Working In These Times

Wednesday, May 3, 2017, 1:43 pm  ·  By Sharan Burrow

Why Inequality in the Workforce Is Bad for Your Health

In a virtuous circle, unions make workplaces fairer, which makes the union voice stronger, which makes workplaces safer and healthier. (Photo by Mohammad Asad/Corbis via Getty Images).  

This article was first posted by Hazards magazine.

When Babul Khan lost two of his four sons in an inferno at Gadani shipbreaking yard on November 1, 2016, it was a tragedy but it wasn’t a surprise. Like all the 26 workers who were killed when an oil tanker was blasted apart at Pakistan’s largest shipbreaking yard, 18-year-old Ghulam Hyder and 32-year-old Alam Khan were insecure workers. Disposable workers. 

The yard was shut in the immediate wake of the deaths. Soon, though, it was business as usual—and that meant, inevitably, more deaths. At least five workers died in a fire on a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) container ship at the shipbreaking yard on January 9, 2017. The yard was making money; a steady stream of horrific fatalities was just collateral damage.

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Monday, May 1, 2017, 6:51 pm  ·  By Theo Anderson

May Day Protesters Demonstrate in Cities Across the Country in Defiant Show of Force

Disunity and limited ambition are no longer options. (Photo credit: Theo Anderson)  

The resistance to Donald Trump took to the streets, parks and other public spaces May Day with a display of unity, diversity and urgency that reflected the depth of the threats to social justice posed by the president’s administration.

In Chicago, for example, hundreds of people took part in the Resist Reimagine Rebuild Chicago (R3) coalition rally Monday morning. R3 consists of a wide range of organizations, including the local chapters of Black Lives Matter, Fight for 15, the Arab American Action Network and Jewish Voices for Peace.

“Our first meeting was pulled together right after the election of Donald Trump,” says Adom Getachew, a member of the Black Youth Project 100, also a part of the R3 coalition. “There was a deep sense of crisis in our communities, and a sense that we’ve been fighting on parallel tracks for a long time, and that the way we’re going to make a difference was by really thinking intersectionally.”

About 10 organizations showed up at that first meeting. There are now more than 30. On the anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr., the group had a public teach-in and “this is our follow-up to take that message into the streets,” according to Getachew. 

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Monday, May 1, 2017, 12:05 pm  ·  By Sarah Jaffe

Interviews for Resistance: May Day Isn’t Just About One Day—It’s About a Movement

Gloribell Mota is an organizer with Neighbors United for a Better East Boston and serving as the Boston coordinator for Cosecha’s May Day event. (Movimiento Cosecha/ Twitter)  

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.

Gloribell Mota: My name is Gloribell Mota. I am an organizer with Neighbors United for a Better East Boston and serving as the Boston coordinator for Cosecha’s May Day event.

Sarah Jaffe: You had a pretty dramatic action last Monday in Boston. Can you tell us about it?

Gloribell: Yes, on Monday we had an action at the Suffolk County corrections facility that is also held as a detention center. The detention had about 200 detainees at the time and we have seen a wave of kind of targeted, but it is just kind of a continuation of detaining immigrants for one reason or another where it was this time around were activists that were speaking out. Young activists that are part of organizing in Vermont, and Sully and Alex and Enrique who had been fighting for immigrant rights were detained. Two have been released, but one is still being detained.

This is part of a larger thing, that we just no longer can settle for more detainees and deportations in this manner at all and we want permanent protections for all. This action where 20 people got arrested, there were over 100 folks there over two hours just really wanting to send a message but even more, hoping that we could shut down the detention center and stop deportation and really do permanent protections and immigration reform for all. 

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Friday, Apr 28, 2017, 12:02 pm  ·  By Bruce Vail

Food Workers Take On Fowl Play at Tyson—And Win Better Conditions

The campaign, led by the famed hunger-fighting group Oxfam America, is challenging Tyson and three other large chicken producers to improve on their collective record of chronic worker safety problems, poverty-level wages and anti-union attitudes. (Oxfam)  

A consumer pressure campaign against labor abuses in the chicken-processing industry has produced some initial results, with a detailed pledge this week from Tyson Foods to build a better workplace for its 95,000 employees.

The campaign, led by the famed hunger-fighting group Oxfam America, is challenging Tyson and three other large chicken producers to improve on their collective record of chronic worker safety problems, poverty-level wages and anti-union attitudes. It was launched in late 2015 with the help of a coalition of like-minded groups, including the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union. Tyson’s pledge is the campaign’s first visible success.

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Wednesday, Apr 26, 2017, 4:25 pm  ·  By Leo Gerard, United Steelworkers President

When Corporations Don’t Take Precautions To Avert Workplace Deaths, the Answer Must Be Prison

The only way to make workers’ lives matter is to make prison a real possibility for CEOs and supervisors. (Photo by: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)  

This article was first posted by Alternet.

Every 12 days, a member of my union, the United Steelworkers (USW), or one of their non-union co-workers, is killed on the job. Every 12 days. And it’s been that way for years.

These are horrible deaths. Workers are crushed by massive machinery. They drown in vats of chemicals. They’re poisoned by toxic gas, burned by molten metal. The company pays a meaningless fine. Nothing changes. And another worker is killed 11 days later.

Of course, it’s not just members of the USW. Nationally, at all workplaces, one employee is killed on the job every other hour. Twelve a day.

These are not all accidents. Too many are foreseeable, preventable, avoidable tragedies. With the approach of April 28, Workers Memorial Day 2017, the USW is seeking in America what workers in Canada have to prevent these deaths. That is a law holding supervisors and corporate officials criminally accountable and exacting serious prison sentences when workers die on the job.

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Wednesday, Apr 26, 2017, 2:32 pm  ·  By Michelle Chen

This May Day, Don’t Go to Work, Take to the Streets and Strike

A migrant-led insurrection is daring, but hardly shocking. Historically, immigrants have often led the most radical actions, from wildcat strikes in the fields to hunger strikes at detention centers. More surprising, perhaps, is the groundswell of protest from more mainstream unions and even some employers. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)  

From the Muslim ban to the border wall, President Donald Trump’s first 100 days have unleashed a blitzkrieg of terror. But on May 1, the communities he thought he’d backed into a corner will put him on the defensive with equal and opposite force.

Maria Fernanda Cabello, a leader of the grassroots organizing network Movimiento Cosecha, issued a call to action at an April rally in Washington, D.C., announcing planned actions in more than 80 cities, potentially involving hundreds of thousands of people.

“We think that we can win by using the biggest powers in the immigrant community: our commerce and our labor … We work every day and we buy every week,” she said. Legal or not, “We're in every major industry in this country, and without us, it wouldn't run.”

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Wednesday, Apr 26, 2017, 8:58 am  ·  By Alexandra Bradbury

In the Age of Trump, Can Labor Unite?

You know you're getting the short end of the stick as a worker, but you don’t really know why,” says Joe Tarulli, a Staten Island Verizon tech who’s put in 17 years with the company. “They make it seem like these rich people are just lucky they got the right chances, and these poor old working folks, nothing ever goes right for them. No! These corporations are doing it on purpose.”

Last spring, Tarulli and 39,000 Verizon workers were forced out on a 49-day strike to fend off outsourcing and other concessions demanded by the company, even as it raked in billions in profits. Democratic primary candidate Bernie Sanders walked the picket line with them to draw media attention to their battle against corporate greed. But in the general election, Tarulli says many of his coworkers went on to vote for Donald Trump, who spoke to the anger that had motivated them to strike in the first place. “Trump’s a great communicator,” says Tarulli. “For a long time people felt ignored, even by their own unions, because these companies take advantage of them so badly.”

Trump’s win highlighted a rank and file that feels alienated from politics as usual. While most major unions backed Hillary Clinton, 43 percent of voters in union households cast their ballots for Trump. The swing in votes was less a bump for Trump (who outperformed Mitt Romney by 3 points in union households) than a shortfall for Clinton (7 points below Obama in 2012)—and that’s not counting those who simply stayed home.

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Tuesday, Apr 25, 2017, 11:00 am  ·  By Sarah Jaffe

Interviews for Resistance: “Shutting It Down” on May 1

"We really do believe that this is going to send a strong message to the administration, but also to the country, that we are in a moment of crisis," says Alejandra Valles, secretary-treasurer at SEIU United Services Workers West. (Caravan Against Fear/ Twitter)  

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.

Alejandra Valles: My name is Alejandra Valles. I am the secretary-treasurer for SEIU United Services Workers West. The union represents janitors, security officers and airport workers across California.

Sarah Jaffe: You are one of the organizers of the Caravan Against Fear that is going on right now.

Alejandra: The Caravan Against Fear was organized by SEIU USWW. Also, Global Exchange, Rompevieto TV in Mexico City. But then, also, over 230 organizations, bi-national organizations, that have come on board. The National Day Laborer Organizing Network is also one of the main organizers. We really decided we needed to figure out how to mobilize the masses and how to break through this paralysis of fear that the [Donald] Trump administration has been strategically trying to implement across the country and the world. 

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Friday, Apr 21, 2017, 11:08 am  ·  By Sarah Jaffe

Interviews for Resistance: How To Stop “Neoliberalism on Steroids”

"He ran under this fake populism promising to get rid of Goldman and the 1% while doing the complete opposite," Renata Pumarol, deputy director of New York Communities for Change, says about Donald Trump. (NYCC)  

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.

Renata Pumarol: My name is Renata Pumarol. I am the deputy director of New York Communities for Change (NYCC).

Sarah Jaffe: You guys had an action on Tuesday at Goldman Sachs on official Tax Day. Can you tell us about that and about what the theme of that action was?

Renata: Yesterday, on actual Tax Day, April 18th, we headed to the headquarters of Goldman Sachs here in New York to call them out for avoiding $10 billion in taxes, or for rather extracting $10 billion from our tax dollars—that is, by exploiting loopholes or their roles in company mergers and acquisitions. We really wanted to send a message that it is not only about [Donald] Trump releasing his taxes, but it is also about the 1% and companies like Goldman Sachs that really continue to exploit tax loopholes and avoid massive amounts of taxes that could be going to pay for basic services.

Sarah: Tell us about the action on Tuesday.

Renata: Tuesday we had New York Communities for Change, Resist Here, Democratic Socialists of America join us. We had about 50 people there, including members of the community who are directly impacted by service cuts and who will be impacted by the massive cuts in funding that Trump is going to implement. We headed there with a clear message that Goldman has avoided $10 billion in taxes and that they should be not only paying their fair share, but also ending their influence on the American government. 

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Thursday, Apr 20, 2017, 2:22 pm  ·  By David Dayen

The Looming Writers Strike Is About Much More Than What’s On TV

Writers last walked out in 2007-2008. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)  

People say we’re living in the golden age of television. Fans enjoy more high-quality choices than at any time in history. But this could all grind to a halt if the Writers Guild of America (WGA) follows through with authorizing a strike, which would start May 2 barring any last-minute deals with the major studios.

In the short-term, late-night talk and sketch shows could go dark or resort to improvisation, and the fall broadcast schedule could be threatened. (The WGA covers screenwriters as well, but movies operate on such a long timeframe that a strike wouldn’t affect releases for over a year.) But more broadly, the battle would determine who benefits from the billions of dollars sloshing around Hollywood: well-off studio executives or the creators who bring unforgettable characters to life.

As Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner told colleagues in recommending a strike, writers simply want “to participate in this windfall we created in the last five years.”

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