Working In These Times

Wednesday, Mar 22, 2017, 3:25 pm  ·  By Bruce Vail

Paid Sick Leave Bill Provokes Showdown in Maryland

If the bill is passed, Maryland would join Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, Oregon and Vermont as states that have already enacted paid sick leave laws. (Working Matters/ Facebook)  

ANNAPOLIS – A showdown is looming between Democratic Party lawmakers and the state’s Republican governor over legislation designed to guarantee most Maryland workers the right to paid sick days.

The new law has been moving slowly through the legislature but scored an important advance last week when the Maryland Senate approved a modified version of a similar bill that passed the House of Delegates earlier this month. The increased likelihood that a final bill would be approved by both houses of the legislature in the next few weeks prompted an explicit veto threat from Gov. Larry Hogan, who claims the law would be burdensome to businesses in the state.


Tuesday, Mar 21, 2017, 2:54 pm  ·  By s.e. smith

How States Are Trying to End the Disability Unemployment Crisis

Programs that enable a smooth transition from school to the workplace have documented results, as does allowing people to enter the workplace while retaining critically important healthcare benefits. (South Dakota Advocacy Services/ Facebook)  

Data in the newly released 2016 Disability Statistics Compendium are highlighting a pernicious, and complex, disparity for the disability community: unemployment. In 2015, less than 35 percent of disabled Americans between 18-64 living in the community were employed, in contrast with some 76 percent of their nondisabled counterparts.

This is not just a disparity of disabled and nondisabled, though, but also one determined by state of residence. In Wyoming, for example, nearly 60 percent of disabled people are employed, while at the other end of the spectrum, in West Virginia, the disability employment rate is around 25 percent.

Understanding why employment outcomes for disabled people are so widely variable is important because such knowledge may contribute to a fresh approach to getting disabled people who are ready and willing to work into fulfilling jobs. 


Friday, Mar 17, 2017, 2:41 pm  ·  By Elizabeth Grossman

What Slashing the Labor Department Budget by 21 Percent Would Mean

“This is not so much a budget as an ideological statement,” said David Golston, government affairs director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. (Matt Popovich/ Flickr)  

The Trump administration’s “budget blueprint” would devastate worker safety, job training programs and legal services essential to low-income workers. Its cuts include a 21 percent, or $2.5 billion, reduction in the Department of Labor’s budget.

The budget would reduce funding for or eliminate programs that provide job training to low-income workers, unemployed seniors, disadvantaged youth and for state-based job training grants. It eliminates the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) training grants as well as the independent Chemical Safety Board. Also targeted for elimination is the Legal Services Corporation, which provides legal assistance to low-income Americans.

“Cutting these programs is cutting the safety net for the most vulnerable workers, those striving for the middle class,” said Matt Shudtz, executive director at the Center for Progressive Reform. “This budget would eliminate training programs for them, the kind of things people need to move up in the world. It is very anti-worker and anti- the most vulnerable workers.”


Wednesday, Mar 15, 2017, 7:12 pm  ·  By Elizabeth Grossman

Republicans Are Racing To Make Workplaces More Dangerous and Unhealthy

Among the targets are rules that protect the manufacturing and construction workers the Trump administration claims to support. (Photo by Florian Gaertner/Photothek via Getty Images)  

“Every regulation should have to pass a simple test: Does it make life better or safer for American workers or consumers? If the answer is no, we will be getting rid of it and getting rid of it quickly,” President Donald Trump said as he signed an executive order establishing federal task forces to eliminate regulations.

In fact, the executive order criteria say nothing about making life safer for U.S. workers and consumers. Rather they focus on rules that “eliminate jobs or inhibit job creation.”

“The intent of this executive order is go to after Obama-era health and safety regulations,” said Public Citizen regulatory policy advocate Amit Narang.


Wednesday, Mar 15, 2017, 1:17 pm  ·  By Les Leopold

6 Reasons Why Donald Trump Won’t Save American Jobs

Millions voted for Trump because they believed he would save their jobs. But as financial strip-mining continues unabated, these workers will learn that President Trump is not president of Wall Street. (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)  

This article was first posted by Alternet.

Donald J. Trump believes he can bully and bribe companies into keeping jobs in America. Shortly after his election, he "persuaded" Carrier, an Indianapolis division of United Technologies, to refrain from exporting 700 jobs to Mexico. Meanwhile, Rexnord, a maker of bearings and ball bearings also in Indianapolis, announced its decision to move 300 jobs to Monterrey, Mexico. Trump, of course, expected that after a tweet or two, Rexnord, a tiny company, would quickly capitulate. Not happening. 

The most powerful man in the world is getting a rude awakening about corporate power. Rexnord is thumbing its nose at the president by actually moving every one of those jobs ... and the bully-in-chief can't stop them. Why is that?


Tuesday, Mar 14, 2017, 12:09 pm  ·  By Sarah Jaffe

Interviews for Resistance: On Recovering the Word “Strike”

Feminist organizing in Indiana, a state that was recently governed by a far-right opponent of abortion and gay rights, presents special challenges. (Sarah Jaffe)  

Welcome to Interviews for Resistance. Since election night 2016, the streets of the United States have rung with resistance. People all over the country have woken up with the conviction that they must do something to fight inequality in all its forms. But many are wondering what it is they can do. In this series, we'll be talking with experienced organizers, troublemakers and thinkers who have been doing the hard work of fighting for a long time. They'll be sharing their insights on what works, what doesn't, what’s changed and what is still the same.

I spent March 8, International Women's Day and the day of the Women's Strike, in Lafayette, Indiana, the heart of Mike Pence country. Feminist organizing in a state until recently governed by a far-right opponent of abortion and gay rights presents special challenges, and I spoke with two of the organizers of the Women's Strike about the work they did to create the conditions for a Women's Strike and the work they'll be doing in its wake to strengthen their organizations.


Monday, Mar 13, 2017, 11:53 am  ·  By Bruce Vail

Despite Some Union Support, Trump’s New Labor Pick Would Be Terrible for Workers

The nomination of R. Alexander Acosta was announced by Trump less than 24 hours after the president’s first choice for the job dropped out of consideration. (Scott Fisher/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)  

President Donald Trump’s new pick to head the Labor Department is getting an early boost from a “divide-and-conquer” strategy against labor unions and their allies, even before his qualifications and background as a civil servant are scrutinized in a Senate confirmation hearing.

The nomination of R. Alexander Acosta was announced by Trump less than 24 hours after the president’s first choice for the job, hamburger-chain executive Andrew Puzder, dropped out of consideration. Puzder faced mounting Senate opposition, even from some conservative Republicans, because of disclosures that he had personally broken labor law by hiring an undocumented household servant, and also that he had been accused of spousal abuse many years ago.

Labor unions and Democratic Party leaders in Washington, D.C., had maintained a unified front against the Puzder nomination but that unity dissolved almost immediately with the announcement of Acosta’s nomination February 16. His first confirmation hearing, which was scheduled for this week, has been moved to March 22.

The first endorsement came from the International Union of Operating Engineers, followed by one from the International Association of Fire Fighters and then the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) got on board. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka even offered lukewarm praise, telling MSNBC News: “Well, we’re going to vet him, but he does have a history of enforcing the laws that protect workers, which is a real plus, whereas Puzder had a history of violating the rules.”


Friday, Mar 10, 2017, 12:18 pm  ·  By Bruce Vail

Union Moves Ahead at American University: “Time To Bring Academia into the 21st Century”

Graduate workers Elena Herfi (left), Scott Patrick (center) and Barbara dos Santos (right) are agitating to form a union at American University. (Photo credit: David Sachs/ SEIU500)  

Graduate students who work as faculty assistants at American University (AU) in Washington, D.C., are forging ahead in their efforts to form a union, despite the uncertainty caused by President Donald Trump’s conflicting signals on federal labor policy and anxiety among some foreign students over his anti-immigrant rhetoric. 

Backed by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 500, the students filed for an election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) late last month. According to the NLRB petition, the union seeks to represent about 700 students serving as “Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants, Graduate Assistants, Laboratory Assistants Teaching Apprentices, Dean’s Fellows, Instructors, Graders, Preceptors, Section Leaders, and Tutors” at AU’s Washington, D.C., campus. Voting will be conducted by mail and begin March 20.

The student workers want to vote as soon as possible, says Scott Patrick, a member of the union organizing committee. Some 300 graduate employees have already signed cards indicating their desire for an election, he says, and union advocates feel confident they can win.

“It’s time to bring academia into the 21st century in terms of how it treats its labor force,” says Patrick. 


Thursday, Mar 9, 2017, 11:59 am  ·  By Jeff Schuhrke

Chicago Teachers Are Trying to Organize the Biggest Charter School Union in the U.S.

At a press conference in Chicago, activists from the Union of Noble Educators were joined by about a dozen local elected officials who expressed support and called on Noble’s board of directors to remain neutral during the unionization effort. (Photo by Jeff Schuhrke)  

As Education Secretary Betsy DeVos calls for expanding charter schools and voucher programs in the name of “choice,” teachers at Chicago's largest charter school have declared their choice to form a union.

Announcing the creation of the Union of Noble Educators last Friday, workers from Noble Network’s 17 charter high schools hope to follow in the footsteps of teachers and staff from 32 other Chicago charter schools who have already unionized with the help of the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (Chicago ACTS), Local 4343 of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

If successful, the 800 or so educators and staff at Noble would comprise the largest unionized charter school network in the country.


Wednesday, Mar 8, 2017, 12:46 pm  ·  By Liza Featherstone

Women Strike Against Capital—and To Take Back Feminism

In October 2016, women’s groups from different countries agreed to participate in the annual Global Women’s Strike on March 8, taking as their inspiration recent actions in Argentina and Poland. (Garry Knight/ Flickr)  

Babeland, a female-owned sex toy emporium founded in 1990s Seattle, would appear to be the ideal feminist enterprise. Charismatic female employees exude a blunt sex-positivity that has been responsible for the business’ success, making the store a go-to place for dildos of all colors, angles and sizes. Now boasting three New York City locations, Babeland is all about female empowerment. Yet many employees’ experience with this model of feminist capitalism underscores precisely why a women’s strike on March 8, International Women’s Day, is needed.

After management dragged out union contract negotiations for months, workers voted to authorize a strike the weekend before Valentine’s Day, Babeland’s busiest season. The threat worked. Workers won their demands, which included more full-time staff, pay increases, a more relaxed dress code, more holidays (including May Day) and easier communication between workers and the union, according to Octavia Leona Kohner, a Babeland worker active in the union.

Because of that experience at Babeland, Kohner explains, she and many of her colleagues wanted to participate in Wednesday’s action “to raise awareness of the power of workers coming together. And the history of unions is women coming together.” Kohner points to the importance of seamstresses and other women’s struggles in shaping U.S. labor history. Like the Babeland workers’ strike threat, she says, this women’s strike will send the message that “without us you have no business.”