Working In These Times

Friday, Jul 15, 2016, 5:02 pm  ·  By Kali Robinson

Mike Pence May Be a Friend to Trump, But He’s No Friend to Workers

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is Trump's VP pick (Gage Skidmore / Flickr)  

Donald Trump’s vice-presidential pick of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence should have workers worried.

“Mike Pence has waged repeated attacks on working Hoosiers as governor and will without a doubt continue the attacks alongside his anti-worker running mate Donald Trump who is ‘100 percent right to work,’” said Brett Voorhies, president of the Indiana State AFL-CIO, shortly after news of the announcement broke Friday.


Friday, Jul 15, 2016, 8:19 am  ·  By Moshe Z. Marvit

Most Mechanical Turkers Are Young, College-Educated and Making Less Than $5 an Hour

A new study lifts the veil on the Amazon-owned crowdworking company (Arne Krueger / Flickr)  

Since 2005, a dispersed group of sub-minimum wage workers has been performing online tasks for pennies through an Amazon-controlled marketplace called Mechanical Turk. These workers tag photos, transcribe audio, take surveys, and do whatever current computer technology cannot. Their work-product is littered across the Internet, and through academic publications, but they have largely remained invisible. Various studies have attempted to take a closer look, but any given study is limited when it must rely on self-reporting from an anonymous workforce.

This week, the Pew Research Center released a major study that fills in some of the gaps in understanding who the "Turkers" are.


Thursday, Jul 14, 2016, 4:40 pm  ·  By Marilyn Katz

Not With a Bang But a Whimper—Oreo Leaves Chicago Holding the Bag

The United States lost 5 million manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2014 (Mike Mozart / Flickr)  

For those still wondering why Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are so popular, one needs look no further than Chicago’s West Side, where, as the Chicago Tribune reported recently, the last American-made Oreo rolled off the production line, as the cookie and 600 good-paying jobs left for their new home in Salinas, Mexico.

It’s not simply the fact that 600 workers, most of whom were African American or Latino, lost their jobs and their ability to support their families and pay their rent, mortgages and taxes. It’s also that the organizations these workers had put their faith in—the company, the union, their government­—did nothing to prevent their catastrophe.


Tuesday, Jul 12, 2016, 4:15 pm  ·  By Shaun Richman

When the Hell Did the NLRB Become More Activist Than Labor?

Recent NLRB actions prove the time is ripe to challenge the rules of the system (UFCW)  

When the hell did the federal government get bolder than most labor unions about asserting the legal rights of workers?

On Monday, in a 3-1 ruling, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) reversed a Bush the Younger-era precedent that gave employers a say over whether temporary and subcontracted workers can be included in the same bargaining unit as the regular, full-time employees with whom they work beside. Go figure, most employers said “no” to the proposition that people who work shoulder to shoulder, but are paid from separate checkbooks, could bargain together in the same union. But the new Miller & Anderson, Inc. decision could force subcontractors to bargain with a certified union over the wages and working conditions determined by the controlling employer.

The ruling comes hot on the heels of the Board’s American Baptist Homes decision. That case re-established a balancing test for whether a boss’ employment of permanent replacement strikers is actually motivated by a desire to bust a union —which goes a long way towards restoring a legal right to strike.

And, of course, the Board’s attempt to expedite representation elections by holding frivolous management objections in abeyance until after the workers vote nearly broke the Congress. (Seriously, if you want to drink some delicious boss’ tears Google “quickie NLRB election.”)

As veteran union organizer Stephen Lerner succinctly puts it, “Unions have been significantly hobbled by the legal regime, and a lack of imagination to challenge it.” I have advocated that unions should pursue an agenda of judicial activism. These recent NLRB actions prove that the time is ripe to challenge the rules of the system that keep unions shackled. I’ve spent most of my career complaining about how slow and ineffective the NLRB is, as have most union organizers. That bias should not blind us to the opportunity of the moment.


Tuesday, Jul 12, 2016, 11:47 am  ·  By Alex Ding

In Historic NLRB Ruling, Temps Win the Right To Join Unions

The NLRB has weighed in on the joint employer question, ruling that bosses need not consent for temps to unionize in mixed bargaining units (Phil Dowsing Creative / Flickr)  

A new ruling will enable temporary and permanent employees to come together to negotiate with their bosses in mixed bargaining units.

The National Labor Relations Board on Monday overturned a Bush-era standard that said a union could only organize a bargaining unit of jointly employed and regular employees if both employers consented—even if those employees worked together closely. "Jointly employed" includes temps who are hired through staffing agencies. 


Monday, Jul 11, 2016, 10:40 am  ·  By Jane Slaughter

3 Huge Wins for Labor Show the Power of the Rank-and-File

Some 39,000 Verizon strikers walked off the job April 13, beginning the largest U.S. strike in half a decade. (Stand Up to Verizon / Flickr)  

This post originally appeared at Labor Notes

Three big wins for workers in the last nine months arrived where you might least expect them: in the old, blue-collar economy. That’s the economy where unions are down to 6.7 percent, where wins are rare and workers are supposed to be on their way out.

Yet at Chrysler, Verizon, and a huge Teamster pension fund, thousands of union members mobilized to put a stick in management’s eye. Hundreds of thousands will see the benefit.

Victory #1: Last September 40,000 Chrysler workers turned down a two-tier contract by a vote of nearly 2 to 1. Despite earlier promises to bring a big chunk of Tier 2 workers up to Tier 1 wages, United Auto Workers bargainers had agreed to let the hated two-tier system continue indefinitely.


Wednesday, Jul 6, 2016, 7:20 pm  ·  By Guy Miller

Fighting UPS, the ‘Package King’

(Toban B. / Flickr)  

In 1972, the General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio was shut down by a strike that left both management and union leadership scratching their heads. The strike, by United Auto Workers Local 1119, was not called over the traditional bread-and-butter issues of wages and benefits, but rather working conditions and something a bit less tangible. Call that "something" control, or "alienation." Whatever the issue was, its emergence as an issue workers were angry enough to walk off the job over was something new in American labor relations.

After the strike was settled, Gary Bryner, the 29-year-old President of Local 1119, testified before a Senate subcommittee. “There are symptoms of the alienated worker in our plant. The absentee rate has gone continually higher. The turnover rate is enormous. [The Lordstown worker] has become alienated. He is disassociated with the whole establishment. That is going to lead chaos.”

I remember entering the blue-collar world in 1968; my fellow workers and I were cocky, defiant and unintimidated by the boss. We were confident in our ability to take a stand or to find another job. Management would certainly have chosen another word to describe us: most likely, that word would be undisciplined.

Undisciplined workers meant not only shop floor militancy, but also workers willing to shut down production for a better standard of living. In 1974, there were 424 strikes of 1,000 or more workers in the United States. (There were 12 in 2015).

UPS did not escape this wave of militancy, as Joe Allen points out in his new book The Package King: A Rank and File History of United Parcel Service. “UPS was shaken by an unprecedented militancy of its workforce from 1968 to 1976," he wrotes, "when local and region wide strikes shut down the company for months on end.”


Tuesday, Jul 5, 2016, 2:11 pm  ·  By Moshe Z. Marvit

Judge’s Ruling Re-Opens a Major Loophole that Allows Union Busters To Remain in the Shadows

A sticker from the Industrial Workers of the World decries "union busting" in downtown Chicago. (Daniel X. O'Neil / Flickr)  

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) passed the “persuader rule” that closed a major loophole, which has for decades allowed employers to hire attorneys and consultants to secretly assist them in what is politely referred to in the industry as “union avoidance.” The goal of this activity is to persuade and prevent workers from organizing unions.

The new rule did not try to make the consultants’ and attorneys’ practices illegal, or regulate the types of activities that employers and consultants could engage in; it was simply intended to provide transparency to workers who are the subject of a coordinated anti-union campaign. But last week, a Texas federal district court judge issued a nationwide injunction prohibiting the DOL from implementing the rule.


Tuesday, Jul 5, 2016, 12:19 pm  ·  By Benjamin Balthaser

Labor Organizing Across Israel’s Apartheid Line: An Interview with Israeli Labor Activist Yoav Tamir

WAC-MAAN is a newly formed labor organization helping to organize workers regardless of nationality, focusing on a democratic, bottom-up approach.  

I met Yoav Tamir at the Labor Notes conference in Chicago this past April. Young, lanky, and with a scruffy trace of a beard, he looked like any number of activists at what is the most progressive, unruly wing of labor movement in the U.S. I heard organizers talk about leading strikes in strawberry fields, even in U.S. prisons, yet what I learned about him literally stopped me in my tracks: a Jewish Israeli, he organized Palestinian workers on Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank. I'd never heard of such a thing.

Yoav is an organizer with the new Israeli labor union, Workers Advice Center, or WAC-MANN. WAC-MAAN was founded in the late 1990s as (as its name might suggest) a workers' advice center, and began organizing unions and negotiating contracts in 2010. A product of both deepening austerity within Israel as well as the wave of uprisings in the Arab world in 2011, WAC-MAAN organizes both across the racial line and across the Green Line, doing what no other labor organization in Israel or Palestine's history has done: create a multi-ethnic, bi-national workers' movement.


Tuesday, Jul 5, 2016, 11:46 am  ·  By Elizabeth Grossman

As Temperatures Climb Across the Country, Workers Will Suffer

The sun rises behind cartons of water at a California water station.   (David McNew / Getty Images)

The summer of 2016 is barely two weeks old, but this year is already on track to break high temperature records in the United States. On June 20, cities across the Southwest and into Nevada reached all-time triple-digit highs. Meanwhile, every single state experienced spring temperatures above average, with some in the Northwest reaching record highs. These temperatures have already proved deadly, killing five hikers in Arizona earlier this month. Triple-digit heat earlier that same week is also being blamed for the deaths of two construction workers, 49-year old Dale Heitman in St. Louis, Missouri, on June 15 and 55-year old Thomas F. “Tommy” Barnes on June 14 at the Monsanto campus in nearby Chesterfield, Missouri. 

“I’ve been around since 1973 and we’ve never seen anything like this,” David Zimmermann, president and business manager of Sheet Metal Workers Local 36, told the St. Louis-Southern Illinois Labor Tribune. “With these new buildings, once they close them in, with the guys working in there, it’s like working in a big oven.”