Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘Working Life’

This week in the war on workers: Chicago teachers protest planned cuts and layoffs

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

Chicago schools and teachers are once again under serious attack from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, and once again, the Chicago Teachers Union is showing that it is a powerful force. Thousands of teachers and supporters rallied Thursday, with 16 people arrested, protesting massive proposed cuts and layoffs:

Officials with Chicago Public Schools said Tuesday they’re ready to cut $100 million from school budgets and force teachers to pay more pension costs after their union rejected the latest contract offer, ratcheting up the tone of contentious negotiations that have lasted over a year. […]

The latest flare-up followed an offer a CTU bargaining team rejected Monday, after both sides had deemed it “serious.” The proposal included pay raises and job security, but union officials said it didn’t address school conditions or a lack of services.

The teachers have authorized a strike, though that wouldn’t happen until spring if it happens at all.

? Weeks after the West Virginia Senate passed an anti-union bill, the state House followed suit. A PPP poll conducted for the state AFL-CIO found high support for unions and opposition to laws weakening them.

? A union has filed a National Labor Relations Board petition to represent New York Uber drivers.

? Speaking of which, New York Uber drivers are pissed, with good reason.

A crowd of 600 drivers gathered outside the Uber office in Long Island City, Queens, to protest a 15 percent reduction in fares last month, which also means 15 percent lower wages. That pay cut is on top of Uber’s 20 percent slashing of fares in 2014. All things being equal, drivers who began less than two years ago have seen their pay tumble a whopping 35 percent.

Actually, it’s not just New York.

Last September, Dallas-area drivers for UberBlack, the company’s high-end car service, received an email informing them that they would be expected to start picking up passengers on UberX, its low-cost option.

The next day, when the policy was scheduled to go into effect, dozens of drivers caravaned to Uber’s office in downtown Dallas and planted themselves outside until company officials met with them.

? Indiana repealed prevailing wage protections to let them lower wages on public construction projects … and costs have gone up since then.

Not your typical Alabama labor story:

The state’s largest employer – the University of Alabama at Birmingham and UAB Medicine – plans to raise employees’ minimum wage to $11 an hour beginning in March.

UAB employs more than 23,000 faculty and staff. The institution currently pays $8.24 an hour, about a dollar higher than the federally mandated minimum wage.

? For union members: seven steps to opening up bargaining.

?

This blog originally appeared in dailykos.com on February 6, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

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

Employee Free Choice supporters blast Rite Aid with new report on company's union busting at West Coast warehouse

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Supporters urging passage of the Employee Free Choice Act took to the streets on Monday, August 10 to back warehouse workers at Rite Aid’s massive distribution center in Lancaster, California. They released a new Jobs with Justice report about how management there has aggressively interfered in workers’ freedom to form a union.

The 12-page report: “Rite Aid, Oliver J. Bell & Associates, and the Case for the Employee Free Choice Act” documents how management employed union busters and violated labor laws. Last year, the National Labor Relations Board was prepared to charge Rite Aid with 49 unfair labor practice charges before the cases were settled out of court.

“Union avoidance consultants, such as those engaged by Rite Aid, have contributed significantly to the subversion of the National Labor Relations Act,” said John Logan from the Institute for Research on Labor & Employment at the University of California at Berkeley whose research has focused on workers’ rights. “Using every weapon at their disposal, they encourage employers to fight to the death efforts by employees to form unions.”

The actions were led by local Jobs with Justice coalitions in Boston, Bangor, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Montpelier, Portland, OR and Richmond, VA. AFL-CIO organizer Rand Wilson and two community activists infiltrated a major pharmaceutical industry conference at the Boston Convention Center where a Rite Aid manager was speaking. As soon as he was done, they stood up and blasted Rite Aid’s union busting while distributing copies of the report to the pharmacy convention delegates. The report was also released in six other cities. At some locations, other Rite Aid workers’ unions — 1199 SEIU, UFCW and the Teamsters — joined the support actions.

Despite the company’s attacks, a majority the of the workers voted to join the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 26 in March 2008. But more than a year later, Rite Aid management is still refusing to negotiate a first contract that would improve wages and working conditions for employees.

“Rite Aid’s intense and longstanding interference in the workers efforts to form a union — in which professional union busters have played a major role — and its failure to bargain in good faith with employees are seen as prime examples of why efforts to pass the Employee Free Choice Act are so important,” said Veronica Turner, Vice President for Health Systems at 1199 SEIU in Boston.

“If Employee Free Choice were the law of the land, the workers at the Rite Aid distribution center would have settled their contract by now. Access to mediation and arbitration on first contracts would prevent companies like Rite Aid from dragging their feet in negotiations to frustrate workers and defeat efforts to improve working conditions,” said Mark Govoni, Vice President of UFCW Local 1445 in Boston.

After the press conference, activists announced they would leaflet five Rite Aid stores in the Boston metropolitan area to inform customers about the company’s aggressive interference in workers’ rights and the need for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act to help prevent union busting.

About the Author Rand Wilson: was a Teamster communications staffer who helped coordinate the 1996-97 contract campaign and strike at UPS. He can be reached at rand@mindspring.com. 

This article originally appeared on Working Life on August 11, 2009 and is reprinted here with permission from the source.

The Minimum Wage--And Why the Recovery is Not Coming

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Today, the minimum wage rises to $7.25 an hour. We should all be glad that millions of people are going to get a bit more money in their pockets. But, this hike masks a very grim fact: the “recovery” is not going to happen anytime soon, if the measure we use for “recovery” is that working Americans are going to find meaningful, full-time, decently-paid employment.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the scandal of the minimum wage–a level of income that at the grand sum of the new $7.25 per hour, if you worked every single week, every day, you would earn $14,645 a year–with likely no health care, no retirement, no vacation days, no sick days. By comparison, the federal POVERTY LEVEL for a family of three is $17,600–a number that is outdated because it doesn’t take into account the real cost of living. But, even that number is higher than what a person would earn at the new minimum wage.

So, the truth is that by feeling good about the new minimum wage, we are quietly accepting the fact that millions of people will continue to work as slaves–laboring at sub-standard wages. In New York State, the minimum wage hike will do very little for workers because the state minimum wage is already $7.15 and, as the Fiscal Policy Institute points out,”New York’s minimum wage will still be more than 21 percent below its peak value in 1970, which was $9.23 in today’s dollars. The 10 cents an hour increase for New York’s minimum wage workers amounts to only a 1.4 percent raise, well below the 4 percent general rate of inflation since January 2007 and even further below the nearly 7 percent inflation rise in the New York City metropolitan area.”

Remember that fact and, then, take into account what we now face in America: an effective unemployment and underemployment rate of more than 16 percent.

Yes, 16 percent. Not the 9.5 percent that the we mostly hear about. The typical number the media reports–the Labor Department’s U-3 rate–excludes people who have given up looking for work and people who only have part-time work because they can’t find full-time work (part-time workers are counted as “employed” even if they only work ONE HOUR A WEEK).

And, thanks to the glories of the “flexible” free-market, the economy we now live in has forced more people into part-time work–because that allows companies to hire and fire people without having to assume all those annoying things like health care and pensions for the workers.

16 percent of our fellow citizens do not have full-time, decent paying work. And that does not count those people working full-time for the minimum wage–who end up in poverty.

This is a national crisis and a national scandal. It is what I call The Audacity of Greed (and, in a quick shameless bit of promotion, the title of my new book just about out–feel free to join the Facebook Fan page)

So, when we hear the discussions about “recovery”, my reaction is this: until we know that we have returned to the concept of FULL EMPLOYMENT in the country (which no one seems to talk about) and until we begin to see people working for above-poverty level wages and until people can join unions in large numbers so they can have some power in the marketplace (not just to raise wages and benefits but to have dignity and respect on the job), there will be no recovery.

Why are we not marching, by the millions, to protest what is effectively the robbing of working Americans?

Jonathan Tasini: Jonathan Tasini is the executive director of Labor Research Association. Tasini ran for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in New York. For the past 25 years, Jonathan has been a union leader and organizer, a social activist, and a commentator and writer on work, labor and the economy. From 1990 to April 2003, he served as president of the National Writers Union (United Auto Workers Local 1981).He was the lead plaintiff in Tasini vs. The New York Times, the landmark electronic rights case that took on the corporate media’s assault on the rights of thousands of freelance authors.

This article originally appeared on Working Life on July 24, 2009 and is reprinted here with permission from the author.

An American Scandal: The Minimum Wage

Friday, July 10th, 2009

The minimum wage is a scandal. It masks poverty. It must be dramatically raised.

On July 24th, the minimum wage will rise to $7.25 an hour. I applaud people who worked hard to pass the three-step hike. The new level will put some extra money in the pockets of millions of Americans and, modestly, bump up wages that hover above the minimum wage because some employers will want to keep workers they value.

But let’s be honest: the minimum wage is an American scandal. It is a wage that makes us think that we have set a reasonable floor for wages so employers do not exploit people.

But, the minimum wage IS a poverty-level wage. At the grand sum of the new $7.25 per hour, if you worked every single week, every day, you would earn $14,645 a year–with likely no health care, no retirement, no vacation days, no sick days. By comparison, the federal POVERTY LEVEL for a family of three is $17,600–a number that is outdated because it doesn’t take into account the real cost of living. But, even that number is higher than what a person would earn at the new minimum wage.

That is a scandal.

The minimum wage should be raised to $10 an hour, to be followed by additional hikes in the minimum wage so that it begins to reflect both the real cost of living and the incredible productivity of American workers that has not been reflected in their wages over the past 30 years. This is a proposal advocated by a variety of organizations, including Let Justice Roll.

Yesterday, I debated the minimum wage issue on CNBC:

What is startling to me, both from this recent debate and other discussions on the topic, is the continued lies that are spread about who “benefits” from the minimum wage and what truly contributes to a healthy economy.

Here are some facts (drawn from various sources, including the Economic Policy Institute):

Almost 10 percent of the workforce is affected by the minimum wage, either directly or indirectly (“indirectly” means that a rising minimum wage often increases wage levels just above the new minimum wage).

It isn’t true that the minimum wage is just a “starting wage” that people move out of, or that it is a wage just for teenagers working summer jobs or some other false argument. Four out of five minimum-wage workers are adults, and almost 3 in five of those are women. More than half work full-time. A quarter of minimum-wage workers have kids under the age of 18 and 1.2 million are single parents.

It also simply false to say rises in the minimum wage have a large, negative effect on jobs–meaning, that companies have to cut jobs because of the increased cost of a higher minimum wage. There is a logic here, as EPI points out:

“New economic models that look specifically at low-wage labor markets help explain why there is little evidence of job loss associated with minimum wage increases. These models recognize that

employers may be able to absorb some of the costs of a wage increase through higher productivity, lower recruiting and training costs, decreased absenteeism, and increased worker morale.”

But, we should only be defending the minimum wage, in my opinion, as a concept–not praising the level that it stands at. It must be far higher.

So, what is going on here?

The truth is that the scandal of the minimum wage is part of the larger picture of a decades-long robbery of the American worker. The economy that we live in thrives on the backs of people who work for poverty-level wages.

I’ve made this point before: productivity has skyrocketed over the past 30 years but wages have remained essentially flat. Some of that productivity did come from technology advances. But, most of it came because workers labored harder than ever, partly out of fear of losing a job in an economy that has forced people to pile up debt and rely on credit cards to survive.

The astounding wealth hoarded by CEOs and the top one-tenth of one percent of Americans was built up on the backs of hard labor and poverty-level wages. We do not have the slave-labor conditions seen in some other countries around the world. But, without question, the wealth of the country has been created by millions and funneled to a few.

Had the minimum wage tracked productivity over that period of time, the minimum wage should be $19 an hour.

I have also argued that the minimum wage scandal is far more important than the Bernie Madoff-type scandals. My friends, we got into the financial crisis we are in precisely because of the theft of wages of the American worker. Oh, how the free marketeers rejoiced at the decline of unions and the orgy of deregulation. But, as political leaders of both parties stood silent and were swamped by campaign cash from Wall Street and corporate interests, workers’ wages were pummeled.

And, then, what was left? An economy where people had to finance their lives through credit cards and, then, home equity–all illusions of wealth that are now gone.

So, now what? How do people like the CNBC talking heads and our political leaders, who still do not recognize wage collapse as the number one reason for our economic debacle, envision us reviving a decent standard of living for millions of people?

I say that one step is clear: a $10-an-hour minimum wage in 2010 as a small down-payment and a first step towards pushing wages back to a moral level.

Jonathan Tasini: Jonathan Tasini is the executive director of Labor Research Association. Tasini ran for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in New York. For the past 25 years, Jonathan has been a union leader and organizer, a social activist, and a commentator and writer on work, labor and the economy. From 1990 to April 2003, he served as president of the National Writers Union (United Auto Workers Local 1981).He was the lead plaintiff in Tasini vs. The New York Times, the landmark electronic rights case that took on the corporate media’s assault on the rights of thousands of freelance authors.

This article was originally posted on Working Life on July 7, 2009 and is reprinted here with permission from the author.

Your Rights Job Survival The Issues Features Resources About This Blog