Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘worker’s rights’

After Contract Talks Break Down, Nearly 40,000 Verizon Workers Set To Strike Tomorrow

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

Leaders of the unions representing nearly 40,000 Verizon telecommunications workers in big cities and small towns from Maine to Virginia announced today that their members would be going on strike at 6 a.m. Wednesday without “a major change in direction” in contract talks now underway, according to Communications Workers of America (CWA) president Chris Shelton.

The unions—CWA and IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers)—are fighting to keep high-quality working class jobs in the United States.

Jobs in the two major categories of work pay relatively well—about $60,000 a year for call center workers and about $85,000 to $90,000 a year for technicians who install and service the telecom network, according to Bob Master, assistant to the CWA New York area vice-president Dennis Trainor.

Verizon is flush financially. It earned $18 billion in profits last year and about $1.8 billion a month so far this year. Last year it spent about $13 billion in buying back its stock, a dubious strategy to enrich stockholders. Now it is trying to buy Yahoo!, a long-shot target for a $35 billion speculative bet.

With the salaries that their union contract provides and the skills they learn, Verizon workers can provide their communities and families stable and supportive leadership. It will be harder to play that role with the lower wages, lesser benefits and less stable work routines that Verizon’s proposals would provide.

For example, Dan Hilton, a cable splicer from Roanoake, Va., who has been with Verizon for 20 years, often is sent out to provide cable service for an entire community or to restore service after disasters. The company has become addicted to such flexibility, but it means that its employees can not be at home when their family needs them.

“My wife had back surgery last year and needed my help, and I want to enjoy time with my grandkids,” he says. “We want to do a good job, go home and spend time with our spouses. … We’re just ordinary working people, doing our job, hoping for our company to succeed. That’s what life’s all about.”

But his job—and the company’s success—also involves serving people like himself in his community. He wants Verizon to expand FiOS, the company’s bundled Internet access, telephone and television service, in his home area, something he is not available to do when he is dispatched far away for long times. But he and CWA vice-president Ed Mooney see the company’s failure to build out fiber optic networks or to explain why they are adopting such a policy as representing Verizon’s disinterest in caring for needs of long-term customers.

Workers like Hilton and union leaders think that Verizon is narrowly focused on profit maximization, not the long-term well being of the company, the community or its employees. In the current negotiations over a contract that expired last June, Verizon wants lower health care costs regardless of the consequences. For their part, union negotiators have offered some changes to save some money, such as encouraging more use of preferred providers. But the unions are resisting pension cutbacks that Verizon demands.

The telecom industry has undergone decades of tumultuous change. Now even Verizon, a traditional land line telephone service provider, is ditching as much as it can of the land line business as possible and emphasizing cell phone service. It is no coincidence that Verizon has also been most intensively fighting recognition of unions in its cell phone operations.

“Our major issues involve contracting out of work,” says Trainor. That practice accounts for much of the 40 percent loss of jobs over the past decade, according to Master. The technicians, for example, not only feel pressure to work away from home for long periods but also the threat that if they do not, Verizon will turn to non-union subcontractors to do their work. On the other hand, call centers workers face the prospect of Verizon closing more of their centers and moving the work to Mexico or the Philippines.

Telephone strikes can be tough battles, with managers trying to handle much of the immediate service and repair work in central facilities as they can. But Verizon workers have some experience preparing for strikes and for ways to make their case to customers that the workers and the union are on their side, even more than Verizon itself.

This blog originally appeared in inthesetimes.com on April 12, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

David Moberg, a senior editor of In These Times, has been on the staff of the magazine since it began publishing in 1976. Before joining In These Times, he completed his work for a Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Chicago and worked for Newsweek. He has received fellowships from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Nation Institute for research on the new global economy. He can be reached at davidmoberg@inthesetimes.com

T-Mobile’s Dirty Secrets Exposed: Unfair Firings, Deceiving Customers and More

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

dougfoote

Last week, award-winning labor and business reporter Steven Greenhousepublished a comprehensive article on T-Mobile’s disgraceful labor and consumer practices.

T-Mobile is currently the golden child of the telecom industry, with a media-friendly CEO and high profits. But, as Greenhouse writes, the company faces allegations of the law in nearly every part of its operation:

On top of all of this, T-Mobile continues to be one of the most aggressively anti-union companies in the industry.

Joshua Coleman was one of the top performers at the T-Mobile call center in Wichita, Kansas—the company even awarded him a free vacation to Puerto Rico. But when they discovered Coleman was a union supporter, they not only canceled his vacation, but fired him. When the NLRB dinged them for unlawful dismissal, T-Mobile settled for $40,000 without admitting wrongdoing.

And if workers at any company need a union, it’s T-Mobile. In contrast to the company’s laid-back, “un-carrier” image, employees in T-Mobile call centers are subject to high-stakes metrics that take into account everything from number of seconds on a call to when they go to the bathroom. Severe anxiety and panic attacks are common.

Greenhouse interviewed former customer service rep Julia Crouse, who reported vomiting from stress before work and that her manager “often ordered employees who had the worst sales numbers or longest average call times to wear a dunce cap.”

Help might soon be on the way. The organization T-Mobile Workers United has brought together employees from all over the country to support each other and push to change T-Mobile’s policies. This week,TU became an organizing local with the Communications Workers of America (CWA), with none other than fired worker Joshua Coleman as one of its leaders.

This article originally appeared on aflcio.org on March 10, 2016.  Reprinted with permission

Doug Foote is the Social Media and Campaign Specialist at Working America. He joined Working America in 2011 after serving as New Media Director for the successful 2010 reelection campaign of Senator Patty Murray (D-WA).

Organizing Institute Apprentices Gear Up with Autoworkers to Ask for a Little Respect

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

FullSizeRenderOrganizing Institute apprentices have hit the ground running to help autoworkers build a union at the Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi—a fight that has been brewing over the past decade. This is the largest class of OI apprentices to be part of any one campaign. It’s important because this is a historic campaign to show that union organizing is a civil right and to show that #BlackLivesMatter.

It’s not always about wages. That’s what OI apprentices found out fast when talking to autoworkers about what troubles they face in the workplace. Though autoworkers in the South are paid meager wages compared to their counterparts in other regions and sometimes other countries, what workers really want in Canton is respect on the job.

The autoworkers at Nissan told OI apprentice Keith Crawford that they feel like they are treated like animals on the job. Hearing their stories has been challenging, but Crawford is emphatic, “You need to commit to help people’s suffering.” Crawford is from Memphis, Tennessee, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. died after marching with sanitation workers on strike against deplorable labor conditions. Crawford is as aspirational about the campaign with autoworkers, hoping they make history by winning here.

LaQuinta Alexander is another social justice advocate and OI apprentice with roots in student activism. When Trayvon Martin’s controversial death and the acquittal of the man who killed him sparked a sit-in at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida, that garnered national attention—she was there with the most committed student activists of Dream Defenders for the full 30 days and nights. The experience emboldened her, though the measure failed to change the state’s stand-your-ground laws.

“I love it; I love my people. I love the new challenges and how every day is different. I love every bit of it.” Alexander learned to recognize the power of collective action to stir the national, and sometimes, global conscience, such as the beautiful solidarity between Brazil’s autoworkers for those in Canton. “Your story has meaning: it has power.”

She wanted to be a teacher, but Beatriz Guerrero found another calling after she says the Union Summer internship changed her life. She worked on the Community Labor Environment Action Network’s carwash campaign in Los Angeles, an eye-opening experience of the daily abuse workers face, “You hear about the worker who gets run over by a car, see that he looks like your father and then feel the injustice when he’s fired and treated as expendable.” She also remembers how her own father was fired for organizing in the 1980s, and it inspires her to work harder to make sure workers’ spirits aren’t crushed with the challenges confronting them.

Another former Union Summer intern and current apprentice, Alex Rodie, was born and raised in Indiana. He was deeply affected by the personal and professional accounts he heard about the power of unions. Rodie remembers his grandfather’s words about how he could not have supported a family without his union’s support. And like Guerrero, Rodie’s father also had tried to organize his workplace, and even more significantly to organize with the UAW.

OI apprentice Stacy Gray was a part of an exodus from the North in the elusive pursuit of a decent job. She learned about the union difference when Michigan became a right-to-work state. She knows what it’s like to scrap together a living as a bus driver, saving on child care costs by driving her own kids’ route. Now, Gray is committed to move working people to action. “I’ve always been a mini-revolution person, but as soon as it got too hot in the kitchen I found myself standing alone. This apprenticeship will teach me to develop the support system and bring people in.”

Workers at Nissan plants around the globe—in Brazil, South Africa and Japan—have a voice on the job, but while corporations have been getting millions of dollars in tax incentives to set up shop down South, too many see it as grounds for exploiting cheap labor. That’s why autoworkers in Canton want to be able to come together in a union to voice their concerns and to work collectively to make Nissan better. Let’s help build up the union movement and #OrganizeTheSouth!

Learn more about the Nissan campaign.

This year’s full cohort of OI-UAW apprentices:

  •  LaQuinta Alexander (Oviedo, Florida)
  • Ronald Allen (Atlanta)
  • Keith Crawford (Memphis, Tennessee)
  • Rannie Fore (Atlanta)
  • Stacy Gray (Atlanta)
  • Tori Griffin (Knoxville, Tennessee)
  • Beatriz Guerrero (Los Angeles)
  • Danielle Holmes (Jackson, Mississippi)
  • Jacklyn Izsraael (Atlanta)
  • Ojeda Jarrett (Atlanta)
  • Brandon Marlow (Atlanta)
  • Cory McIntosh (Atlanta)
  • Alexander Rodie (Terre Haute, Indiana)
  • Susan Tewolde (Fredericksburg, Virginia)

This blog originally appeared in aflcio.org on March 9, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Sonia Huq is the Organizing Field Communications Assistant at the AFL-CIO.  She grew up in a Bangladeshi-American family in Boca Raton, Florida where she first learned a model of service based on serving a connected immigrant cultural community. After graduating from the University of Florida, Sonia served in the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps and later worked for Manavi, the first South Asian women’s rights organization in the United States. She then earned her Master’s in Public Policy from the George Washington University and was awarded a Women’s Policy Inc. fellowship for women in public policy to work as a legislative fellow in the office of Representative Debbie Wasserman (FL-23). Sonia is passionate about working towards a more just society and hopes to highlight social justice issues and movements through her writing.

Trump Las Vegas hotel is not letting up on its fight against its own workers

Friday, February 26th, 2016

Workers at the Donald Trump co-owned Trump International Hotel Las Vegas voted to unionize. When hotel management challenged the union vote, the National Labor Relations Board rejected the challenge. But the Trump Organization fights on—to deny its workers their right to organize. The claim, of course, is that the big bad union intimidated the workers into voting to unionize:

“We will continue our fight to ensure a fair election for our valued associates, many of whom vigorously oppose union representation,” said Jill Martin, an attorney for The Trump Organization, in a statement to reporters. “The hearing officer’s recommendations erroneously disregarded the severe misconduct undertaken by Union agents, which clearly impacted an incredibly close election.” Trump management has until next week to formally challenge the NLRB recommendation, and then the Board’s regional chapter will determine whether or not to certify the union. Even if the local board backs the workers, Trump can further delay by appealing their ruling to the federal board in Washington, D.C.

That intimidation claim is what the NLRB’s local hearing officer already rejected. There is good reason, though, to believe that the vote was fraught with intimidation and retaliation … coming from management:

For some workers, like Donato, that wait is especially painful. After three years working at the hotel, Donato was suspended and then fired shortly after the union election, which he thinks was retaliation for his open support for the union. He is desperately hoping to win his job back as part of the bargaining process, and says he is mostly worried for his elderly mother and siblings in the Philippines, who depend on the money he sends them.

That wasn’t the first time the Trump hotel management went after a worker for exercising their legal right to organize. But even if all of management’s claims that the union harassed workers into voting yes are thrown out in the end, they can delay the final recognition of the union and delay a contract for months, at least, inflicting pain on the workers who’ve already risked so much to fight for a better workplace.

This blog originally appeared in dailykos.com on February 24, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Laura Clawson has been a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006 and Labor editor since 2011.

 

 

Paid sick leave coming to a fifth state: Vermont

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

Vermont is about to become the fifth state in the U.S. with a paid sick leave law. The state House, which had previously passed a sick leave bill, this week passed the state Senate’s version of the bill, described as “somewhat more business-friendly.” That usually means “somewhat less worker-friendly,” but it’s still a major advance:

The measure calls for employers to provide workers three paid sick days a year for the first two years that the law would be in effect and five thereafter.

It does not cover employees working fewer than 18 hours a week or 21 weeks a year.

The bill is headed to the desk of Gov. Peter Shumlin, who supports it. Vermont will join Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, and Oregon as states with paid sick leave laws. A number of other American cities and towns—many of them in New Jersey—have similar laws. And, of course, most other countries in the world have this basic, common-sense policy.

This blog originally appeared in dailykos.com on February 18, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Laura Clawson has been a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006 and Labor editor since 2011.

 

 

This week in the war on workers: More whining about Obama's plan to expand overtime

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

 

A bunch of congressional Republicans (and two Democrats who should be ashamed of themselves) are very upset that the Obama administration plans to expand overtime pay eligibility. The lawmakers have written a letter to Labor Secretary Tom Perez expressing concern about changes that aren’t even being made, but mostly about the fact that they don’t want people to get overtime pay:

What is in the rule, which the members of Congress who signed the letter don’t like, is a long overdue increase in the salary an employee must be paid if an employer wants to avoid paying overtime. The current rule sets that exemption threshold at $23,660 a year—below the poverty line for a family of four. The proposed rule, as the representatives note, “would raise the salary threshold and require employers to pay overtime for all employees who make $50,440 or less per year.” The signers don’t like that, but the reasons they give don’t hold water.

The letter says the increase in the threshold would suddenly make 5 million employees eligible for overtime pay. That’s true, and it’s a good thing. Making employers pay their employees extra when they work more than 40 hours in a week is the purpose of the Fair Labor Standards Act. It’s good for those employees and their families, whether they get paid more or are simply allowed to spend more time with their families. And because it applies to all employers equally, it will not create competitive burdens.

The representatives claim the proposed salary threshold somehow fails to take into account the fact that “the purchasing power of a dollar is drastically different in various parts of our country.” But the claim is ridiculous. The point of the salary threshold is that workers paid less than this amount—even if they are classified by their employers as managers or executives—are automatically entitled to overtime protections. Essentially, this threshold separates workers with genuine managerial and professional responsibility, who have substantial autonomy over their work schedule and have real bargaining clout with their employers, from those workers who are simply labeled “managers” (often by employers precisely looking to avoid the obligation to pay overtime) but who nevertheless can be compelled to work long hours.

A fair day’s wage

? Workers in Las Vegas’s Culinary Union were denied a permit to protest outside the Palace Station Hotel & Casino, so they were like “fine, we’ll commit nonviolent civil disobedience … “

? A Kentucky judge ruled against a county-level anti-union law.

Wage theft, sexual assault, and no sick leave: The horrible conditions facing poultry workers.

Education

? This is vile behavior to see from a teacher, let alone a teacher whose school has elevated her as a model for others. And before dismissing it as a one-time occurrence, consider that the video was recorded by an assistant teacher who was sick of watching that sort of thing. And that at Success Academy charter schools:

Jessica Reid Sliwerski, 34, worked at Success Academy Harlem 1 and Success Academy Harlem 2 from 2008 to 2011, first as a teacher and then as an assistant principal. She said that, starting in third grade, when children begin taking the state exams, embarrassing or belittling children for work seen as slipshod was a regular occurrence, and in some cases encouraged by network leaders.

A war on teachers in Virginia.

? John Kasich is riding high in the Republican presidential primary, at least temporarily, so let’s take a look at Kasich’s education record.

This blog originally appeared in dailykos.com on February 13, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Laura Clawson has been a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006 and Labor editor since 2011.

State of the Union: Don’t Let the TPP Sink Our Wages

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

CD speaking at UCSD FairTrade RallyThe president will give his final State of the Union address tonight. Traditionally, this annual speech reviews the accomplishments of years past and sets out a “to-do” list for the year ahead. Although the White House has indicated that this year’s speech will be “nontraditional,” it has made clear the economy will be a major focus.

I hope the president will talk about the importance of the proposed overtime rule, which could raise wages for some 15 million of America’s working people. I also hope he talks about how the auto manufacturing industry has soared back to life since the so-called bailout, which saved 1.5 million jobs in its first year alone.

While the economy isn’t perfect, and most of us are still feeling the pinch of student loans, too-smallpaychecks, threats to retirement security and not enough voice in our workplaces, there are a lot of successes the president can look back on with pride in his speech.

On the other hand, there is also a new trade and economic deal on the horizon—the Trans-Pacific Partnership—that could poke a hole in the progress our economy has made since the president came in to office in 2009.

The thing that’s dangerous about the TPP, and the reason we should worry about it shrinking our paychecks, is not the idea of trade. Trade is good—but we shouldn’t confuse “trade” with so-called “trade agreements,” which set down rules not just for “trade,” but for food safety, Wall Street regulations, prescription medicines and investor rights. These are the kind of rules that should be made in public, in democratic fashion, not in a secretly negotiated agreement that can’t be amended. The TPP’s corporate giveaways are dangerous.

Existing trade rules (including those in the North American Free Trade Agreement and the U.S.–Korea trade deal) already cost the average U.S. worker $1,800 a year, according to the Economic Policy Institute, and preliminary studies on the TPP by Center for Economic and Policy Research and Tufts indicate that we can expect that figure to get worse.

Working people are deeply disappointed that the opportunities to put workers’ interests first and eliminate corporate entitlements in the TPP were largely ignored.  And more importantly, working people are disappointed because we know that all of these things mean fewer good jobs in our communities and fewer opportunities for our children.

The TPP is the latest example of the failed U.S. approach to trade that started with NAFTA, which drives down wages and creates special rights for corporations.  The TPP could have been different, but instead it is a collection of minor tweaks designed to get congressional votes rather than ensure workers’ wages rise.

The AFL-CIO wants trade agreements that grow our economy, create good jobs in America and give working people in all countries the chance to succeed when they work hard. Instead, passage of the TPP will mean lost jobs and lower wages.

Compared to eight years ago, the U.S. economy is afloat and heading toward improvement. The TPP will undermine that progress and give us rocky sailing ahead. There is simply no good argument for trading away our right to control our economy in exchange for more corporate power.

I hope the TPP doesn’t come up at all in the State of the Union speech. We’d be better off without it. But if it does—let’s be clear about what it really means for America’s working families.

Let’s raise our voices against this corporate giveaway and make it clear the TPP must go down to defeat!

This blog appeared on aflico.org on January 12, 2016.  Reprinted with permission.

Celeste Drake is a Trade & Globalization Policy Specialist at AFL-CIO.  Her experience with the labor movement was as a UFCW member while bagging groceries during college.  She also served as the Legislative Director for Representative Linda Sanches (D-CA).

Joy to the Workers

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

Leo GerardThe spirit of the season is generosity. Eight toys for Hanukkah. A partridge in a pear tree and 11 other quirky presents. Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Giving Tuesday.

It’s the thought that counts. And the thought is good-hearted. That’s why the season works so well.

To keep it all rolling happily along, however, workers need to earn enough money so that they can afford gifts and charitable donations. With wages stagnant for decades, that’s increasingly difficult.

In keeping with the figgy-pudding and potato latke traditions of the holidays, here’s a recipe for delivering joy to workers so that they can spread holiday merriment:

Ingredients

1 measure outlawing scabs
1 measure banning lockouts
1 measure raising minimum wage to $15 an hour
Knead in trade law enforcement
Filter out currency manipulation
Top it all with campaign finance reform

Directions

Start by combining legislation forbidding both scabs and lockouts. These are two weapons corporations use to ratchet down wages, ruining workers’ holidays.

Right now, for example, Sherwin Alumina and ATI have locked out their loyal workers and replaced them with scabs. That’s thousands of workers forced to walk picket lines and depend on USW lockout assistance and food pantries for holiday meals rather than donating to them.

Prohibiting lockouts and scabs would slightly shift the balance of power toward workers. That’s completely justified considering corporate profits are at record levels while wages are walking backward, lower now than in 2007.

Next, add to the mix a raise to the minimum wage. No one who works full-time should live in poverty. The current $7.25 minimum, moribund for six years, is a Dickensian disgrace, a Bob Cratchit-level degradation.

Increasing the wages of workers at the bottom to $15 an hour will force up the pay of everyone else as well. All workers benefit. Happier holidays for all.

Trade law enforcement must be blended in next. Failure to immediately punish trade law violators has pummeled commodity producers – like aluminum and steel.  Mills are closed. Thousands of workers are laid off. No merry holiday for them. Or their communities.

Several foreign countries, but particularly China, illegally prop up their exporting manufacturers. Not only that, they’re also overproducing, flooding the world market and crashing prices.

Workers need laws enabling the government to impose punitive tariffs before American mills close and families suffer. In addition, the government must file and prosecute trade cases to defend American industry, not force labor unions and manufacturers to do it.

The next step in this recipe is pulling currency manipulation out of the international market. Ending this underhanded trade cheat is crucial

Countries including Japan and China deliberately devalue their currency in order to automatically discount the price of their exports, so every day is Black Friday for their international customers. Making matters worse, this scheme simultaneously marks up the cost of products that U.S. manufacturers try to sell in currency-manipulating countries.

This makes for very bad holidays in places like Ashland, Ky., where AK Steel shut down its blast furnace earlier this month and laid off hundreds of workers. They join about 4,000 Steelworkers at plants in Illinois and Alabama threatened with holiday layoffs.

The last ingredient, campaign finance reform, makes the whole recipe possible. Nothing will happen without it.

In a democracy, each citizen should have equal influence over lawmakers. The wealthy and fat-cat corporations shouldn’t get special access and treatment because they’ve given millions to candidates. The only way to stop that is to outlaw massive political bribes.

Gifts should be to loved ones and charities, not to politicians. If gargantuan campaign “presents” aren’t stopped, workers won’t be able to afford Christmas gifts because politicians will continue to ignore their needs and, as a result, their wages will continue to atrophy. Then the holiday season will not work well for anyone.

Workers need to make this holiday recipe happen. It would bring joy to their world.

About the Author: The author’s name is Leo Gerard. Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers (USW), took office in 2001 after the retirement of former president George Becker.

This blog was originally posted on Our Future on December 22, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

Why the Sharing Economy is Hurting the Economy - and What Must Be Done

Sunday, November 29th, 2015

Robert ReichIn this holiday season it’s especially appropriate to acknowledge how many Americans don’t have steady work.

The so-called “share economy” includes independent contractors, temporary workers, the self-employed, part-timers, freelancers, and free agents. Most file 1099s rather than W2s, for tax purposes.

It’s estimated that in five years over 40 percent of the American labor force will be in such uncertain work; in a decade, most of us.

Already two-thirds of American workers are living paycheck to paycheck.

This trend shifts all economic risks onto workers. A downturn in demand, or sudden change in consumer needs, or a personal injury or sickness, can make it impossible to pay the bills.

It eliminates labor protections such as the minimum wage, worker safety, family and medical leave, and overtime.

And it ends employer-financed insurance – Social Security, workers’ compensation, unemployment benefits, and employer-provided health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

No wonder, according to polls, almost a quarter of American workers worry they won’t be earning enough in the future. That’s up from 15 percent a decade ago.

Such uncertainty can be hard on families, too. Children of parents working unpredictable schedules or outside standard daytime working hours are likely to have lower cognitive skills and more behavioral problems, according to new research.

What to do?

Courts are overflowing with lawsuits over whether companies have misclassified “employees” as “independent contractors,” resulting in a profusion of criteria and definitions.

We should aim instead for simplicity: Whoever pays more than half of someone’s income, or provides more than half their working hours should be responsible for all the labor protections and insurance an employee is entitled to.

In addition, to restore some certainty to people’s lives, we need to move away from unemployment insurance and toward income insurance.

Say, for example, your monthly income dips more than 50 percent below the average monthly income you’ve received from all the jobs you’ve taken over the preceding five years. With income insurance, you’d automatically receive half the difference for up to a year.

It’s possible to have a flexible economy and also provide workers some minimal level of security.

A decent society requires no less.

This blog was posted at RobertReich.org at November 23, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Robert B. Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century.

Kohls Worker Details Her Insane Schedule Through Black Friday

Friday, November 27th, 2015

Bryce CovertConnie Miller isn’t really sure when she’s going to be able to get some sleep over the next three days.

She’ll be working at Kohl’s the day before Thanksgiving, on the holiday itself, and on Black Friday. Her shift on Wednesday ends at 12:30 a.m., and with her half-hour commute, she’ll be home by 1 a.m. Then she’ll have to wake up early so she can get an entire Thanksgiving meal for 15 family members cooked and ready to eat by the time they start to arrive at her house from all over the country at noon. She’ll leave that celebration at 5, arriving at work by 5:30 and working until just after midnight. Then she’ll have to be back at work on Black Friday by 6 in the morning for another eight-and-a-half hour shift. “They don’t even give you time to come home and actually go to sleep before you’re due back,” she said.

“It’s tough, it’s just really tough being open on Thanksgiving,” she added. “I just plan on doing a lot of Red Bull.”

The experience has cast a pallor over her holidays. She knows what it’s going to be like having done nearly the same thing last year. “You hate the holidays. It’s exhausting,” she said. “It’s not a fun time. It’s a time to be dreaded. Because I can’t be with my family.”

Kohl’s did not respond to a request for comment. But it’s not the only employer making its employees jump through hoops to be able to have a Thanksgiving dinner. Eleven brands will be open on the holiday this year, and employees at Kmart, for example, say they weren’t given the option to volunteer or sign up for shifts that fit their schedules and can even risk being fired if they call out for a scheduled holiday shift.

Miller wasn’t given any option to pick her holiday schedule. She says she and her coworkers have been told that they’re not allowed to ask for any time off during the week of Thanksgiving or the week of Christmas. She fears that if she were to call out on Thanksgiving Day, she would be all but dropped from future schedules, losing her income. She’s not sure she would do it anyway. “I’d kind of like to call off, we’d all like to call off. But all it’s going to is make the people I work with in jewelry, their night even harder,” she said. “They’re going to have to hustle even more because I’m not there.”

While she’s technically a part-time employee, she will be scheduled for far more than the typical 25-26 hours a week during these times. But it’s not like she’s given much heads up. She only found out her Thanksgiving schedule ten days ago — leaving little time to adjust holiday plans — and still doesn’t know when she’ll have to work during the Christmas season. “They disrespect us so incredibly by not even telling us the most basic thing,” she said. All without any promise of extra holiday pay.

She finds the whole ordeal particularly ironic at her store. It plays a promo on its overhead speakers telling shoppers that it values family, she said. “We’re working on Thanksgiving… If you valued family, we’d be at home.”

This blog originally appeared at ThinkProgress.org on November 25, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Bryce Covert is the Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress. She was previously editor of the Roosevelt Institute’s Next New Deal blog and a senior communications officer. She is also a contributor for The Nation and was previously a contributor for ForbesWoman. Her writing has appeared on The New York Times, The New York Daily News, The Nation, The Atlantic, The American Prospect, and others. She is also a board member of WAM!NYC, the New York Chapter of Women, Action & the Media.

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