Working In These Times

Friday, Jul 22, 2016, 7:58 pm  ·  By Adeshina Emmanuel

Why Black Lives Matter Is Taking On Police Unions

The focus is no longer just on individual officers; it’s on the institutions that protect and shield them. (Vision Planet Media/ Flickr)  

Activists in the movement for black lives are working to lift the veil on one of the most powerful influences in law enforcement: police unions.

The focus is no longer just on individual officers; it’s on the institutions that protect and shield them. Organizers protested at the offices of two of the nation’s largest police unions this week as part of a nationwide week of action under the banner #Freedomnow.

Protesting organized labor may seem like a surprising move for a radical group. “We’re definitely pro-labor union,” explains Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) organizer Clarise McCants.

“But our message is that the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) is not just like any union,” she said. “They are a fraternity—and they are the most dangerous fraternity in America.”


Thursday, Jul 21, 2016, 2:10 pm  ·  By Bruce Vail

Wall Street Vultures May Have Wrecked the Central States Pension Fund

Some 3,000 people rallied in front of the U.S. Capitol in April to demand government action on threatened pensions. Alex Adams (left), a retired truck driver from Toledo, Ohio, and Dan Bollett (center), also of Toledo, talk legislative strategy with Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio). (Office of Rep. Kaptur)  

Bowing to the demands of thousands of angry Teamsters, the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) has agreed to conduct an inquiry into the past investments of the Central States Pension Fund, the organization that manages the retirement benefits for more than 400,000 union members, both retired and active.

One goal of the inquiry is to determine whether Goldman Sachs and other investment advisors caused the Fund to lose money, endangering the future pensions of retired truck drivers and other Teamster union members.


Wednesday, Jul 20, 2016, 1:21 pm  ·  By Victoria Albert

The Republicans Just Passed a Platform That Would Eviscerate Workers’ Rights

The platform dismisses the widespread call for a nationwide minimum wage (Erik Drost/ Flickr)  

The Republican Party's official 2016 platform, released this week, proudly states “the greatest asset of the American economy is the hard working American.”

The writers must have a twisted sense of humor.

In a not particularly unexpected move, the party platform eviscerates the “hard working American,” denying workers of their right to unionize while targeting their most vulnerable communities. 


Wednesday, Jul 20, 2016, 12:23 pm  ·  By Max Ajl

From New York to the Arab Gulf, Challenging Global Capitalism to Build Worker Power

Construction of the Louvre Abu Dhabi—many similar projects have faced allegations of labor abuse. (gordontour / Flickr)  

Over the past decade, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and other Gulf States have started buying up franchises—and not just McDonald’s. These days the Gulf States are purchasing branches of universities like NYU and museums like the Guggenheim in New York City, part of peppering their societies with the “obligatory landmarks for the global investor class,” in the words of NYU professor Andrew Ross. Ross is part of a network of artists and university professors trying to change the absurdly onerous labor conditions facing guest workers in the Gulf.

In Qatar, while exact figures are disputed, perhaps over a thousand workers, mostly South Asians, have died during construction for the World Cup. Employers hold onto passports of imported laborers and deport them if they get too restive, drawing on the massive human well created by the agricultural misery of South and Southeast Asia.

Such penury (rural South Asia holds nearly half the world’s poor) contrasts sharply with the opulence of the Gulf. In the desert cities of the peninsula, air conditioned skyscrapers contain ski slopes. Sand islands, built by European engineering firms, rise up from the sea. Meanwhile, the rights of those constructing these towers and islands are nearly nonexistent.

This maltreatment, and the attempts to resist it, are the topic of The Gulf: High Culture/Hard Labor, edited by Ross, a lustrously illustrated chronicle of the efforts by the Gulf Labor Coalition to throw sand in the machinery of the repression and exploitation confronting guest workers in the Gulf.


Tuesday, Jul 19, 2016, 4:55 pm  ·  By Saqib Bhatti and Stephen Lerner

Why Now Is the Perfect Time For a Radical Labor Movement

Fast food workers demonstrate for better wages and benefits outside of McDonald's shareholders meeting (Scott Olson/ Getty Images)  

This post originally appeared at New Labor Forum. 

Austerity, growing inequality, and the economic and political domination of billionaires, bankers, hedge funds, and giant corporations make the current moment ripe for birthing a movement that can radically transform the country and the world. This is a time of great peril, but also of extraordinary opportunity and—yes—reasons for hope. The last four decades have been characterized by unrelenting attacks on the working class, the weakening of unions and the financialization of capitalism. The fiscal crisis of 2007-2008, the burgeoning wealth gap, and the flood of money from corporations and the rich drowning our democracy have exposed the nation’s political, moral, and economic decay, creating conditions that beg for an alternative to a system that increasingly only works for the super-rich.

In this environment, anything that unions can do alone, with dwindling power, will be insufficient. The challenge for labor, at a moment of historic weakness, is to figure out how unions can support and be involved in movements and campaigns that expand, rather than narrow, the scope and scale of what we are organizing and bargaining for. It may seem counterintuitive, but it is thinking bigger and broadening our vision, goals, and demands—even at a moment of weakness—that offers a path to resurgent unions and a more equal and just country and world.


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.