spread from traditional pro-labor Democrats to include a handful of conservative Republicans.

“From the very start of the nomination process, it was clear that fast-food CEO Andrew Puzder was unfit to lead the U.S. Department of Labor. Thanks to fierce opposition from a diverse group of Americans, including people deeply concerned about the treatment of workers and of women, enough senators came to the same realization, forcing Mr. Puzder’s withdrawal from the nomination,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project.

MORE

Next