NYC Mayor Calls For Police Strikes, Detained Immigrant Prison Labor & Garbage Strike in Seattle

Mike Elk

A new report reveals that many detained immigrants in prison are being employed from as little as $1 a day. From Truthout:

In private prisons around the country, immigrants languishing in detention centers are being put to work by profit-making companies like the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) for far below the minimum wage. For doing a range of manual labor in the facility, the immigrants, many of whom are not legally permitted to work in the United States, are paid between $1-$3 a day.

The Obama administration’s move away from the workplace raids of the Bush years and toward an increasing reliance on Secure Communities, which critics say has functioned as a dragnet for immigrants who have committed low-level crimes or none at all, has flooded detention centers across the country.

Between 1996 and 2011, deportations increased by 400 percent and the Department of Homeland Security now has a daily detention capacity of 34,000 beds. Along with this trend has come the widespread privatization of the federal detention centers.

Guzman was paid only $1 a day for cleaning communal areas in the detention center. When he moved to working in the kitchen — an 8 hour job and you do get your full 30 minute break” — his pay shifted to $3 a day.

Most of the work in Stewart was done by detainees, said Guzman, who was placed into deportation proceedings when a letter about his asylum case was sent to the wrong address. Ninety percent of the jobs in CCA are run by detainees,” he said of Stewart.

A strike of Teamsters Waste Management workers in the Seattle area has left nearly 220,000 people without their trash collected. The company, however says that it won’t negotiate with the union until they end the strike. From the Seattle Times:

Thursday the union and the company argued in competing news releases about whether picket lines would need to come down before labor negotiations could resume.

Waste Management said in the afternoon it would go back to the bargaining table Saturday if the Teamsters reported to work immediately and stopped picketing the company’s truck-parking locations. The company also asked the union to give seven days’ notice before it resumes picketing.

Several hours later, the union said it would take down the picket lines Monday if the company would meaningfully bargain Saturday. Brenda Wiest, spokeswoman for Local 117, said the workers don’t intend to make concessions before an agreement is reached, but we’re willing to meet without any conditions.”

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, King County Executive Dow Constantine and the mayors of Redmond, Renton and Kirkland, meanwhile, called on the parties to return to bargaining and reach a deal.

I urge both sides in this labor dispute to go back to the bargaining table immediately and to get this resolved. Under its contract with the city, Waste Management is obligated to continue services in the event of any disruption. I intend to hold them to the contract,” McGinn said in a statement.

A new study by the National Employment Law Project says that nearly 1 in 4 workers in the private sector work at jobs paying less than $10 an hour. From Think Progress:

The last increase in the federal minimum wage was passed into law four years ago today, but the current minimum wage falls far short of meeting the needs of the average worker. To match the buying power of the 1968 minimum wage, for instance, today’s would need to be increased to $10.55 an hour.

And yet, more than a quarter of America’s private sector workers make less than $10 an hour, according to a report released this month by the National Employment Law Project:

In 2011, more than one in four private sector jobs (26 percent) were low‐​wage positions paying less than $10 per hour. These jobs, moreover, were concentrated in industries where low‐​wage workers make up a substantial share – in some cases more than half – of the entire workforce.

Worse yet, the share of low-wage jobs is increasing, as five industries that are comprised primarily of low-wage workers have grown faster than total employment since the end of the Great Recession

Auto mechanics at five car dealerships in Deluth, Minnesota have gone out on strike. From the Associated Press:

Auto mechanics striking five car dealerships in Duluth say an impasse with owners isn’t about money, it’s about the time they need to complete their work.

Dealers have offered raises of 2.8 percent and 2.3 percent during the four-year contract and will contribute more to the employees’ pension fund.

United Auto Workers Local 241 president Del Soiney says an increase in health care premiums is one sticking point. But an even bigger one is contract language on the amount of time technicians have to do repairs. Mechanics say the proposal decreases time for repairs and raises safety concerns.

Earlier this week, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg called for police throughout the United States to go out on strike in favor of gun control. Now the Mayor, who is not known for being labor friendly, is walking back from those comments. From The Huffington Post:

Speaking on CNN Monday, Bloomberg took an unusual position for a leader of the largest municipal police force in America, arguing that cops across the country should band together in the wake of the mass murder in Aurora, Colo., to protest weak gun laws.

I don’t understand why the police officers across this country don’t stand up collectively and say we’re going to go on strike,” Bloomberg told Piers Morgan. “‘We’re not going to protect you unless you, the public, through your legislature, do what’s required to keep us safe.’”

According to a tweet from New York Times reporter Kate Taylor, Bloomberg tried to walk that statement back on Tuesday. I don’t mean literally go on strike,” Bloomberg said, according to Taylor. In fact in New York they can’t go on strike – there’s a law against it.”

Bloomberg is a co-founder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a national group of 600 mayors who support strong gun laws, and an outspoken critic of the gun lobby. Although his aligning with police officers on gun control is to be expected, Bloomberg’s advocacy for what sounds like a general strike among cops is well outside the norm for a sitting mayor of New York City.

Mike Elk wrote for In These Times and its labor blog, Working In These Times, from 2010 to 2014. He is currently a labor reporter at Politico.
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