Transgender Workers Win Discrimination Suits; Detroit Goes Bankrupt; Portland Truck-Makers Strike

Mike Elk

Detroit's future is uncertain after the city filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

2012 rul­ing from the Equal Employ­ment Oppor­tu­ni­ty Com­mis­sion (EEOC) is yield­ing vic­to­ries for trans­gen­der work­ers in dis­crim­i­na­tion suits. From Buz­zFeed:

Trans­gen­der work­ers, backed by the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment for the first time, are suc­cess­ful­ly using civ­il rights laws to chal­lenge gov­ern­ment and pri­vate employ­ers accused of anti-trans­gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion, Buz­zFeed has learned.
The Depart­ment of Jus­tice decid­ed ear­li­er this month in favor of a trans­gen­der woman, Mia Macy, who had been refused work at a lab­o­ra­to­ry of the Bureau of Alco­hol, Tobac­co, Firearms and Explo­sives (ATF). After an inves­ti­ga­tion into her claims, the Jus­tice Depart­ment informed Macy July 8 that the bureau dis­crim­i­nat­ed against [her] based on her trans­gen­der sta­tus.” Macy cel­e­brat­ed the deci­sion as val­i­da­tion.”
… The changes com­ing about now are the result of a cru­cial legal deci­sion made by the Equal Employ­ment Oppor­tu­ni­ty Com­mis­sion in Macy’s case back in 2012. The com­mis­sion then ruled that anti-trans­gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion is cov­ered under the ban on sex dis­crim­i­na­tion found in Title VII of the Civ­il Rights Act of 1964.

Yes­ter­day, in the largest munic­i­pal bank­rupt­cy in Amer­i­can his­to­ry, the city of Detroit declared bank­rupt­cy. Today, a judge ruled that the bank­rupt­cy vio­lates Michi­gan’s con­sti­tu­tion because it robs work­ers of their pen­sions; the city is expect­ed to appeal. From Labor Notes:

The bank­rupt­cy will enable an appoint­ed judge to impose fur­ther cuts to city expens­es and to void union con­tracts. A prime tar­get for cost-cut­ting is the pen­sions owed to 21,000 city retirees and 9,000 active work­ers. The city esti­mates its pen­sions are under­fund­ed by $3.5 bil­lion, and wants to reduce pay­ments to both work­ers and the bond­hold­ers who have lent the city mon­ey over the years: equal­i­ty of sacrifice. …

[AFSCME] Local 207 is plan­ning a demon­stra­tion in down­town Detroit July 25.

[Detroit Emer­gency Man­ag­er Kevyn] Orr touts the bank­rupt­cy as a way to improve city ser­vices — which often, in the world he comes from, is code for pri­va­ti­za­tion. Water, garbage pick­up, an island park called Belle Isle, and the Detroit Insti­tute of the Arts have all been men­tioned as poten­tial saleable items. The only thing they’re going to improve’ is somebody’s bot­tom line,” Mul­hol­land predicted.

Gen­er­al Motors, which is head­quar­tered down­town, said it would­n’t be affect­ed by the bank­rupt­cy. Appar­ent­ly, with [Repub­li­can Gov. Rick] Sny­der — who ran on his record as a busi­ness­man — in charge, busi­ness is going to be just fine.

Daim­ler AG work­ers in Port­land are out on strike. From NWLabor​press​.org:

No trucks have been pro­duced at the plant since 520 Machin­ists and 68 painters struck July 1. The Swan Island plant is the only site man­u­fac­tur­ing West­ern Star trucks, which are spe­cial­ized for use in log­ging, min­ing, and oth­er industries. 

Mem­bers of Machin­ists Lodge 1005 and Sign Painters and Painter Mak­ers Local 1094 walked out after reject­ing a com­pa­ny offer that includ­ed rais­es of $1.30 an hour over three years. They’ve had no rais­es for four years, dur­ing which time pro­duc­tiv­i­ty increased 25 per­cent. The company’s pro­posed rais­es would have been par­tial­ly off­set by increased health insur­ance co-pays. The com­pa­ny pro­pos­al also would elim­i­nate sup­ple­men­tal health cov­er­age after retirees turn 65.

Josh Eidel­son has an inter­est­ing piece this week on the fund­ing behind non-union labor groups like Mak­ing Change at Wal­mart. From The Nation:

While alt-labor groups have scored some sig­nif­i­cant vic­to­ries, they face many of the same chal­lenges as unions, and a few of their own. That includes the fund­ing ques­tion: out­side of Right-to-Work” states, unions with col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ments have a secure source of rev­enue: auto­mat­ic deduc­tion of union dues (or, for work­ers who opt out of mem­ber­ship, rep­re­sen­ta­tion fees) from employ­ees’ pay­checks. Alt-labor groups don’t have that option. Some col­lect vol­un­tary dues from their mem­bers, but hard­ly any are pri­mar­i­ly fund­ed by them. Instead, they’re large­ly fund­ed by foun­da­tion grants and by tra­di­tion­al unions. 

Lead­ers of some of the country’s top alt-labor groups say that’s a prob­lem. In an April inter­view announc­ing a long-term goal of becom­ing finan­cial­ly self-suf­fi­cient, Work­ing Amer­i­ca Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Karen Nuss­baum told The Nation, In the long run, that’s the lit­mus test, because work­er orga­ni­za­tions that aren’t self-sus­tain­ing can’t be demo­c­ra­t­ic.” Work­ing Amer­i­ca, an AFL-CIO affil­i­ate for non-union work­ers that long­time orga­niz­er Nuss­baum found­ed a decade ago, cur­rent­ly receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the AFL-CIO and unions.

Note: AFSCME is a web spon­sor of InThe​se​Times​.com.

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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