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Labor Notes

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Lot of stuff going today.

1. We know that America’s plutocrats want to return the nation to the Gilded Age. It turns out that Mexican plutocrats feel the same. Such as Carlos Slim. The world’s richest man has some brilliant ideas on how to make people’s lives miserable:

The world’s richest man has urged struggling nations to lift workers’ retirement age to 70 and privatize as many infrastructure assets as possible to help shore up their economies, Mexican press reported on June 12.

Moreover, countries should have people work until they are older to reflect longer life expectancy rates, Slim reportedly said. He noted the ideal work schedule should be 10-11 hours three times per week for people over 60 to allow them to have more days to “innovate, create and cultivate themselves.”

Slim added the current retirement age was established “when jobs were more physical and people died at 60, but now we live until 85 or 90.”

Old people should work an 11 hour day to cultivate themselves! Just like children in coal mines needed to work 14 hour days to learn a work ethic!!!

2. In southern California, a new labor organization has popped up to give warehouse workers some representation. Called Warehouse Workers United, it is organizing at Wal-Mart, the most anti-union corporation in the country. Wal-Mart’s response–hire a young woman to pretend to be a USC journalist wanting information on bad labor conditions and then spy on the workers! Very classy!! From WWU:

For months warehouse workers have been asking to meet with Walmart. There have been many opportunities to sit down with workers: Last year the state issued more than $1 million in fines for labor violations at warehouses where workers move goods for Walmart, UCLA conducted a study about the risky working conditions inside the warehouse, Cal/OSHA issued more than 60 violations totaling more than $250,000 in Walmart-contracted warehouses and workers at a Walmart-contracted warehouse filed a class action lawsuit that documents awful working conditions including working 362 days a years with no break and no overtime. Last week when Walmart had the chance to talk about real issues affecting Latino workers in Southern California it instead sent “Zoe,” a fake reporter. A spy. Our door is open. Walmart can change this industry and create thousands of good jobs and improve the quality of life in Southern California, but first it has to come out of hiding.

3. Speaking of Wal-Mart, workers at one of the company’s seafood suppliers went on strike June 4 to protest working conditions they describe as “slave labor.” These are temporary workers on H-2B guest visas who live in rat-infested housing and work 24 hour shifts with no overtime. The seafood supplier’s general manager is also the head of the Crawfish Processors Alliances, an industry group lobbying to fight against increasing pay for H-2B guestworkers. No doubt Carlos Slim would call these 24 hour shifts an opportunity for these workers to cultivate themselves.

4. I have tut-tutted Mark Bittman for looking down at the poor when it comes to food. But he did some very good work yesterday giving publicity to ROC-United’s new National Diners’ Guide to help consumers patronize restaurants that don’t treat their workers terribly. Of course, virtually every major fast-food chain pays their workers very little. A few however, such as Five Guys, actually provide sick days. More here.

5. President Obama continues to pay off labor for its support of his political career by negotiating secret NAFTA-style free trade agreements with Asia. A leaked document shows how nasty this is. As UE’s Chris Townsend states, “This is what happens when you get an administration that is pretty much in the lap of corporate America.” I’m glad we’ve reached the point where labor doesn’t even get a say in helping modify trade agreements to make them slightly less bad for American workers.

6. Thousands of AT&T technicians under CWA representation walked off the job for a 1-day action in Nevada and California because the company is trying to crush their union. The best represented members of the American working class the increasingly fewer unionized workers at AT&T and Verizon and they are target #1 among private sector unions for American corporations.

That’s a lot of labor news. There’s more but I’ll stop here for now.

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  • Joshua

    Ten hours a day 3 times a week is more like what working age people should be doing, on the path to the Jetsons. We ramped up our productivity like crazy since 1980 and got nothing in return except for less pay and benefits (including vacation time, oddly).

    • Pith Helmet

      And more layoffs.

  • rea

    Why on earth, in the middle of a global economic crisis characterized by high unemployment, does Carlos Slim think we need to raise the retirement age?

    • ploeg

      Builds character.

      Carlos Slim is 72 years old. If Carlos Slim keeps his mind sharp by managing his financial empire, everybody his age should be able to scramble up telephone poles, drive buses, etc.

    • Pith Helmet

      Carlos Slim is looking at the other end of that equation: raise the retirement age frees up money to pay off banksters, as does privatizing national infrastructure. If Fat Boy Slim wasn’t betting on red, he wouldn’t be making those noises.

    • NonyNony

      Because they don’t see any value in a human life outside of the work that human is performing for them.

      And they want other people to believe that pension agreements are handouts to people who are unable/unwilling to work rather than agreements by workers to take lower pay now in exchange for a stream of income later so they don’t have to work themselves into the grave.

  • Quincy

    I suspect it’s part of what you referred to in your “there’s more” comment, but did you see that the labor “compromise” in February’s FAA legislation is already causing problems?

    • Pith Helmet

      From the article:

      Republicans in Congress have forced changes in law to make it more difficult for airline labor groups to hold an election, pleasing industry and provoking liberal Democrats who count on union political support.

      The hell? Where does political support enter into the equation here? It doesn’t say anything about how it provokes unions and people who would like to be represented by them.

      • This basically sums up how the media thinks about unions–a political advocacy group for Democrats. Nothing more.

        It’s been a long time since the days of Krusty interviewing George Meany.

  • DrDick

    “This is what happens when you get an administration that is pretty much in the lap of corporate America.”

    In other words, any actually conceivable administration. The DLC/New Democrats/Corporatists have long since taken control of the Democratic Party and the Republican platform has been publicly fellating big business for 50 years.

  • ChristianPinko

    Eric (or anyone else who wants to chime in), this is somewhat off-topic, but I’ve been wondering: do you know of any plans that unions have to cope with the advent of a national “right-to-work” law? Because I can’t imagine such a law not being instituted by 2020.

    About the only thing I can think of that labor unions could do nowadays is to start up credit unions and co-ops: basically have workers purchase the means of production and then dictate how they want to be treated.

    • I highly doubt there is an effective strategy against that likely possibility that is developed.

  • Funkhauser

    It’s worth noting that Carlos Slim would be in favor of further privatization because Carlos Slim became the world’s richest man by … buying privatized assets.

    And the Telmex monopoly endures.

  • djw

    A note on restaurants and labor practices: the Dick’s chain in Seattle starts at $10 an hour, and they provide 100% employer-covered health care for employees working something like 25 hours a week and significant tuition and childcare benefits. Their incredibly cheap prices suggest the claim such things are impossible and/or will necessarily and always lead to higher prices.

    • I don’t know Dick’s but I’ll have to find it when I’m in Seattle this summer.

      • Linnaeus

        There’s several of them in the city, shouldn’t be too hard to find one close to you.

        And they’re open until 2:00 am.

        • mark f

          And tasty. Ten years ago I was in Seattle for 3 days and ate there for I think every meal (being a poor 21-year-old without a rental car and no knowledge of the city encouraged the practice).

    • mr. sc

      dick’s is the place where the cool hang out/
      the SWASS like to play and the rich flaunt clout

  • Slim added the current retirement age was established “when jobs were more physical and people died at 60, but now we live until 85 or 90.”

    But we’ll soon fix that.

  • Murc

    It bears repeating; anyone who claims that life expectancy at 65 has meaningfully changed for members of the middle and working classes since the New Deal was instituted should be publicly mocked and ridiculed.

  • BKN in Canadia

    This labour [sic] story may be at little outside your usual remit Mr. Loomis, but I’d be interested to hear your take on it. In this case at least, it’s hard to reconcile progressive politics with collective bargaining rights.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/ontario-doctors-invoke-charter-in-dispute-with-province/article4253039/?service=mobile

  • Labor support is absolutely essential for Democratic electoral prospects, yet somehow not important enough for Democrats not to screw labor. Strange.

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