By Lorraine Chow for EchoWatch – Two separate U.S. agricultural workers have slapped lawsuits against Monsanto, alleging that Roundup—the agribusiness giant’s flagship herbicide—caused their cancers, and that the company “falsified data” and “led a prolonged campaign of misinformation” to convince the public, farm workers and government agencies about the safety of the product. The first suit, Enrique Rubio v. Monsanto Company, comes from Enrique Rubio, a 58-year-old former field worker who worked in California, Texas and Oregon. According to Reuters, he was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1995, and believes it stemmed from exposure to Monsanto’s widely popular weed killer and other pesticides that he sprayed on cucumber, onion and other vegetable crops. Rubio’s case was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Sept. 22.
By Danielle Sweeney in Baltimore Brew – The funeral sendoff was staged New Orleans style with a Dixieland band, Mardi Gras beads, boas and parasols. The deceased was “poverty wages,” symbolized by a black casket and eulogized by a Unitarian minister at a funeral yesterday in front of City Hall organized by Maryland Working Families. A majority of workers don’t earn enough to live with dignity was the take-away message of the afternoon. Their explicit message – Baltimore won’t prosper and move ahead unless wages rise at large institutions like the Johns Hopkins Hospital. About 80 people, many from Service Employees International Union, AFSCME, Casa Baltimore and other organizations, paraded around War Memorial Plaza and listened to speakers who called on city government to support higher wages. A few shared their experiences as low-wage full-time workers who struggle to live in the Baltimore area.
By Samuel Davidson in World Socialist Website – On Monday, bankrupt Patriot Coal Company asked a federal bankruptcy judge to end health care for its 969 retired non-union employees. The company is saying that no one will buy its assets while taking on the health care costs for them. Such a decision will devastate the miners and their families. Years of working in the coal fields bring an array of health problems, from back and spinal injury to black lung. The cost of health care will quickly drive these retirees to use up any savings they may have and to sell their homes, and many will end in bankruptcy themselves. The following day, the company announced that Blackhawk Mining was named the winning bidder for a majority of its mines and operations in Kentucky and West Virginia. In August, Patriot agreed to sell most of its holdings in Virginia to an affiliate of the Virginia Conservation Legacy Funds for $400 million. The VCLF says it plans to reclaim most of the company’s sites.
By David Moberg for In These Times – The nation’s largest port—spread across parts of both Los Angeles and Long Beach, CA—is a strangely varied workplace. And after years of tenacious effort, workers throughout the port may soon share one important tool their predecessors once had: a union and, therefore, a better job. At one extreme of the state’s ports, there are longshore workers who belong to one of the most progressive unions in the U.S., the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. It has brought annual incomes of over $100,000 and higher skilled work to many of its members, once regarded as low-skilled. Once these jobs were unionized and paid reasonably decent “middle-class wages,” but the unions—mainly Teamsters—lost their contracts and members.
By Cora Lewis in Buzz Feed – Staff at a major Los Angeles warehouse serving Amazon and other big retailers went on strike Tuesday, protesting unpaid wages and overtime, dangerous conditions, a lack of breaks and water during hot summer months, and retaliation by management against their organizing efforts. The strike continued on Wednesday. The stoppage is the latest tactic in a campaign to improve conditions at the distribution center at the Port of Los Angeles, according to Sheheryar Kaoosji, director of the Warehouse Worker Resource Center. Workers and advocates have previously filed an Unfair Labor Practice complaint, a class-action lawsuit, and an Occupational Safety and Health complaint, the last of which triggered an ongoing investigation.
By Immanuel Ness in Portside – In examining the long-term failure of organized labor, we must first note the alternative, organic, workers’ movement embodied in particular by unions affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in the early 20th century. From its inception in 1905 until the 1920′s, the IWW represented a significant alternative to contract unionism. The IWW stood for the solidarity of all workers and it was fiercely opposed for that reason — by capital, by reformists such as Daniel DeLeon of the Socialist Labor Party and by the American Federation of Labor (AFL). The IWW engaged in a genuine form of democracy and a mass industrial organizing model ultimately adopted by the AFL and the Congress of Industrial Organization (CIO), which both utilized for very different purposes.
By Michelle Chen in Truth Out – According to a study by the Campaign for the Future of Education (CFHE), overreliance on precariously employed faculty is devaluing higher education for teachers and students alike. Faculty activists acknowledge the consumer concerns about higher education’s value today, including poor completion rates, but link these to a cycle of underinvestment on the teaching side: The “churning of the faculty workforce…low salaries and over-reliance on part-time appointments” erode the quality and attentiveness of instruction, with long-term impacts on public institutions that have historically served the most challenged populations – the poor, people of color and first-generation college students. And as disinvestment and declining academic outcomesdeepen, the overall institutional integrity of higher- education systems erodes.
By David Moberg for In These Times – The nation’s largest port—spread across parts of both Los Angeles and Long Beach, CA—is a strangely varied workplace. And after years of tenacious effort, workers throughout the port may soon share one important tool their predecessors once had: a union and, therefore, a better job. At one extreme of the state’s ports, there are longshore workers who belong to one of the most progressive unions in the U.S., the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. It has brought annual incomes of over $100,000 and higher skilled work to many of its members, once regarded as low-skilled. At the other end, there are truck drivers (for “drayage companies,” that move goods from dock to warehouses), who are wrongly classified as “independent contractors”—as the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board recently determined.
By Samuel Oakford in Vice – More than two dozen current and former United Nations interns formed a human chain outside of the organization’s Secretariat building in New York on Tuesday, protesting against the UN’s largely unpaid internship program, which they said limited opportunities to the wealthy and well-connected. The question of the UN’s policy of not paying interns has been under intense scrutiny since a 22-year old from New Zealand was reportedly found living in a tent in Geneva, unable to afford rent in the Swiss city. Though the intern, David Hyde, later admitted to partially staging the encounter, the flurry of press coverage that followed has reinvigorated efforts among interns to organize around the issue.
By David Morgan in Geo – As worker-owners, we’re used to doing things ourselves. We start businesses, figure out democratic decision-making, and confront systemic issues that deny wealth to communities. We’re tenacious and self-governing, so why limit our influence to our workplaces? As our movement grows—and it is, rapidly—we’re innovating faster than the law can keep up, often operating in gray areas that can be as uncertain as they are productive. What would it look like to stitch up these loopholes and create a full-fledged support system? Co-ops and their support networks have been a part of the recent rise in attention paid to economic justice, and our participation has allowed us to establish unique positions to solidify gains in policy. Municipal-level efforts in Austin, Philadelphia, Madison, New York City, and elsewhere have shown that local advocacy can produce big results for the worker cooperative movement. Millions of dollars have been procured for development work.
By Danny Feingold in Capital and Main – When California Governor Pat Brown helped create the modern University of California system in the early 1960s, he envisioned many things: a world-class structure of higher education, universal access to students from every background, a gateway to middle-class careers, cutting-edge research centers. All of that has come to pass, making UC an enduring part of Brown’s legacy. One thing Brown did not foresee, however, was UC becoming embroiled in an emblematic fight over economic inequality, with critics charging that one of the nation’s most prestigious public institutions is perpetuating poverty. The controversy over UC’s use of thousands of contract workers who earn low wages with few, if any, benefits has taken center stage in Sacramento, where legislation that would end such practices cleared the Legislature last week.
By David Moberg for In These Times – After four years as a growing, thriving voice of workers at Walmart, the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) re-launched itself on Thursday. Originally a legally independent, non-union worker organization that the United Food and Commercial Workers founded and funded, OUR Walmart will now have a different, still to-be-defined tie to the UFCW—which will continue to publicize how Walmart as an employer and a business presence within most American communities has pushed down work standards and often taken from communities as much as it contributes. Its goals remain much the same as before: $15 an hour minimum pay; full-time, consistent hours; no more unfair “coachings” (a Walmart form of discipline) and terminations; and action by the company to improve racial justice and women’s rights and to “address climate change.”
By Workers Struggle – 1) Class antagonism. There is no reconciliation possible between the workers and the capitalists (company/owners/bosses/management). Workers are not “exchanging labor for a fair wage” but are being robbed by their class enemy. Exploitation is inherent in the relationship. Even if we win concessions, we must never be satisfied. 2) Collectivity. There is no way to win this struggle as individuals. Working class unity is crucial. 3) Combativeness. There is no way to win by cooperating with the enemy, being subsumed by them, or avoiding confrontation with them, but it must be through struggle–whatever level of struggle corresponds to the capacity we have at a given time.
After four months of negotiations, a five-day strike and one final all-night talk, the Seattle teachers union and Seattle Public Schools reached a tentative contract agreement early Tuesday, and school is scheduled to start Thursday for the city’s 53,000 students. By Paige Cornwell and Walker Orenstein In Seattle Times – The Seattle Education Association’s board of directors and its elected building representatives both voted Tuesday afternoon to suspend the strike, recommending the union’s membership approve the deal. The agreement will go to a full vote of the union’s 5,000 members at a Sunday meeting. The building-representative vote came after hours of deliberation, where cheers and fervent discussion could be heard outside a packed room at the Machinists Hall in South Seattle.