Next month, more than 150,000 people will be in the city of Austin to attend South by Southwest, which started in 1987 as a tiny indie festival but has blossomed into a nine-day conference featuring the hottest names in music and film and politics and computers. There will be live performances and movie premieres alongside panel discussions addressing everything under the hot Texas sun. It’s Coachella mixed with TED talks and some Sundance; a sort of Burning Man for brands, corporate and personal, that is forecast to inject more than $200 million into the local economy.
Students at UC Santa Cruz left the Hahn student services building today after occupying it for nearly 18 hours. Approximately 30 students decided as a group to leave; all of them were undergraduates. Before exiting the building they cleaned the area they occupied and then sang songs of solidarity and protest. The occupation was in support of UC workers and in continued opposition to the appointment of Janet Napolitano as president of the University of California system.
Former Insomnia Cookies employees who went on strike against the company last August after alleging unfair working conditions reached a settlement with the company Tuesday. The workers, who brought forth charges with the National Labor Relations Board, will be compensated with payback totaling more than $4,000 and will have their terminations rescinded from their records. In addition, the settlement requires Insomnia Cookies to hang a poster in their Harvard Square location stating the company is union-neutral and will not fire workers for union activity, according to an Industrial Workers of the World press release Wednesday.
Cheri Honkala of the Poor Peoples Economic Campaign and Vice President of the Green Shadow Cabinet joins the host Dennis Trainor, Jr. and the Resistance Report panel (Nicole Carty (The Other 98%), Julianna Forlano (Absurdity Today) and Joel Northam (Acronym TV Contributor) – to discuss the jobs crisis in the United States, the perpetually underemployed, and the impact of a raise in the minimum wage versus a policy that guaranteed an income for all.
According to labor journalist Micah Uetricht, it’s high time for trade unions in the United States to decide whether they want to wither away and follow a “business unionism” model of concessions and shrinkage, or follow “social movement unionism,” a bottom-up, democratic organizing strategy that is aligned with social justice movements throughout the country. The Chicago Teacher’s Union [CTU], Uetricht writes in his book, Strike for America: Chicago Teachers Against Austerity, is a prime example of the latter, a feisty, transparent, activist-led group that is willing to fight the good fight and challenge the entrenched attitudes that have made unions irrelevant to far too many workers. Uetricht makes clear that the CTU was not always a beacon and charts the union’s transition from a staid, top-down organization to one that engages teachers, paraprofessionals, students and neighborhood residents in community betterment efforts throughout Chicago.
First of all, we should put aside any idea that there was once a “golden age.” Things were different and in some ways better in the past, but far from perfect. The traditional universities were, for example, extremely hierarchical, with very little democratic participation in decision-making. One part of the activism of the 1960s was to try to democratize the universities, to bring in, say, student representatives to faculty committees, to bring in staff to participate. These efforts were carried forward under student initiatives, with some degree of success. Most universities now have some degree of student participation in faculty decisions. And I think those are the kinds of things we should be moving towards: a democratic institution, in which the people involved in the institution, whoever they may be (faculty, students, staff), participate in determining the nature of the institution and how it runs; and the same should go for a factory.
UC has been negotiating with both employee groups for more than a year and both groups held a two-day strike last May and a one-day strike last November. Stenhouse said the service workers’ bargaining team decided to stage a five-day strike this time because of “a desire to send the strongest possible message to the university.” Stenhouse said the union has agreed to 80 percent of the university’s proposals during the lengthy bargaining process but wants the university “to do the right thing on wages and staffing.” Union leaders say the pay of UC Service workers is so low that 99 percent of them are eligible for some form of public assistance, with some full-time workers forced to live in their cars.
The deal came after a marathon 23-hour-long bargaining session, but the critical factor in putting pressure on the school district–after 10 months of negotiations without much movement from school officials–was the union’s thorough preparation for a strike, which culminated in a near-unanimous vote on February 5 to authorize the walkout. In a February 24 report about the agreement to the union’s contract organizing committee, PAT officials said that they had forced the school board to concede on a number of fronts, including probably the most prominent demand of all–hiring additional teachers to allow for a meaningful reduction in class sizes. The district has promised to add a “minimum” of 150 teachers–a significant victory given the district’s prior refusal to even address the issue. Throughout bargaining, and until the last few days before the strike, officials had stuck with their offer of only 88 additional full-time employees (FTEs), claiming that the union’s demand of 175 was “unreasonable.”
“Organize the South” was the call on Monday evening February 17 in Durham, North Carolina, where an overflow crowd gathered for a discussion on “How a Southern Workers’ Movement Can Change the Nation.” Worker advocates and adversaries alike have identified the South as a crucial battleground in the fight to reverse the long decline of the U.S. labor movement. This Fall, the AFL-CIO committed itself “to develop a Southern organizing strategy” as “one of its top priorities”. The UAW’s bid to represent workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee became a focal point in that fight, and the union’s narrow defeat in last week’s NLRB representation vote has led some to suggest–dolefully in the case of union supporters, cheerfully in the case of union busters–that a southern organizing strategy remains futile.
Co-ops need access to capital to start and maintain business. Banks and other financial institutions such as insurance companies are reluctant to do business with worker co-ops. Linda Levy, CEO of the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union (LESPFCU) explained that credit unions are financial co-operatives and have a natural inclination to lend to worker co-ops. However, current regulations make lending to work co-ops difficult. She stated the regulator of the LESPFCU is reluctant to approve loans to worker co-ops because in worker co-ops there is not one specific person who is responsible for the loan. The Workers World has created a unique revolving credit line for worker co-ops; however, they are limited in their ability to pay interest to depositors. The co-op sector needs banking institutions, such as credit unions, with the mission of lending to worker co-ops.
The Medford School District and its teachers union reached a tentative agreement late Friday, effectively ending a 16-day strike that sidelined more than 500 teachers and affected 12,100 students. After nearly a year of negotiations, including four marathon mediation sessions this week, the bargaining teams came to a tentative agreement late Friday. And that means teachers will be returning to their classrooms on Monday. “At 10:05 today, we reached a settlement agreement with the Medford School District, and our teachers will be back in their classrooms real soon,” said Bridget McMillen, a Jefferson Elementary School teacher and member of the Medford Education Association’s bargaining team. “The strike is officially over,”
Portland Public Schools officials have agreed to hire 150 teachers to reduce class sizes and teacher workloads, part of a bargain that narrowly averted the first teachers strike in district history. Students would receive additional days of instruction next year, atop the current 176. Teachers would receive 2.3 percent salary increases annually for the next three years. Those provisions were some of the key compromises contained in a tentative agreement that the Portland Association of Teachers and district officials signedlate Tuesday, according to sources with knowledge of the contract terms. Full details of the contract agreement were not available. The new teaching hires would mean a 5 percent increase over the roughly 2,900 teachers currently working. The precise number of additional school days is not yet clear.
Why do so many college seniors apply for this prestigious program in the first place? Perhaps it looks good on a resume. Perhaps they don’t know what else to do after graduation, so a short teaching gig seems like a nice move. Or perhaps they want to earn their teaching certification in an alternative way (I am quite guilty of this consideration myself). Realistically, these motives are all understandable, but it needs to be more widely understood that the two years of the program do not only impact the lives of the corps members. The students in each placement are very real kids that college grads should not be using for the above devices. They are not guinea pigs deserving to be toyed with by a group of enthusiastic yet inexperienced novices. Everyone knows that a teacher’s first experience is never the most successful; they need years of trials and errors to get into their groove. In the case of TFA, those errors are inflicted upon the highest-needs students in our nation. These kids need the best professional educators in the field, carrying far more than five weeks of TFA training under their belts.
In multiple industry settings—auto, telecom, trucking, healthcare, and hospitality– “bargaining to organize” has enabled tens of thousands of American workers to join unions without management harassment, threats, intimidation, or job discrimination. Workers get to demonstrate their support for bargaining rights in one of two ways, and sometimes both. Their union card signing majority can be verified by a neutral third party or, less preferably, confirmed in a secret ballot vote engineered, per labor-management agreement, to be “free and fair.” The key element either way is a negotiated pledge of employer neutrality. This, of course, is not binding on third parties in Tennessee or anywhere.
U.S. Oil Sands’ water-and-energy-intensive extraction process involves first digging up congealed tar sands, then crushing them to reduce their size. The company then mixes the crushed sand with large amounts of hot water (at a temperature of 122-176°F) to loosen up and liquefy the tarry, oil-containing residue and separating it from the sand. Next, coarse solids sink, are subsequently removed and considered waste tailings. Air is then bubbled through the remaining water-oil mixture, which makes the oil float to the top in what’s referred to as “bitumen froth,” in industry lingo. The froth is then deaerated, meaning all the air molecules are removed. When it finally gets to this point in the production process, the mixture is still so thick it can’t be pumped through pipelines.