Working In These Times

Thursday, Dec 6, 2018, 2:11 pm  ·  By Bryce Covert

Philadelphia Just Passed the Strongest Fair Scheduling Law in the Nation

More than 130,000 workers are expected to benefit from the new fair workweek law. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)  

Philadelphia, the poorest big city in the country, just enacted the most sweeping bill yet to give low-wage workers some control over their schedules.

The city’s new law, which passed the city council on Thursday, will require businesses with more than 250 employees and more than 30 locations worldwide to provide employees their schedules at least 10 days in advance. If any changes are made to their schedules after that, employers will owe employees more money. Employers will also be required to offer more hours as they become available to existing employees who want them rather than hiring new people, and they’ll be banned from retaliating against those who either request or decline more hours.

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Wednesday, Dec 5, 2018, 5:17 pm  ·  By Harry Blain

The Troubling Link Between Attacks on Immigrants and Repression of Labor Activists

Kirstjen M. Nielsen, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, tours the border area with San Diego Section Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott (L) at Borderfield State Park along the United States-Mexico Border fence in San Ysidro, California on November 20, 2018. (Photo by Sandy Huffaker / AFP) (Photo credit should read SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP/Getty Images)  

The Republican pre-election strategy of exploiting “the caravan” was irredeemably ugly.

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Wednesday, Dec 5, 2018, 2:12 pm  ·  By Rachel Johnson

George H.W. Bush Was an Enemy of the Working Class

George H.W. Bush should be remembered as an architect of neoliberalism and a foot soldier for the ruling class. (ROBERT GIROUX/AFP/Getty Images)  

In 1992, media reports claimed that then-president George H.W. Bush was “amazed” at the sight of a grocery store scanner. While the claim has since been debunked, the encounter says a lot about his presidency.

Bush Sr., who died last week at the age of 94, appeared suspiciously wide-eyed about grocery scanner technology during a photo-op at a grocer convention. The episode was used as evidence during Bush’s re-election bid that he hadn’t been grocery shopping since the 1970s when scanners were first introduced. 

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Tuesday, Dec 4, 2018, 3:16 pm  ·  By Rebecca Burns

‘We’re One Union’: Why Chicago Teachers Are Out On the First Charter School Strike in the Country

Charter teachers' demands include equal pay for equal work. (Rebecca Burns)  

After a grueling day of bargaining on Monday, teachers at Chicago’s Acero charter schools announced shortly after midnight that they were going out on the nation’s first-ever charter strike. 

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Friday, Nov 30, 2018, 3:01 pm  ·  By Robert Reich

Robert Reich: Break Up Facebook (and, While We’re At It, Google, Apple and Amazon)

Facebook makes clear: We must resurrect antitrust. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)  

The New York Times recently revealed that Facebook executives withheld evidence of Russian activity on the Facebook platform far longer than previously disclosed. They also employed a political opposition research firm to discredit critics.

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Thursday, Nov 29, 2018, 4:05 pm  ·  By Daniel Moattar

How Graduate Unions Are Winning—and Scaring the Hell out of Bosses—in the Trump Era

(GWC-UAW Local 2110 Graduate Workers of Columbia/Facebook)  

In a 1,035 to 720 vote, Columbia University’s graduate student union has agreed to a bargaining framework with the university’s administration, a milestone victory in the union’s nearly five-year campaign for recognition. The vote outcome, announced earlier this week, follows Columbia’s November 19 announcement that it would bargain with the union, ending long-standing efforts to halt graduate unionization on campus and in the courts.

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Thursday, Nov 29, 2018, 1:55 pm  ·  By Rebecca Stoner

The First-Ever National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Was Just Unveiled—And It’s a Game Changer

The groundbreaking legislation would provide protections to domestic workers across the country. (NDWA)  

When Rosa Sanluis arrived in the United States, she earned $60 per week for a seemingly endless set of household tasks, working for a family in Texas. She worked from 5 a.m. until late at night, sometimes 3 a.m. on weekends, when her employers would go out and leave her to babysit. Like most domestic workers, Sanluis didn’t receive a written contract, uninterrupted breaks, sick leave, or overtime pay—because she wasn’t entitled to them under law.

Today, the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) announced a National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights to raise wages and labor conditions for workers like Sanluis. The legislation is expected to be introduced when the new Congress convenes next year.

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Thursday, Nov 29, 2018, 1:47 pm  ·  By Jake Johnson

After Reports of Sweetheart Deal for Billionaire Pedophile, Calls Grow on Trump Labor Sec. to Resign

U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta delivers remarks at the White House on November 15, 2018. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)  

President Donald Trump's Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta is rumored to be on the short list of possible attorney general nominees, but he is now facing demands to resign immediately after an "incredibly disturbing" bombshell investigation by the Miami Herald on Wednesday revealed that—in his previous role as Miami's top prosecutor—Acosta "bent over backwards" to give a sweetheart plea deal to billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who has been accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls.

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Friday, Nov 16, 2018, 4:15 pm  ·  By Valerie Vande Panne

A New Economic Model for the South: Ditch Corporate Welfare and Fund Agricultural Co-ops

Majadi Baruti tends the pumpkin patch at the Dynamite Hill-Smithfield Community Land Trust in Alabama.   (Photo by Lynsey Weatherspoon)

A set of statistics from a new report provides a window into how misplaced economic priorities perpetuate poverty in the rural South.

Since opening a plant in Canton, Mississippi 15 years ago, auto manufacturer Nissan has been awarded at least $1.3 billion in tax subsidies.

Meanwhile, since 2010, small and cooperative farmers across Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi have received just $2.3 million from the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Business Enterprise Grant Program, their primary source of economic support.

A report from the Institute for Policy Studies, titled “Agricultural Cooperatives: Opportunities and Challenges for African-American Women in the South,” makes the case that redirecting governmental support from corporate welfare to agricultural co-ops could provide an alternative vision for economic development in the South.

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Friday, Nov 16, 2018, 3:40 pm  ·  By Tom Lewandowski

Forget Elections—Labor Needs To Get Back to Its Roots

A group of out-of-work men nicknamed "Coxey's Army" marched from Massillon, Ohio, to Washington D.C. in protest of unemployment in 1894, and were greeted along the way with solidarity and support. (Photo by Stock Montage/Getty Images)  

With the midterms behind us, we have Nov. 4, 2020, to look forward to—labor’s next morning after. On Nov. 5, 2008, we were euphoric and full of delusional hope over the imminent passage of the Employee Free Choice Act and the restoration of labor. On Nov. 9, 2016, we were paralyzed by despair and denial.

At this point, betting our future on the next brutal mating ritual of Republicans and Democrats is not a bet most workers are willing to take. Since the 1950s, union membership decline has been a straight line downward, regardless of which political party is in power. Only 10.7 percent of workers are unionized; an enormous 89.3 percent are not. That’s too low to make much difference for most people in most places—more molecular level Brownian motion than labor movement. No threat to wealth, the wealthy, or powerful. Much worse, no voice or power of, by, or, for workers. Instead, organized labor has become so marginal Donald Trump has been able to usurp its role as the emotional voice for workers.

The economy is doing great—apart from workers. Wages remain stagnant. Forty percent of adults don’t have enough savings to cover a $400 emergency expense such as a car repair or medical crisis. Forty-three percent of families aren’t making enough to cover monthly living expenses. Uncertain work, unpredictable work hours, mandatory overtime, dictatorial bosses, miserable job standards, create day-to-day desperation with psychological and social tolls. The labor market is ripe for an organizing explosion, but it isn’t happening.

Blaming the rich and the Republicans is great sport. The income inequality research industry is booming and there is no need to catalog Republican offenses—they campaign on them. Long ago, labor outsourced its representation in the public sphere to the Democratic Party, and in the process become a dependent franchise and an easy target. But the truth is that the Democrats patronize labor on a good day, sell us out on a bad day, and ignore us on most days. (I speak as a recovering politician, a Democrat who ran and was elected four times to city council in my heavily Republican small town.)   

Partisan and competitive thinking insidiously affects behavior. Fifty percent plus one passes for solidarity. Unionists succumb to political speak, sounding like Washington rather than “folks ‘round here.” We blame workers for voting for Republicans. If they’d only voted how we told them, then we could get things done. We estrange ourselves from large chunks of workers while giving ourselves an excuse for failure. We don’t have to do the hard work of building a movement, we only need to win an election.

Maybe we should rethink that.

Instead, start today from where we are and who we are. Simple collective self-representation without institutional, ideological, partisan or monetary artifice. Understanding who and where we are by our own compass; by our own position, not opposition. This requires radical respect for our fellow workers. For lack of a better term, this unadorned organizing is social organizing.

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