Working In These Times

Friday, Aug 14, 2015, 1:09 pm  ·  By Bruce Vail

Union President: Supermarket Chain A&P Will Fire 25,000 Grocery Workers

As A&P collapses into bankruptcy, some 25,000 employees will be fired, and a bankruptcy judge could cancel exiting union contracts.   (Wikimedia Commons)

UPDATE: Since the publication of this story, the UFCW issued the following statement to In These Times: 

“The UFCW today filed a strong objection to the A&P‘s 1113(e) motion to impose immediate changes to its collective bargaining agreements with UFCW local unions. Local Unions joined in the UFCW objections and also filed their own objections. Counsel for both the UFCW and UFCW local unions will also appear in court on Monday at 10 a.m. to object to the motion and participate in the hearing.”

About 25,000 grocery workers can expect to be fired this week as mid-Atlantic regional supermarket chain A&P goes forward with plans to sell or close all of its 300 stores, according to Bruce Both, President of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1500, and other sources.

Both, head of a large UFCW local in the New York City metropolitan area, sent the message to union members in a post on Local 1500’s website.

“A&P has informed the [union] … that it plans to issue WARN notices to all of our members working for the company,” Both wrote on the Local 1500 website. He explained that Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) letters are required by federal law when a company like A&P intends to fire large numbers of its workers. Both’s message, however, also contained language expressing hope that the company would not carry out all of the intended firings.


Wednesday, Aug 12, 2015, 10:00 am  ·  By Mario Vasquez

Union Members Seem To Want Bernie Sanders Over Hillary Clinton. Will Labor Leadership Follow Them?

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka while participating in a "Don't Trade Our Future" march on April 20, 2015.   (Win Mcnamee / Getty)

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has emerged as the most outspoken pro-labor candidate in the 2016 Democratic primary. With his introduction of federal $15 minimum wage legislation and his frequent targeting of Walmart’s Walton family in his stump speech, Sanders has his finger on the pulse of the some of the most vibrant and large-scale economic-justice movements in decades. That stands in stark contrast to the front runner, Hillary Clinton, who’s been mum on $15 and is a former Walmart board member.


Tuesday, Aug 11, 2015, 10:14 am  ·  By Leo Gerard, United Steelworkers President

Indiana University Health Nurse Who Wanted to Unionize Fired—Then Un-Fired

Nurse Lacie Little worked for Indiana University Health for seven years. Three days after she tried to persuade other nurses to unionize, IU Health fired her. (Steve Baker / Flickr)  

Lacie Little won back last week everything Indiana University Health Inc. took from her—except her job. Her beloved nursing job.

She got back wages and a formal public statement by the hospital corporation saying that it removed the firing from her work record. So she’s un-fired.

But she’s not rehired. The hospital behemoth refused to consider restoring Lacie to her nursing job for seven years, long enough, it hopes, to prevent her from helping form a union there. Despite everything that has happened to her, Lacie hasn’t given up that goal. Now, she’s working for my union, the United Steelworkers (USW), trying to organize nurses.


Friday, Aug 7, 2015, 2:19 pm  ·  By Bruce Vail

You Can Bet on These Racetrack Workers To Fight for a Raise From Their Billionaire Boss

Members of UNITE HERE Local 7 and employees of the Preakness racetrack rallied at a Baltimore street corner in order fight off union busting. (UNITE HERE Local 7)  

BALTIMORE—Boosters of the Maryland horse racing industry cheered earlier this year when Baltimore’s annual Preakness Stakes attracted a record-breaking crowd of more than 130,000. The huge crowd thrilled to the victory of the bay colt American Pharaoh, who would go on to win the Triple Crown, and a place in thoroughbred racing history. At the betting windows, a total of $85.161 million was wagered, another record breaker in the 140-year history of the race.

But there’s a dark side of Baltimore’s sports and entertainment complex: Local residents toil at low-wage jobs to support the huge venues and the extravagant incomes of out-of-town performers, whether those performers are football players, rock stars, or even horses (who, of course, don't pocket their own pay).


Friday, Aug 7, 2015, 10:45 am  ·  By Patrick Sheehan

Yes, ‘Teach for America’ Workers Are Employees and Can Join Teachers Union, Rules NLRB

In a good sign for teacher union drives around the country, a Labor Board hearing officer opted to include Teach for America teachers in the union vote at a Detroit charter school chain. Charter teachers in other cities sent messages of solidarity.   Photo: Michigan Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (AFT).

A National Labor Relations Board hearing officer has ruled that Teach for America teachers should be included in the union at a Detroit charter school chain. (Full disclosure: The author of this piece was a Teach for America teacher at the chain and testified at the NLRB hearing.)

Teachers at University Prep charter schools voted May 14 on whether to unionize. The charter chain, UPrep, relies on TFA teachers to fill about 10 percent of its classrooms, a figure that’s similar to urban charter schools in other cities.

But when some TFA teachers emerged as leaders in the union drive, Detroit 90/90, the company that manages UPrep, challenged their right to vote.

In a June hearing, the company argued that TFA teachers’ minimum two-year commitment to the school made us “temporary service workers” rather than “professional employees”—more like long-term substitutes than permanent teachers.

“It was such an obvious attempt to divide and conquer,” said Alex Moore, a Teach for America teacher and unabashed union supporter. “[The company] loved us when we were cheap, docile workers, but when we spoke up and organized, they wanted to sweep us under the rug.”


Thursday, Aug 6, 2015, 12:43 pm  ·  By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

GOP Plan To Slash Social Security Thwarted

Pro-social security activists and senators stopped the GOP plan. (David Iliff / Wikimedia Commons)  

Protests by Social Security advocates and objections by Democratic U.S senators who support increasing its payments stopped an amendment to kick 200,000 people off retirement and disability benefits if those individuals had outstanding felony arrest warrants.

“Dropping the Social Security cuts from the Highway bill is the first encouraging sign we’ve seen from this Congress, when it comes to Social Security and Medicare, this year,” said Kim Wright, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare spokeswoman, speaking of the proposal that surfaced Tuesday and was deleted on Wednesday. “We certainly hope they’ve finally realized using these programs as an ATM for everything else under the sun simply won’t fly with seniors who’ve paid into these programs their entire working lives.”

The punitive proposal to slash the benefits of Social Security recipients who may have an outstanding warrant or parole violation—which in many cases is due to unpaid court fees, not criminal activity, according to senior law experts like Justice In Aging—arose as part of a 1,000-page transportation bill as a way to raise $2.3 billion for highway projects. 


Thursday, Aug 6, 2015, 12:27 pm  ·  By Zaid Jilani

Dunkin’ Donuts CEO Who Makes $4,887 an Hour Outraged at $15 Minimum Wage

Corporate leaders are circling the wagons. (Hao / Wikimedia Commons)  

This week, the New York Wage Board recommended that the state's fast food workers should make $15 per hour, which has been the rallying cry for the labor movement across the country.

The New York move was seen as a victory for workers in this industry, who are among the lowest-paid in the country.

Within a day, corporate America was on the attack, to stop the spread of this burgeoning national movement.


Tuesday, Aug 4, 2015, 6:00 am  ·  By Pam Galpern

Verizon Workers Prepare for a Strike Over Job and Benefit Cuts

In negotiations this summer Verizon is coming head-to-head with its unions, who want to protect gains won through decades of struggle.   Photo: Pam Galpern.

Verizon wants to drive down costs, shrink its union workforce even further, and get out of the landline business. But in negotiations this summer it’s coming head-to-head with its unions, who want to protect gains won through decades of struggle.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) began bargaining a new contract in June for 38,000 telecom workers in the Northeast from Maine to Virginia. (Full disclosure: The author works for Verizon and is a member of CWA.)

The company raked in $9.6 billion in profits last year, and paid its top five executives $44 million. Yet it opened bargaining with a laundry list of giveback demands.

It wants to eliminate job security language (which permits layoffs only in very specific circumstances), downsize retirement plans, allow more outsourcing, raise members’ health care contributions, increase how long and how far workers can be transferred, and take away the unions’ right to negotiate retiree health care.


Monday, Aug 3, 2015, 5:52 pm  ·  By Moshe Z. Marvit

Duquesne’s NLRB Filing Reads as a Brazen Threat To Adjunct Union Organizers

Union busting has become big business in America. It’s so common that the run-of-the-mill variety hardly raises an eyebrow. Employers regularly hire anti-union consultants and hold captive audience meetings laced with subtle and not-so-subtle threats of disciplinary action or firings.

But every once in a while, employers try a novel union-busting tactic. In Pittsburgh, in a case that some have suspected is destined for the Supreme Court, Duquesne University has pushed the boundaries of employer intimidation.

On April 29, adjunct professors Clint Benjamin and Adam Davis testified under oath at a hearing at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The topic was Duquesne University’s unwillingness to recognize the union that their colleagues overwhelmingly voted for three years ago. After the hearing, the regional director of the NLRB held that Duquesne had to negotiate with the union the adjuncts voted to represent them, United Steelworkers (USW). (Full disclosure: I teach a course at Duquesne Law School, which is a part of Duquesne University, but was not part of this bargaining unit.)


Monday, Aug 3, 2015, 11:49 am  ·  By Mark Dudzic

Why Unions Supported a Single-Payer Bill That Passed New York’s State Assembly

State-level campaigns are still a fertile ground for health care justice organizing, despite the recent setback in Vermont.   Photo: Single Payer New York.

New York’s State Assembly in May overwhelmingly passed a bill to establish a single-payer-style health care system. 

The bill isn’t expected to pass the Senate or be signed into law anytime soon. But getting it through, with unprecedented support from big unions, shows that state-level campaigns are still a fertile ground for health care justice organizing, despite the recent setback in Vermont. 

The New York Health Act would eliminate private health insurance and cover all New Yorkers in a publicly financed, universal plan with no patient premiums, deductibles, or co-payments.

“We should be able to go to the doctor when we need to, without worrying whether we can afford it,” said its sponsor, Assembly Member Richard Gottfried. “We should choose our doctors and hospitals without worrying about network restrictions.”