Amazon pilots use Prime Day to highlight major concerns

Lisa Lacy reports:

As Amazon readies for what will likely be two of its busiest days of the year, the pilots who transport its cargo are releasing a digital ad campaign on Facebook to highlight “concerns about how they are being overworked, underpaid and disrespected by their carriers.”

It’s the latest move in an increasingly bitter logistics saga as Amazon appeals to customers with faster and faster delivery options. The tactics have left pilots complaining about challenging schedules and low pay, and the airlines involved are accusing the pilots’ labor union of spreading lies—and delaying negotiations.

The new ads will direct viewers to the pilots’ website, PilotsDeserveBetter.org,which a union spokesman said “provides background from the pilots’ perspective about serious issues at their carriers.”

Here are examples of the ad creative the union will be running online during Prime Day:

In addition, he said the pilots are standing in solidarity with the Amazon warehouse workers in Minnesota who are planning a Prime Day strike. A representative from the pilots’ union will be on the ground to show striking workers they have the support of Teamsters Local 1224.

“As we know firsthand, Amazon’s business model too often neglects the wellbeing of the workers who make the ecommerce giant so incredibly successful,” said Daniel Wells, an Atlas Air pilot and president of APA Teamsters Local 1224, in a statement. “We’re proud to be the airline professionals who fly the planes that deliver Amazon’s packages to millions of Americans, but we want to make sure we’re engaged in a sustainable, long-term operation.”

A union spokesman, however, said the pilots themselves are not striking during Prime Day—despite an incredibly, increasingly complicated relationship.

Biden proposes bringing back the “public option”

Eric Bradner and Tami Luhby report:

Joe Biden is proposing massive new subsidies to make health coverage through Obamacare’s exchanges cheaper — as well as a new “public option” that would allow people to buy into a program his campaign says would be similar to Medicare.

The former vice president unveiled his health care plan Monday morning amid an escalating fight with his 2020 Democratic presidential foes as some more liberal candidates advocate enrolling all Americans in a national health plan, all but eliminating private health insurance.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is set to deliver a speech making his case for “Medicare for All” on Wednesday, according to his campaign. And California Sen. Kamala Harris, who has similarly backed a single-payer, government-run health program, teased the upcoming rollout of her plan in front of a crowd in New Hampshire on Sunday, too.

Biden, meanwhile, is pushing for a more moderate approach, built on former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

“We should not be starting from scratch. We should be building from what we have. There’s no time to wait,” Biden told an audience in Dover, New Hampshire, on Friday.

He said that under his plan, if “you like your employer-based insurance, you get to keep it.” Under other leading Democrats’ plans, he said, “you lose it, period.”

Biden’s plan would launch a “public option” that his campaign says would be “like Medicare,” with primary care covered with no co-payments.

Labor Secretary Patrick Pizzella under scrutiny for work with disgraced lobbyist

Tucker Higgins reports:

  • Incoming acting Labor Secretary Patrick Pizzella will take the helm of the department following the resignation of Alex Acosta, who faced scrutiny over his role in prosecuting alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein more than a decade ago.
  • But Pizzella, currently deputy Labor secretary, has his own controversial past that will likely come to the fore in his new role.
  • Democratic senators and civil rights groups have expressed concern about Pizzella’s prior work with disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff in the late 1990s and early 2000s to hamper worker protections in the Northern Mariana Islands.

Amazon workers discuss high volume and mandatory overtime

Brandy Zadrozny and Michael Cappetta report:

As Amazon geared up for Prime Day, the annual shopping event during which consumers can snag Black Friday-like bargains on millions of items, some employees braced for a long two days — and then some.

In recent weeks, workers in Amazon’s fulfillment centers — the company’s massive warehouses where employees move and process packages — have taken to a private Facebook group with almost 18,000 members to let off steam and express frustration with the retail behemoth’s policies surrounding the consumer holiday.

“Prime Day coming up,” one member wrote above the image of a sinking ship.

Others pointed to the company’s effort to cut down on shipping times as a harbinger of rough days ahead.

“It’s gonna be like two months of hell for us no matter what, especially since they’re doing the damn 1 day shipping and we can all hardly keep up with the regular orders with 1 day shipping,” another member wrote. Another equated Prime Day to “when they try to hype you for a crappy day of high volume, and mandatory overtime.”

The sentiments from the group provide a window into the lives of workers at Amazon’s more than 140 fulfillment centers around the United States who make up the bulk of the company’s workforce, which numbers more than half a million people.

In recent years, the conditions in which those workers operate has become the subject of growing criticism. Recent reports have found that Amazon employees face extreme pressure to meet company goals, sometimes sacrificing their health and well-being in the job, and for pay that requires some to turn to federal assistance.

Unions back Amazon ‘Prime Day’ boycott

Sylvan Lane reports:

Major U.S. labor unions called on consumers to boycott Amazon during its annual “Prime Day” sale Monday and expressed solidarity with striking workers at the online retailer’s suburban Minn., warehouse.

Labor leaders and activists urged online shoppers not to buy from Amazon or its affiliates Monday as the company offers discounts of up to 70 percent on thousands of products to members of its Prime services on Monday and Tuesday. 

The AFL-CIO, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) have asked would-be Amazon customers to stand with warehouse workers and delivery drivers calling for safer working conditions. 

“Before you rush out and start shopping and filling that cart, I hope you’ll take a minute to think about the working people who are working behind the scenes to make those deliveries happen today,” said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler in a Monday video.

“Show Amazon that Prime Day is not just for shopping, it’s for respecting the rights of work.”

Many Court Policies Punish the Poor

Travis Loller reports:

Johnny Gibbs has been trying to get a valid driver’s license for 20 years, but he just can’t afford it.

To punish him for high school truancy in 1999, Tennessee officials told him he would not be able to legally drive until he turned 21. He drove anyway, incurring two tickets and racking up more than $1,000 in fines and fees.

Like other low-income defendants in similar situations across the country, Gibbs couldn’t pay and ended up serving jail time and probation. That incurred another cost: a monthly supervision fee to a private probation company.

Rather than risk another arrest, Gibbs, now 38, decided to quit driving, which he said makes it nearly impossible to work. He said he spent several years living in a motel room with his mother, his disabled father and his sister before they all became homeless. In August, the family found housing in a dilapidated trailer, miles from the nearest town or food source.

“Honestly, I feel like I’m being punished for being poor,” Gibbs said.

For years, state and city officials in the U.S. — unwilling to raise taxes — have steadily increased their reliance on court fines and fees to balance budgets. Poor defendants who can’t pay are jailed, clogging local lockups with people who in many cases have not been convicted of any crime and putting others on a probation that doesn’t end until all debts are erased.

A growing number of legal groups and nonprofit organizations throughout the U.S. are challenging these practices, but they continue — despite a 1983 U.S. Supreme Court decision that found it unconstitutional to incarcerate defendants too poor to pay fines.

Millennials are more pro-union than generations before

Jamie Lynne Burgess reports:

In March 2019, the editorial staff at Gimlet Media became the first podcasting company to unionize when they joined the Writers Guild of America. The announcement came just a month after Gimlet was acquired by Spotify in a $230 million dollar deal.

Unionizing has been notoriously difficult for tech companies, according to Fast Company, but it could be the beginning of an industry-wide shift.

And the Gimlet workers’ move is evidence that labor organizing isn’t a thing of the past. The Center for Economic Policy and Research reported that 75 percent of new union members are under the age of 35.

Will younger generations of workers lead a resurgence of organized labor?

Keep reading >>>

MLB players willing to strike

USA Today reports:

There are no threats, no allusions of intimidation … really, not even raised voices.

Yet there also is not the slightest tinge of fear.

Major League Baseball players representing their brethren at the All-Star Game in Cleveland made it quite clear this week that they want changes, big-time changes, in the next collective bargaining agreement, or there will be significant consequences.

Yes, even if it takes a work stoppage before the CBA expires Dec. 1, 2021 — the first strike in baseball since 1994-95.

“We are together on this,” Pittsburgh Pirates slugger Josh Bell told USA TODAY Sports. “I know work stoppages in the past have worked to our benefit for the longevity of the game, the longevity of the player, and for the compensation of the player. Just for equal rights.

“We’ve met for years for preparation, and we’ll definitely see what happens in the future. Hopefully we can find common ground, but if not, we’re more than prepared. The one thing we’ve been taught, and we’ve heard it countless times, is to save your money the best you can because you never know what the future holds.”

There’s not a single active player who has endured a work stoppage. The average age of the National League’s starting lineup was 25.8, the youngest in baseball history.

They certainly aren’t eager to be the first class to end labor peace, but then again, they’re ready to take whatever step is necessary to restore cracks in their economic system.

“We’re very concerned. It’s been a little lopsided the last couple of years,” Boston Red Sox DH J.D. Martinez said, “and I know the association definitely wants to do something about it.”

Does that mean a willingness to strike?

Absolutely.

Union members “significantly more politically knowledgable”

Pacific Standard reports:

By this point, we’re all aware of how quickly and easily political misinformation can spread. Whether it comes from a concerned friend or a Russian bot, fake news can easily infest your social media feeds, and perhaps influence your vote.

The only way for a population to survive this plague is to be better informed. New research identifies one way to accomplish that goal: increasing union membership.

“Union members, particularly those with less formal education … are significantly more politically knowledgable than their non-union counterparts,” writes political scientist David Macdonald of Florida State University.

Specifically, he reports in the journal Political Behavior, they tend to be “better informed about where political parties and candidates stand on the issues.”

Nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office endorses $15 min. wage

The Congressional Budget Office, that nonpartisan arbiter of the impacts of federal legislation, reports that raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour would increase the wages of 27 million Americans and lift 1.3 million out of poverty as of 2025.

The CBO also says that the change might cost jobs for 1.3 million workers, though that’s the squishiest part of the agency’s analysis. Overall, the CBO says, “For most low-wage workers, earnings and family income would increase, which would lift some families out of poverty.”

The analysis, which was released Monday, is especially timely because House Democrats are on the verge of bringing a minimum wage raise to the floor for a vote. The Raise the Wage Act, introduced in January by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), would increase the federal minimum to $15 an hour from the current $7.25 in stages over five years.

-The LA Times

Missoula Therapists Vote to Join MFPE

MFPE reports:

July 1, CSCT staff employed by Western Montana Mental Health Missoula-Area voted to join the Montana Federation of Public Employees (MFPE). Joining MFPE means Missoula-area CSCT staff now have representation in the workplace and the right to collectively bargain with their employer.

Comprehensive School and Community Treatment (CSCT) is a joint effort between Montana school districts and providers to deliver emotional and behavioral support to students at school. CSCT staff help students with a range issues that affect their ability to be successful in school as well as other areas of life. Support services include individual sessions, group sessions, family support, lunch group, and in-class support.

“The decision to form a union was based solely on our desire to improve working conditions for employees and services for our clients,” said Patrick Shourd, Behavior Specialist. “Those who serve in the trenches deserve to have their voices heard as we can guide our programs in the most ethical manner. Collectively we can work with our organization to improve standards and quality of life for all stakeholders.”

72 CSCT staff employed by Western Montana Mental Health Missoula-Area cast ballots in the union election. The results were overwhelmingly in favor of joining MFPE, with 71 staff members voting for representation and collective bargaining rights.

UNBELIEVABLE: Boeing’s 737 Max Software Has Been Outsourced to $9/Hour Engineers

Peter Robinson reports:

It remains the mystery at the heart of Boeing Co.’s 737 Max crisis: how a company renowned for meticulous design made seemingly basic software mistakes leading to a pair of deadly crashes. Longtime Boeing engineers say the effort was complicated by a push to outsource work to lower-paid contractors.

The Max software — plagued by issues that could keep the planes grounded months longer after U.S. regulators this week revealed a new flaw — was developed at a time Boeing was laying off experienced engineers and pressing suppliers to cut costs.

Increasingly, the iconic American planemaker and its subcontractors have relied on temporary workers making as little as $9 an hour to develop and test software, often from countries lacking a deep background in aerospace — notably India.

In offices across from Seattle’s Boeing Field, recent college graduates employed by the Indian software developer HCL Technologies Ltd. occupied several rows of desks, said Mark Rabin, a former Boeing software engineer who worked in a flight-test group that supported the Max.

The coders from HCL were typically designing to specifications set by Boeing. Still, “it was controversial because it was far less efficient than Boeing engineers just writing the code,” Rabin said. Frequently, he recalled, “it took many rounds going back and forth because the code was not done correctly.”

Boeing’s cultivation of Indian companies appeared to pay other dividends. In recent years, it has won several orders for Indian military and commercial aircraft, such as a $22 billion one in January 2017 to supply SpiceJet Ltd. That order included 100 737-Max 8 jets and represented Boeing’s largest order ever from an Indian airline, a coup in a country dominated by Airbus.


Friends of Labor Patron

The Guggenheim has unionized!

Zachary Small reports:

Labor organizing in the art world gained a big win on Thursday night when workers at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum voted to unionize. Petitioners including art handlers and facilities staff working in construction will join Local 30, a chapter of the International Union of Operating Engineers also representing installers and maintenance workers at New York’s MoMA PS1.

“It’s incredibly exciting,” an art handler at the museum told Hyperallergic, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he still feared retaliation from his employers. “Workers were able to unite behind a movement despite extensive attempts to exploit divisions by Guggenheim management. It signals a future ability to create a strong contract that benefits all of us equally.”

The Guggenheim union will represent about 90 workers at the museum. Thursday saw 77 votes counted, with 57 workers voting for the union and 20 voting against it. The decision follows several recent attempts by arts workers to organize for better wages and benefits in an industry notorious for low salaries and little chance of upward mobility.


Friends of Labor Patron

Organized Labor is finally waking up!

George Pearkes reports:

You may have noticed some labor disruptions in the headlines. A few examples from the past month: employees of Vox Media successfully negotiated a collective bargaining agreement, Buzzfeed employees walked out in an effort to get recognition for their union, and Volkswagen workers in Tennessee talked wildcat strikes after a vote to unionize failed by a small margin.

Last year, teachers walked off the job in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona with walk-outs and other disruptions from Colorado to the Carolinas. This may seem like bad news for capitalists, but unions can be a source of stability as well as class conflict. The recent labor renaissance could help to reverse some worrying long-term trends in the American economy, while also still benefiting the businesses from which workers are extracting gains.

The recent uptick in strikes is not just your imagination, and it recalls an earlier era when unions played a greater role in the American labor market. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed more than 485,000 workers were impacted by large strikes that started during the year, the highest number since 1986.

Keep reading.

This Tennessee Hospital SUES Its Own Employees When They Can’t Pay Their Medical Bills

Something is very wrong.

All Things Considered reports:

This year, a hospital housekeeper left her job just three hours into her shift and caught a bus to Shelby County General Sessions Court in Memphis, Tenn.

Wearing her black and gray uniform, she had a different kind of appointment with her employer, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare: The hospital was suing her for unpaid medical bills.

In 2017, the nonprofit hospital system based in Memphis sued the woman for the cost of hospital stays to treat chronic abdominal pain she experienced before the hospital hired her.

She now owes Methodist more than $23,000, including around $5,800 in attorney’s fees.

It’s surreal, she says, to be sued by the organization that pays her $12.25 an hour. “You know how much you pay me. And the money you’re paying, I can’t live on,” says the housekeeper, who asked that her name not be used for fear that the hospital would fire her for talking to a reporter.

AOC doesn’t have any patience for Piers Morgan’s elitism

Tanya Edwards reports:

U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slammed British journalist Piers Morgan after he mocked the her former job bartending while defending Ivanka Trump for traveling to the G-20 summit.

Morgan responded to a tweet Ocasio-Cortez posted late Saturday criticizing why the First Daughter and her husband, Jared Kushner — both unpaid White House advisers — attended the meeting of world leaders in Japan last week.

”Could be worse … Ivanka could have been a bar-tender 18 months ago,” Morgan, the former “America’s Got Talent” judge and “Celebrity Apprentice” contestant wrote.

Lawmakers, 2020 candidates mourn loss of 9/11 responder Luis Alvarez

CNN REPORTS:

Congressional lawmakers and 2020 presidential hopefuls quickly responded to the news of the death of Luis Alvarez — a retired NYPD bomb squad detective who testified for Congress to appeal for replenishing the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.

Sen. Bernie Sanders said on Twitter Saturday, “We mourn the loss of Luis Alvarexz, a champion for the health of 9/11 first responders, and one of the selfless men and women who searched for survivors at Ground Zero.”

The Vermont Democrat added, “We must build a society where we take care of each other and treat health care as a human right.”

Rep. Pete King of New York tweeted his “thoughts and prayers with family and friends” of the 9/11 hero. King said he was scheduled to visit Alvarez in hospice Sunday. “Lou Alvarez personified America’s heart and soul.” Alvarez entered end-of-life hospice care last week.

Rep. Jerry Nadler echoed those sentiments on Twitter, writing, “Det. Alvarez lost his fight against cancer, but his fight for 9/11 responders and survivors continues.” Nadler noted that “it is time for Congress to honor his sacrifice.

The fund Alvarez and other responders fought for was created months after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Congress and President Barack Obama agreed in 2010 to pay medical costs for first responders who have since been diagnosed with illnesses and cancers related to breathing in the air at Ground Zero. Congress and Obama also reopened the fund and set aside $2.7 billion to pay victims. In 2012, the government determined that cancers can be compensated as part of the fund.

It wasn’t nearly enough money, however, and in 2015 Congress added $4.6 billion in funding, along with new controls and limits on some payments. The special master who administers the fund anticipates that total payouts for claims filed before the measure expires in 2020 could be far higher: $11.6 billion, if a current uptick in claims — largely caused by an increase in serious illnesses and deaths — continues.

The current proposal to permanently extend the fund would authorize it through 2089. It has plenty of support in the House, where it passed the Judiciary Committee, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated that Congress would address the fund.

AFT President Randi Weingarten and Montana Federation of Public Employees President Eric Feaver on the Supreme Court Decision

American Federation of Teachers  President Randi Weingarten and Montana Federation of Public Employees President Eric Feaver today issued the following joint statement on the U.S. Supreme Court’s agreement to hear oral arguments on the Montana-based case  Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue:

Weingarten said:

“The separation of church and state harkens back to the beginnings of the U.S. Constitution.  This long tradition—established to ensure the religious freedom of all—should be protected by conservatives and liberals alike. It’s alarming that the current Supreme Court would try to revisit and undo that precedent, in public schools no less, as it sets a dangerous standard and opens the door to the dismantling of a basic tenet of our nation’s democracy.”

Feaver said:

“The Supreme Court’s decision is sad and troubling.  It suggests Montana’s Constitution may be at risk right along with our public schools.  It suggests extraordinary federal intrusion into the constitutional and public school affairs of this state and perhaps many others.” 

Workers Win $2 Million Settlement on Severance

Bloomberg reports:

A group of Toys “R” Us workers who lost their jobs as the company went bankrupt will get some of the estate’s remaining cash to make up for severance pay that they were denied during the court case, according to representatives for the group.

Judge Keith L. Philips of the Eastern District of Virginia awarded $2 million to the workers, who were promised severance at the outset of the bankruptcy as part of a benefits plan that was later canceled as the restructuring unraveled.

Despite relentless attacks from special interests and the Supreme Court, public employee unions are holding strong

Sean Higgins reports:

One year after the Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees that was supposed to decimate public sector unions, organized labor appear to have absorbed the blow better than expected. 

The ruling said that public sector workers could not be forced to join or otherwise financially support a union if they didn’t want to, ending a common feature of union public sector contracts. Conservatives predicted that the 5-4 decision, written by Justice Samuel Alito, would be a major financial blow to the labor movement. “Every year for decades, billions — billions with a B — of dollars have been taken by force by government labor unions from workers without their permission and spent on politics against their wishes,” Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said last year when the ruling was announced. “That ends today, decades late, but once and for all.”

But unions have responded by putting an increased effort into recruiting and retaining members. They’ve also pushed friendly statehouses to pass measures that effectively circumvent the Janus ruling by limiting the ways that workers can opt out. And in many cases, union members aren’t even aware of their rights under Janus, as unions haven’t promoted them.

The main public sector unions have not reported large membership losses in the year since the ruling came out. AFSCME, the defendant in the case, reported in March that its membership was 1.3 million, up by 27,000 from last year, according to a Labor Department filing.

Hawaiian Airlines flight attendants hold first major union protest in decades

Allison Schaefers reports:

At least a couple of hundred Hawaiian Airlines flight attendants on Wednesday held their first major Hawaii labor demonstration in nearly 20 years to protest protracted negotiations over a new contract.

The contract between Hawaiian Airlines management and the flight attendants, who belong to the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) union, became amendable on Dec. 31, 2016. The last bargaining session was last week in Portland and the parties are expected to go back to the table the last week of July.

Hawaiian Airlines spokesman Alex Da Silva said today, “The AFA-CWA represents some 2,100 Hawaiian flight attendants who provide the best hospitality in the industry. HA and the AFA have reached tentative agreements on many issues since negotiations began in 2017. We are now in mediation, to help us navigate remaining issues and we are working very hard to finalize a deal.”

But Jeff Fuke, a Hawaiian flight attendant for 11 years and a member of Hawaiian’s negotiating committee, said union members still are fighting for fair wages, better retirement plans and maintaining protections on the job.

“We’ve been in mediation since the fourth quarter of last year. Every time we have bargained, AFA has presented proposals. Hawaiian hasn’t gotten back to us,” said Fuke, who joined today’s protest. “We are out here to bring the message to the public to let them know about our struggle. The flight attendants are interested in this concluding quickly.”

Flight attendants marched on the sidewalk in front of several Terminal 1 locations at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. They carried signs such as, “Delay, Delay, Not Ok, ” and “Hawaii starts here,” and chanted union rallying cries like “1,2,3, 4, We won’t take it anymore,” “Contract now,” and “We make profits every day. Now it’s time to raise our pay.”

CEOs made 287 times more than their workers did

Alexia Fernández Campbell reports:

After years of kicking and screaming, corporate executives have finally released pay data on what their CEO makes versus their median worker.

Unsurprisingly, the gap is obscene. The average chief executive of an S&P 500 company earned 287 times more than their median employee last year, according to an analysis of the new federal data released Tuesday by the AFL-CIO labor federation. America’s CEOs earned a staggering $14.5 million in 2018, on average, compared to the average $39,888 that rank-and-file workers made. And CEOs got a $500,000 bump compared to the previous year, while the average US worker barely got more than $1,000.

This is the first year in which all public companies were required to disclose CEO-to-workers pay ratios in filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Before, companies only needed to report compensation for their top executives.

The new disclosures — largely opposed by corporate America — are part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. The purpose is to provide shareholders with more information to judge corporate behavior — and to shame executives for their excessive pay.

Chief executives at America’s largest companies don’t get paid the way the average worker does. Beyond aset salary, CEOs’ compensation packages include other forms of income, such as bonuses, company stock options, and long-term incentive payouts, which can vary based on performance and the status of the stock market.

The new analysis relies on the most conservative measure of CEO pay, based on the value of stock options when they were awarded to executives, not when they were cashed out.

Companies that rely on low-wage, part-time workers were among those with the largest pay disparities. Tesla had the most shocking one: Elon Musk made 40,668 times more money than the median Tesla employee. Among the largest US companies, the clothing brand Gap had the largest disparity. CEO Arthur Peck made 3,566 times more than the median company employee, who only made about $5,800. McDonald’s, Foot Locker, and Estee Lauder reported jaw-dropping pay gaps, too.

SHOCKING: Trump’s EPA Unilaterally Imposes a New Union Contract Slashing Telework and Easing Firing

Eric Katz reports:

The Environmental Protection Agency has cut off negotiations with its primary union and informed the labor group it will unilaterally implement a new contract, stripping away many of the rights and privileges employees currently enjoy and setting up yet another legal battle between the Trump administration and the federal workforce.  

The new, one-sided agreement is set to go into effect on July 8 and severely limit telework, evict union representatives from agency office space and restrict employees from filing a grievance over disciplinary actions, among other changes. EPA blamed the American Federation of Government Employees for the unilateral implementation of the new contract, telling the union its refusal to open up the entire agreement to negotiation required the agency to take action on its own. 

The dispute follows an ongoing pattern in the Trump administration, which has frequently butted heads with unions across government. Representatives of employees at the departments of Education, Health and Human Services and Veterans Affairs are all fighting their agencies’ efforts to curtail negotiations or otherwise limit unions’ power. Trump previously attempted to cripple federal employee unions through an executive order, but a federal judge largely struck it down. The administration is currently appealing that decision. 

A senior career EPA official told Government Executive the negotiations trace back to 2010, when the agency first came to AFGE to reopen its 2007 agreement. After a series of back and forth discussion, and what the official described as “delay tactics” by AFGE, EPA filed an unfair labor practice with the Federal Labor Relations Authority in late 2016. The two sides agreed to restart negotiations as part of a settlement agreement reached in 2017, but they could not agree on ground rules. While EPA characterized the recent spat as part of an ongoing nine-year dispute, AFGE suggested the provisions of the new contract mirror those contained in Trump’s executive orders. 

Under the new contract, employees can only telework once per week. All staff must report to their duty stations four days per week, so anyone on an alternative work schedule would be effectively barred from teleworking. The agreement would change EPA’s performance assessment for bargaining unit employees, making it easier to place them on a performance improvement plan and subsequently fire them. 

Grocery workers vote on strike authorization

Jack Katzanek reports:

Grocery workers in Southern and Central California are voting Monday and Tuesday on whether they’ll authorize their union to call a strike at the region’s major supermarket chains.

After months of fruitless contract negotiations with Albertsons, Vons, Pavilions and Ralphs, the seven locals of United Food and Commercial Workers are holding membership meetings where strike votes are being tallied.

Authorizing a strike doesn’t mean there will be any labor action, but it does indicate the union’s dissatisfaction with the negotiations, which started almost four months ago. The vote is also designed to put pressure on the employers, with the next three-day round of negotiations scheduled to start on July 10.

Senator Brown Introduces Bill to Shed Light on American Outsourcing

Dan O’Brien reports:

A bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown would require publicly traded companies to show the number of employees they have at each location, including those overseas.

The goal of the Outsourcing Accountability Act is to put pressure on companies that outsource their labor to countries such as Mexico or China, said Brown, D-Ohio. By mandating that these companies publish employee numbers, it would show whether a company has shed its workforce in the United States while growing it elsewhere around the world.

“Companies don’t want the bad publicity,” the senator said during a stop at the United Steelworkers Union Local 1375 union hall Monday. “The more light you can shine on it, the better it is, especially companies like GM. Their brand really matters to their consumer sales.”

Brown said this information helps communities, labor negotiations and the average worker by holding these companies accountable.  

“This just closes the loophole to show where those jobs are. It is a simple filing and it’s not a ton of paperwork,” he said.

Brown referenced General Motors Co.’s decision in 2018 to end its second shift at its Lordstown Complex. The company announced its plans to build a new Chevrolet Blazer in Mexico the same day 1,500 workers were placed on layoff at the plant. In March of this year, GM placed Lordstown on “unallocated” product status, laying off the remaining 1,500 workers at the plant and shutting it down.  

Report shows pay disparity between CEOs, workers

Jessica Smith reports:

The average S&P 500 CEO made 287 times what a typical American worker made last year, according to the AFL-CIO’s annual Executive Paywatch report.

“We believe this disparity represents a fundamental problem with our economy,” said Liz Shuler, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer. “For too long, corporate greed and rigged economic rules have created a relentlessly growing pay gap between CEOs and the rest of us.”

The new report says CEOs of companies in the S&P 500 index made $14.5 million on average in 2018, compared to $13.94 million the year prior.

“Over the past decade, the average S&P 500 CEO’s pay increased by more than $5 million, while the average worker over the past decade only saw an increase of less $800 a year,” said Shuler on a call with reporters.

The AFL-CIO has put together the database of CEO pay for decades. It previously compared CEO pay to the average pay of production and nonsupervisory workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But a provision in the Dodd-Frank financial regulations now requires companies to disclose the ratio of CEO pay to median worker pay.

“We finally have company-specific data,” said Brandon Rees, AFL-CIO Deputy Director for Corporations and Capital Markets. “The Executive Paywatch ratio of CEO to worker pay is the simple arithmetic mean – the average – of the company-disclosed pay ratios. So this is what the companies themselves say their ratio of CEO to worker pay is.”

The National Retail Federation argues the requirement is unfair because it singles out industries that have high percentages of part-time, seasonal and entry-level employees. The NRF says the rule distorts retailers’ pay ratios.

Of the S&P 500 companies in the AFL-CIO’s database, Gap (GPS) has the highest CEO-to-worker ratio of 3,566 to 1 — with the median worker making $5,831.

The highest paid CEO on the list was David Zaslav of Discovery (DISCA), who raked in more than $129 million in 2018. That’s 1,511 times what the median worker made.

Last year, Copart (CPRT) had the narrowest gap between CEO and worker pay of all S&P 500 companies. Its CEO made six times the median worker pay.

AFL-CIO reports Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A) came in second, with Warren Buffett making seven times the median worker pay.

Wayfair employees just learned they are making beds for migrant detention centers and they’re walking off the job

Scott McDonald reports:

Employees of Wayfair announced they plan to walkout of work Wednesday afternoon to protest the company’s manufacturing of furniture sold to facilities that house migrant children along the southern border.

The Boston Globe reported that it spoke with an employee who told the paper Wayfair employees learned last week that a government contractor that manages migrant camps, BCFS, placed a $200,000 order for bedroom furniture.

Within hours, about 50 employees at the Boston-based online housewares retailer began drafting a letter to Wayfair’s executives that outlined their consternation. They then got nearly 550 signatures before presenting it to Wayfair co-founders Niraj Shah and Steve Conine, as well as all members of its board.

https://twitter.com/wayfairwalkout/status/1143573031488331776?s=21

A bill in Congress could represent a major shift in US labor laws

Vox reports:

Congressional Democrats want to give all government employees the right to unionize.

House and Senate Democrats plan to introduce a bill on Wednesday that would give public-sector employees collective bargaining rights for the first time under federal law, according to the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union, which is pushing for the change. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) will introduce the bill, called the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act.

Unlike employees who work for private businesses, the nation’s 21 million government employees have no collective bargaining rights under federal law. Millions live in states that do let them organize — and millions don’t. The new bill would require all states to let government employees organize and negotiate wages, hours, and working conditions.

If passed (a big if), the bill would represent a major shift in US labor laws, essentially making the right to organize a fundamental right for all US workers.

The bill is a direct response to last June’s US Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, which banned unions from collecting fees from teachers, firefighters, police, and other government employees they represent, unless those workers are card-carrying union members. That means workers who pay dues are unfairly subsidizing union benefits for their coworkers who choose to pay nothing, which strains a union’s finances.

It also comes at a time when Republican leaders, big businesses, and the courts have doubled down on their attempts to weaken the influence of labor unions and the workers they represent.

Trump’s promise to create millions of apprenticeships has resulted in ZERO apprenticeships

More broken promises that were made to working Americans.

Ian Kullgren reports:

Two years after President Donald Trump signed an executive order that he said would “create apprenticeships for millions of our citizens,” not a single apprenticeship program has been created under the program, nor a single person trained.

Apprenticeships rank so high as a priority for Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta that when he appears in public he speaks of little else. But his department has struggled through two years and multiple false starts to propose a regulation that can implement the program.

The delay shows how, in attempting to speed deregulation by cutting out bureaucrats and confining policy discussion to political appointees, the Trump administration is slowing down its own initiatives.

The White House budget office finally cleared a proposed rule Friday, signaling it will likely be made public soon. In a written statement, a DOL spokeswoman said that “much progress has been made, and in the coming days we will announce important milestones.”

Tesla accused of firing pro-union workers

Matt Glynn reports:

A union alleges that Tesla fired some workers at its Buffalo solar products plant because of their pro-union stance and that the company in at least one case tried to interfere with a worker’s efforts to find another job.

A few additional details were revealed in a document released by the National Labor Relations Board in response to a Freedom of Information Law request by The Buffalo News. The NLRB is investigating the charge, which was filed June 19.

The Pittsburgh-based United Steelworkers union, one of two unions attempting to organize workers at the South Buffalo plant, filed the charge last week. The two unions launched their drive last December.

A partially redacted document released by the NLRB omits the names of the workers who allegedly were fired in retaliation for supporting the union. It appears the allegation involves as many as six workers.

The document also says the union alleges that Tesla “intentionally interfered” with efforts by at least one person to secure another job, in “retaliation” for “outspoken union support.”

Airline food workers vote to authorize a strike

CBS News reports:

The people who prepare the food and beverages served on three major U.S. airlines have voted to authorize a strike, calling for higher wages and less costly health insurance.

Over the last two weeks, more than 11,000 airline food workers in the last two weeks cast ballots in 28 cities across the country on whether to authorize a walkout, according to Unite Here, a hospitality-industry union representing airline catering employees. The ballots are a first step toward a potential strike.

Unite Here is negotiating on behalf of some 3,270 Gate Gourmet employees and nearly 7,700 Sky Chefs employees who service flights for American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines at major hubs. The union is also in talks with United on behalf of 2,600 food workers directly employed by the airline who are not covered by a contract.

Union Plus Scholarships Totaling $170,000 Awarded Union Members and Families

NH Labor News Reports:

Union Plus recently awarded $170,000 in scholarships to 108 students representing 34 unions. This year’s group of scholarship recipients includes university, college and trade or technical school students from 31 states plus the District of Columbia.

The Union Plus Scholarship Program, now in its 28th year, awards scholarships based on outstanding academic achievement, personal character, financial need and commitment to organized labor’s values. The program is offered through the Union Plus Education Foundation, supported in part by contributions from the provider of the Union Plus Credit Cards. Applicants do not need to be a credit cardholder to apply for the scholarship.

“When I see the dedication that these scholarship recipients display, I know the future of the labor movement is strong,” said AFL-CIO President and Union Plus Board Chairman Richard Trumka. “I’m so proud that the Union Plus Scholarship Program enables deserving students to pursue diverse educational opportunities and has helped 3,000 union members and their families achieve their dreams of a higher education.”

Since starting the program in 1991, Union Plus has awarded more than $4.5 million in educational funding to more than 3,000 union members, spouses and dependent children. Union Plus Scholarship awards are granted to students attending a two-year college, four-year college, graduate school or a recognized technical or trade school. The selection process is very competitive and this year over 7,100 applications were received from 65 unions, all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and two U.S. territories, representing an almost 20% increase in applications over 2018. Visit unionplus.org/scholarship for applications and information about benefit eligibility.

“The entire team here at Union Plus is so proud to be able to offer this scholarship program to help union family members offset the high cost of college education” said Mitch Stevens, President of Union Plus. “This year’s group of 108 winners are all incredibly talented, motivated, and deserving students taking an important step to further their education and build the foundation for future success.”

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GM is plotting a temp-worker push

David Welch reports:

General Motors Co. wants to hire more temporary workers at U.S. plants and trim its healthcare costs, said people familiar with the automaker’s thinking. Its union — still steaming over the carmaker’s plans to close four U.S. factories — has little interest in obliging.

That sets up a hot summer of negotiations for the United Auto Workers and GM as the two try to hash out a new four-year labor deal in the coming months. The last contract was bargained over in better times, when auto sales were growing from financial crisis lows to all-time highs and GM was marching toward record profits.

Grocery strike could rock Southern California

The Los Angeles Times reports:

Nearly 16 years ago, the largest and longest supermarket strike in U.S. history reshaped the Southern California grocery industry.

Tens of thousands of workers at Albertsons, Vons, Pavilions and Ralphs stores spanning from San Diego to San Luis Obispo went on strike or were locked out, starting in October 2003 and lasting more than four months.

Grocery shoppers had to choose whether to walk past workers picketing in the cold. Those who did found shelves often half-empty as they sought groceries for Thanksgiving, then Christmas.

Others looked elsewhere, flocking to Trader Joe’s or Costco — and forming new shopping habits that boosted those chains’ fortunes.

During the strike, the chains in the labor dispute lost a combined $1.5 billion in sales.

And now it might happen again.

Early next week, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union in Southern and Central California plan to vote on whether to authorize another strike, this time by 46,000 unionized workers. Negotiations have stalled on a new contract with Albertsons — which now owns Vons and Pavilions — and Ralphs.

The vote doesn’t necessarily mean a strike will happen. But if approved, it would enable the union to call a strike whenever it wants. That approval would send a message to the companies that a walkout is possible if the two sides can’t reach a deal. The employees are still working under a three-year contract that expired March 3.

Pamela Hill, 58, a 23-year veteran of Albertsons who works at its store on Crenshaw Boulevard near Los Angeles’ Baldwin Hills area, is ready to send that message. A cashier and safety trainer, she plans to vote yes on authorizing the UFCW to strike.

“I was ready in 2003, but I’m more ready now because I’m at the age where I’m looking forward to my retirement in a few years,” Hill said. “I want my benefits and pensions and so forth to be intact.”

Letter Carriers’ Annual Food Drive Another Success

Despite continued attacks on benefits and job security, America’s postal workers keep delivering and working for their communities.

PR Newswire reports:

The annual food drive of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), which took place on Saturday, May 11, collected more than 76.1 million pounds of food—third-highest total in the drive’s 27 years.

The NALC branch in San Juan, Puerto Rico, collected about 2.3 million pounds of food, leading all  branches nationwide in the amount of food collected. The food donations stay in each community, going to help local residents.

The Stamp Out Hunger® Food Drive is the country’s largest single-day food drive, relying on the generosity of residents, who leave donations of non-perishable food items next to their mailbox before the delivery of the mail on the day of the food drive. Letter carriers collect these food donations on that day as they deliver mail along their postal routes, and distribute them to local food banks, pantries, shelters and churches.

The Letter Carriers’ food drive is held annually on the second Saturday in May in 10,000 cities and towns in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam. It remains as important as ever, with many people facing economic struggles. Hunger affects tens of millions of people around the country, including millions of children, senior citizens and veterans.

Letter carriers see these struggles in the communities they serve, and believe that it is important to do what they can to help.

“This is a labor of love for letter carriers, and we are proud to see how it has grown in impact over the years,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said. “It’s an honor to be able to help people in need all across the country—and to do so in a way that brings out the best in so many Americans.”

The timing is important, with food banks, pantries and shelters running low on donations from the winter holidays and with summer approaching, when most school meal programs are suspended.

This year’s figure brings the total collected since NALC’s food drive began in 1993 to about 1.75 billion pounds.

Several national partners assisted NALC in the recent drive: the U.S. Postal Service, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, United Way Worldwide, the AFL-CIO, Valpak and Valassis. We are also very pleased to have had the participation of two new national partners this year: the Kellogg Co. and CVS Health.

Charter schools are changing education — for the worse

High faculty turnover, high student attrition, and booming funding are making charters into the perfect weapon to destroy our public school system.

Michelle Chen reports:

Charter schools have been hailed as the antidote to public-school dysfunction by everyone from tech entrepreneurs to Wall Street philanthropists. But a critical autopsyby the advocacy group Network for Public Education (NPE) reveals just how disruptive the charter industry has become—for both students and their communities.

Charter schools are technically considered public schools but are run by private companies or organizations, and can receive private financing—as such, they are generally able to circumvent standard public-school regulations, including unions. This funding system enables maximum deregulation, operating like private businesses and free of the constraints of public oversight, while also ensuring maximum public funding. 

According to Carol Burris of NPE, charter schools “want the funding and the privilege of public schools but they don’t want the rules that go along with them.” She cites charter initiatives’ having developed their own certification policies, as well as disciplinary codes and academic standards—a tendency toward “wanting the best of both worlds” among both non- and for-profit charter organizations.

California’s 2016 primary elections saw fierce battles funded through charter-school industry groups, particularly the Parent Teacher Alliance, which spent several million dollars on races for local superintendents and legislators. Reflecting the ambitions of charter proponents to aggressively expand the sector statewide, the charter boosters pushed candidates who favored lifting district limits on opening new charters. Such policies have sparked controversy, since charter growth is associated with budget erosion for public schools and resistance to staff unionization in the host district. Another measure opposed by the charter sector would “make charter board meetings public, allow the public to inspect charter school records, and prohibit charter school officials from having a financial interest in contracts that they enter into in their official capacity.”

Keep reading.

Illinois IKEA Distribution Center Workers Vote to Join Machinists Union

A group of 186 distribution center workers at IKEAdistribution centers in Joliet and Minooka, Ill. voted this Wednesday and Thursday to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). IKEA is in the process of transitioning work from Minooka to its new facility in Joliet.

“These hard-working men and women are proud to work at IKEA and do tremendous work for this company,” said IAM Organizer Dennis Mendenhall, who led the IAM’s campaign. “Yes, joining the IAM gives them the opportunity to negotiate on wages, benefits and work rules. But this campaign was mostly about fairness and a voice on the job, as well as ensuring that the profits they create also benefit their families and communities.”

The organizing win gives a boost to the IAM’s internationally backed campaign to unionize thousands more IKEA distribution and fulfilment center workers. The IAM has partnered with a global union federation, Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI), to grow leverage in organizing and bargaining with Europe-based IKEA, the world’s largest furniture manufacturer.

The IAM also represents workers at IKEAfacilities in Danville, Va., Perryville, Md., Westampton, N.J., and Savannah, Ga. IAM workers at IKEA recently wrote a support letter to Illinois IKEA workers saying the “strong IAM contracts we have negotiated are not just words on paper—it has given us respect and fair treatment on the job.”

In the wood, pulp and paper industries, the IAM also represents workers at Weyerhaeuser, West Rock and Georgia Pacific, among others. The IAM Wood, Pulp and Paper Council recently held a conference to strategize on how to grow power in the sector.

“By joining the Machinists Union, these men and women will be a part of the strength we continue to gain for IKEA workers,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr.“This was a total team effort for the IAM. I want to thank lead organizer Dennis Mendenhall and the Organizing Department, the Midwest Territory, Local 701, District 8, the Woodworkers Department, and BWI for making this win possible.”

The Koch’s have infiltrated Teach for America in order to promote charter schools

Documents obtained by ProPublica show that the Walton foundation, a staunch supporter of school choice and Teach for America’s largest private funder, was paying $4,000 for every teacher placed in a traditional public school — and $6,000 for every one placed in a charter school.

Keep reading.


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More attacks on working people and rural America: the Postal Service plans to slash worker benefits

Laura Clawson reports:

Congress has put strict limits on the U.S. Postal Service to prevent it from entering the 21st century or competing with private businesses, and now the Postal Service wants Congress to let it compete in the race to the bottom. HuffPost’s Arthur Delaney and Dave Jamieson reported this week on internal documents proposing that Congress allow the Postal Service to save money by cutting worker benefits and expanding its temp workforce.

Postal workers would lose retirement security under the plan, with new workers shifted from a pension to a 401(k) model and existing workers’ pension contributions raised (money that would come out of their take-home pay). Retired workers’ health care would also see changes, and active workers would likely lose paid leave.


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`Scabby the Rat’ is the Subject of a Free-Speech Fight over Unions’ Rights

Bloomberg Law reports:

A rat bigger than even the rodents of New York City is the linchpin of a case that may prompt the U.S. labor board to reinterpret how, when or even if certain union protests are protected by labor laws and the First Amendment.

A dispute out of Philadelphia involving Scabby the Rat, an inflatable protest icon used by unions for decades, is finally before the four current members of the Republican-controlled National Labor Relations Board, following a lengthy effort by agency general counsel Peter Robb to find a case that could be used to get use of the rat outlawed.

To Robb, the rat is so confrontational that its use amounts to unlawful coercion when employed to protest businesses other than those directly involved in a labor dispute with a union. The National Labor Relations Act prohibits unions from engaging in “secondary picketing” or other actions meant to coerce a neutral employer. 

More consequentially, the general counsel is also arguing that speech in labor disputes has only limited First Amendment protection, and that the government can justify stronger regulations on what unions can say or communicate. It’s a politically fraught topic that is almost certain sure to draw legal challenges. 

“The fact that the NLRB is trying to change it underscores what a powerful symbol the rat has come to serve as,” said Katie Fallow, a senior staff attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute. “If the rat didn’t have any impact, it wouldn’t be paying attention. And that makes its actions a little more suspect.”

Robb declined to comment on the case. 

Pentagon starts negotiations with unions after unfair labor practices

Jared Serbu reports:

The Defense Department has entered into talks with a dozen of its labor unions over precisely how it will move more than 1,000 information technology workers from other areas of the department to the Defense Information Systems Agency.

The move comes just a week after the American Federation of Government Employees, DoD’s largest union, lodged a formal complaint against the department for what union officials said had been total silence from Defense officials about the upcoming Fourth Estate Network Optimization initiative. AFGE had claimed the department was engaging in unfair labor practices by not consulting with the union about the impending move.

This is what the PRO Act would do

EPI reports:

The PRO Act addresses several major problems with the current law and tries to give working people a fair shot when they try to join together with their coworkers to form a union and bargain for better wages, benefits, and conditions at their workplaces. Here’s how:

  1. Stronger and swifter remedies when employers interfere with workers’ rights. Under current law, there are no penalties on employers or compensatory damages for workers when employers illegally fire or retaliate against workers who are trying to form a union. As a result, employers routinely fire pro-union workers, because they know it will undermine the organizing campaign and they will face no real consequences. The PRO Act addresses this issue, instituting civil penalties for violations of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Specifically, the legislation establishes compensatory damages for workers and penalties against employers (including penalties on officers and directors) when employers break the law and illegally fire or retaliate against workers. Importantly, these back pay and damages remedies apply to workers regardless of their immigration status. The PRO Act also requires the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to go to court and get an injunction to immediately reinstate workers if the NLRB believes the employer has illegally retaliated against workers for union activity. With this reform, workers won’t be out of a job and a paycheck while their case works its way through the system. Finally, the PRO Act adds a right for workers to go to court to seek relief, bringing labor law in line with other workplace laws that already contain this right. And, the legislation prohibits employers from forcing workers to waive their right to class or collective litigation.
  2. More freedom to organize without employer interference. The PRO Act streamlines the NLRB election process so workers can petition to form a union and get a timely vote without their employer interfering and delaying the vote. The act makes clear it is workers’ decision to file for a union election and that employers have no standing in the NLRB’s election process. It prohibits companies from forcing workers to attend mandatory anti-union meetings as a condition of continued employment. If the employer breaks the law or interferes with a fair election, the PRO Act empowers the NLRB to require the employer to bargain with the union if it had the support of a majority of workers prior to the election. And the PRO Act reinstates an Obama administration rule, which was repealed by the Trump administration, to require employers to disclose the names and payments they make to outside third-party union-busters that they hire to campaign against the union.
  3. Winning first contract agreements when workers organize and protecting fair share agreements. The law requires employers to bargain in good faith with the union chosen by their employees to reach a collective bargaining agreement—a contract—addressing wages, benefits, protections from sexual harassment, and other issues. But employers often drag out the bargaining process to avoid reaching an agreement. More than half of all workers who vote to form a union don’t have a collective bargaining agreement a year later. This creates a discouraging situation for workers and allows employers to foster a sense of futility in the process. The PRO Act establishes a process for reaching a first agreement when workers organize, utilizing mediation and then, if necessary, binding arbitration, to enable the parties to reach a first agreement. And the PRO Act overrides so-called “right-to-work” laws by establishing that employers and unions in all 50 states may agree upon a “fair share” clause requiring all workers who are covered by—and benefit from—the collective bargaining agreement to contribute a fair share fee towards the cost of bargaining and administering the agreement.
  4. Protecting strikes and other protest activity. When workers need economic leverage in bargaining, the law gives them the right to withhold their labor from their employer—to strike—as a means of putting economic pressure on the employer. But court decisions have dramatically undermined this right by allowing employers to “permanently replace” strikers—in other words, replace strikers with other workers so the strikers no longer have jobs. The law also prohibits boycotts of so-called “secondary” companies as a means of putting economic pressure on the workers’ employer, even if these companies hold real sway over the employer and could help settle the dispute. The PRO Act helps level the playing field for workers by repealing the prohibition on secondary boycotts and prohibiting employers from permanently replacing strikers.
  5. Organizing and bargaining rights for more workers. Too often, employers misclassify workers as independent contractors, who do not have the right to organize under the NLRA. Similarly, employers will misclassify workers as supervisors to deprive them of their NLRA rights. The PRO Act tightens the definitions of independent contractor and supervisor to crack down on misclassification and extend NLRA protections to more workers. And, the PRO Act makes clear that workers can have more than one employer, and that both employers need to engage in collective bargaining over the terms and conditions of employment that they control or influence. This provision is particularly important given the prevalence of contracting out and temporary work arrangements—workers need the ability to sit at the bargaining table with all the entities that control or influence their work lives.

New York Could Become The First State To Be Do Away With PRIVATE Prisons

Morgan Simons reports:

With many corporations having capitalizations that make them larger than countries, it can sometimes feel hard to imagine governments effectively being able to set limits on companies — let alone entire industries. We’ve seen this recently in the case of tech monopolies having federal regulatory agencies completely befuddled, or, on a more local level, the difficulty communities have getting corner stores to sell more fresh food and less cigarettes and liquor.

One interesting exception to this rule is the private prison industry; where the government (given they are the largest client) is uniquely positioned to effectively regulate the sector — or, as many would argue, to eliminate private prisons entirely, given their problematic incentive to encourage the criminalization of vulnerable communities. This includes at our southern border, where the vast majority of immigrant detainees seeking refuge are held in for-profit facilities. 

New York State has been leading the way in flexing its muscles with respect to the private prison industry, having taken three concrete actions against private prisons: 1. prohibiting private prisons from operating within the state, 2. divesting state pension funds from the largest private prison companies, GEO Group and CoreCivic, and then just last week, 3. passingBill S5433 in the State Senate, which would prohibit NY State-chartered banks from “investing in and providing financing to private prisons.” Let’s take a look at what these three policies in concert mean, and what may come next as Bill S5433 goes to the Assembly and ultimately the Governor for approval as soon as this week.  

Farm workers win basic labor rights

Denis Slattery reports:

Labor advocates celebrated a win decades in the making on Wednesday as lawmakers approved legislation that will give farmhands vast protections already afforded to the majority of New York’s workforce.

Laborers will have the right to unionize and overtime pay as well as the guarantee of at least one day off per week under the long-stalled law.

“We in New York state have decided to say we are moving up,” said long-time bill sponsor Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Queens). “We are righting the wrongs. We are fixing what needs to be fixed.”

Tesla is spying on workers

Matt Glynn reports:

A union has accused Tesla of spying on workers and improper firing at the company’s Buffalo solar products plant in an unfair labor practice charge.

The United Steelworkers union, one of two unions attempting to organize workers at the South Buffalo plant, filed the charge this week with the National Labor Relations Board.

US House could pass minimum wage increase

Sarah Ferris reports:

House Democratic leaders are on the cusp of a long-awaited victory on the party’s signature $15-an-hour minimum wage bill, overcoming months of sharp resistance from many of the caucus’ moderates.

Top Democrats are saying privately they’re confident that they are close enough to the 218 votes needed to pass it to bring the bill to the floor within weeks, according to multiple sources. It would mark a major political victory at the six-month mark of the Democrats’ majority.

The Labor Movement is Pushing Back on the New Trade Deal For the U.S, Mexico, and Canada

Don Gonyea reports:

President Trump is pushing hard to pass a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada through Congress. Some labor leaders are fighting hard against it because they see it as too similar to NAFTA.

With Democrats in the majority in the U.S. House, labor finds itself with increased clout when it comes to the proposed U.S.-Canada-Mexico trade agreement. To that end, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has been on the road this week in Pennsylvania and Ohio and Michigan, holding town halls with union members. Last night, in a union hall just south of Detroit, he looked back to the 2016 campaign and the way candidate Trump spoke to working-class voters.

Workers demand new social contract

Tony Akowe reports:

workers participating in the ongoing 108th session of the International Labour Conference (ILC) on the platform of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) are demanding a new social contract from world leaders and employers of labour across the globe.

Led by Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) President Ayuba Wabba, the workers staged a peaceful rally in front of the United Nations (UN) building in Geneva, Switzerland.

They insisted that as the world moves into the digital age and technology threatens job security, workers deserve to get a new social order that will protect them and their jobs across the world.

Wabba, who is also the President of ITUC, said the protest became necessary because workers across the world were not treated with dignity.

Keep reading.

Bonuses slump 22 percent after GOP tax cuts

More bad news about the Trump tax cuts!

EPI reports:

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employer Costs for Employee Compensation gives us a new chance to look at private sector workers’ nonproduction bonuses in 2018 and March 2019 to gauge the impact of the GOP’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The bottom line is that bonuses in the most recent quarter, March 2019, remained very low at $0.72 per hour (in $2018), the same as in December 2018 and far below their $0.88 level in 2017 or the $0.90 level in 2018.

This is not what the tax cutters promised, or bragged about soon after the tax bill passed. They claimed that their bill would raise the wages of rank-and-file workers, with congressional Republicans and members of the Trump administration promising raises of many thousands of dollars within ten years. The Trump administration’s chair of the Council of Economic Advisers argued last April that we were already seeing the positive wage impact of the tax cuts:

Following the bill’s passage, a number of corporations made conveniently-timed announcements that their workers would be getting raises or bonuses (some of which were in the works well before the tax cuts passed). But as EPI analysis has shown there are many reasons to be skeptical of the claim that the TCJA, particularly its corporate tax cuts, would produce significant wage gains.

Unbelievable: Trump is outsourcing government jobs to temps

Joe Davidson reports:

President Trump wasted no time implementing a campaign promise when he imposed a federal hiring freeze on his first Monday in office. His Jan. 23, 2017, presidential memorandum doing that included this caution: “Contracting outside the Government to circumvent the intent of this memorandum shall not be permitted.”

Yet the Trump administration has more than doubled the value of federal government contracts with temporary help service agencies, according to a new report.

These agencies provide workers on a temporary basis, but the contracts can be renewed, meaning “the term ‘temporary’ is often a misnomer,” according to the study by the National Employment Law Project, a nonprofit that advocates worker rights.

It says the $1.7 billion the government spent on the contracts in 2018 was five times the amount it spent in 2008. “By far,” wrote authors Chris Schwartz and Laura Padin, “the largest increase came in the past two years, when spending jumped from $812 million in 2016 to $1.7 billion in 2018.”

Despite the Republican platform pushing limited government, they said, “the Trump administration and its allies in Congress are merely outsourcing government work to temporary staffing agencies, which degrades the quality of those jobs and reduces accountability over the quality of that work.”

Medicaid work requirements are hurting people without any benefits

Vox reports:

The first major study on the nation’s first Medicaid work requirements finds that people fell off of the Medicaid rolls but didn’t seem to find more work.

Since Arkansas implemented the nation’s first Medicaid work requirements last year, a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has found, Medicaid enrollment has fallen for working-age adults, the uninsured rate has been rising, and there has been little discernible effect on employment.

The research appears to confirm some of the warnings from Medicaid advocates who opposed the Trump administration’s approval of work requirements in Arkansas and other states. People are losing Medicaid coverage, often as a result of confusion rather than failure to meet the work requirements, but they aren’t finding jobs and getting insurance that way. They are simply becoming uninsured.

One paragraph succinctly summarizes the new study from a team of Harvard researchers led by Ben Sommers:

Using a timely survey of low-income adults, we find that Arkansas’s implementation of the nation’s first work requirements in Medicaid in 2018 was associated with significant losses in health insurance coverage in the policy’s initial six months but no significant change in employment. Lack of awareness and confusion about the reporting requirements were common, which may explain why thousands of individuals lost coverage even though more than 95% of the target population appeared to meet the requirements or qualify for an exemption.

Employees Win Contract Despite Aggressive Anti-Union Campaign

SEIU503 reports:

Meadow Park has a unique history with SEIU Local 503 as the first nursing home to join the union, providing an example for dozens of other nursing homes across Oregon.  The facility was purchased by an out-of-state corporation called Cornerstone Holdings in January of 2018, and this started a grueling sixteen months of bargaining as SEIU members  fought to hold onto the gains we made over years of collective action. Many of the employees at Meadow Park have stuck with the company for their whole career, with some holding more than forty years of loyal employment with the company.

Cornerstone was determined to fight us from the moment they purchased the facility, at first refusing to recognize our union agreement and then refusing to recognize fair raises and benefits for the workers who make that facility great.  Members at the home were not about to take that deal without a fight. They got organized and spent well over a year fighting for an adequate contract and building relationships with each other, an essential part of any strong union.

On Monday, May 6th, we finally ratified a new contract with Meadow Park and Cornerstone that is going to provide retroactive pay raises for our members all the way back to June of 2018. We also won another pay increase in June, part of their regular scheduled pay adjustments, and long-time CNAs and CMAs are going to see a $0.20/hr wage increase per year of experience, up to ten years.  Dietary, housekeeping, and other aid and nursing staff will also see a pay increase of 2.5% retroactive to June 1st, 2018, making this one of the most sweeping victories in the facility’s history.

BREAKING: Security Workers Vote Unanimously to Form Union

Alex Greenberger reports:

Another union at a North American art museum has officially been formed.

On Tuesday, security workers at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle voted unanimously to unionize. The vote to form the union, which is called the Art Workers Union, was 6-0, according to a release put out by the AWU. The newly formed union is the first group of its kind at an art institution in Seattle.

In a statement, Caitlin Lee, a security guard at the Frye said, “This is a victory for security guards here at the Frye. We urge management to work with us and bargain in good faith so that we can make the museum a stronger institution where workers have a seat at the table and a voice on the job.”

“As all eligible staff have now had their chance to formally vote, the Frye respects the results of the election and recognizes our security staff’s right to collectively bargain as the Art Workers Union,” a representative for the museum said in a statement. “We look forward to a productive discussion approached in good faith. The Frye remains committed to providing an inclusive and respectful environment for all of its staff, volunteers, and visitors.”

Efforts to unionize at the Frye began earlier in June. Workers at the museum had alleged that the wages they were being paid were too low for their city and unequal to the rates for positions at similar art institutions. The Frye previously said it would not recognize the union.

The AWU is the second major union at an art institution to form this month. Last week, workers at the Brooklyn Academy of Music also unionized.

Miami airport workers vote to seek a strike

Maya Lora reports:

In a two-day vote that ended Friday, workers at Miami Sky Chefs overwhelmingly voted to authorize their union, Unite Here, to request a strike. The vote drew a 72 percent turnout out of 874 employees and, among those who voted, 99.8 percent supported a strike.

Rachel Gumpert, the press secretary for Unite Here, said Miami is a key city for the national campaign because it is an airline hub.

Over the next week, voting will continue among thousands of Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet employees in over 20 cities nationwide. If the workers authorize Unite Here, the union will then request a strike with the National Mediation Board, which must approve any strike request by airport and airline employees. The process could take months.

Workers are seeking a $15 salary floor and more affordable health insurance. Unite Here said that currently, the average hourly salary for a Miami Sky Chefs worker is $12.25. And only 19 percent of employees were enrolled in company health insurance in 2018.

“We have workers who have been there over a decade who still don’t make $12 an hour,” Wendi Walsh, the secretary-treasurer for Unite Here Local 355 in South Florida, said. “So you know these workers don’t have a chance in Miami.”

Other airport employees are covered by the living wage requirement passed by Miami-Dade County in 1999. The ordinance covers businesses contracting with Miami-Dade, including businesses providing services at Miami International Airport. Last year, Miami-Dade commissioners extended that requirement for employees working in shops, restaurants and other vendors at MIA.

Sky Chefs is exempt from that rule, though. D. Marcus Braswell Jr., who was appointed to the county’s living wage commission, explained that Sky Chefs only has a permit with the county, not a contract. The company’s permittee status means it’s only bound by Florida’s minimum wage, which is currently $8.46. That’s about five dollars below the living wage requirement.

“I think that the spirit of our law is violated,” Braswell said. “We are charged with making sure that public monies go to companies that are paying a living wage.”

Miami International Airport declined to comment.

Gig companies are banding together to crush workers

Veena Dubal reports:

The CEOs of the two top-competing gig firms—Uber and Lyft—penned a June 12, 2019 OpEd in the San Francisco Chronicle in which they claim that after over six years of local, state, federal, and international law-breaking, ignoring the concerns of drivers, and viciously fighting any efforts to achieve living wage and benefits, they are ready to compromise…in California. They claim that in exchange for getting rid of a bill that just passed the state assembly—which would extend California labor protections to many “gig workers” by making it easier for them to claim employee status under state law—they will agree to establish a wage floor, a “workers’ association,” and potentially, a deactivation appeals process.

Why, after six years of legal and political intransigence, are these companies so ready to come up with a salve? And what should we make of their concessions?

“Gig economy” companies in California are terrified of two things: (1) the abundance of lawsuits that they will undoubtedly face if this bill becomes law, and (2) the power of an independent union. While CA Assembly Bill 5 (“AB5”) does not explicitly give drivers the right to collectively bargain, the bill would establish legislative precedent that could move state and federal regulators in that direction. In just the past year, leading Democratic presidential candidates have introduced legislation that resembles California’s AB5, making it easier for “gig workers” to establish employee status for the right to organize and collectively bargain as employees under federal labor law. (And yes, the Trump NLRB General Counsel recently released a non-binding advisory memorandum stating the opinion that Uber drivers were independent contractors, but this would easily be tossed under a Democratic administration.)

Although the details of the “workers’ association” that the Uber & Lyft CEOs lay out in their op-ed are murky, reports indicate that it would stop short of giving workers the right to collectively bargain. This raises extraordinary concerns about both worker independence and worker power—both in and out of the so-called “gig economy.” A hallmark of U.S. labor law for almost a century has been a ban against company unions—that is, a prohibition against any labor association that the employer helps to form or influence, either through financial or in-kind support. If California legislates around this for gig workers, such a “worker association”—or company union— could easily become a reality in other sectors.

Still, given that private union membership is at an all-time low, some in the labor community (including those currently negotiating with Uber and Lyft in California) contend that perhaps it is time to remodel US labor law to facilitate new and different kinds of organizing—even if it means giving up the legally-mandated rights of workers to form wholly independent organizations and to collectively bargain. Something—in their making—is better than nothing.

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