By John Spina and Ben Chapman in Ny Daily News – The brigade of men and women who keep the city’s schools clean are calling on Mayor de Blasio to end a two-tier system which, they say, leaves thousands in their ranks underpaid. Under the system, about 800 of roughly 5,000 cleaners earn a base $23.85 an hour, while the rest, doing the same work get about five dollars less. A bureaucratic loophole is to blame, union reps and workers said in front of City Hall Wednesday. The lower paid workers were brought on by private contractors, while their higher paid counterparts were hired directly by the schools. None of the workers are city employees.
By Anna Susman – Tears of joy streaked the faces of cheering home care workers assembled in their Dorchester union hall on Thursday afternoon as a decades-long struggle for recognition and a living wage culminated in a historic moment of celebration. According to an agreement reached in contract negotiations between the 35,000 home care workers of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and the administration of recently elected Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R), Massachusetts Personal Care Attendants (PCAs) are poised to become the first in the nation to achieve a statewide $15 per hour starting wage. Upon reaching the agreement, workers called off the fifteen-hour picket they had planned to begin at the Massachusetts State House on the morning of Tuesday, June 30th. Instead, caregivers are planning a celebration of this milestone and nation-leading achievement of a $15 standard at 4:00 p.m. on the State House steps the afternoon of June 30th.
By Ava Tomasula Y Garcia for In These Times – For many employers, wage theft makes good business sense. The probability of getting caught refusing to pay a worker overtime, shaving hours off their check or paying less than the minimum wage is low. And even in the small number of cases pursued by victims that see the inside of a courtroom, employees often only recover a fraction of what they’re owed. A new law in Connecticut, however, aims to change this. This Wednesday, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy signed into law Senate Bill 914, a measure that will allow victims of wage theft to collect double the amount due them. By making the cost of breaking the law outweigh the cost of following it, business owners will be deterred from committing the crime in the first place.
By Dan DiMaggio in Labor Notes – The National Labor Relations Board’s new election rule—aimed at reining in employers’ power to stall union drives—went into effect April 14. Organizers say the rule has immediately shortened the wait between filing a representation petition and voting. Bill Zoda, for one, is impressed. Per diem nurses at Brooke Glen Behavioral Hospital filed on May 20 to join the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals. Ballots hit the mail June 9. In the past, “you don’t get an election that fast,” said Zoda, an organizer with PASNAP. “In a week we had a hearing.” In theory, elections can now happen as fast as two weeks from filing. In practice, so far under the new rule, the median wait between petition and election is 24 days, according to an analysis covering April 14-June 5 by the National Law Review. Compare that to 38 days in 2014.
The tunnel that runs under the English Channel between England and France was closed Tuesday afternoon, cutting off a key link between the European continent and the British Isles. All traffic was suspended starting at 3 p.m. local time (9 a.m. ET), because protesters broke into the tunnel entry site in France and set tires on fire, a Eurotunnel press officer told CNN. He declined to give his name. Eurotunnel — Groupe Eurotunnel SE — manages the channel tunnel, sometimes referred to as the Chunnel, earning money from the Eurostar passenger train service and trains owned by other companies that use the passageway. Would-be passengers trying to contact Eurotunnel got a recorded message saying, “Our passenger service is temporarily suspended.”
By Lee Hall in The Guardian – Like most university teachers today, I am a low-paid contract worker. Now and then, a friend will ask: “Have you tried dog-walking on the side?” I have. Pet care, I can reveal, takes massive attention, energy and driving time. I’m friends with a full-time, professionally employed pet-sitter who’s done it for years, never topping $26,000 annually and never receiving health or other benefits. The reason I field such questions is that, as an adjunct professor, whether teaching undergraduate or law-school courses, I make much less than a pet-sitter earns. This year I’m teaching five classes (15 credit hours, roughly comparable to the teaching loads of some tenure-track law or business school instructors).
By Mark Karlin in Truthout- This incentivizes the contractor subcontracting to sweatshops, pushing workers to the point of exhaustion, paying them low wages and spending no money on pollution controls. The western companies can then say they have no responsibility for these conditions because they don’t care what happens inside those factories so long as the goods come in at the right price. This absolves them of legal responsibility even though they set the terms of contract with their suppliers. The system produces high profits on the backs of the workers as well as nearby residents who have to deal with the pollution of these factories.
By Miriam Shestack for In These Times – When corporations can move, workers and politicians and communities become very worried and skeptical about applying any workplace regulations or environmental regulations, because companies openly claim that they will move the jobs overseas in the face of greater regulation. This undermines the ability of American workers to demand a safe workplace or good wages. Every time jobs are moved overseas, this undermines the ability of the American working class to fight for any kind of positive change. That’s because unions no longer have the union dues to affect the political system and workers and communities are careful to not say anything negative or do anything that might threaten their jobs. The other part, of course, is that both corporations and politicians have worked very hard to place production and pollution in communities that have the least ability to resist.
By Paul Buchheit in Inequality – It’s a vicious circle of hypocrisy: Americans dependent on the safety net are urged to “get a job” by the same free-market system that pays them too little to avoid being dependent on the safety net. According to the Economic Policy Institute, $45 billion per year in federal, state, and other safety net support is paid to workers in the bottom 20 percent of wage earners. Thus the average U.S. household is paying almost $400 to employees in low-wage industries such as food service, retail, and personal care. A Demos study found that raising wages to $25,000 per year (about $12.50 per hour) for full-time retail workers would lift 734,075 people out of poverty. It would probably help a lot more.
By Mario Vasquez for In These Times – Less than two months after participating in a strike against trucking companies allegedly committing wage theft at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, a supermajority of drivers at Intermodal Bridge Transport (IBT) are poised to strike in order to pressure IBT into correcting their alleged misclassification as independent contractors. IBT, which moves merchandise for Sony, Toyota, General Electric, Target and JC Penney, among others, is a subsidiary of the Chinese Government-owned COSCO Logistics Americas network and employes 88 drivers, according to the union supporting driver efforts, Teamsters Local 848. The drivers contest that their status as independent contractors is wrong and creates wage theft that amounts to almost $1 billion yearly in California alone, according to estimates by local allies.
By Migrant Justice – On Saturday June 20th, farmworkers and community allies across the country are organizing actions at Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops to call on CEO Jostein Solheim to stand up for farmworkers’ rights by joining the Milk With Dignity Program! For several years now Vermont dairy worker members of Migrant Justice have been educating Ben & Jerry’s about serious human rights violations in its supply chain. VT farmworkers have called on Ben & Jerry’s to join a new program to ensure farmworker’s rights are secured. In order to win this campaign we must demonstrate that there is a powerful movement of farmworkers and community allies across the country that are standing united to secure farmworkers’ rights in Ben & Jerry’s supply chain.
By Hamilton Nolan in Gawker – Nick Hanauer, a venture capitalist who was one of the first investors in Amazon, has the distinction of being one of America’s few progressive billionaires. We spoke to him about the class war—which he is busily fighting. Hanauer drew attention last year for writing an op-ed in Politico warning his “fellow zillionaires” that “the pitchforks are coming” if something is not done to address America’s growing economic inequality. Since then, he has been producing a steady stream of blog postsand essays calling for higher pay for low-wage workers and other measures designed to boost the fortunes of the declining lower and middle classes. Yesterday, the Seattle-based investor was in New York testifying in favor of a $15 per hour minimum wage for fast food workers. He stopped by our office afterwards to talk.
By Christopher Mathias in Huffington Post – Carl Stubbs, 63, stood outside New York City Council chambers Wednesday in anticipation of the council’s vote on the Fair Chance Act — a bill that would delay when many of the city’s private sector employers can ask job applicants about their criminal history. “I feel [that] being black, having a felony, you don’t get hired,” he told The Huffington Post. “I have had a felony for over 30 years.” Stubbs, who’s also an activist with the group Voices of Community Activists Leaders (VOCAL-NY), wanted the bill to pass because it could improve his chances getting a job. “I would love to go back to work,” he said. Earlier, Piper Kerman, author of the memoir-turned-hit-Netflix-series Orange Is The New Black, offered her support of the bill.
By Marie Cusick in NPR – Somehow Pennsylvania lost 160,000 gas industry jobs overnight. What happened? Did drillers flee at the specter of a new tax on production? Not quite. Although companies have been laying off workers and cutting costs– lackluster market conditions don’t explain this shift. Instead, it was a decision made under Governor Wolf’s new administration. Last week the state Department of Labor and Industry quietly changed the way it tracks employment in the Marcellus Shale industry. “Those numbers were a joke,” says John Hanger, Wolf’s secretary of planning and policy. ”The errors were so glaring, they had to be changed.” Wolf’s predecessor Tom Corbett, a Republican, often credited drillers with supporting more than 200,000 Pennsylvania jobs.
By Stephanie Lerner and Jono Shaffer in Talk Poverty – On June 15, 1990, the Los Angeles Police Department viciously attacked immigrant janitors who were striking for the right to organize in Century City, Los Angeles. In a story that is now all too familiar, the police claimed they were defending themselves. Only later, when TV news footage exposed the police clubbing non-violent strikers, was the self-defense claim discredited. Two women miscarried, dozens were hospitalized, and 60 strikers and supporters were jailed. After the violence, the workers regrouped in a nearby park where one of the strikers said, “What they did to us today in front of the TV cameras, is the way the police treat us every day.” Another woman striker told a reporter, “I wasn’t robbing a bank or selling drugs, I’m simply asking for an increase in pay but the police beat us as if we were garbage.”