Working In These Times

Thursday, Jan 29, 2015, 3:56 pm  ·  By Jon Shelton

A Modest Proposal for Public Sector Union Opponents

Want to reduce the relative power of public sector unions in America? Make it easier for private sector workers to form unions.   (Mark Danielson / Flickr)

Those in and around the labor movement in the U.S. ought to pay considerable attention to a new book out this January, Government against Itself: Public Union Power and Its Consequences (Oxford University Press). Written by Daniel DiSalvo, a rising star political science professor at City College of New York who opposes paying agency fees to his own union (in New York, public sector labor contracts typically include fair share arrangements, which require all employees covered by a collectively bargained contract to contribute to representation costs) the book argues that public sector unions should not be able to engage in collective bargaining. 

Now, it’s easy enough to find arguments against public sector unionization these days—look at the newsletter of single-issue political advocacy groups like the National Right to Work Committee (NRTWC), who were responsible for challenging agency fees for home care workers in Illinois in last summer’s Harris v. Quinn Supreme Court case; or the recent handiwork of Republican administrations in states like Wisconsin; or, for cruder examples, the open comments section of virtually any newspaper article on public employees. 

But Government against Itself is notable because it is more than a polemic. DiSalvo is a legitimate scholar, and, though it may be surprising to hear me, a labor historian, say this, he correctly argues that the relatively better position of unionized public sector workers has become a serious problem in American politics. 

MORE

Tuesday, Jan 27, 2015, 4:47 pm  ·  By Kevin Solari

Answering President Obama’s Call, House Introduces Paid Sick Leave Bill for Workers

The U.S. is one of only three countries in the world without guaranteed paid sick leave for workers.   (Facebook / Barack Obama)

In his State of the Union address last week, President Obama outlined a plan to bring America in line with the rest of the industrialized world and provide paid sick and family leave for workers. Before the address, he had issued a memorandum granting federal employees six weeks of paid sick leave for the birth of a child and asked Congress to legislate another six weeks.

Although Obama’s measure only applies to employees of the federal government, he challenged Congress to address the issue on a national level.

“Today, we are the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers,” the President said in his address. “And since paid sick leave won where it was on the ballot last November, let’s put it to a vote right here in Washington. Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave. It’s the right thing to do.” 

MORE

Tuesday, Jan 27, 2015, 4:15 pm  ·  By Kevin Solari

In These Times Senior Editor David Moberg Gives Rahm Emanuel “D” on Jobs, Economy

While the mayor has brought jobs to Chicago, they are not going where they are needed.   (Talk Radio News Service / Flickr / Creative Commons)

Monday, In These Times Senior Editor David Moberg appeared on Chicago's NPR affiliate, WBEZ, for their series “Grading Rahm,” assessing Rahm Emanuel’s first term as mayor. Moberg, who wrote about the Chicago labor movement's fraught relationship with Emanuel for our most recent issue, contributed to the discussion surrounding Emanuel and his efforts to create jobs and fuel the Chicago economy.

Moberg gave the mayor a “D,” citing the emphasis Emanuel has put toward revitalizing the downtown area while neglecting other parts of the city. “One of the major short comings of the mayor’s economic record is this continued inequality, the cliché of ‘Two Chicagos’ that continues to exist. I think the kind of focus he’s brought to big projects, close to downtown, doesn’t do anything to reverse that record.”

 

MORE

Monday, Jan 26, 2015, 5:00 pm  ·  By Kevin Solari

Dropkick Murphys to Union-busting Gov. Scott Walker: “Stop using our music…we literally hate you”

Don't any of the Wisconsin Governor's staffers know how to use Google? (Thomas Hawk / Flickr)  

This past weekend, at the Iowa Freedom Summit, union-busting Gov. Scott Walker, who may be considering a push for a right-to-work law in Wisconsin, took the stage using Dropkick Murphys’ “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” as his entry music. Although Walker may be a fan of the Boston celtic-punk group, the feeling is not mutual. In fact, they literally hate him.

MORE

Monday, Jan 26, 2015, 11:56 am  ·  By Jane Slaughter

How Scrappy Community and Labor Activists Took on a California Oil Giant—and Won

Even one of the world's largest oil companies couldn't defeat grassroots people power in Richmond.   (Richmond Progressive Alliance / Facebook)

First published at Labor Notes.

It’s not often that a city council race in a city of 100,000 draws national attention. It happened in Richmond, California, this fall because one big corporation was so shameless in its open attempt to buy the election.

But even more remarkable was the fact that the corporation got beat. Up against the Democratic Party establishment, plus $3 million in campaign spending by Chevron—the third-largest company in the world—a grassroots group won.

Richmond, north of Berkeley in the East Bay, grew up during the shipyard boom and war production of World War II, when workers from other parts of the country flooded in. More recently, it’s been known for its problems: population loss, high crime, bankruptcy, the hollowing out of downtown, dirty air, poverty. The city is now 40 percent Latino, 26 percent Black, 17 percent white, and 14 percent Asian. A fifth of the population was born outside the U.S.

MORE

Friday, Jan 23, 2015, 1:30 pm  ·  By Alex Lubben

After Facebook Victory, Shuttle Drivers at Silicon Valley Companies Look to Unionize

Drivers at eBay and other Silicon Valley companies have to work gruelingly long shifts of over 12 hours, yet only get paid for eight. (rmfphoto.net/)  

Back in November, drivers for Facebook’s shuttle-bus contractor voted 43-28 in favor of unionizing with the Teamsters, a rare win for labor in the tech industry. Now, shuttle drivers at six other companies in Silicon Valley are looking to follow the drivers’ lead.

The Teamsters have contacted the CEOs of eBay, Apple, Genentch, Zynga, Amtrak and Yahoo, informing them that their drivers want to join a union. The union says the majority of the 120 drivers have already signed union cards.

MORE

Friday, Jan 23, 2015, 1:16 pm  ·  By Doug Henwood

Union Membership Is Down Again—But It Still Pays To Be a Member

You can see why bosses hate unions: Even at a time when they're at their weakest in almost a century, they still deliver the goods for workers. (Doug Henwood)  

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is just out with its figures on union membership in 2014. Overall membership, aka density, fell to 11.1% of the workforce, from 11.3% in 2013. The decline was more than entirely the result of slippage in the private sector, down from 6.7% to 6.6%. Public sector density, perhaps surprisingly, rose, from 35.3% to 35.7%. Since private sector employment is more than five times that of the public sector, the private sector decline dominated the public sector’s rise, producing the overall drop.

MORE

Thursday, Jan 22, 2015, 5:00 pm  ·  By David Moberg

Is Ronald McDonald Racist?

A lawsuit from McDonald's workers in Virginia alleges that managers said restaurants' workforces looked "too dark” and that white workers needed to be hired “to get the ghetto out of the store.”  

McDonald’s Corporation shares legal responsibility with three Virginia franchise restaurants and their owner for rampant racial and sexual harassment in those workplaces, according to a federal lawsuit that ten former workers filed on January 22 alleging violations of their civil rights.

They accuse the franchise owner of firing them, despite their managers’ acknowledgement of their good work records, simply in order to reduce the proportion of non-white employees.

“All of a sudden, they let me go for no other reason than I ‘didn’t fit the profile’ they wanted at the store,” said fired plaintiff Willie Betts. “I worked at McDonald’s for almost five years, I was on time every day at 4:00 in the morning to open the store, and I never had a disciplinary write-up. They took away the only source of income I have to support my family.”

MORE

Thursday, Jan 22, 2015, 2:08 pm  ·  By Steve Payne

Brazilian Workers, Students Battle Fare Hikes Pushed By Workers Party

Protesters in Rio de Janeiro in 2013 with a banner reading, "If the fare doesn't drop, Rio is going to stop!" (Tânia Rêgo / Agência Brasi / Wikimedia Commons)  

When I scanned my metro card in São Paulo the morning of January 6, the price rang up at 3.5 reals (1.33 US dollars)—50 centavos more than yesterday.

I’d been in São Paulo for about a week and a half, and the fare had been 3 reals every other day. Had I missed something?

As it turned out, the municipal government had just increased the cost of subway trips. I had seen "passe livre ja!" (“free passes now!”) graffiti around the city. And in 2013, militant protests, including many during the World Cup, beat back a 20 centavo fare increase.

Movement participants celebrated that victory and continued fighting for completely free, public transit system. And on Friday, January 9, tens of thousands of Paulistanos, as residents of São Paulo are known, rallied and marched against the most recent fare increase.

MORE

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015, 5:06 pm  ·  By Jake Blumgart

The U.S. Labor Movement: At a ‘Crossroads,’ or the Gallows?

If something doesn’t give, in 30 years, there won’t be any labor movement left to discuss.   (kenilio / Flickr)

Steven Greenhouse has been here before.

Nearly a month after his retirement, the august former New York Times labor correspondent spoke to union staffers, labor journalists and sympathetic academics at the American Labor Movement at a Crossroads conference in Washington, D.C. The title, he notes, is strikingly similar to a similar event he held in 1982, while in law school at NYU (“The Labor Movement at the Crossroads”).

The title made more sense three decades ago. Today the New Deal model of unionism would be more aptly described as being at the gallows.

MORE

Next