Working In These Times

Tuesday, Jul 28, 2015, 6:30 pm  ·  By Luke Niebler

Why My Fellow Adjuncts and I Decided To Form a Union at Our Community College

"We are teetering at the edge of major changes in the structure and future of higher education in the United States. Faculty must have a voice in creating a sustainable, just education system, both for us and future generations of students."   (Steve Rhodes / Flickr)

On my first day teaching at the Community College of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, I was wracked with the normal anxieties of a new college instructor: What if the students don’t like me? What if my lesson plan falls apart? Where exactly is the copy machine? What if my hair looks stupid?

However, as I adjusted to life as an adjunct instructor with a semester-to-semester contract, my questions quickly changed: What if my classes don’t run and I can’t make rent? How do I get from class to my next job in time? How do I meet with students without real office space?

After years of organizing, we have won our union election, and hopefully I can get back to worrying more about lesson plans than my financial stability. On July 14, 86% of my colleagues voted to form a union with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), effectively unionizing over 800 instructors across CCAC’s four campuses. And while this is only the first step before we head to the bargaining table, it represents a huge victory for academic labor and contingent faculty.

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Tuesday, Jul 28, 2015, 5:30 pm  ·  By Michael Arria

American Unionists Join Chinese Uniqlo Workers’ Campaign for End to Alleged Abuse

Protestors rally outside of a Manhattan Uniqlo store on July 15, standing in solidarity for workers employed by Japan's Fast Retailing Co. factories. (China Labor Watch / Facebook)  

As protesters handed out flyers to pedestrians walking outside of a Manhattan Uniqlo store on July 15, the chant of “From China to the USA / Worker solidarity!” rang out on 34th Street. The action, organized by Workers United (WU), an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), was taken in solidarity with the workers at China’s Shenzhen Artigas Clothing and Leatherware factory, a major contract supplier for Uniqlo, the popular clothing retailer owned by Japan’s Fast Retailing Co.

Such acts of international solidarity are not an everyday occurrence within the American labor movement. But WU members were responding to what the Chinese workers say is a particularly egregious case of employer abuse. 

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Tuesday, Jul 28, 2015, 11:02 am  ·  By Leo Gerard, United Steelworkers President

Donald Trump and the GOP Put Individual Wealth Over Strong Communities

To Donald Trump, greed may be good but sacrifice isn't, as John McCain has found out.   (Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

Donald Trump says exactly what the GOP believes. It’s a simple axiom: personal wealth accumulation is everything. Republican Party officials believe individuals like The Donald attain riches through their own guts, glory and gumption with not an iota of aid from community, country or, frankly, inherited wealth. 

It’s just that when The Donald expresses their credo, he ignores the shinola and emphasizes the crass. Instead of going with the slick 2012 GOP convention theme, “I built that,” to aggrandize individual capitalist conquest, The Donald slammed a group of his primary competitors for serving their nation instead of themselves.

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Monday, Jul 27, 2015, 5:30 pm  ·  By Alisa Robinson

How Barbara Byrd-Bennett Worsened Racial Inequality and Hurt Public Education in Chicago

Barbara Byrd-Bennett's unexpected resignation amidst scandal was the perfect ending to a tenure as Chicago Public Schools CEO that worsened racial inequality and weakened public education.   (Latino Policy Forum / Flickr)

After serving as the CEO of Chicago Public Schools from 2012 to 2015, Barbara Byrd-Bennett was recently forced to resign from her position in the wake of a scandal over her approval of a major school leadership development contract with her former employer. Now that Byrd-Bennett’s tenure at the head of the third largest school district in America has ended, it’s a good time to assess the legacy she leaves CPS.

Little about that legacy can be seen as positive. Nearly every major decision that Barbara Byrd-Bennett made as the CEO of Chicago Public Schools benefited wealthy white power brokers at the expense of poor and working-class black students, parents and teachers.

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Monday, Jul 27, 2015, 11:51 am  ·  By Mario Vasquez

Univ. of California Academic Workers’ Union Calls on AFL-CIO To Terminate Police Union’s Membership

Citing a "long history of police intervention in labor politics and its complicity in racial violence," the UAW members say they want the cops' union out of the country's largest labor federation. (Ben Musseig / Flickr)  

United Auto Workers Local 2865, the union representing 13,000 teaching assistants and other student workers throughout the University of California, called on the AFL-CIO to end its affiliation with the International Union of Police Associations (IUPA) in a resolution passed by its governing body on July 25.

The resolution came in the wake of a letter written by the UAW’s Black Interests Coordinating Committee (BICC). The group formed in December 2014 in response to the acquittals of police officers in the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner and is largely inspired by recent actions in the Black Lives Matter movement. With the letter, BICC aims to “start a really difficult conversation that the labor movement has had in the past and needs to continue to have around the intersections of race and labor, economic privation and racial disparity,” according to BICC member Brandon Buchanan, a graduate student currently studying Sociology at UC Davis who serves as Head Steward.

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Friday, Jul 24, 2015, 11:40 am  ·  By Yana Kunichoff

Did ICE Violate Its Own Deportation Guidelines in Arresting Chicago-Area Unionized Meatpackers?

(Garrett Wilber/ Flickr)  

On Friday, June 26, workers from the Ruprecht Company’s meatpacking factory in Mundelein, Illinois, walked off the job in a spontaneous strike against a pending immigration audit. Several weeks later, eight Ruprecht workers, three of whom are members of UNITE HERE Local 1, have been apprehended by immigration authorities.

In a statement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said the eight workers were picked up after the department discovered the workers had records that fall within its priorities for arrest during a routine immigration audit. ICE claims the workers’ past charges include drunk driving, theft and felony fraud. But organizers argue that the audit and subsequent arrests, which took place while a group of Ruprecht workers were in union negotiations and followed the filing of two unfair labor practices (ULPs) could violate ICE’s own rules against interfering in workplaces that are in the midst of labor disputes.  

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Wednesday, Jul 22, 2015, 5:01 pm  ·  By Bruce Vail

Grocery Chain A&P’s Financial Meltdown Could Leave Thousands of Union Workers Jobless

A&P intends to close as many as 25 stores around the northeast immediately.   (baristanet.com)

Plans to dismember the A&P supermarket chain were revealed in a federal bankruptcy court in New York this week, with dire results predicted for more than 15,000 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union. 

The historic grocery retailer—the original Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. was formed back in 1859—intends to sell or close all of its 300 stores spread across six Mid-Atlantic states, according to documents filed Monday in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. The plan will affect every one of an estimated 30,000 UFCW members currently employed with the company, with more than half of those in real danger of losing their jobs soon, union officials say. 

The bad news for the union was partially tempered with the announcement that A&P had already lined up the sale of 120 of its stores to other regional grocery chains that also have UFCW contracts. If those sales go forward as planned, most of the 12,500 union members at those 120 stores would be expected to retain their jobs under the new owners. The prospective buyers—ACME Markets, Ahold USA (operator of Stop & Shop) and Key Food—already have UFCW collective bargaining agreements covering the 120 stores in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey (A&P stores are also located in Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland).

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Wednesday, Jul 22, 2015, 3:25 pm  ·  By Alexandra Bradbury

Can the UAW Ditch Its Two-Tier Wage System in This Year’s Contract Negotiations?

Two-tier has been a thorn in the union's side for years.   (Ford Motor Co/Wikimedia Commons)

This post first appeared at Labor Notes.

Eight years after accepting a drastic two-tier system of wages and benefits—and nearly a decade since the first tier got a raise—the United Auto Workers are bargaining with the Big 3 automakers.

Talks began July 13 with a ceremonial handshake. It’s the first contract expiration since Michigan’s “right to work” law went into effect, which means disgruntled members in the union’s most populous state could jump ship.

The Big 3 bargain at separate tables. Traditionally, as talks develop, the union will zero in on one to settle with first. The others generally fall in line. Separate local bargaining, already begun, covers non-economic issues like work schedules.

Together the contracts cover about 137,000 workers—including a lower-wage second tier that makes up 45 percent of the workforce at Chrysler, 25 percent at Ford, and 20 percent at General Motors, according to the Center for Automotive Research.

Tier 1 production workers, hired before the 2007 deal, have been frozen at $28.69 ever since. Gone is the cost-of-living raise (COLA) that used to link wages to inflation. They’ve also been hit by concessions on holiday pay and overtime.

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Wednesday, Jul 22, 2015, 11:33 am  ·  By David Moberg

DOL Decision Could Mean the End of Wage Theft Through “Independent Contractor” Misclassification

Companies like Federal Express and Uber might soon feel the heat over independent contractor regulations that were recently released by the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division. (Thomas Hawk / Flickr)  

Are you an employee?

It seems like a simple question that must have a simple answer for most people. But definitions in different laws and rulings enforcing the laws vary. And that variation provides an opening for a growing number of employers to cheat governments of taxes and workers of income, benefits and protections by misclassifying their employees, especially as “independent contractors.”

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Wednesday, Jul 22, 2015, 11:15 am  ·  By Martha Sanchez

Spreading a Minimum Wage Increase from Los Angeles to the Whole Country

The fight in LA and around the country is about determining what kind of country we want to live in. (Fight For $15 / Facebook)  

Our economy has long been out of balance. Workers’ efforts across the country create wealth, but the profits don’t get to the working people who produce them. Correcting that so that workers are paid enough to sustain their families and make ends meet, is not easy. It requires changing rules that unfairly favor the rich and are written by politicians beholden to the wealthy. That’s why the recent move by Los Angeles to raise the minimum wage to $15 is so meaningful. 

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