Working In These Times

Thursday, Jul 28, 2016, 5:04 pm  ·  By Molly Knefel

In Philadelphia, Progressive Education Organizers Fight ‘Disaster Capitalism’

The battle over public education is, in large part, a battle over labor, and there’s no better illustration of that than Philadelphia. (Molly Knefel)  

This week, Democrats descended upon the city of Philadelphia, attempting to present themselves as simultaneously progressive enough to be the party of racial, gender, and economic justice, but conservative enough to be welcoming to Republicans turned off by Donald Trump.

In a succinct illustration of some of the contradictions at play during the Democratic National Convention, vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine, the former governor of a Right-to-Work state, spoke proudly of his dad running a union shop. While K-12 public education hasn’t played a prominent role in the primetime speeches this week, it’s another thorny issue for a Democratic party struggling to appeal to unions while also advancing a neoliberal education reform agenda.

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Thursday, Jul 28, 2016, 2:54 pm  ·  By Bruce Vail

Senate Dining Room Workers Win $1 Million in Back Wages

A one-day strike by contract workers at select federal government facilities in Washington, D.C., was launched April 22, 2015. Key demands are a minimum wage of $15 an hour and the right to freely organize unions. (Good Jobs Nation)  

The Department of Labor this week confirmed persistent charges of labor abuses at the U.S. Senate dining room on Capitol Hill, ruling that workers there are owed more than a $1 million in back wages. 

An investigation found that 674 workers are owed back wages of $1,008,302, and that the employers—food service contractor Restaurant Associates and labor subcontractor Personnel Plus—violated the Service Contract Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act.

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Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016, 6:38 pm  ·  By Alex Kane

NLRB Upholds Union’s Right To Endorse BDS Against Israel

UE endorsed the call for BDS at its August convention, making it the first national union in the United States to support the boycott. (Adrien Fauth/ Flickr)  

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has upheld a decision to dismiss a complaint against the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE) for endorsing a boycott of Israel.

The move is a victory for advocates of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which targets Israel over alleged human rights abuses against Palestinians. Earlier this year, the NLRB ruled against Shurat HaDin, the Israeli legal center that brought the complaint seeking an injunction against UE's decision to endorse boycotting Israel. The latest decision was in response to an appeal filed by Shurat HaDin.

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Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016, 11:30 am  ·  By David Moberg

This Is What Progressives—Especially Labor—Can Learn From Bernie Sanders’ Campaign

Bernie Sanders' campaign suggests that more progressives, even identifying as socialists, could run for offices and win, not by hiding their views but by clearly articulating them. (EventPhotosNYC/ Flickr)  

If the Democratic National Convention is not sufficiently amusing in its own right—following a week of Republicans wracked by self-centered dissent and absenteeism, plagiarism from Michelle Obama and the specter of Lucifer guiding Hillary Clinton—you can enliven the evenings with an educational game: What would these conventions be like if Bernie Sanders were the Democratic candidate?

That question may be especially instructive for union members and supporters who saw him as the most pro-labor major candidate in ages. Even if Sanders is never a presidential candidate again, what could labor political strategists learn from his campaign that might strengthen their hand in the next round?

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Monday, Jul 25, 2016, 1:58 pm  ·  By Tamara Draut

A Message To Democrats: ‘Working Class’ Is Not a Dirty Word

By failing to explicitly use the term “working class,” the party risks not being heard by the very voters who have the most at stake in this election. (Mark Dixon/ Flickr)  

This post originally appeared at BillMoyers.com.

Thursday night, Trump spent considerable air time speaking (more like yelling) about how America’s steel and coal workers have been ignored and sold-out for decades by both political parties. He promised to bring back those long-disappearing jobs and to put their needs front and center in his administration. As the daughter of a steel worker, I admit it was nice to finally hear someone talk about how the old industrial working class was robbed of their dignity and livelihood, with little regard for the devastation left behind.

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Friday, Jul 22, 2016, 7:58 pm  ·  By Adeshina Emmanuel

Why Black Lives Matter Is Taking On Police Unions

The focus is no longer just on individual officers; it’s on the institutions that protect and shield them. (Vision Planet Media/ Flickr)  

Activists in the movement for black lives are working to lift the veil on one of the most powerful influences in law enforcement: police unions.

The focus is no longer just on individual officers; it’s on the institutions that protect and shield them. Organizers protested at the offices of two of the nation’s largest police unions this week as part of a nationwide week of action under the banner #Freedomnow.

Protesting organized labor may seem like a surprising move for a radical group. “We’re definitely pro-labor union,” explains Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) organizer Clarise McCants.

“But our message is that the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) is not just like any union,” she said. “They are a fraternity—and they are the most dangerous fraternity in America.”

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Thursday, Jul 21, 2016, 2:10 pm  ·  By Bruce Vail

Wall Street Vultures May Have Wrecked the Central States Pension Fund

Some 3,000 people rallied in front of the U.S. Capitol in April to demand government action on threatened pensions. Alex Adams (left), a retired truck driver from Toledo, Ohio, and Dan Bollett (center), also of Toledo, talk legislative strategy with Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio). (Office of Rep. Kaptur)  

Bowing to the demands of thousands of angry Teamsters, the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) has agreed to conduct an inquiry into the past investments of the Central States Pension Fund, the organization that manages the retirement benefits for more than 400,000 union members, both retired and active.

One goal of the inquiry is to determine whether Goldman Sachs and other investment advisors caused the Fund to lose money, endangering the future pensions of retired truck drivers and other Teamster union members.

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Wednesday, Jul 20, 2016, 1:21 pm  ·  By Victoria Albert

The Republicans Just Passed a Platform That Would Eviscerate Workers’ Rights

The platform dismisses the widespread call for a nationwide minimum wage (Erik Drost/ Flickr)  

The Republican Party's official 2016 platform, released this week, proudly states “the greatest asset of the American economy is the hard working American.”

The writers must have a twisted sense of humor.

In a not particularly unexpected move, the party platform eviscerates the “hard working American,” denying workers of their right to unionize while targeting their most vulnerable communities. 

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Wednesday, Jul 20, 2016, 12:23 pm  ·  By Max Ajl

From New York to the Arab Gulf, Challenging Global Capitalism to Build Worker Power

Construction of the Louvre Abu Dhabi—many similar projects have faced allegations of labor abuse. (gordontour / Flickr)  

Over the past decade, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and other Gulf States have started buying up franchises—and not just McDonald’s. These days the Gulf States are purchasing branches of universities like NYU and museums like the Guggenheim in New York City, part of peppering their societies with the “obligatory landmarks for the global investor class,” in the words of NYU professor Andrew Ross. Ross is part of a network of artists and university professors trying to change the absurdly onerous labor conditions facing guest workers in the Gulf.

In Qatar, while exact figures are disputed, perhaps over a thousand workers, mostly South Asians, have died during construction for the World Cup. Employers hold onto passports of imported laborers and deport them if they get too restive, drawing on the massive human well created by the agricultural misery of South and Southeast Asia.

Such penury (rural South Asia holds nearly half the world’s poor) contrasts sharply with the opulence of the Gulf. In the desert cities of the peninsula, air conditioned skyscrapers contain ski slopes. Sand islands, built by European engineering firms, rise up from the sea. Meanwhile, the rights of those constructing these towers and islands are nearly nonexistent.

This maltreatment, and the attempts to resist it, are the topic of The Gulf: High Culture/Hard Labor, edited by Ross, a lustrously illustrated chronicle of the efforts by the Gulf Labor Coalition to throw sand in the machinery of the repression and exploitation confronting guest workers in the Gulf.

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Tuesday, Jul 19, 2016, 4:55 pm  ·  By Saqib Bhatti and Stephen Lerner

Why Now Is the Perfect Time For a Radical Labor Movement

Fast food workers demonstrate for better wages and benefits outside of McDonald's shareholders meeting (Scott Olson/ Getty Images)  

This post originally appeared at New Labor Forum. 

Austerity, growing inequality, and the economic and political domination of billionaires, bankers, hedge funds, and giant corporations make the current moment ripe for birthing a movement that can radically transform the country and the world. This is a time of great peril, but also of extraordinary opportunity and—yes—reasons for hope. The last four decades have been characterized by unrelenting attacks on the working class, the weakening of unions and the financialization of capitalism. The fiscal crisis of 2007-2008, the burgeoning wealth gap, and the flood of money from corporations and the rich drowning our democracy have exposed the nation’s political, moral, and economic decay, creating conditions that beg for an alternative to a system that increasingly only works for the super-rich.

In this environment, anything that unions can do alone, with dwindling power, will be insufficient. The challenge for labor, at a moment of historic weakness, is to figure out how unions can support and be involved in movements and campaigns that expand, rather than narrow, the scope and scale of what we are organizing and bargaining for. It may seem counterintuitive, but it is thinking bigger and broadening our vision, goals, and demands—even at a moment of weakness—that offers a path to resurgent unions and a more equal and just country and world.

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