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Labor Notes


A lot of interesting things under the radar right now:

1. It looks like Minnesota is going to have a right to work a person to death law on the ballot this fall. A right-wing legislator is introducing this bill. Republicans control both houses of the Minnesota legislature. If the bill can pass both houses, the governor cannot veto it, and it goes to the voters. It will join an anti-gay marriage measure, making Minnesota a hot bed of politics this cycle. Minnesota should have a bit enough progressive presence to fight this back, but the state also has odd politics and so who knows.

2. The new Revel Casino in Atlantic City has a very special employment policy: workers are hired for 4-6 year terms. Then they are fired and have to reapply. No seniority, no rights. The second Gilded Age advances another step. Revel received $261 million in tax credits to build this casino and are trying to bust the UNITE-HERE union that represents casino workers.

3. Great Mike Elk piece on the 13 year struggle of Brooklyn’s Cablevision workers to unionize with the Communication Workers of America. CWA used a complex media strategy to undermine Cablevision’s intense anti-union pressure placed upon workers. Winning by a nearly 3-1 margin, which is a blowout compared to usual numbers after companies seek to destroy the organizing campaign, this is a major win for CWA and the workers.

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  • c u n d gulag

    Why not just give up calling it “Labor Notes,” and just call it “Future Indentured Servant Notes.”

    Or, “Your Masters Voice.”

    How about, “Your Master’s Speak!”?

    Maybe, “Calling All Serf’s!”

    Serfin’ USA!!!

    • Serfin’ Turf

    • Hogan

      I’m partial to “Croppies Lie Down.”

      Oh, croppies ye’d better be quiet and still
      Ye shan’t have your liberty, do what ye will
      As long as salt water is formed in the deep
      A foot on the necks of the croppy we’ll keep
      And drink, as in bumpers past troubles we drown,
      A health to the lads that made croppies lie down

      Down, down, croppies lie down.

    • N W Barcus

      Speaking of indentured servants, here’s some news from China: Thousands Line Up For Foxconn’s Jobs in Zhengzhou (video). If the article is to be believed, new jobs at Foxconn are as desired as new iPhones, at least in terms of people lining up for them —

      Previously, we reported that Foxconn is working with the city of Zhengzhou to double the size of the workforce at its facility there, recruiting an additional 100,000 employees. Well, these people saw the job advertisement posted by the Zhengzhou government in the city which showed the salary at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou factory is 1650 yuan (US$261) for basic salary, and the salary would be increased to 2400 – 3200 yuan (US$379-$506) after the appraisal. What’s more, workers do not need to pay additional money for dormitory and food. Foxconn incorporates the food and housing allowance into the basic salary. So, this attracted thousands of young job seekers to deliver their resumes to the Foxconn representatives.

  • Malaclypse

    The new Revel Casino in Atlantic City has a very special employment policy: workers are hired for 4-6 year terms. Then they are fired and have to reapply.

    IANAL, but it seems to me that this raises issues that 1) preclude employment-at-will, and 2) set the state unemployment fund up to be the fall guy in all this.

    • That depends if they’re hired as independent contractors or not. Usually, you don’t hire salaried employees on a closed-ended contract.

      On the bright side, it will be interesting to see what happens to the casino in four to six years: will they still be in business and what will they do when they have complete turnover in their key staff?

      • L2P

        It would be virtually impossible for those types of casino workers to be independent contractors. If they drastically re-worked the contracts for table dealers, so that they were technically renting them from the casino and getting a profit or loss every shift, maybe that’d work out. I don’t see that happening, though; what if the dealer got a couple of whales and made a couple mill of the casino’s money?

        This seems sucky, but I can’t see that it’s any worse than what a lot of employers simply do informally. A lot of employers make people reapply for their jobs. It’s the formality that’s different; usually employers just decide to do it every now and then. I’m not sure why the casino is making it part of the contract unless New Jersey translates at-will to term employment after 7 years.

        The age discrimination thing is a red herring. You can’t avoid a civil rights suit because you’re terminating people by contract instead of by firing. If there’s discrimination, there’s discrimination.

        If I was the unions in New Jersey, I’d attack this legislatively. Define the end of a contractual term of employment as a “termination” for purposes of unemployment, regardless of whether the workers are rehired. They won’t like it when their insurance rates start skyrocketing.

        • I’m not sure why the casino is making it part of the contract unless New Jersey translates at-will to term employment after 7 years.

          It doesn’t look like it.

          I agree, the age discrimination seems like as red herring, about as much as the Revel claim that this will attract the most professional people in the business. This isn’t a sports franchise where star players will negotiate large contracts individually. This sounds more like a “here’s your offer, take it or leave it,” which usually attracts talent from the opposite end of the spectrum.

        • Marek

          IANANJL, but in my state, you’re generally entitled to unemployment when your job ends, even if it was a term contract. So if NJ is the same, there would be no need for such legislative action.

          • Malaclypse

            Yea, my point above was that this scheme offloads a ton of costs onto the unemployment funds. Everybody gets fired, everybody collects, the fund gets depleted, and the decent employers, and the state, end up subsidizing the casino.

            • Alex

              Most unemployment schemes are funded by a combination of employer taxes and employee deductions, with the employer’s reserve account being charged when an employee receives umemployment. So it won’t dump costs on the state.

              What it does provide is a more opaque way for the employer to single out employees for discharge, and launder it through some kind of process.

              • Malaclypse

                Most unemployment schemes are funded by a combination of employer taxes and employee deductions,

                1) Almost no states use employee deductions to fund unemployment. Look at your pay stub. If you can’t find anything, that is because it is not there.

                2) Employer money funds the fund until it is in deficit, which almost all states currently are in.

                • I thought deductions for social security were part of unemployment. (As usual, I can of course be wrong.)

                • Malaclypse

                  I thought deductions for social security were part of unemployment.

                  Nope. Unemployment is separate, and usually shows up as either SUTA (State Unemployment TAx) or SUI (State Unemployment Insurance).

                  My company does business in about 25 of the 50 states. Of those, the only ones where the employee pays any portion of unemployment are PA, NJ, NY, and CA.

                • Alex

                  California has for years. And more to the point, I think New Jersey does.

    • Holden Pattern

      We’re all on the corner by the Home Depot looking for day labor. It’s a feature, not a bug.

      Neofeudalism now, neofeudalism tomorrow, neofeudalism forever.

      • Linnaeus

        This can’t be said enough, IMHO.

    • Alex

      Traditionally a contract for a term (like 4 or 6 years) negates any statutory presumption of at will employment, and requires just cause for termination, unless it contains an express at-will provision.

      • Frankly

        and you think their won’t?

        • Malaclypse

          Of course it will, but the courts may rule it invalid. Here in MA, the courts ruled almost all non-competition clauses invalid a year or so ago.

          • Alex

            At will and non-competition are two different things, and conceptually antithetical.

            • Malaclypse

              Yes, but my point is that courts have no problem voiding sections of employment contracts, even contracts written by competent attorneys.

              • Alex

                At-will is the presumptive status in most jurisdictions. Difficult to envision a court requiring cause in a written contract specifying otherwise.

        • Alex

          No, it most likely will. I was addressing the question about how a term contract affects employment at will. Of course the whole scheme is so stupid, maybe it won’t.

          • Malaclypse

            Actually, I think we agree, as I do think it conflicts with employment-at-will as normally used.

  • wengler

    Minnesota’s a pretty tribal place, but not in a way that will help a right-to-work-for-nothing law to pass. Its conservatives are very much invested in cultural issues like abortion(south and west, and crazy Bachmann central), and I can’t see them committed fully to something that is bound to fail.

    If a doofus like Dayton was able to win in a Tea Party avalanche year, than this doesn’t have a shot of passing in 2012.

    • mds

      Yeah, this isn’t simply a case of Tea Party fuckwits getting the support of a plurality of voters in a majority of legislative districts in an especially good electoral season for them. As you note, statewide makes it a different ballgame. I could actually even see this backfiring, as it could energize a backlash at the polls that might threaten Chip Cravaack in the Iron Range.

      • josephus

        Yeah, I gotta say, with the cities and the Range allied against this, and the energy from our excellent laborite friends in Wisconsin, it’s gonna be hard for the manor lords of Anoka and rawnpaulites to get this one into the endzone. There are a lot of folks here ready to get rowdy to ensure that marriage equality and labor rights are preserved. I’m sure as hell ready.

      • Frankly

        The Range is not the labor hotbed it once was, in fact they have drifted pretty far into wingnut land. This was amply demonstrated by the election of an extra Congressman for New Hampshire two years ago. It would not surprise me if the “Yes, may lord?” amendment actually carried the Range, but more likely it will just not get enough of a win there to defeat it.

        We are well on our way from one of the best states to a frozen Mississippi-like shithole

    • djw

      If a doofus like Dayton was able to win in a Tea Party avalanche year, than this doesn’t have a shot of passing in 2012.

      That was my first reaction as well.

      • josephus

        I gotta hand it to Dayton. I voted against him in the primary and was upset to see him win, but over time I’ve come to grudgingly admire some of his political instincts. Not to say that I regret my vote, but things have turned out better than I expected.

        • Frankly

          Well, I’m on board with the not wanting him as the candidate part but he is the mixed (nut)bag I thought he would be. He badly munged up the shut down & then caved with no gain. I did enjoy seeing him go on the offensive over the PUC chair vote. But he really needs at least one of the chambers in DFL hands so that there is some leadership to get things done.

    • I think we’re looking at a serious anti-Republican backlash in the Great Lakes states this November. Their numbers are unsustainably high from the oddball 2010 election, the electorate is going to look like a presidential-year electorate, and the Republican leadership went overboard right out of the gate.

      • witless chum

        Michigan seems like it may be that way.

        The Republicans only have one serious candidate, U.S. Rep Pete Hoekstra late of the intelligence committee farces, running against Debbie Stabenow for senate. And the seriousness of anyone with a Dutch name statewide is debatable. Ottawa County (A suburban county which harbors all the people who find Grand Rapids and Holland too urban.) Republicans aren’t well-liked by the suburban Detroit Republicans, even.

        The fact that the chance to run against the less popular Democratic senator (Carl Levin is untouchable) Stabenow in a bad economy only attracted Hoekstra tells me Republicans are expecting to have a hard time this fall. There are several Republicans, including two former secretaries of state and the former AG, who’ve won statewide before and several of congressmen who are better candidates on paper than Hoekstra. Someone over there must think they should be senator.

        The labor unions are pissed because of Gov. Rick Snyder playing Scott Walker with a human face. They’ll be out for Republican blood. And Obama being on the ballot will bring out at least some of the young people who didn’t vote in 2010, as well as presumably get reliably Democratic black people to turn out.

  • wengler

    One can hope that Revel extends its unique employment policy to their casino security as well.

    • “Why didn’t you stop that heist?”

      “Eh. My contract is up tomorrow. What they gonna do, fire me?”

  • Corey

    Try as I might, I can’t get too excited about the Revel thing. It’s a dumb, dumb idea for actual business reasons, beyond labor/common decency ones, and I suspect they’ll pay the price eventually.

    • Malaclypse
    • Alex

      If this is an attempt to prevent unionization it is unbelieveably stupid. If they hire employees with a six year term, in 4 1/2 years a union is going to look damn attractive to the employees looking at termination in 18 months.

      • Spud

        Its definitely a good incentive for a heist.

        Kind of like how the 1919 White Sox were motivated more by Comiskey’s cheapness than Rothstein’s generous offer.

        I see a screenplay here

  • Brian

    The Revel policy may be subject to challenge under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, if it operates to terminate older workers in disproportionate numbers.

    • Yes, not that I believe the current Supreme Court will judge to uphold such a challenge.

      • Alex

        The Supreme Court would never hear it, at least not for years and years. A District Court or State court would hear the matter, and the likelihood of it ever getting to the USSC is almost nil.

  • Alex

    I don’t know why you’re saying UNITE HERE represents the employees at Revel and the hotel is trying to “bust” the union, since the employees haven’t been hired yet, and the union could not be certified. Perhaps they aspire to represent them, but busting the union usually refers to an attempt to disestablish them as the bargaining representative, and representative status requires, at minimum, a showing of majority support.

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