Working In These Times

Monday, Apr 6, 2015, 11:44 am  ·  By Keely Mullen

Fight for Fifteen on Campus: Northeastern Students to Vote for $15 Wage for All University Employees

The Fight for $15 campaign is spreading beyond fast food to universities like Northeastern.   (Northeastern $15 Now)

Since the mid-1990s, Boston’s Northeastern University has undergone a complete makeover. What was once a blue-collar, majority-commuter university has now become known for its world-class educational programming and facilities.

The school’s finances have grown at previously unimaginable rates. Between fiscal years 2008 and 2013, Northeastern experienced a 66 percent growth rate in donations, and though the administration holds its financial records very close to the chest, it’s fair to assume that the school’s endowment (which was $713.2 million in 2014) has grown tremendously. The university has become a prime example of America’s corporatization of higher education.


Saturday, Apr 4, 2015, 1:16 pm  ·  By David Moberg

Fast Food Workers: Thanks for the Raise, McDonald’s, But We Said $15 an Hour, Not $10

(Steve Rhodes / Flickr)  

On April Fool’s Day, McDonald’s Corporation offered a pay increase next July to workers in the restaurants it owns in the United States.

The company, fighting to improve its battered image, may not have intended the move to be a joke. But in the end, many workers saw the welcome boost in pay and benefits as largely a fraud perpetrated on the public as well as on fast food workers. They say the timing indicated that McDonald’s was trying to undercut a growing workers’ movement that has called for a large-scale demonstration for $15 per hour wages and a union for all fast food workers on April 15.


Friday, Apr 3, 2015, 6:18 pm  ·  By Micah Uetricht

Over 40 Former UNITE HERE Staff, Volunteers Rebuke Union for Endorsing Rahm Emanuel

Dozens of former UNITE HERE staffers and members are accusing the union of betraying its progressive principles in Local 1's endorsement of Rahm Emanuel.  

A group of former UNITE HERE staffers and volunteers from around the country released an open letter to the union today, rebuking Chicago's UNITE HERE Local 1 for its endorsement of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and questioning the union's commitment to progressive unionism.

"Local 1’s endorsement of Rahm Emanuel for Mayor of Chicago ... is a betrayal of the cause of all workers and a black mark on UNITE HERE’s legacy," the letter reads. As of Friday morning, the letter was signed by 41 people, almost all of whom listed the local or locals where they worked with the union. 


Thursday, Apr 2, 2015, 11:47 am  ·  By David Bacon

Panama’s Dockworkers Fight Poverty Wages—With Support From American Unionists

(David Bacon)  

PANAMA CITY, PANAMA—You see a lot of parked taxis in the parking lot at the Panama Ports terminal here. But they're not waiting to give rides to longshore workers—dockworkers themselves are the drivers. Longshore wages in Panama are so low that after a shift driving a crane, a longshoreman has to put in another shift driving a taxi just to survive.

At Panama Ports, however, this situation has begun to change. A few weeks ago the union signed a new contract with raises totaling more than 27% over the next four years. One factor that made this agreement possible was support from a U.S. union, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). That agreement will have a big impact on the lives of longshoremen and their families.

In Panama they call longshore pay "hunger wages." Workers' families live below the government's own poverty line, and some families literally go hungry.


Wednesday, Apr 1, 2015, 12:17 pm  ·  By David Moberg

Workers Say the Fight for 15 Isn’t Just About Raises—It’s a Fight for Meaning in Their Lives

College students crippled by educational debt and part-time university faculty are joining fast food workers in their latest action on April 15. (Steve Rhodes / Flickr)  

If Douglas Hunter succeeds with his plans on April 15, the public’s attention this year may be diverted from grumbling about taxes to demanding higher wages for millions of low-income service workers—including many who earn so little at their jobs that they need public subsidies for a minimal standard of living.

Hunter, 53, is a leader nationally and in Chicago of the Fight for $15, an ambitious campaign that New York City fast food workers launched two-and-a-half years ago. But other cities picked up the call, then other occupations, from retail workers and childcare providers to adjunct professors. It has caught the imagination of the public as well and notched some notable victories, such as a $15 minimum wage in Seattle and Seatac in Washington state, as well as in San Francisco.

“We can’t wait. Jewel isn’t waiting. People’s Gas isn’t waiting,” he says, referencing a Chicago grocery chain and natural gas utility, respectively. “We need higher wages to support our families. Many people thought we were crazy two years ago when we walked off our jobs in New York and demanded $15 an hour. They don’t think we’re crazy now.”


Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015, 10:49 am  ·  By Leo Gerard, United Steelworkers President

Foreign Trade Rules Are Killing Jobs and Communities. They Need Fixing Now.

(Library and Archives Canada / Flickr)  

Sucker punched by massive, illegally subsidized imports, American steel producers laid off thousands of workers in bedrock communities from Ohio and Illinois to Texas and Alabama.

That’s in just the past three months.

The families of furloughed workers are struggling to pay mortgage bills. The communities, losing tax dollars, are canceling needed road work. The companies are talking about the similarities between now and the 1990s when half of the nation’s steel firms disappeared. Members of the Congressional Steel Caucus are worrying about the effect on national security if America can’t make its own steel for guns and tanks.


Wednesday, Mar 25, 2015, 4:04 pm  ·  By David Moberg

As CTU and Chuy Garcia Endorse $15/hr Contract Demand, Fight for 15 Goes Beyond Fast Food

Chicago mayoral candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, with Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey and members of the Fight for 15 campaign behind him. (Fight for 15 / Twitter)  

The Fight for 15 and the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) have joined together to demand that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) employees should earn at least $15 an hour, including contract workers such as the janitors provided by Aramark in a controversial privatization of school sanitation that has provoked protests by public school principals. 

At a press conference on Wednesday announcing CTU's demand, Chicago mayoral candidate Jesus “Chuy” Garcia pledged that he would support the $15 wage. “I stand here today as someone who understands the plight of thousands and thousands of Chicagoans in Chicago neighborhoods who need to increase their wages,” said Garcia.

The CTU announced it would include a demand for all CPS employees to receive a $15 per hour minimum wage in their contract proposal to the Chicago Board of Education. The proposed language reads: “The CTU will require the BOARD to report which employees do not earn at least a $15/hour minimum wage and to then require that all CTU members must earn at least $15/hr. and that all CPS subcontractors must earn at least $15/hr. and/or that all CPS employees must earn at least $15/hr.”


Tuesday, Mar 24, 2015, 1:33 pm  ·  By Rachel Luban

Court Steps in to #SaveH2B. But Is the U.S. Guestworker Program Worth Saving?

Mexican guestworkers harvest Romaine lettuce in the fields of Yuma, Arizona, in 2012. (Peter Haden / Flickr)  

On March 18, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced it would resume processing applications for the H-2B guestworker program after a two-week suspension. The DOL abruptly halted processing H-2B applications earlier this month after a Florida federal district court ruling left the program without any formal regulations; the agency began processing applications again when the court granted its request to stay the ruling until April 15 to allow the guestworker program to continue. The announcement prompted a collective sigh of relief among employers and workers who depend on H-2B jobs. 


Tuesday, Mar 24, 2015, 11:07 am  ·  By Daniel Aldana Cohen

How Working Less Can Help Prevent Climate Catastrophe and Promote Women’s Equality

"Work-life balance and gender issues must be central concerns of union movements." (Michael Herve / Flickr)  

This piece first appeared at Labor Notes.

In the face of looming ecological catastrophe, can unions help restructure work itself? And what’s gender inequality got to do with it? We posed these questions to Tom Malleson, assistant professor of Social Justice and Peace Studies at King’s University College at Western University in London, Ontario, and author of After Occupy: Economic Democracy in the 21st Century


Monday, Mar 23, 2015, 3:40 pm  ·  By Micah Uetricht

UNITE HERE’s New Pro-Rahm Emanuel Ads Gush “Rahm Love” for “Mayor 1%”

(UNITE HERE Local 1 / Vimeo)  

Of the numerous problems Rahm Emanuel is facing in his campaign for reelection as Chicago's mayor, two in particular stand out.

One, Emanuel is widely perceived as anti-worker and anti-union while being a close ally to the city's financial elites. (He used to work as an investment banker, after all.)

Two, he's widely acknowledged as being a jerk. He sends dead fish to people he's angry at, he yells "fuck you" to teachers union leaders, he allegedly screams in mental health activists' faces, stories about public photos with him include a description of his eye contact as like a "deathly vampire stare."

Emanuel has tried to mend that image a bit lately, acknowledging he isn't the nicest guy in Chicago politics. But no matter how fuzzy his sweater, he's still viewed as a prickly character. And despite some local unions' words to the contrary, he's seen by many as an anti-labor "Mayor 1%."

How can those two problems be solved ahead of Emanuel's April 7 showdown with progressive challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia? The hospitality workers union UNITE HERE Local 1 has an idea: an ad campaign with workers emphasizing "Rahm Love."