Working In These Times

Thursday, Nov 6, 2014, 7:00 am  ·  By Amien Essif

Walmart’s Inhumane Policies for Pregnant Workers

Walmart workers protest the company's pregnancy policies outside of a Chicago Walmart in September. (OUR Walmart Facebook)  

In February, Bene’t Holmes asked her manager at a Chicago Walmart to put her on lighter duty. She was four months pregnant and her job included lifting heavy cardboard boxes containing two large bottles of bleach, straining her back and making her fear for her health and the health of her child. But the manager told her to continue with her work, that she was expected to lift 50 pounds or more.

“So I stayed there,” Holmes says, “and the very next day when I came into work, I had a miscarriage on Walmart’s property, in the back bathroom.”

Holmes says she subsequently missed 18 days to recover, prompting management to “coach” her—Walmart’s jargon for a formal reprimand—for the unexcused absences and to give her a demerit point, which she would have to perform additional work to expunge from her record.

This was not simply the fault of an incompetent manager, but the result of Walmart’s policy toward expectant mothers, according to a nascent pregnant worker advocacy group “Respect the Bump,” which held its first in-person meeting in Chicago on September 24.


Thursday, Nov 6, 2014, 6:30 am  ·  By Bruce Vail

After Public Radio Station Hires Notorious Union-Buster, Employees Likely to Lose Union Vote

A view inside Baltimore public radio station WYPR's production booth. After a recent NLRB ruling, workers there likely will not be joining a union. (faultlesspajama / Flickr)  

BALTIMORE – Union supporters at public radio station WYPR had their hopes crushed last week when a hearing officer for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recommended against counting all the votes in a closely contested election held earlier this year. The October 31 recommendation almost certainly means the union will lose the election when the NLRB issues its final determination in the coming weeks, and leaves little hope that the organizing drive can go forward.

Hearing officer Chad M. Horton’s report was critical to the drive by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) because the result of a July 30 election was so close. A preliminary count showed the union, which has a significant membership base in the public radio sector, losing by a vote of 9-11, but seven votes were not counted due to legal challenges from lawyers on both sides of the labor-management divide—including attorneys from the union-busting firm Jackson Lewis.

By the union’s reckoning, a favorable decision from Horton on the seven disputed votes would result in a tie, triggering a re-run of the election. Instead, Horton determined that two crucial pro-union votes should not be counted—effectively dealing an election defeat to the pro-union workers.


Wednesday, Nov 5, 2014, 4:00 pm  ·  By Cole Stangler

Richard Trumka Sounds Optimistic Note In Spite Of Republican Midterm Shellacking

The AFL-CIO president said that despite massive Democratic losses, voters strongly backed a progressive economic agenda. (AFL-CIO)  

The Democrats suffered historic defeats yesterday—losing control of the Senate in addition to key governors’ races across the country—but the president of the nation’s largest labor federation remains upbeat.

“Democrats took a licking yesterday, but the workers’ agenda sure didn’t,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told reporters gathered at a press conference Wednesday morning. “Voters spoke very clearly in yesterday’s election. They want an economy that works for them and works for their families.”


Wednesday, Nov 5, 2014, 2:19 pm  ·  By Kevin Solari

‘Over a Hundred’ Female Auto Workers Claim Assault, Sexual Harassment at Ford Plant

"It's not like work, it's more like a meat market," one worker said. (Flickr / Sam Beebe)  

Four female workers at two Ford Motor plants, the Chicago Ford Assembly Plant and the Chicago Stamping Plant—have filed sexual harassment lawsuits in federal court, claiming they were groped, touched inappropriately and harassed.

The plaintiffs described an overwhelmingly hostile work environment for women, particularly women of color. 

“It's not like work, it's more like a meat market,” Charmella LeViege, one of the four plaintiffs, said in a press conference. 


Wednesday, Nov 5, 2014, 10:13 am  ·  By Ari Paul

Andrew Cuomo and the Sad State of the Working Families Party

New York's Green Party did what the Working Families Party was designed to do in last night's election: push right-wing Democrats. (WFP)  

In 1997, Labour Party leader Tony Blair defeated Tory Prime Minister John Major in a landslide victory. Pointing out that Margaret Thatcher’s successor could not even inspire a consensus within his own party, Blair, with his dashing good looks and confident wit, delivered three verbal bullets on the state of the Tories: “Weak. Weak. Weak.”

This pretty much describes the current status of the labor-backed Working Families Party.

On Tuesday night, New York’s Democratic, but assuredly conservative and hostile to labor, Governor Andrew Cuomo sailed into a second term. But as a referendum on the WFP’s decision to endorse Cuomo rather than run a candidate from the left, WFP received a notable thumbs down.

Scoring fewer votes on its ballot line than Green Party candidate and rank-and-file Teamster Howie Hawkins, the Greens will now have WFP’s place on the ballot, with the WFP to the right of the Greens—a sort of poetic justice embedded into New York’s ballots.


Wednesday, Nov 5, 2014, 7:00 am  ·  By Maxim George

The Movement for Domestic Workers Rights Is Gaining Momentum

Domestic workers march for their rights in Texas. (Carlos Lowry / Flickr)  

Chicago readers: In These Times is co-sponsoring a panel discussion with Sheila Bapat and domestic workers and organizers this Thursday at 6:00 PM. Details can be found here

After decades of toiling in invisibility, domestic workers are finally emerging from the shadows. Around the country, groups like the National Domestic Workers Alliance are gaining visibility in their organizing for domestic workers' rights. NDWA director Ai-jen Poo recently received a MacArthur Genius grant for her pioneering work. And not long ago, Stephen Colbert met his match while interviewing a Trinidadian domestic worker on his show.


Tuesday, Nov 4, 2014, 12:46 pm  ·  By Shane Burley

Oregon Canvassers Workers Push for Unionization at Union-Funded Workplace

Canvassers for Oregon's Fieldworks say they have experienced wage theft and arbitrary firings. (Courtesy of UCW)  

Seven workers and union activists head toward the office on September 17, just before the morning shift begins, debating how to enter. Should they all parade in together? What if lower management is out front smoking before the shift begins? Should they go in early, or wait until the day’s canvassers are already inside?

They agree to head in together in a show of solidarity, a few minutes before the bell rings. As the workers file in the front door, their union representatives in tow, management declares that outside people are not allowed to enter during business hours.

“Don’t worry, we won’t be long,” says Jonathan Steiner, a rep for the United Campaign Workers, a project of the Industrial Workers of the World Workers. The workers and their union representatives enter and declare there is announcement to be made: They have joined a union and are inviting other workers to join them.


Monday, Nov 3, 2014, 6:03 pm  ·  By Kevin Solari

Andrew Cuomo Will Be Reelected and Public Education Will Suffer Because Of It

New York's incumbent governor will likely sail to a reelection tomorrow, and his dismantling of public education will continue apace. (Office of Gov. Cuomo / Flickr)  

Andrew Cuomo has made no secret of his disdain for public school teachers. He sees himself as a disruptive force in public education, using a Silicon Valley term supposedly describing innovation. For Cuomo and many neoliberal Democrats attempting to privatize public education, charter schools are a key form of this disruption.

Back in March, he told John Castimatidis during a radio interview that public schools “have their lobbyists and they have their little public relations teams, and they have their front groups and their advocates, and this [charter schools] is disruptive to that entire system.”

Last week, Cuomo lashed out at public schools again. During an interview with the New York Daily News editorial board, he said he would “break what is … one of the only remaining public monopolies.”


Monday, Nov 3, 2014, 1:01 pm  ·  By Spencer Woodman

EXCLUSIVE: 19.7 Million Finance and Insurance Workers Subject to Political Lobbying By Their Bosses

Are Wall St. workers being pushed by their bosses to lobby Congress on behalf of industry interests?   (Kevin Hoogheem / Flickr / Creative Commons)

A slideshow marked “confidential,” obtained by In These Times, sheds light on which American workers are being fed political information by their bosses in coordination with the Business-Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC).

The Washington, D.C.-based organization functions both as a PAC and a source of “tools and technologies” for businesses to “educate” their workers about political issues and candidates. Its network has exploded in recent years to encompass 7,000 businesses and trade associations across the United States, comprising 25 million—or more than one-fifth—of the nation’s private-sector employees.

The document shows that, as of last year, employees in the finance and insurance sectors accounted for a stunning 19.7 million of those stored in BIPAC’s system.


Friday, Oct 31, 2014, 12:30 pm  ·  By David Sirota

Why Does Scott Walker Think $7.25 Is a Living Wage?

Union-busting Gov. Scott Walker on the minimum wage: "I don’t think it serves a purpose."   (Gateway Technical College / Flickr)

Under pressure to raise his state's minimum wage, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker confidently declared that there was no need to do so. Low-wage workers had filed a complaint charging that the state's minimum wage -- $7.25 -- did not constitute a "living wage" as mandated by state law. But the Republican governor's administration, after examining the issue, announced earlier this month that it found "no reasonable cause" for the complaint. 

That official government finding was supposed to come from a dispassionate investigation. Yet, documents reveal that it was largely based on information provided by the state's restaurant lobby, which represents major low-wage employers including fast-food companies. 

Indeed, the Raise Wisconsin campaign, which is pushing for a higher minimum wage, requested all documents on which the state based the "living wage" ruling. And the only economic study that the administration released in response was an anti-minimum-wage analysis from the Wisconsin Restaurant Association -- a group that lobbies against minimum wage increases.