Archive for the ‘equal pay’ Category
Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
An interesting look at the unemployment rate. “What is currently a temporary long-term unemployment problem runs the risk of morphing into a permanent and costly increase in the unemployment rate” unless Congress takes action to create jobs.
Why the Unemployment Rate Is So High – New York Times
Unemployment claims have increased slightly. “The Labor Department says applications rose 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 371,000, the most in five weeks.”
Unemployment claims rise slightly in latest week – USA Today
“We need to avoid a lost generation of young people who will be playing economic catch-up their whole lives. We cannot stop pressing our leaders to help struggling poor and middle-class Americans.”
Crowdsourcing our economic recovery – CNN
Even though the economy is improving, we need to do more to ensure the long term unemployed get back on their feet. Long term unemployment makes it harder and harder to provide for one’s family, and causes dramatic increases in mental illness. It’s time Washington gets busy putting people back to work.
Long-Term Unemployed Winning Jobs Or Giving Up? – Huffington Post
This article was originally posted by ChangeToWin on January 11, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Change to Win is an organization created by over 5.5 million workers – if corporations can join together to hire an army of lobbyists, working and middle class Americans must also band together and restore balance by making sure we have a strong voice and a seat at the table again.
(Colleen Gartner is an intern at Workplace Fairness.)
Thursday, December 27th, 2012
In the wake of ATT Mobility v. Concepcion and Stolt-Nielsen v. AnimalFeeds,* many employers have sought to enact new arbitration agreements or to enforce arbitration provisions in older agreements to eliminate their employees’ ability to come together when seeking to vindicate their rights to enforce statutory protections for workers. Employers should be careful what they wish for, in seeking to compel arbitration. They may indeed wind up in arbitration – but unable to strike class allegations, and required to pay the full and exorbitant costs of class-wide arbitration.
In a case on which Bryan Schwartz Law serves as local counsel for Richard J. Burch of Bruckner Burch, in Houston, Texas, the employer is now feeling the danger of a Stolt-Nielsen-based strategy seeking to compel individual arbitration in a putative, wage-hour class action. In the Laughlin v. VMWare case, in which VMWare employees assert they were misclassified as exempt employees and denied overtime and other compensation to which they were entitled, the company moved to compel arbitration based on an agreement which did not specifically provide for class-wide arbitration.
Judge Edward Davila of the Northern District of California struck some of the more offensive provisions of the arbitration agreement under Armendariz v. Foundation Health Psychcare Services (2000) 24 Cal.4th 83, such as a provision which would have required Plaintiff to share the costs of arbitration. However, Judge Davila found these unlawful provisions severable (i.e., refused to kill the whole arbitration agreement). Perhaps most importantly, though, Judge Davila referred to the arbitrator the decision on the Stolt-Nielsen argument – namely, as argued by VMWare, the notion that class-wide arbitration cannot proceed where the parties’ arbitration agreement did not expressly consent to class arbitration. His initial decision from early 2012 is available here:
In arbitration, AAA arbitrator LaMothe then rejected the employer’s Stolt-Nielsen motion to strike class allegations, notwithstanding the fact that the agreement did not expressly give permission to bring class allegations, finding the parties’ agreement intended to encompass all claims by Plaintiff Laughlin, including her class claims. The AAA order is available here:
In the last 18 months, numerous other arbitrators from JAMS, AAA, and other nationwide arbitration services have likewise denied motions to strike class allegations, employing similar reasoning.
On review, Judge Davila confirmed the arbitrator’s partial final clause construction award allowing class allegations to proceed, meaning – in light of all the foregoing – that VMWare will now be forced to arbitrate a putative class action, and will be forced to bear all of the costs of doing so:
Be careful what you wish for, employers. You may find that sometimes, allowing employees their day in court is better than the alternative.
DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this article is intended to form an attorney-client relationship with the reader. You must have a signed representation agreement with the firm to be a client.
*See our numerous prior blog posts relating to the subject of arbitration class waivers in light of Concepcion andStolt-Nielsen, including: http://bryanschwartzlaw.blogspot.com/2012/09/california-supreme-court-grants-review.html;
This post was originally posted on December 26, 2012 on Bryan Schwartz Law. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Bryan Schwartz is an Oakland, CA-based attorney specializing in civil rights and employment law.
Wednesday, December 19th, 2012
Mark E. Andersen
In November McDonald’s saw a 2.5 percent increase in November sales. This is after the fast food giant saw a decrease in sales of 2.2 percent in October. So why was there increase in sales? Was the pork-like substitute McRib back? Was there a shortage of Ore-Ida french fries in your local grocer’s freezer causing a run on McDonald’s across the country?
Nope, none of the above; the corporate overlords at McDonald’s urged franchisees to be open on Thanksgiving day, a day that most franchise stores are closed. A Nov. 8 memo from McDonald’s USA Chief Operating Officer Jim Johannesen stated,
“Starting with Thanksgiving, ensure your restaurants are open throughout the holidays. Our largest holiday opportunity as a system is Christmas Day. Last year, [company-operated] restaurants that opened on Christmas averaged $5,500 in sales.”
On Dec. 12 Mr. Johannesen doubled down and sent out another memo to franchise owners stating that average sales for company-owned restaurants, which compose about 10 percent of its system, were “more than $6,000″ this Thanksgiving. That adds up to be about $36 million in extra sales.
So with all those extra sales one must ask if employees are reaping any benefits from being open on the holidays. The answer is dependent on the franchise owner; however, in the case of company owned stores the answer is a big fat no. According to McDonald’s spokesperson Heather Oldani, “when our company-owned restaurants are open on the holidays, the staff voluntarily sign up to work. There is no regular overtime pay.”
It is bad enough that McDonald’s pays crap wages but then they turn around and refuse to pay overtime for employees who volunteer to give up their holidays so that McDonald’s can make several million dollars. I am also willing to bet that most staff does not readily volunteer to work on Christmas day. This just gives me one more reason to not eat at the Golden Arches.
This post was originally posted on December 18, 2012 at The Daily Kos. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Mark E. Andersen is a 44 year old veteran, lifelong Progressive Democrat, Rabid Packer fan, Single Dad, Part-time Grad Student, and Full-time IS worker. Find me on facebook my page is “Kodiak54 (Mark Andersen)”
Friday, December 14th, 2012
Michigan’s recent battle makes this a good time to explain the union movement’s important role in our economy’s overall health. We’re about to explain why today’s war on unions is bad for all of us, no matter what we do for a living, and we’ll do it in four steps.
But first a word about language: “Right to work” is a misnomer for laws which let employees enjoy the benefits of union membership – at least for a little while, until they’re stripped away – without joining or contributing.
So we’ll call them “right to shirk” laws instead. And we’ll call the people who back these laws Shirkers.
And while we’re at it, let’s stop calling the states that have adopted this legislation “right to work.” They don’t give people any new rights. They take rights away, by making it illegal for employees to organize and negotiate together. They even take away employers‘ rights – to sign a certain kind of contract.
So let’s give the other states a name instead: In a nod to the Jim Crow origin of these laws, let’s call the ones which don’t have these laws “free states.”
Right to Shirk laws allow freeloaders to profit from the efforts of others – without contributing to the effort, and in a way that harms the common good. The billionaires and corporations behind these laws wouldn’t deliberately do anything like that, would they? Why, that would be like letting people make billions from the works of government – things like roads, the Internet and publicly-educated customers – without paying their fair share of taxes.
Right to Shirk laws are job-killers. Here are four steps to understanding why:
1. Think nationally, not just locally.
Advocates say these laws create jobs. They don’t. Their “evidence” is based on studies which show modest job growth in Right to Shirk states when compared to free states. But all that proves is that places that are politically hostile to organized labor also offer other types of corporate favoritism.
It also suggests that Right to Shirk states can steal jobs from free states — as long as the jobs last, anyway.
The Shirker movement was started in the late 1940s by a handful of Southern politicians who were in the palm of big textile mills. They were able to draw textile jobs away from free Northern cities like my hometown of Utica, NY – until those jobs left this country altogether. That’s not “creating” jobs — that’s killing good jobs and replacing them with ones that don’t pay enough.
The concept of “solidarity” has been tarred with McCarthyite smears. But “solidarity” is just another way of saying “We’re all in this together.” The Right to Shirk crowd wants to stop that kind of thinking so it can pit state against state and employee against employee, shredding our social fabric for personal gain.
It’s no accident that the Shirker movement was started by the reactionary white politicians of the Jim Crow South. Back then they were still pining for the days when they could offer some folks the “right to work” … for nothing.
2. We’re fighting over a shrinking pie instead of making the pie bigger.
Things are bad. We need millions of jobs – and the jobs we do have don’t pay enough.
The graphic which Business Insider likes to call “the scariest chart ever” shows how far we are from creating the number of jobs needed to make this country’s economy grow and thrive again. Job growth like that we’ve seen recently is always welcome, but it’s not nearly enough to get us out of this ditch. How do we get moving again?
To answer that question we need to know what’s worked in the past.
3. The real “job creators” are people with jobs – good jobs.
How did this nation finally escape the after-effects of the Great Depression and begin its greatest decades of economic growth? Government spending - on roads, bridges, schools, and other vitally needed services – played a key part.
Unions were a crucial part of this process, too. By fighting for higher wages and better benefits, unions ensure that working people have the means to purchase consumer items, housing, and other goods and services. Companies have to hire more people to keep up with demand – and the good jobs keep coming.
That’s why the Republican Party platform of 1956 boasted that “unions have grown in strength and responsibility, and have increased their membership by 2 millions” during Dwight D. Eisenhower’s first term. Back then Republicans understood that a growing middle class was good for the entire economy. That party platform also said that “America does not prosper unless all Americans prosper.” Their rule: No shirkers.
But then in those days our economy wasn’t dominated by Wall Street megabanks – institutions that don’t build or sell anything. And politicians weren’t completely in bankers’ pockets back then, because the public wouldn’t have tolerated it.
We shouldn’t tolerate it now.
4. When you kill unions, that reduces consumer income – which kills jobs.
The Shirker assault on unions has taken its toll. Only 25 states remain free to unionize, and union membership has fallen dramatically:
Their logic would suggest that the plunge in union membership we’ve seen since 1960 must have led to a rise in good jobs. Did it? Let’s take a look at manufacturing:
That’s my freehand drawing (and therefore not exact) of the trend line in union membership, superimposed by the number of manufacturing jobs in the United States. Manufacturing jobs kept on increasing for more than twenty years, even as union membership increased. These jobs experienced periods of decline and stagnation as union membership fell, even before the devastating impact of NAFTA.
Consumer demand is vital to growth. That demand is tied to consumers’ income, and to their belief that life in the future will be as good or better than it is today. Those are the two things we need to reinforce, and unions are crucial to that effort.
We need to get our economy growing again. Until then most Americans, unionized or not, will continue to struggle with stagnating wages and an ongoing economic drag that can feel a lot like a recession. As Paul Krugman likes to say (he said it in our radio interview), This isn’t rocket science. We know how to do this.
Destroying unions is just another way for the Shirkers to make sure that we never do.
This post was originally posted on Our Future on December 13, 2012. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Richard Eskow is a well-known blogger and writer, a former Wall Street executive, an experienced consultant, and a former musician. He has experience in health insurance and economics, occupational health, benefits, risk management, finance, and information technology. He has a somewhat unique perspective on the current financial crisis, since he worked for AIG for a number of years (although not in its infamous Financial Products division). Richard has consulting experience in the US and over 20 countries. Past clients include USAID, the World Bank, the State Department, the Harvard School of International Public Health, the Government of Hungary, as well as corporations and investors. He has experience in financial and data analysis, systems design, operations, and management.
Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
In addition to grappling with a persistent pay gap, working women also have to deal with extreme difficulty ascending to powerful corporate positions, according to a report by the research organization Catalyst. As Bryce Covert explained at The Nation:
Women held just over 14 percent of executive officer positions at Fortune 500 companies this year and 16.6 percent of board seats at the same. Adding insult to injury, an even smaller percent of those female executive officers are counted among the highest earners—less than 8 percent of the top earner positions were held by women. Meanwhile, a full quarter of these companies simply had no women executive officers at all and one-tenth had no women directors on their boards. [...]
Did this year represent a step forward? Not even close. Women’s share of these positions went up by a mere half of a percentage point or less last year. Even worse, 2012 was the seventh consecutive year in which we haven’t seen any growth in board seats and the third year of stagnation in the C-suite.
Overall, more than one-third of companies have no women on their board of directors. But economic evidence shows that keeping women out of the board room is a mistake. According to work by the Credit Suisse Research Institute, “companies with at least one woman on the board would have outperformed in terms of share price performance, those with no women on the board over the course of the past six years.”
This post was originally posted on Think Progress on December 11, 2012. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Pat Garofalo is the Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Pat’s work has also appeared in The Nation, U.S. News & World Report, The Guardian, the Washington Examiner, and In These Times. He has been a guest on MSNBC and Al-Jazeera television, as well as many radio shows. Pat graduated from Brandeis University, where he was the editor-in-chief of The Brandeis Hoot, Brandeis’ community newspaper, and worked for the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life.
Saturday, December 1st, 2012
We all grew up watching the teacher’s pet get the most attention. In the workplace we see people compete to warm up to the boss at an Olympic level. Favoritism in the office not only impacts our sense of fairness, it creates inequality in responsibility. Worse, it can breed resentment and lead to serious consequences. What should an employee do when someone else seems to be the favorite?
To understand the best way to handle this kind of situation, we need to gain some perspective on the culture of work. An office, a school, or other facility is filled with social relationships, but these connections are not the reason the place exists. The primary purpose of a business or a non-profit is to advance the mission of the organization. Although we do want people to get along, we don’t want our workplace relationships to become so overwhelming that derail the company.
While this may sound obvious, it’s completely unlike the rest of our lives. We pick our friends and partners based on mutual interests and compatibilities. We choose our neighborhoods and our preferred form of entertainment based on our own culture and experience. If you meet a group of friends at a party, you are all there because you like each other. But if you join a group of colleagues at work, you are not necessarily friends. You are not a “family.” You are a team whose members have been carefully selected to have the right skills and the right attitude to make the organization a success.
Why Favoritism Happens
It might seem like having close relationships at the office is inescapable. In fact, the Gallup organization includes a question about having a “best friend at work” as one of their key factors for predicting highly productive workgroups. We are social creatures, and we like to make connections. Part of having friendships in our personal lives is helping people, doing favors, and listening when the need our support. These are all positive aspects of healthy relationships.
However, friendships formed at the workplace can spill over into workplace responsibilities. We start to cover for people who are struggling, or we expect special treatment in the office in exchange for the personal relationship we have at home. This problem becomes even more challenging when the relationship is between a boss and an employee. This is when favoritism is most pronounced and most frustrating to other people.
Institutional Protocols and Practical Advice
If you have the authority to help define procedures for work, you can help to limit favoritism. Some companies have standing rules against relationships between supervisors and subordinates. Others try to standardize work items so that it’s clear everyone is contributing appropriately. Other organizations simply rotate employees to different departments on a regular basis, which helps to foster new ideas as well as limit favoritism.
However, if you’re just the unwitting victim of favoritism, these suggestions don’t offer much help. What do you do if a fellow coworker is the one who is getting all the attention and none of the responsibility? How do you deal with the lack of workplace fairness in this all-too-common situation?
First: resist the urge to gossip about the problem. Telling others that you are frustrated will only make the existing relationships more tense and create more challenges. Likewise, don’t approach either the employee or the manager involved in the unfair exchange. These conversations will only make you appear ungrateful and distracted.
Second: restructure your work to be more transparent. If others know what you are working on, they will want to do the same. A great technique is to list your current projects and accomplishments on a whiteboard, or to keep a log in a public places of your success.
Third: change more of your workplace conversations to be about work. If you treat every workplace conversation as one about the tasks that are being done and the challenges ahead, you’ll limit problems with workplace fairness. For example, when the office favorite tries to engage you in a long conversation about their personal life, politely excuse yourself by stating the projects you need pursue back at your desk.
Favoritism at the office can degrade morale and motivation. When other people get special, unfair treatment, overall productivity drops. Eventually, the best decision for any reasonable employee is to find work elsewhere. Push back against favoritism by focusing on what matters most at work: the work itself.
About the Author: Robby Slaughter is a business consultant with AccelaWork. He focuses on helping to improve employee engagement and productivity.
Tuesday, June 12th, 2012
For some high school graduates looking to get some more education and increase their income, or for people with college degrees looking to retrain into a new field, a certificate can be a good alternative to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. But like just about everything else, certificates pay off less for women than for men:
Men who earn certificates earn 27 percent more than high school educated men. Women with a certificate, by comparison, only receive an average 16 percent increase in earnings over women with a high school diploma.
Some of that difference is because men are more likely to get certificates in higher-paying fields, such as construction, while women are more likely to get certificates in lower-paying fields, such as cosmetology. But that doesn’t explain the entire gap:
A male with a certificate in computer and information service can earn about $72,000 per year—more than 72 percent of his peers with an associate’s degree and more than 54 percent of male bachelor’s degree holders.
Notice we said “male.” Thanks to gender inequity, just as a man with a bachelor’s degree can out-earn a woman with a master’s degree, women don’t benefit from certificates as much as the guys do. A woman working in that same field only earns about $57,000.
That’s just one of the ways that the value of getting a certificate is variable: fewer than half of certificate-holders work in a field related to their training, and those working in other fields see just a 1 percent increase in median pay relative to high school graduates. But those who do work in the field they’ve trained in earn only slightly less than the median worker with an associate’s degree. Impact varies by race, as well, with Latinos getting the biggest earnings boost from a certificate over a high school diploma, while African Americans benefit the least from certificates. White certificate holders get much less of a boost than Latinos—but because white high school graduates earn more than Latinos, white certificate holders don’t need a big increase to keep out-earning Latinos.
The picture on certificates is mixed: Some certificates in some fields can mean real pay increases for some people. The picture on gender inequity remains clear: In any level of education, in just about any field, women are left behind.
This blog originally appeared in Daily Kos Labor on June 12, 2012. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos. She has a PhD in sociology from Princeton University and has taught at Dartmouth College. From 2008 to 2011, she was senior writer at Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.
Wednesday, April 13th, 2011
Yesterday, equal rights advocates marked Equal Pay Day to remind the nation that women are paid just 80 cents for every dollar men earn, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) introduced the Fair Pay Act of 2011 that would ensure that employers provide equal pay for jobs that are equivalent in skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions.
Harkin says that discrimination accounts for much of the pay gap and there are too many loopholes and barriers to effective enforcement of existing laws. “We need to strengthen penalties and give women the tools they need to confront discrimination.”
At the same time, we must recognize that the problem of unequal pay goes beyond insidious discrimination. As a nation, we unjustly devalue jobs traditionally performed by women, even when they require comparable skills to jobs traditionally performed by men.
Millions of jobs dominated by women such as social workers, teachers, child care workers and nurses are equivalent in skills, effort, responsibility and working conditions to similar jobs dominated by men says Harkin:
But the female-dominated jobs pay significantly less. This is inexplicable. Why is a housekeeper worth less than a janitor? Why is a parking meter reader worth less than an electrical meter reader? Why is a social worker worth less than a probation officer?
Commentator Debbie Hines writes on OpEdNews.com today:
Women’s salaries are outpaced by men almost everywhere from the highest paying occupation to the lowest paying occupations. Everywhere from doctors and lawyers to cashiers and lesser positions, women earn less than their male counterparts.
The Fair Pay Act would also require employers to publicly disclose their job categories and their pay scales, without requiring specific information on individual workers. Under current law women who believe they are the victim of pay discrimination must file a lawsuit and endure a drawn-out legal discovery process to find out whether they make less than the man working beside them.
It took Lilly Ledbetter nearly 20 years before she discovered she was being paid less than men doing the same job and was able to file suit. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against her in 2007, Congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that helps level the playing field for victims of wage discrimination that President Obama signed in 2009. Says Harkin:
On this Equal Pay Day, let us make sure that what happened to Lilly never happens again by recommitting to eliminate discrimination in the workplace and make equal pay for equal work a reality
Click here for more information on the Fair Pay Act.
About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and has written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety. When his collar was still blue, he carried union cards from the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, American Flint Glass Workers and Teamsters for jobs in a chemical plant, a mining equipment manufacturing plant and a warehouse. He has also worked as roadie for a small-time country-rock band, sold his blood plasma and played an occasional game of poker to help pay the rent.
This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO on April 12, 2011. Reprinted with Permission.
Tuesday, March 29th, 2011
Hundreds of people will show their support outside the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday, when the High Court hears oral arguments in what could become the largest class-action civil rights suit in U.S. history.
The Stand with the Women of Wal-Mart rally will take place as the nation’s highest court hears arguments on Wal-Mart v. Dukes to decide whether the case can move forward as a class action.
Ten years ago, a group of women who worked at Wal-Mart stores, led by Betty Dukes, filed a lawsuit alleging the corporation engaged in company-wide gender discrimination by paying women less than men, promoting fewer women to management positions and promoting male employees more quickly. The case, now a class action, has made its way to the Supreme Court.
Wal-Mart is challenging the decision by a lower court to allow the women employed at Wal-Mart stores across the country to join together in a class action lawsuit to challenge pay and promotion practices that discriminate against women.
If Wal-Mart succeeds in keeping these women from joining together, the already uphill battle for women to fight pay discrimination will get even worse. But If the women prevail, their case will become the largest class-action civil rights suit in the nation’s history, with some 1.6 million female Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club employees.
A coalition of women’s, workers’ and religious groups are sponsoring the rally, including the AFL-CIO constituency group, the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW).
In a statement, the American Association of University Women (AAUW), another rally sponsor, says class action can send a strong message to employers to follow the law in the first place. Lisa Maatz, AAUW’s director of public policy and government relations, says:
This case illuminates the dirty little secret that women know all too well — that pay discrimination is alive and well and undermining the economic security of American families.
About the Author: James Parks’ first encounter with unions was at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He saw firsthand how companies pull out all the stops to prevent workers from forming a union. He is a journalist by trade, and has worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. He also has been a seminary student, drug counselor, community organizer, event planner, adjunct college professor and county bureaucrat. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections.
This blog originally appeared in ALFCIO on March 28, 2011. Reprinted with Permission.
Monday, February 28th, 2011
Employees will march into Reliable Staffing office to demand billing records, highlight mistreatment
When Reginald Burnett started working in a warehouse unloading trucks of goods destined for Wal-Mart, he said he was told he’d make at least $10 an hour. But he soon realized that figure hinged on unloading a truck in three hours. Depending on how many things are in a truck and how heavy and unwieldy they are, unloading a truck can take two days.
Burnett, 32, soon found himself working 12-hour days, seven days a week, and taking home only $90-100 a day – less than $9 an hour, not counting copious overtime to which he should have been entitled under the law. He said he wasn’t the only one who realized his Friday paycheck from the agency Reliable Staffing “didn’t add up.”
Burnett is among workers who think they are victims of wage theft by the New Lenox, Ill., staffing agency. Reliable Staffing workers have contacted the group Warehouse Workers for Justice, which is trying to shed light on alleged wage and hour violations, unhealthy working conditions, extensive use of temporary labor and other unsettling aspects of the massive warehouse industry in Chicago’s southwest suburbs.
Today Burnett and other former or current Reliable Staffing workers and their supporters are marching into the company demanding copies of their pay stubs and billing records, to highlight what many workers say is erratic, deceptive or non-existent recordkeeping and transparency by the agencies that hire workers to staff warehouses for major multinational companies like Wal-Mart.
“It was everything that goes to Wal-Mart, from BBQ grills to tables to different types of book folders,” said Burnett. “A lot of it was heavy.”
George Johnson is among the former Reliable Staffing workers who never got straight answers about how much he was being paid. He said he was promised $9.25 an hour, but he said he sometimes got as little as $15 for a full eight-hour day during his three months at the company, paid piecemeal for unloading trucks, splitting pay with one or two other workers unloading the same truck. He said he was also told to report to the warehouse at 7 a.m., but wouldn’t start working until 8:30 a.m. or 9 a.m., without being paid for the waiting time.
“It was all screwed up,” said Johnson, 41, who struggled to support eight kids on the meager wages. “You spent all these hours working, unloading these big trucks, one after another after another. For nothing.”
Warehouse Workers for Justice, a campaign launched several years ago by the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), last year released the study Bad Jobs in Good Movement: Warehouse Work in Will County that showed:
63 percent of warehouse workers were temps and that majority were earning below the poverty line…and one in four warehouse workers needed public assistance and many workers needed a second job in order to make ends meet.
Both Johnson and Burnett were temporary workers, and Johnson since then worked another temporary warehouse job. Burnett has been collecting unemployment since being laid off after about seven months, when his contract ended.
“When they want that order, they’ll say ‘that truck is hot,’” he said. “There are people waiting on the order, they need to complete it right away to get their money, so they make you work harder. But they don’t share the money with you. They are making big money, I kid you not.”
Warehouse Workers for Justice organizers have been meeting with Illinois state legislators to introduce legislation that would limit the number of temporary jobs in the industry, among other workers’ rights protections.
“People deserve permanent jobs,” said Tory Moore, a WWJ organizer who worked at the same warehouse for six years as a temp.
Burnett said he hopes more workers speak up about wage theft and other problems. He said many of the people working for Reliable Staffing have criminal records, something he thinks the company banked on.
“The job is so God-damned hard, most people they hire have felonies, they know most people won’t hire someone with a felony, so they know he’ll put up with it because he’ll have a hard time doing anything else,” Burnett said.
They are trying to prove to society that they’re capable of handling this kind of thing. Making their own money feels good, especially someone who came from the street, who never had anything in their lifetime. Now they don’t have to look over their shoulder, over their back, look out for the police.
They’re going to hold on to that job as long as they can. The people know they’re being cheated, but they don’t want to speak up because if you speak up, you lose your job.
About the Author: Kari Lydersen is an In These Times contributing editor, is a Chicago-based journalist whose works has appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Reader and The Progressive, among other publications. Her most recent book is Revolt on Goose Island. In 2011, she was awarded a Studs Terkel Community Media Award for her work. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This post originally appeared in http://www.inthesetimes.com on February 21, 2011.