Working In These Times
“No justice, no garlic fries!” That was the message Unite Here Local 2 members and their supporters wanted to send to the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday as they sat down and blocked access to a food stand inside AT&T Park, while hundreds of people took part in a demonstration outside the stadium. Ten of the indoor protestors were arrested. The demonstration comes three weeks after a day-long strike by concessions workers at the park who are seeking a new contract.
As Giants fans were still arriving at the stadium to watch their team face off against the San Diego Padres, more than 40 people lined up in front of the popular Gilroy Garlic Fries stand and sat down. Among them was 68-year-old Aurolyn Rush, a hotel worker. “We're here to support the concession workers who haven't had a raise since 2009,” said Rush. Apart from a pay raise, workers at the ballpark are fighting to retain their healthcare coverage, and want their job security guaranteed if the Giants change to a different contractor. Rush said that she, like the concessions workers, hadn’t had a raise since 2009. For her, the issue was the same: “Greedy bosses!”
0 comments ·
The Milwaukee Labor Press has become the latest labor newspaper to fall victim to major declines in union membership, ending publication after 73 years as the tribune of working people in what had been, until recently, a massive labor community.
The paper’s circulation had fallen from a peak of 150,000 in the mid-'50’s to 44,000 subscribers for the last issue, with the impact from Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s Act 10 restricting public-sector unions likely to drive it down to 38,000, according to former editor Dominique Noth.
The paper’s following began to erode as deindustrialization sent jobs to the anti-union South, says Noth, the editor for the past decade. “The drop in manufacturing began to show up in the 1960’s,” he says. The unraveling of Milwaukee’s industrial base unraveled even faster from 1970 to 2000, despite the highly skilled workforce that had earned the city the nickname of “Machine Tool Capital of the World.” Between 1977 and 2002, Milwaukee lost 80% of its manufacturing jobs. Home-grown firms like Briggs & Stratton, Master Lock (see here and here), Allen-Bradley (later Rockwell), AO Smith/Tower Automotive (see here, here, and here) and Johnson Controls abandoned the workers whose labor had created their wealth and headed off to Mexico, China and other low-wage, high-repression sites.
0 comments ·
Despite educators’ best efforts, urban school systems are bleak places to work at and learn in these days, no matter the city or one’s position in the school. But Philadelphia offers a particularly grim view of the dismantling of public education in the austerity era. Few American city school systems have faced measures as devastating as Philadelphia’s—at the very same time the state government has passed massive corporate tax breaks and increased funding for incarceration.
Citing a budget deficit of $304 million in the coming fiscal year, the city’s School Reform Commission voted in March to close 23 public schools, about 10 percent of the city’s total schools. And this week, the district announced a staggering 3,783 layoffs—676 teachers, 769 assistants and 1,202 school safety staff—if additional funds cannot be generated from the city, the state and concessions from public sector workers.
The closures were not Philadelphia’s first, nor were the layoffs—nine schools were closed and more than 3,000 jobs were eliminated in 2011. In that year, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett slashed more than $1 billion to public education in the state’s budget (along with other brutal cuts to the social safety net throughout Pennsylvania).
Those measures were considered devastating at the time. The currently proposed closures and cuts go even deeper.
6 comments ·
Americans these days are nervous about what they eat, and they should be, what with outbreaks of foodborne illnesses, meat pumped with veterinary drugs and genetically modified organisms creeping into our groceries. And in May, when the iconic brand of Smithfield Foods was bought by a Chinese multinational, there seemed to be still more cause for alarm. China seems even more rife with food hazards: rivers brimming with pig carcasses, poisonous baby formula, lakes of toxic waste.
But in both hemispheres, reports about health and safety scares tend to gloss over an underlying malaise afflicting the food system: the many hazards that are concentrated further up in the production chain, in the slaughterhouses and processing plants where corporations regularly subordinate workers’ health and safety, along with public health concerns, to their insatiable hunger for profits.
2 comments ·
Yesterday, according to the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), Patriot Coal walked away from the bargaining table, indicating that starting July 1, they would unilaterally implement a new contract, one likely to severely cut the pay and benefits of 1,700 current union workers and the benefits of 23,000 retirees. Patriot gained this ability on May 29 after a federal bankruptcy judge gave the company the power to cancel previous collective bargaining agreements.
Patriot Coal CEO Bennett Hatfield had indicated that the company would continue to negotiations with the union, saying after the court decision, “while the Court has given Patriot the authority to impose these critical changes to the collective bargaining agreements, and our financial needs mandate implementation by July 1, we continue to believe that a consensual resolution is the best possible outcome for all parties.” But the UMWA now says that Patriot has cancelled all bargaining sessions for this week and next week, which suggests the company plans on implementing a contract without input from the UMWA.
4 comments ·
Graduate from college. Get married. Buy a house. Have kids. Put in a few decades of hard work, and then it's time to retire by 65. That's the American Dream, right?
But for many older Americans who were set to retire when the recession hit, that dream came up short when they suddenly lost their jobs. Though older workers were the least likely to become unemployed during the economic downturn, for those who did, recovery has been incredibly difficult. More and more older Americans are past retirement age, but still looking for work. Between 2007 and 2011, the number of unemployed Americans age 65 to 74 more than doubled, according to data from the American Community Survey.
Doug Deaton was forced to take social security in 2009 at age 62, after identity theft and job loss left him financially strapped. He worked his entire adult life, as a teacher, in public relations, as an actor and even as a sales manager for Amtrak. Taking early social security means his payments were reduced by almost a third—from around $1,150 to $728 a month. Not enough to live on, says Deaton, who says he owes quite a bit of back rent to his landlord.
5 comments ·
All of their calls were recorded and listened to. As soon as they logged into the computer system, their very keystrokes were tracked, their messages read and timed. If they missed a call, it was noted. Sometimes while on a call, they'd be interrupted by their boss, asking them to put a call on hold so they could come get instructions from a “team leader.”
Yet according to a recent lawsuit, even with all that surveillance Bloomberg LP couldn't make sure that its technical support workers got a lunch break, or clocked out on time at the end of their shifts. The class action suit filed on behalf of those employees alleges that the company wrongly classified those workers as exempt from overtime pay even as they regularly worked much more than 40 hours each week.
“People make Bloomberg,” was one of the slogans Peter Enea recalls being displayed on the walls at Bloomberg LP, where he worked in technical support from 1999 to 2010. The company aimed for a “Times Square feeling,” Enea says, with lots of hustle and bustle, TV screens even in the bathrooms, scrolling news feeds everywhere. Their business was providing financial information to the overlords of the financial system itself—more than 315,000 Bloomberg terminals, which cost more than $20,000 apiece, transmit communication, trades, news, and data to traders and bankers around the world. Enea and his colleagues provided technical support to major clients—bankers at Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan were regularly on the other end of his phone. According to the New York Times, Bloomberg LP had revenue of nearly $8 billion in 2012, with roughly 85 percent of that money coming from the terminals—padding New York City Mayor and company founder Michael Bloomberg's $27 billion fortune.
1 comments ·
Archiel Buagas thought she was doing everything right. The young Filipina nurse secured a special work visa to come to the United States and arranged a job at a New York nursing home with the help of a recruiting agency. Things started to feel wrong when they refused to give her a copy of her contract. She and the other nurses in her group soon found themselves working frantically to care for 30 to 60 patients per shift, without regular breaks, and she was soon driven to exhaustion by the indecent pay and relentless stress.
“I was so scared of going to work that before my shift," she later testified to labor advocates. "I would be crying, I’d be [vomiting] because of anxiety and nervousness. I would have diarrhea.... [T]he only thing that made me sleep was the fact that I’m so tired .... I wanted to go home.”
Buagas learned the hard way that her path to American prosperity would be fraught with betrayal. It wasn’t because she didn’t have the right papers, it was because her papers offered her no protection against an industry that preys on the hopes of migrants seeking a better life abroad. As Congress debates immigration reform, most of the public focus has been on “legalizing” the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living “underground,” and on the expansion of labor-based visas to bring more immigrants into the workforce on a “legal” basis. But beyond the question of who gets a shot at that vaguely defined “path to citizenship,” labor advocates are pushing lawmakers to give meaningful protections and rights to workers who are disenfranchised by legal, social, and economic marginalization.
0 comments ·
On Sunday, The Guardian revealed that Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old information technology specialist employed by the federal contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, was its source for a series of bombshell leaks regarding the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance apparatus. While Snowden’s leaks have raised a series of troubling questions about Americans’ privacy and the national security state, they also make clear how limited the privacy and whistleblower protections are for private contract employees working in the intelligence sector.
Under current federal law, employees working for the federal government have whistleblower protections that provide avenues for them to follow should they want to report potential abuses. As part of last year’s Whistleblower’s Protection Enhancement Act, rights for whistleblowers were enhanced for many categories of federal employees, but intelligence employees were excluded from coverage under the act. Likewise, intelligence workers—both federal and contract employees—were excluded from whistle blower protections offered to military contract employees under the most recent National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
While federal workers employed in intelligence gathering have less whistleblower protections than other federal workers, they are still able to raise their complaints with the Inspector General of the agency employing them or with members of Congress sitting on the Intelligence Committees. Under President Barack Obama’s Presidential Policy Directive 19 (PPD-19) issued last October, intelligence workers directly employed by the federal government received enhanced whistleblower protections against retaliation. By contrast, though intelligence employees employed for federal contractors like Booz Allen Hamilton are also allowed to report potential abuses to the Inspectors General of the agencies that contract with their employers, they have no protections against employer retaliation, such as being fired.
“Intelligence community contractors have been shut out of all of the recent reforms,” says Angela Canterbury, director of policy at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO). “They received no coverage under the WPEA for federal employees, the PPD-19 for IC civil servants, and were carved out of the contractor whistleblower protections in the NDAA—based on objections from the Congressional intelligence committees—leaving them with no specific protections for whistleblowing under the law. If you look at intelligence contractors, they have no protections under any of the laws. It really is an accountability loophole.”
1 comments ·
Roughly 100 supporters, union members and Wal-Mart employees gathered in downtown Chicago yesterday to voice their demands that the company change the treatment of its workers.
The rally—put together by Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), Chicago Jobs With Justice (CJWJ), Warehouse Workers for Justice (WWJ) and the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU)—coincided with Wal-Mart’s annual shareholders meeting in Bentonville, Ark. The meeting comes in the wake of a series of prolonged strikes by Wal-Mart workers across the country, the first such strikes in the firm’s history.
More than 14,000 employees and shareholders attended the Bentonville gathering, some of whom took the chance to lobby for improvements, such as asking the company to join a pact designed to improve work conditions in Bangladesh. The board rejected all the proposed changes.
Outside of the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market on Monroe St., the goals were similar.