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Tag: "labor"

What Makes Corporations Sad?

[ 25 ] November 1, 2016 |


The government enforcing labor law makes corporations and their lackeys very sad:

Have you seen It is a how-to manual for employees to file charges with the full gauntlet of federal labor-and-employment agencies ― EEOC, NLRB, OSHA, and DOL Wage-and-Hour Division.

Let’s examine my favorite whipping boy, the NLRB, as an example. lists the following topics as examples of rights of engagement with others to improve wages and working conditions:

I am being prevented from engaging with others to improve my working conditions.

My boss threatened to fire us if we vote for the union.

I am being retaliated against for supporting an effort to bring in a union to improve my work situation.

I can’t get hired because the industry knows me as a union supporter.

We formed a union and are trying to bargain with management, but they refuse to meet with us.

I brought complaints to our union steward and/or foreman about the crew not having adequate safety equipment and they retaliated.

We are afraid to talk to one another about our wages and working conditions because our employer has a handbook rule prohibiting release of confidential information.

I sent an email to my co-workers during break time about seeking a raise and my employer suspended me for unauthorized use of its computer system.

I was fired for chatting about my supervisor with other coworkers on Facebook.

Each is hyperlinked to a general informational page, which includes a link to another informational page on how to file a claim, which includes a non-retaliation reminder and a link to contact info for each NLRB regional office.

The pages for the EEOC, OSHA, and DOL offer similar info for each, including the page explaining to employees how to file claims.

While this information is accurate, I wonder why these agencies feel the need to troll for business. I’ve had EEOC charges sit with investigators for as long as 18 months without a resolution, and I’ve had OSHA investigators tell me that they are so busy investigating complaints that they do not have the time to sit at their desk to close out files. There is nothing more frustrating than having to send an email to a client that reads, “You know that charge that’s been hanging over your head for the past six months. Well, tack on another month; nothing new to report.”

Have you ever heard such a sad story before? Laws protecting workers and the government letting workers know what rights they have due to said laws? I have not seen such an outrage since the tobacco companies got busted for openly lying about the relationship between their products and cancer. Corporations sure can’t catch a break in this socialist dystopia!


This Day in Labor History: October 31, 1978

[ 8 ] October 31, 2016 |


On October 31, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. An amendment to Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the new law stated the pregnant workers “shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes as other person not so affected, but similar in their ability or inability to work.” This law was the culmination of a long movement to give female workers equal rights on the job, as opposed to special protections that could ultimately lead to discrimination against them.

Earlier women’s activism in the workforce tended to focus on protecting women on the job, often granting them special rights that would protect them as mothers. The Consumers’ Bureau led by Florence Kelley was central to this strategy, which played a critical role in the Muller v. Oregon case that carved out an exemption from the predominant idea of employees entering into a voluntary contract with employers and thus deserved no protections. Because women were mothers, the Court decided that reducing their work hours made sense. Battles between women’s labor activists and Alice Paul’s branch of the women’s movement continued for the next 50 years, as the National Women’s Party focused exclusively on the Equal Rights Amendment and worked with employers to defeat labor legislation. By the 1970s, these debates had become more than stale. The women’s movement united around the ERA and women were demanding true equality on the job. The 1970s saw serious activism on women’s reproduction and work for the first time. The 1975 decision by Idaho’s Bunker Hill Mining Company to demand the sterilization of women working in certain jobs, wrapping itself up in a fetal rights argument to protect itself against unsafe working conditions demonstrated the need for broader equal protection of women on the job.

Moreover, courts were finding against pregnant women’s rights. In 1976, the Supreme Court ruled in General Electric v. Gilbert. GE had an insurance plan that paid part of a worker’s wages for 3 weeks for any disability except disabilities caused by pregnancy. GE employee Martha Gilbert took the company to court. GE’s policy violated the 1972 EEOC policy covering pregnancy. But they feared the men would start wanting time off when their partners had children and that doctors would allow “malingering” women to stay at home. Gilbert won her case at each level until she reached the Supreme Court when William Rehnquist wrote an opinion for the majority that pregnancy discrimination didn’t exist becuase pregnancy is what made women different than men. But the decision also opened the door for Congress to clarify the issue. Feminist lawyers agreed. Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that if Congress was “genuinely committed to eradicating sex-based discrimination,” it could provide “firm legislative direction assuring job security, health insurance coverage, and income maintenance for childbearing women.”

Congress has never gone as far as Ginsburg wished of course. But in response to GE and other cases, it did pass the Pregnancy Discrimination Act by a vote of 376-43 in the House and 75-11 in the Senate. President Carter signed it soon after. As with most labor laws, it had an unfortunate exception to any employer with less than 15 employees. Everyone else could not treat pregnancy any different than other occupational disability. Treating pregnant workers differently became sex discrimination. This law specifically reversed General Electric v. Gilbert. But the PDA also had some pretty severe flaws, problems that of course made it easier to pass. It did not provide any new benefits for women workers. It depended completely on whatever programs employers provided for other workers. If an employer had no health benefits for workers, pregnant workers would receive no benefits. If an employer did have health benefits, they would now have to include pregnancy. Five states went further than the federal law. California mandated that employers had to grant pregnant workers 4 months of unpaid leave with job security, effectively a precursor of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.

Still, the new law led to a whole new set of discrimination cases. When Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock did not improve its health plan to include full coverage for childbirth to the female wives of male workers (as opposed to its female workers), this led to a suit. In Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock v. EEOC, the Court ruled in 1983 that the company must provide the benefit to the wives of workers. Even the California extension of the right led to a suit, when a bank employee filed a case in 1982 when, after a 3-month leave after a difficult pregnancy, was fired because the employer said the PDA superseded the state law. The bank sued to repeal the state law. This once again split feminists between labor feminists and the National Organization of Women. NOW urged that the federal law which eliminated gender difference be upheld but also argued that Title VII required the extension of benefits as opposed to their removal, as argued by the bank. The Coalition for Reproductive Equality in the Workplace, led by Betty Friedan, worked with the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), many other unions, and Planned Parenthood in support of the California law, noting that the statue did not protect women like laws of the past, but rather remedied the discriminatory impact of employer health policies. In California Federal Savings and Loan Association v. Guerra in 1987, the Supreme Court found in favor of the California law by a 6-3 margin, with Scalia joining the majority strictly out of his belief that federal laws should not supersede state laws. Thurgood Marshall wrote the decision that noted that Congress and California had similar goals and that the employer was free to extend benefits to other disable employees. It might be special treatment, but it paved the path to equal treatment. Byron White, Lewis Powell, and William Rehnquist dissented, as one might expect.

I borrowed from Nancy Woloch, A Class by Herself: Protective Laws from Women Workers, 1890s-1990s in the writing of this post.

This is the 197th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

Well Shiver Me Timbers!

[ 9 ] October 29, 2016 |


You mean that providing working-class people good paying jobs is a critical part of fighting poverty? And that industrial labor can make a huge difference in solving this problem? Amazing!!! Who knew!

James Branch’s life seemed destined to follow a familiar arc in the streets that surround the Marlin Steel factory, where he bends metal from sunrise until near dark.

He fathered a child while in high school, dropped out, then spent a dozen years selling drugs. He went to prison and, afterward, squatted in abandoned houses in West Baltimore. He worked the fryer at Popeyes and fought the temptation to go back to dealing on street corners that many Americans will know from the television series “The Wire.”

Fortunately, things turned around for Mr. Branch.

Now 40, he earns just over $20 an hour as a skilled machine operator at Marlin Steel, a small maker of specialized metal baskets used by much bigger manufacturers like Ford Motor, Boeing and Merck. He owns a car, rents a two-story townhouse with an airy backyard and recently watched the daughter he fathered at 16 as she graduated from college with a degree in psychology.

What altered Mr. Branch’s fate? There was his own discipline, of course, like completing a two-year course in metalwork between his shifts at Popeyes. Or getting up at 3:45 a.m. and taking three buses to avoid being late for his first factory job.

But his success is also because of the unlikely survival of Marlin Steel, a rare breed: the urban industrial manufacturer.

Marlin is a thriving factory in a place that, over the last half-century, factories have fled — first to the South, and later to Asia. That flight haunts the United States perhaps most in its urban areas — especially neighborhoods that once housed the nation’s working class — and helps explain why many African-Americans in particular today live in poverty in metropolises like Baltimore, Detroit, Newark and St. Louis.

But bromides about reeducation and retraining programs for jobs that lead nowhere and place the blame on workers when they fail are so much easier! And of course no one is claiming that industrial jobs are ever going to flee back to the United States. But it also demonstrates that work, including industrial work, needs to be part of the American economic strategy for working people. And it just hasn’t been for a very long time. That isn’t going to mean new GM factories that employ 20,000 people on the shop floor. But maybe more of these smaller factories can play an important role. Most critically, industrial labor with decent wages can provide hope and dignity for working people. And that is absolutely crucial for the stability of the country, as we are seeing during this election cycle. However we accomplish this, whether through McDonald’s paying $20 an hour or finding ways to create new industrial jobs, working-class people or people generally that simply don’t have the skills or the inclination to go to college simply must have a path to a dignified life. Unfortunately, policy makers have not taken these questions seriously enough over the past half-century.

Income Inequality/Racial Inequality

[ 18 ] October 29, 2016 |


It’s hardly surprising that growing income inequality would exacerbate other forms of inequality. Thus, this EPI study demonstrating the connections between income inequality and black/white wage gaps is more depressing than shocking.

What this report finds: Black-white wage gaps are larger today than they were in 1979, but the increase has not occurred along a straight line. During the early 1980s, rising unemployment, declining unionization, and policies such as the failure to raise the minimum wage and lax enforcement of anti-discrimination laws contributed to the growing black-white wage gap. During the late 1990s, the gap shrank due in part to tighter labor markets, which made discrimination more costly, and increases in the minimum wage. Since 2000 the gap has grown again. As of 2015, relative to the average hourly wages of white men with the same education, experience, metro status, and region of residence, black men make 22.0 percent less, and black women make 34.2 percent less. Black women earn 11.7 percent less than their white female counterparts. The widening gap has not affected everyone equally. Young black women (those with 0 to 10 years of experience) have been hardest hit since 2000.

Why it matters: Though the African American experience is not monolithic, our research reveals that changes in black education levels or other observable factors are not the primary reason the gaps are growing. For example, just completing a bachelor’s degree or more will not reduce the black-white wage gap. Indeed the gaps have expanded most for college graduates. Black male college graduates (both those with just a college degree and those who have gone beyond college) newly entering the workforce started the 1980s with less than a 10 percent disadvantage relative to white college graduates but by 2014 similarly educated new entrants were at a roughly 18 percent deficit.

What it means for policy: Wage gaps are growing primarily because of discrimination (or racial differences in skills or worker characteristics that are unobserved or unmeasured in the data) and growing earnings inequality in general. Thus closing and eliminating the gaps will require intentional and direct action:

Consistently enforce antidiscrimination laws in the hiring, promotion, and pay of women and minority workers.

Convene a high-level summit to address why black college graduates start their careers with a sizeable earnings disadvantage.

Under the leadership of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, identify the “unobservable measures” that impact the black-white wage gap and devise ways to include them in national surveys.

Urge the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to work with experts to develop metropolitan area measures of discrimination that could be linked to individual records in the federal surveys so that researchers could directly assess the role that local area discrimination plays in the wage setting of African Americans and whites.

Address the broader problem of stagnant wages by raising the federal minimum wage, creating new work scheduling standards, and rigorously enforcing wage laws aimed at preventing wage theft.

Strengthen the ability of workers to bargain with their employers by combatting state laws that restrict public employees’ collective bargaining rights or the ability to collect “fair share” dues through payroll deductions, pushing back against the proliferation of forced arbitration clauses that require workers to give up their right to sue in public court, and securing greater protections for freelancers and workers in “gig” employment relationships.

Require the Federal Reserve to pursue monetary policy that targets full employment, with wage growth that matches productivity gains.

These policies all make a tremendous amount of sense for labor issues generally, not only those that generate racial inequality.

Freelancer Rights

[ 32 ] October 28, 2016 |


The rise of the freelancing economy is quite disturbing to me for the same reasons as the much of the rest of the outsourced, franchised, temp, gig economy–workers have effectively no rights and protections and are totally at the whim of whoever hires them for basic things like getting paid. I think everyone in the online writing world has either done work and not been paid despite promises or knows someone who has been the victim of this sort of wage theft.

New York is acting to give freelancers much needed rights.

The New York City Council voted unanimously on Thursday to give freelance workers a set of protections against wage theft that are believed to be the first of their kind in the country.

Known as the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, the measure requires anyone hiring a freelance worker to agree in writing to a timetable and procedure for payment, and increases the potential awards to freelancers bringing legal complaints against those who have failed to pay them promptly.

The bill represents one of the earliest policy efforts to grapple directly with the growth in the so-called gig economy — a term that typically refers to the likes of temporary workers, contract workers, independent contractors and freelance workers. According to one estimate by the economists Lawrence Katz and Alan Krueger, this group grew to almost 16 percent of the work force in late 2015 from roughly 10 percent in early 2005.

“New York is in some ways at the center of the gig economy, of the evolution of the economy to more independent and contingent work,” Brad Lander, the councilman who introduced the legislation, said.

But Mr. Lander, Democrat of Brooklyn, added that the existing employment and labor laws are “so badly outdated they don’t give the basic protections all workers expect, much less broader support and benefits to all workers in the growing gig economy.”

The Freelancers Union, a group that played a key role in shaping the measure, estimates that there are nearly 4 million freelancers in the New York metropolitan area. A recent survey by the group found that half of all freelancers nationwide said they had encountered trouble getting paid in 2014, and that more than 70 percent struggled to collect payment at some point in their careers.

Sara Horowitz, the union’s executive director, said one of the bill’s most consequential provisions could be the requirement of a written contract for any freelance relationship for which the compensation is at least $800 over a four-month period.

To say the least, we need these protections on a national scale.

The Communists and the CIO

[ 17 ] October 28, 2016 |


As far as it goes, this history of communists and the CIO in the 1930s and 1940s that Jacobin published is sound, both factually and historiographically, except for saying

Though its role is rarely mentioned, and even less frequently assessed, the Left was central to the organization of this new dissident union federation.

which makes absolutely no sense at all. If anything, the role of the left in the building of CIO is overdiscussed since basically no one writes about these issues but leftists interested in the communists. But whatever.

The problem, as often happens, is in the conclusions. What are we to learn?

Any revival of a left-wing unionism today will have to involve a serious emphasis on building a shop-floor presence within unionized workplaces, rather than just in the union staff positions more attainable for the political left. With an entrenched leadership bureaucracy committed to a failed strategy of collaboration with US capitalism, union staff will always be limited in their role.

Whether or not union bureaucracies have a failed collaboration with American capitalism, this struggles to make much sense because of the enormous differences between shop floors in 1937 and 2016. Communists were successful in unions like UE, and for that matter the entire CIO was successful for this reason, largely because the electrical industry had shopfloors where thousands of people worked. Mass organizing could result from this arrangements. Similar shop floors simply do not exist much today. Maybe in meatpacking and a few other industries. But not to any meaningful extent for organizing the American workforce. So maybe communists do get jobs as nurses and take over SEIU locals. That’s fine. But the structural issues of transforming unions are if anything harder than they were in 1937.

While individuals can do great work and contribute real talent, the task of reforming and reorganizing the US labor movement remains a political battle to be won within the unions through a rank-and-file upsurge from below. Many of today’s union leaders recognize this — and, like John L. Lewis, they’ll knowingly deploy left-wing organizing staff despite being unfriendly to left-wing objectives, because they’re entirely confident that the union, and not the leftist political project, will end up keeping “the bird.”

I can buy this.

Despite the Communist Party’s enormous shortcomings — including the opportunism of the Popular Front era and their shameful role during World War II — many CP-led unions nonetheless left an inspiring legacy. Many locals waged militant strikes and aggressively expanded the “frontier of control” on the shop floor far beyond the legal interpretations of collective bargaining.

OK, but let’s not handwave away said shortcomings. The biggest problem with the Communist Party union operatives is that they were indeed taking orders from Moscow, meaning that they switched positions at party directives and put those priorities over the priorities of the workers. And the workers noticed and acted, often actively participating in the driving out of the communists from the unions after World War II, but even before, writing to the Dies Committee, begging a federal investigation of their locals.

Of course any leftists taking over a union today are unlikely to be CP members and aren’t going to be following the orders of Putin or anyone else in Russia so maybe it’s irrelevant, except that to the author, it is not. A return of socialist based unionism (and we’re talking radical socialism here, not the Swedish kind) from below is the stated goal here:

Socialists within the labor movement must adopt a strategy of building up bases of local support that can be leveraged within and between unions for coordinated aims. Socialist politics are crucial to building a fighting labor movement, capable of giving expression to worker militancy across various industrial sectors and, ultimately, even the entire economy.

And that’s fine. But the lessons from the CP are not just the positive ones of organizing and solidarity. They are the negative ones of all the ways these unionists screwed up.

This Day in Labor History: October 25, 1831

[ 11 ] October 25, 2016 |


On October 25, 1831, the first of several revolts by silk workers in Lyon, France, began, which rocked the nation. The Canut revolts that this began was among the first serious challenges to the labor systems of the Industrial Revolution. With the slogan of “Live Free or Die Fighting,” they serve as a precursor to more than a century of industrial revolt before the benefits of industrialization would be shared fairly with European workers.

As was common in early industrialization, skilled workers controlled much about the means of production. In the nascent French silk industry, based in Lyon, canuts, or the chief weaving craftsmen, owned their own looms. There were about 8000 of them. They employed approximately 30,000 apprentices. There were then several thousands lower-paid workers, many of them women and children, who did the brute labor that made the looms work, such as folders, spinners, and people who made the weaving tools. Lyon had developed an unusually strong working-class culture for this period. While the literacy rate in France as a whole was about 25 percent in 1831, in Lyon it was more like 65 percent. The workers had not one but two newspapers of their own to educate themselves about their common economic and political needs.

A down economy in 1831 led to a collapse in silk prices. The silk employers thus reduced workers’ wages. Broader industrial changes were also making the standards of living for the canuts increasingly precarious. The invention of the Jacquard loom, a much larger and more expensive piece of equipment, meant that it was harder for the canuts to control their labor, in part because they had to buy these things and in part because they either had to move to the suburbs or find room for these gigantic machines, causing significant hardship for many. Overhead costs grew and the canuts bore the brunt of them. Moreover, the entire Lyon economy depended upon a single industry, making it quite susceptible to depressions if silk prices declined, even temporarily. Working conditions were also extremely poor, as they were throughout the nascent industrial revolution throughout western Europe and the United States. Weavers routinely worked at least 14 hours a day and could have to work up to 20. To say the least, this was not an ergonomic workplace and workers’ bodies felt the years of awkward seating and lengthy workdays.

The workers responded by demanding a minimum price for silk, which they felt would guarantee them a standard, livable wage. Effectively a local tariff, this was strongly opposed by the merchants, leading to greater tensions between the two groups. On October 25, the canuts and their supporters marched through the streets of Lyon to demand the creation of this tariff. They succeeded and the tariff was to be implemented on November 2. But by November 5, it was clear that the merchants had no intention of following the new law. The prefect equivocated when the merchants called it unconstitutional on November 17, saying he could not force them to pay it but that it was the right thing to do and they should. Of course, the merchants did not do the right thing. They did the thing that would save their profits.

Angry about the merchants ignoring the ruling and the prefect’s unwillingness to force the issue with them, the canuts organized to seize the silk mills. On November 21, the canuts effectively started taking over the city. The prefect then organized guard units to stop the strike from spreading around the city, but he made a huge mistake by creating a whole guard unit out of the silk merchants. They then seized the Lyon arsenal, defeating a local military force. Other workers were organized into another force, who basically just let the canuts through to occupy the city. On November 22, the canuts and the military engaged in an open battle that was incredibly bloody, with about 100 soldiers and 69 civilians dying, with another 400 or so total wounded. The town’s mayor and military commander fled Lyon.

Finally, the French government sent Marshal Jean-de-Dieu Soult, a veteran officer who had served in the Napoleonic Wars, to put down the rebellion. The workers did not want bloodshed, nor did they have any political agenda other than setting silk prices. So they surrendered on December 2. But this did not turn out well for them. There were arrests, but all the workers were acquitted. Unfortunately, the minimum price they implemented was immediately repealed and they won no wage gains. The revolt was ultimately a failure. In the aftermath, Adrien Etienne Pierre de Gasparin was placed in charge of Lyon, with a mission to solve the problems that led to the strike. His first move was to deport all the Italian immigrants in Lyon in order to provide the French workers with jobs. Second, he tried to craft a compromise that would not allow the tariff but rather would attempt to create a common agreement on what the price of silk should be that would serve as a baseline for problems of money between merchants and workers. He then created a government-subsidized loan office that would help the canuts. This all had a pretty limited effect, but were pretty wide-reaching for the 1830s considering the inability and unwillingness of governments to do anything to assist workers. The loans only went to master workmen with wives, which helped solidify the divide between the labor aristocracy of the canuts and everyone else. Plus the price agreement had no legal authority, leading to it breaking down almost immediately.

As early as April 1832, tensions began to rise again in Lyon. The canuts would continue to revolt, first in 1834 and then again participating in the broader revolts that rocked France in 1848.

This is the 196th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

Pennsylvania Professor Strike, Day 3: Where is Tom Wolf?

[ 9 ] October 21, 2016 |


APSCUF is still on strike against the PASSHE schools in Pennsylvania, protesting the lack of a fair contract offer.

“While the two sides made significant progress in the talks that began Oct. 14, including reaching tentative agreements on more than a dozen issues, including distance education, recruitment and retention of high-quality faculty, and professional responsibilities of faculty outside the classroom, they were not able to reach overall agreement. The union rejected the System’s offer to provide raises to all permanent and temporary faculty and the identical healthcare package that other System employees have.”

Of course, people driving past the strikers, people on comment boards, and other ignorant people are saying this is about wages and greedy professors. But it is not about wages. The offer on salaries is basically terrible. But there are 3 core issues. First is the huge increases in employee healthcare costs. Second is that the schools want to vastly increase the contingent faculty they can hire, of course at very low wages and no benefits. Third, the schools want to destroy shared governance by greatly reducing the power of the Faculty Senate. So far student support has been very strong and very few professors have scabbed, less than 10 at my wife’s school, mostly right-wing Latin Americans and Asians in the business programs, as well as the president’s wife.

My question is where is Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf? APSCUF got on board the Wolf Train early. He hasn’t exactly paid them back here. There are rumors that Wolf is furious with the PASSHE chancellor for creating this strike. I can’t verify those rumors but if true, a public statement that this needs to end and the state system needs to accept the union’s call for binding arbitration would help a lot. Of course, PASSHE doesn’t want to accept that because they know they will get killed in the arbitration because the contract offer is so unfair.

Pennsylvania Faculty on Strike

[ 70 ] October 19, 2016 |


Early this morning, 5500 faculty members on the 14 campuses of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, including my wife, went on strike because of PASSHE’s refusal to offer a fair contract. The university system has sought to effectively destroy these schools. They want to commit to even more adjunct teaching while also lowering adjunct pay up to 20 percent. The schools are offering pathetic pay rates and seeking major health care givebacks. 477 days after the last contract expired, the union (APSCUF) was willing to continue meeting, but as the hours wound down, PASSHE refused to come back to the table. APSCUF is trying to argue for binding arbitration. But the schools, with a weak hand because of the absurdity of the offer, refuses to agree to that. The strike will end if PASSHE agrees to that binding arbitration. Until then, the corporate war on higher education has forced 105,000 students to not get an education.

I know this isn’t Yale, Harvard, Columbia, or any of the New York schools that the lefties who went to those schools teach at since many couldn’t imagine lighting out for the territories. So this strike probably won’t get the kind of attention that we saw at Long Island University. But it’s equally important. More will be forthcoming.

…Since there seems to be some confusion, this has nothing to do with Penn State University. These are the affected schools.

A Wall of Taco Trucks

[ 33 ] October 18, 2016 |


You have love the Culinary Union.

A wall is going up outside the Trump International Las Vegas hotel Wednesday morning.

The Culinary Union, long a Donald Trump antagonist in Las Vegas, is going to “build” a wall of taco trucks outside Trump’s hotel, just a couple miles from UNLV, site of the final presidential debate.

The groups aim to have at least five taco trucks outside the hotel, in addition to a banner in the style of a wall that participants will be able to sign.

“We’re reminding Mr. Trump that immigrant workers here and across the country will be watching the debate and voting in November,” said Yvanna Cancela, the political director for the majority Latino and predominantly immigrant union.

The Culinary Union has held nearly 10 rallies outside Trump’s hotel since workers voted to unionize and won last December. They argue that Trump is illegally refusing to bargain with them.

A wall of taco trucks is going to be far more effective than a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. More realistic too.

This Day in Labor History: October 10, 1933

[ 7 ] October 10, 2016 |


On October 10, 1933, thirty ranchers surrounded a group of agricultural strikers in Pixley, California. They opened fire and killed two. The massacre at Pixley culminated the farm strike that had gone on through the harvesting season and demonstrated the level of violence ranchers would resort to in order to keep labor as exploitable as possible.

With the Great Depression, the decline in commodity prices and the growth of a desperate labor force led California cotton growers to drastically reduce their wages, from $1.50 per 100 pounds of cotton picked in 1928 to 40 cents in 1932. Workers were increasingly angry and desperate. They were also increasingly white, as they began to replace the largely Mexican workforce the farmers usually relied upon. The Cannery and Agricultural Workers Industrial Union, founded in 1930, stepped in to organize these workers. This was a communist-led organization seeking to organize the most desperate of workforces in the fields. It was in many ways a successor of Industrial Workers of the World attempts to do the same in the 1910s that had led to the killings at Wheatland, near Pixley, in 1913. The CAWIU engaged in a number of small strikes through 1931 and 1932. Like in Wheatland, the farmers routinely turned to violence to crush these strikes.

By 1933 though, the CAWIU had a strong cadre of experienced organizers who knew the fields and how to organize them. They developed sophisticated financial plans to help them plan for the upcoming strikes in 1933, gaining information about wage rates, crop prices, and when different crops would be ready to pick, all of which helped them coordinate these actions. The demands for these strikes were fairly straightforward–union recognition, higher wages, a shorter workday, no hiring discrimination based on union membership or ethnicity. In other words, these farmworkers were seeking dignity. They also avoided talking about their revolutionary aims, figuring it was easier to organize the workers if they didn’t scare them with rhetoric about communism.

The 1933 strikes began on April 14, when 2000 Mexican, Filipino, and white workers walked off the pea farms. It was once again violently suppressed. Then Mexican fruit workers sought to reject the communist leadership of the CAWIU, working with the Mexican consul to cultivate non-communist leadership. So things started very poorly for the union that year.

But they did win in the cherry orchards, as the pickers managed to withstand violent assaults and force an agreement so the farmers could get their fruit picked before it rotted on the tree. This emboldened the CAWIU, which then held a convention to coordinate the critical late season harvests. They attempted to expand the strategy to include embedding organizers within established unions to build alliances and to make connections with unemployed workers to provide a larger challenge to the farmers and hopefully to undermine scab labor. Even before this strategy was really put into motion though, the CAWIU started winning a bunch of strikes. In the beets and tomatoes, in the peaches and pears, hundreds and then thousands of workers walked off the job and won wage gains. Between the beginning and end of August, the standard wage in California fields rose from 16 cents to 25 cents an hour.

The CAWIU then went to organize the grape farms. This would prove incredibly difficult, as it would for the United Farm Workers three decades later. Growers and police used every force at their disposal, including the American Legion, which effectively operated as a neo-fascist organization committing anti-labor violence from its founding, to brutally beat back the organizers. The grapes would not be organized in 1933.

So they moved onto cotton. This was a largely Mexican labor force, with some African-Americans and whites. As mentioned above, wages had plummeted in recent years. Between 1932 and 1933, the price of cotton had rebounded from its early Depression woes, up 150 percent. The cotton growers did not pass a penny of that onto the workers. The CAWIU realized this was the most crucial crop and its success would be decided here. The union used roving pickets, only when they found workers in the field, which made it very hard for the anti-labor forces, as organized as they were in the grapes, to find the strikers and crush them. A violent attack on strikers in the town of Watsonville only led to greater worker solidarity and determination. Growers attempted to boycott stores that did business with strikers, especially those that gave them credit. This strategy was widely denounced and led to calls for mediation. The union immediately agreed to that. The growers did not.

By October 10, 12,000 cotton workers were on strike. But in Pixley, armed growers opened fire on an unarmed group of strikers. State policemen watched it all happen and did nothing. Two workers died. Eight more were wounded. Another shooting followed shortly thereafter, killing another striker. Local authorities then arrested strikers, accusing them of murdering one of their own. All of this led to widespread negative press for the farmers. Tulare County police were pressured into arresting eight farmers for their role in the Pixley murders, but then also arrested strike leader Pat Chambers as well. Both sides do it.

The Roosevelt administration had hoped to avoid this kind of labor violence. In the fall of 1933, it was just waking up to the extent it would have to do for workers if it wanted labor peace. In this case, it responded by offering relief to the strikers, the first time this had happened in U.S. history. George Creel, most famous for heading the United States Committee on Public Information in World War I, was working for Roosevelt at this time and attempted to intervene, noting that even if agricultural workers were excluded from the National Industrial Recovery Act, they fell under the jurisdiction of his own agency, the National Labor Board. Creel held hearings, hoping to bring the workers off the picket lines, undermine the communists, and create labor peace. He got the growers to go along by agreeing to a wage increase in exchange for cutting off the relief effort. But the CAWIU rejected the agreement. Yet it had few options. On October 27, it finally agreed to call off the strike, even though union recognition had not been achieved.

Around 47,500 people participated in at least one of these strikes in 1933. If anyting, it was a victory for the federal government. The CAWIU would not remain a major player in agricultural organizing but the farmers had been forced to give in as well. This was all predicated on federal intervention in labor struggles, so to be a hallmark of the New Deal.

This is the 195th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

In Conclusion, Both Parties Are the Same

[ 94 ] October 6, 2016 |


As the world’s smartest and most politically brilliant person, Dr. Jill Stein, M.D., repeatedly shows, both parties are the same. Especially on labor law.

The Obama administration, in its latest effort to update workplace policies it says have lagged far behind the realities of Americans’ lives, will require federal government contractors to provide paid sick leave to their workers.

The rule, which was issued on Thursday and which the Labor Department estimates will directly affect more than 1.1 million people once fully in effect, enables workers to accrue up to seven days of paid sick leave a year.

“This is really part of a broader conversation across America about what a 21st-century social compact should look like,” Thomas E. Perez, the labor secretary, said in an interview. “Back in the day, when Beaver Cleaver got sick and June Cleaver was home, who takes off to stay with the Beav was a nonissue. In today’s world of dual-career couples in the work force, our public policy has not caught up.”

The move serves as a coda to the administration’s ongoing efforts to enhance rights and protections for workers, including making millions more eligible for overtime pay and expanding workers’ rights to sue over pay discrimination.

In recent years, more than 20 cities and states around the country have passed laws mandating paid sick leave, which voters generally support, polls show. New York City passed its own such law in 2013 and expanded it the next year. Republican-leaning Arizona appears on the verge of enacting such a measure by a ballot initiative this fall.

But legislation that would mandate paid sick leave nationwide, notably the so-called Healthy Families Act, has stalled in Congress for years, prompting the administration to seek alternative ways of achieving the policy’s goals.

The rule, which does not need additional approval, requires that workers in assignments related to many federal contracts receive one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work, for up to 56 hours of leave a year. Workers will be able to use the days to receive medical attention, care for a relative or deal with complications arising from domestic violence or sexual assault. The rule affects only contracts solicited by the government beginning on Jan. 1, 2017.

Recent data suggest that more than 35 percent of private-sector workers do not have access to paid sick leave.

Jill Stein is the only progressive hope against this bipartisan war on American workers!

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