Working In These Times

Tuesday, Sep 5, 2017, 6:06 pm  ·  By Carlos Ballesteros

From Fighting for $15 to Blocking Right to Work, Striking Missouri Workers Are Challenging the GOP

Terrence Wise, McDonald's worker and Stand Up KC leader, addresses the crowd at the march and strike for Fight For 15 and union rights and justice   (Courtesy of Stand Up KC)

KANSAS CITY, MO.—Bill Thompson, 46, grew up believing in the American Dream. When he graduated from college in 1995 with an engineering degree, he assumed he would have no trouble covering his bills along with the middle-class niceties his father, a postal clerk and member of the American Postal Workers Union, was able to provide to his family growing up.

Thompson was hired by a local engineering firm out of college, but his training was soon rendered obsolete by new technologies and he lost his job. With $46,000 in student debt and two young children to support, he was in need of a job—any job. So, he turned to fast food.

Thompson made $8.50 an hour at his first job in the industry, working at a now defunct chain of buffets. That was 1997. Today, he makes $9.10 as a cook at a Burger King just outside the city limits.

“$9.10 an hour isn’t enough to pay my bills,” he says. “The last time I saw a doctor was when I was 15 years old. My teeth are rotting. I can’t see much anymore. I can’t afford the medical attention I need.”

When asked why he decided to join the movement to raise the minimum wage in Kansas City two years ago, Thompson kept it short. “I’m fighting for my life,” he said.

Yesterday, Thompson and thousands of his fellow low-wage workers in more than 400 cities nationwide went on a one-day strike. Their key demands remain straightforward: a raise and a union.


Tuesday, Sep 5, 2017, 3:07 pm  ·  By Daniel Costa

How Ending DACA Hurts All Low-Wage Workers

A demonstrator leads a chant during a demonstration in response to the Trump Administration's announcement that it would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on September 5, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)  

This article first appeared on the Working Economics Blog of the Economic Policy Institute.

This morning Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration will “wind down,” and in six months, end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a Department of Homeland Security initiative put in place in 2012 that temporarily deferred the deportation of approximately 800,000 young immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. DACA has been an unqualified success and has benefited not only the DACA recipients themselves, but also the country and the economy.


Friday, Sep 1, 2017, 11:31 am  ·  By Bruce Vail

Target Workers in Rural Virginia Just Launched a Wildcat Strike

A woman charges her phone outside a Target Corp. store is seen at City Point in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Tuesday, July 18, 2017. (Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images)  

A Target store in rural Virginia was hit with a wildcat strike last week, and the non-union workers may have already won their key demand—the removal of a manager charged with abusive treatment of workers.

A small fraction of the workers at the Christianburg, Va., store walked out on August 23. But according to Target worker and strike organizer Adam Ryan, the low numbers belied the strong support among employees for the action against the manager. Workers feared retaliation or outright dismissal for taking any overt action, Ryan told In These Times, but many also back up the charges of sexual harassment and racial discrimination directed primarily against the Latino employees.


Thursday, Aug 31, 2017, 6:27 pm  ·  By Seth Kershner

How Police Unions Pushed Trump to Greenlight More Military Gear for Cops

Chuck Canterbury, center, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, speaks with other law enforcement officials standing with him outside of the West Wing of the White House, after a meeting with President Donald Trump on Friday, June 2, 2017. (Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images)  

This week, in an address to the biennial conference of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that President Donald Trump had issued an executive order allowing local law enforcement to, once again, receive bayonets, tracked armored vehicles and grenade launchers from the Pentagon. For free.

Federal transfers of certain types of military hardware, but certainly not all, had previously been banned as part of former President Barack Obama’s efforts to reform a controversial Department of Defense (DOD) program known as 1033.


Thursday, Aug 31, 2017, 11:39 am  ·  By Julianne Tveten

No, Silicon Valley Billionaires Are Not Racial Justice Warriors

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote address at Facebook's F8 Developer Conference on April 18, 2017 at McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)  

Following a wave of white supremacist rage from Silicon Valley to Virginia, the relationship between the technology industry and racism has suddenly come under a rare level of scrutiny.

In early August, Google developer James Damore released a manifesto reproaching workplace diversity initiatives, titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber.” The incendiary document garnered extensive press coverage, with some liberal circles even looking into organizing demonstrations to condemn ideologies like Damore’s. In response to public indignation, Google CEO Sundar Pichai condemned the manifesto.


Tuesday, Aug 29, 2017, 11:19 am  ·  By Peter Cole

These Dockworkers Just Showed the Labor Movement How to Shut Down Fascists

ILWU Local 10 members gather to denounce fascism and white supremacy. (Courtesy of Ed Ferris, ILWU Local 10 President)  

What role should the labor movement play in beating back the resurgence of fascism? Resistance, while a powerful concept, is far too vague. Local 10, the San Francisco Bay Area branch of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU)—and perhaps the most radical union in the United States—demonstrates what can be done.

This past week, the San Francisco Bay Area—long a center of unionism, social justice movements and radicalism—took center stage. Patriot Prayer is a right-wing organization with a demonstrated history of inciting racist violence, most obviously in Portland, Ore., while ironically asserting peaceful intentions. The far-right group declared it would rally in San Francisco on Saturday.


Friday, Aug 25, 2017, 6:03 pm  ·  By Thor Benson

The Trump Administration Just Put Ronald Reagan Alongside Eugene Debs In Its Labor Hall of Honor

During the course of his presidency, Ronald Reagan became the most powerful union buster in the world. (Robert R. McElroy/Getty Images)  

On Thursday, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta announced that former President Ronald Reagan will be entering the Labor Department's Hall of Honor, joining the ranks of luminaries ranging from Mother Jones to Eugene Debs.

In his announcement, Acosta cited Reagan's tenure as the president of the Screen Actors Guild, along with a series of personal anecdotes, to explain that the Gipper was a friend of the working class. However, one does not have to be a history scholar to understand that Reagan was in fact an enemy of organized labor throughout his presidency.


Thursday, Aug 24, 2017, 3:41 pm  ·  By Bruce Vail

Baltimore Politicians Are Letting Union Jobs Die While Making Way for Luxury Real Estate

An image of Baltimore harbor. (Photo By: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)  

BALTIMORE – Elected officials are still taking heat for their recent decision to award nearly $1 billion in public benefits for a luxury real estate project on the old industrial waterfront. Lawmakers were further embarrassed in July when it emerged that one of the immediate results of the award is to kill roughly 100 of the few remaining unionized manufacturing jobs in a city still reeling from the 2015 uprisings against police killings.

Workers at the Locke Insulators plant were “stunned” July 10 to learn that corporate managers intended to close the factory and eliminate their jobs, says Dennis Orton, a representative of the United Electrical (UE) union. Without consulting workers, union representatives or community leaders, the company filed a legally required notice that it would shutter the plant permanently in just 60 days, Orton reports.


Thursday, Aug 24, 2017, 8:00 am  ·  By Will Greenberg

2,000 Striking Auto Mechanics Say Their Whole Industry Needs Realignment

International Association of Machinists president Bob Martinez stands with striking auto mechanics in front of Scabby the Rat, a caricature of strike-breakers.   Will Greenberg

The cost of car repairs might make your heart sink, but Chicago-area mechanics say they don’t get a fair deal from dealerships, either. On August 1, the nearly 2,000 members of Auto Mechanics Union Local 701 voted overwhelmingly to strike after rejecting a contract at the end of July. If the strike doesn’t produce the contract the union wants, many young mechanics could be facing tough decisions about their future. 

Rafael Rosas, 23, has been working at the Nissan dealership in Evanston, Ill, for three years. He was promoted from lube-technician to apprentice last year and now makes a little under $20 an hour. Before he can become a journeyman, or full-fledged mechanic, his employer must agree to promote him—a process that can take up to 8 years. Rosas says he can’t wait that long; if the union fails at the negotiation table, he’s going to leave the industry for plumbing or another more lucrative trade in order to keep up with rent, bills and student loan payments.

“I wanted to become a mechanic, and we’ll see if everything works out,” says Rosas. “If not, I’m gonna have to change careers.”


Tuesday, Aug 22, 2017, 12:29 pm  ·  By Robert E. Scott

Renegotiating NAFTA Is Putting Lipstick on a Pig

People hold a banner during a protest against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations at Reforma Avenue in Mexico City, Mexico on August 16, 2017. (Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)  

The first round of the Trump administration’s NAFTA renegotiations began in Washington wrapped up on Saturday. The negotiators will meet again in September in Mexico City and then again in October in Canada. The United States has not yet proposed any specific measures on important issues such as labor rights, currency manipulation, or rules of origin. By all accounts, these negotiations are more likely to hurt than help most working Americans, who would be better served by efforts to target countries with large, global trade surpluses such as China, the European Union (EU) and Japan. Rather than tinkering around the edges of NAFTA, the United States should begin a campaign to realign the U.S. dollar and rebalance global trade.