Working In These Times

Friday, Jul 31, 2015, 1:42 pm  ·  By Bruce Vail

Bankruptcy Judge Gives Go-Ahead for Mass Firings of Unionized A&P Grocery Workers

The mass firings of workers at the A&P supermarket chain is set to begin in mid-September, following action this week by a federal bankruptcy court approving a plan to quickly shed some 2,500 jobs at the ailing grocery retailer. The job cuts are a first step in a broader plan to dismember the entire 300-store chain, with expected job losses of 15,000 or more.

First on the chopping block are 1,018 workers at 10 stores in Pennsylvania and New Jersey whose jobs will be terminated September 19, according to official notices filed with state labor agencies. Those job cuts are to be followed in short order by an additional 15 store closings in Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware, where about 1,500 additional grocery workers will be forced on to the unemployment lines in the next two to three months, court documents detail.


Friday, Jul 31, 2015, 1:17 pm  ·  By Marilyn Katz

As Nabisco Ships 600 Jobs Out of Chicago to Mexico, Maybe It’s Time To Give Up Oreos

(janetandphil / Flickr)

I may have to give up one of my longest-standing indulgences: the dunking of an Oreo cookie in cold milk (whole is preferred). I don’t do this lightly, as I have been dunking those deliciously wicked rounds of chocolate and what I choose to believe is cream since I’ve been three.

Why give them up? Because this week, Irene Rosenfeld, the head of Mondolez (the food conglomerate based in Illinois that has Nabisco in its portfolio), a woman touted for breaking the glass ceiling upon becoming the head of Kraft Foods and then its spin off, announced that rather than invest $130 million in modernizing the plant in Chicago, where Oreos have been lovingly produced for the past 100 years, she will instead move the jobs to a new factory in Mexico. The result: a loss of 600 well-paying and community-sustaining jobs on Chicago’s Southwest Side.


Wednesday, Jul 29, 2015, 4:50 pm  ·  By Crystal Stella Becerril

Hundreds Take to the Streets Over Chicago Board of Education’s Decision to Further Slash CPS Funding

A student protests at last week's rally outside Chicago Public Schools headquarters. (Michelle Gunderson / Twitter)  

"We need teachers! We need books! We need the money that the banks took!" chanted a group of protesters outside of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) headquarters July 22. The crowd was protesting the Board of Education's recent decision to slash funding to Chicago schools by $200 million while paying massive amounts of debt to banks like Bank of America. This latest round of cuts includes cutting 1,400 positions—200 of which serve special needs students in the city.

In less than an hour, the crowd of about 200 people—most of them members of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU)—had grown to over 500. Among them were teachers, parents and members of community organizations like Communities United, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council (BPNC), the parent group Bad Ass Moms (BAMs) and Fight for $15, all of whom rejected the cuts and accused the Board of Ed of being "broke on purpose."

"CPS is telling Chicago students and teachers that there is no money, but we see funding being shifted to charter schools and banks," said Rousemary Vega, a CPS parent, education justice activist and founding member of Bad Ass Moms. "CPS just spent 10 million dollars on new furniture! How can you say you don't have money for our schools but you have 10 million for new furniture? Now that’s being 'broke on purpose'!"


Wednesday, Jul 29, 2015, 3:51 pm  ·  By Dean Baker

For New York Times, U.S. Labor Abuses At Home and Abroad Are a Thing of Decades Past

China's foreign labor practices are no different from America's, in the past or today. (Marissa Orton / Wikimedia Commons)  

Does foreign investment make the U.S. economy more vulnerable?

Apparently the New York Times believes it does. A lengthy article on the growth of Chinese foreign investment told readers:

But the show of financial strength [foreign investment by China] also makes China—and the world—more vulnerable. Long an engine of global growth, China is taking on new risks by exposing itself to shaky political regimes, volatile emerging markets and other economic forces beyond its control.

Any major problems could weigh on China’s growth, particularly at a time when it is already slowing.

Usually investing in other countries is thought to both increase returns to the country doing the investment and diversify risks, since it is unlikely that foreign countries will be subject to the same problems that may be hitting China (or the U.S.) at the same time. It is interesting that the New York Times seems to hold the opposite perspective.


Wednesday, Jul 29, 2015, 11:35 am  ·  By Michael Arria

After Threatening To Strike, NYC Airport Workers Win Union Agreement, Say They’ll Push for $15

The success in New York is a victory for a nationwide movement to organize subcontracted airport employees. (SEIU 32BJ)  

Twelve hundred workers at New York’s John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports may soon be negotiating a union contract after pressuring management with the threat of a strike. On July 22, Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) announced that the workers’ employer, Aviation Safeguards, has agreed to remain neutral as they seek to join the SEIU through a “card check” recognition process.

The day before the agreement, employees had vowed to walk off the job and potentially strike. The subcontracted baggage handlers, security guards and wheelchair attendants have been fighting for higher wages and better working conditions for years. In February, a number of Aviation Safeguards baggage handlers went on strike at JFK, despite a threat of termination. Rahim Akhbarally, who has worked for 21 years at the company, told CNN, “We fight, we win. If we don't fight, we're not going to win.”


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.


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. 


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.


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.


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.