By Nathan Tempey in Gothamist – On Monday, a billboard went up over Times Square ridiculing the call for a $15-an-hour minimum wage for fast-food workers. The billboard depicts a doofy good-for-nothing millenial shrugging his way toward a $30,000-a-year salary, which it’s worth noting, is just a hair over the average basic living expenses for the New York metro area. It should not come as a surprise that the $100,000 ad was paid for a restaurant-industry backed report-generator called the Employment Policies Institute, an arm of Washington, DC corporate operative Rick Berman’s PR organization. Berman has garnered the moniker “Dr. Evil” from activists and CBS’s 60 Minutes for his ad campaigns promoting high-fructose corn syrup, and advocating against indoor smoking bans, against tighter drunk-driving standards, and most recently, against raising the minimum wage in venues nationwide.
By David Bacon – The strawberries, blackberries and blueberries sold everyday in U.S. supermarkets are largely picked by these indigenous families. Their communities are very closely connected, all along the agricultural valleys that line the Pacific Coast. These migrants come from the same region of southern Mexico, often from the same towns. They speak the same languages – ones that were thousands of years old when Europeans first landed on this continent. Increasingly they talk back and forth across the border, sharing tactics and developing a common strategy. Indigenous farm workers labor for a small number of large growers and distributors who dominate the market. One of the largest distributors is Driscoll’s. Miles Reiter, retired CEO and grandson of its founder, says its intention is “to become the world’s berry company.” Driscoll’s contracts with growers in five countries, and even exports berries from Mexico to China.
By Dave Jamieson in The Huffington Post – McDonald’s, Burger King and every other company that relies on a franchise business model just suffered the legal setback they’ve been fearing for years. The National Labor Relations Board ruled on Thursday that Browning Ferris Industries, a waste management company, qualifies as a “joint employer” alongside one of its subcontractors. The decision effectively loosens the standards for who can be considered a worker’s boss under labor law, and its impact will be felt in any industry that relies on franchising or outsourcing work. McDonald’s, for instance, could now find itself forced to sit at the bargaining table with workers employed by a franchisee managing one of its restaurants.
The oil boom in North Dakota and elsewhere has helped the U.S. become the world’s leading energy provider and has captured the attention of Hollywood producers. It also has claimed the lives of dozens of oil field workers. Now, that fallout from the boom is drawing renewed attention from government scientists. In the largest study of its kind, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which investigates the causes of workplace health problems, said it intends to examine the factors that cause injuries and accidents in the oil fields in an effort to improve safety. Scientists from the institute will distribute questionnaires starting next year to 500 oil field workers in North Dakota, Texas and one other state that will be determined in the coming months.
By Bettie Anne Douglas in The Huffington Post – I’m 57 years old and I’ve worked for McDonald’s for seven years, getting paid a few pennies above the federal minimum wage. For a long time, I felt like I had no choice but to accept $7.65 an hour and the daily struggles that come along with that poverty wage. But in the last year, all that has changed. In the March of 2015, I started joining together with my coworkers in the Fight for $15. I’ve gone on strike, spoken before the St. Louis City Council urging them to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15, marched to McDonald’s corporate headquarters, and listened along with a hall full of other fast-food workers as Hillary Clinton told us she wanted to be our champion. I’ve watched as workers who joined together in cities like Los Angeles, New York and even Kansas City (in my home state of Missouri!), won life-changing pay increases. For the first time in a long time, I have hope.
By Fight for Fifteen. São Paulo and Brasília, Brazil – The Brazilian Federal Senate will hold an unprecedented hearing Thursday on McDonald’s role in driving a global race to the bottom, placing the fast-food giant under the microscope in one of its most important markets overseas, and marking a major escalation of the global effort to hold McDonald’s accountable for its mistreatment of workers and bad corporate citizenship. Workers from five continents, elected officials, and labor leaders from around the world will deliver in-depth testimony on how McDonald’s business model is harming workers, consumers, governments, suppliers, and competitors.
By Marc Becker in Amazon Watch – Ecuador’s Indigenous movements have launched an uprising to challenge the government’s opposition to bilingual education and its support for an extractive-based economy. On August 2, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) began a march from the southeastern Amazonian province of Zamora Chinchipe that will arrive in the capital city of Quito on August 13. Upon its arrival, the Indigenous march will join a general strike called by the Workers United Front (FUT) in opposition to the government’s labor policies. The CONAIE march and FUT strike are separate actions from conservative protests that the wealthy and previously dominant oligarchy organized in June 2015 against proposed increases in inheritance and capital gains taxes.
By Sara Jones in Seattle Eater – This past Sunday, conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute reported that 1,300 Seattle restaurant jobs were lost between January to June of this year, the largest number lost in that span since the Great Recession of 2009. It uses this “negative effect” to make the bold suggestion that Seattle’s new minimum wage law is “getting off to a pretty bad start.” Eater dug deeper into the data that AEI used and pulled out some other statistics you may want to consider before coming to a conclusion about the new law. For starters, while reporting the loss of 1,300 jobs from January to June, AEI fails to note that employment actually increased by 800 people from May to June, leaving the overall industry employment just 200 people short of levels when the first wage hike went into effect on April 1.
By Kit O’Connell in Mint Press News – With wildfires blazing throughout the parched Western United States, the state of California has found a novel, though ethically questionable, way to save money on the state’s safety budget: Send state prisoners to work on the frontlines fighting forest fires for $2 per day. “More than 100 wildfires are burning across the West — destroying dozens of homes, forcing hundreds of people to flee and stretching firefighting budgets to the breaking point,” wrote Tim Stelloh for NBC News on Monday. For California, he reported, that means some 14,000 firefighters combating 19 forest fires, including the “Jerusalem fire,” which covered over 25,000 acres before being mostly contained as of Saturday. “[T]he blaze — along with six others — was still sending smoke south across the San Francisco Bay Area,” Stelloh wrote.
By Glynis Sweeny in EcoWatch – “The clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world … second only to oil,” the recipient of an environmental award told a stunned Manhattan audience earlier this year. “It’s a really nasty business … it’s a mess.” While you’d never hear an oil tycoon malign his bonanza in such a way, the woman who stood at the podium, Eileen Fisher, is a clothing industry magnate. On a warm spring night at a Chelsea Piers ballroom on the Hudson River, Fisher was honored by Riverkeeper for her commitment to environmental causes. She was self-deprecating and even apologetic when speaking about the ecological impact of clothing, including garments tagged with her own name. Fisher’s critique may have seemed hyperbolic, but she was spot-on.
By Nick Davies in The Guardian – On 16 August 2012, South African police opened fire on a large crowd of men who had walked out on strike from a platinum mine at Marikana, about 80 miles north of Johannesburg. They shot down 112 of them, killing 34. In any country, this would have been a traumatic moment. For South Africa, it was a special kind of nightmare, since it revived images of massacres by the state in the old apartheid era, with one brutal difference – this time it was predominantly black policemen, with black senior officers working for black politicians, who were doing the shooting. In response, President Jacob Zuma appointed a commission of inquiry, chaired by a retired judge, Ian Farlam, which eventually sat in public for a total of 293 days, hearing evidence from miners, their bosses and the police, and reviewing video, audio and paper records of the shooting and of the seven-day strike that preceded it.
By Patrick Sheehan for In These Times – A National Labor Relations Board hearing officer has ruled that Teach for America teachers should be included in the union at a Detroit charter school chain. (Full disclosure: The author of this piece was a Teach for America teacher at the chain and testified at the NLRB hearing.) Teachers at University Prep charter schools voted May 14 on whether to unionize. The charter chain, UPrep, relies on TFA teachers to fill about 10 percent of its classrooms, a figure that’s similar to urban charter schools in other cities. But when some TFA teachers emerged as leaders in the union drive, Detroit 90/90, the company that manages UPrep, challenged their right to vote. In a June hearing, the company argued that TFA teachers’ minimum two-year commitment to the school made us “temporary service workers” rather than “professional employees”—more like long-term substitutes than permanent teachers.
Interview with Opal Tometi by Laura Flanders in Truthout – Take us back a couple of years. Were you conscious of the fact, in 2013 when you saw that Black Lives Matter post from Alicia, that here was an opportunity to connect your issue, the issue of immigrants’ rights and justice, to the Black justice movement in this country? Was it a conscious thing? It was absolutely conscious. When I reached out to Alicia to say, “I really think we need an online platform to connect our groups and to connect our communities,” I had in mind that it was really important that we establish a really broad notion of who is Black America, these days. A really broad notion to ensure that this platform was big enough for the communities like the ones that I represent (my parents are Nigerian immigrants; the communities that I work with are Afro-Latinos and Caribbean and so on) and that they could also have their concerns heard. It was really important to us to ensure that it wasn’t just a movement about police killing Black people but it was also about structural racism and justice for all Black people.
By John Duda in Medium – But there’s another lesson to be learned from Curtis Bay: organized communities can successfully demand something other than business as usual. It started with just a few high school students, who started talking about building neighborhood resistance to the incinerator. With the help of local economic human rights organization called the United Workers, that small initial group snowballed into a massive campaign, bringing students and neighbors together with supportive activists and artists from across the city, all showing up at meetings of the institutions who had signed up to purchase power from the planned incinerator, and demanding they do otherwise. Against all expectations, as of August 2015, it looks like they are winning. The consortium of school boards, local governments, and nonprofits has canceled their contracts with Energy Answers, and the incinerator is far from even beginning construction. Meanwhile, Curtis Bay residents have become leading voices working to create an alternative development plan.
By The Associated Press – U.S. wages and benefits grew in the spring at the slowest pace in 33 years, stark evidence that stronger hiring isn’t lifting paychecks much for most Americans. The slowdown also likely reflects a sharp drop-off in bonus and incentive pay for some workers. The employment cost index rose just 0.2 percent in the April-June quarter after a 0.7 increase in the first quarter, the Labor Department said Friday. The index tracks wages, salaries and benefits. Wages and salaries alone also rose 0.2 percent. Both measures recorded the smallest quarterly gains since the second quarter of 1982. Salaries and benefits for private sector workers were unchanged, the weakest showing since the government began tracking the data in 1980.