Chicago-Area Workers Log 1,000 Complaints About COVID-19 Conditions On The Job

Monday, November 23, 2020
By Linda Lutton, Michael Puente,
WBEZ

Since the early days of the pandemic, one group has quietly, but consistently, been raising red flags around COVID-19 safety: workers.

In the Chicago area, workers from every sector of the economy have filed more than 1,000 complaints, alerting the federal government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration to unsafe conditions at work, including direct exposure to the virus.

The complaints, among 31,000 made nationwide, are an on-the-ground view from workers who have been forced to continue laboring outside their homes amidst the deadly pandemic. They form a record of palpable concerns from the area’s essential workers, and a clear warning that conditions are not safe and people are getting sick.

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Fight for $15 minimum wage boosted in Florida but Biden faces tough task

Monday, November 23, 2020
By Michael Sainato,
The Guardian

It has been a long time coming but Hector Rivera is hopeful that one day soon he will be able to take a day off work. The 61-year-old works as a janitor in Miami, Florida, making just over $9 an hour. Because the pay is so low, Rivera works two janitorial jobs and scrambles to find gig jobs on the weekends in order to cover his rent and bills every month.

“Trying to survive on this salary is extremely difficult because I’m constantly looking for more work,” said Rivera, a Dominican and one of the millions of Latino and Black Americans who are disproportionately represented in the low-wage sector.

On 3 November Rivera, and the millions of Americans fighting for a raise for low-wage workers, were given a boost when Florida passed a resolution to increase its minimum wage to $15 an hour. Raising the minimum wage was a central plank of Joe Biden’s election campaign and Florida’s vote came even as the state voted for Donald Trump. But while workers and activists are cheering the victory, the road ahead for Biden and a raise in the minimum wage looks tough.

Read the full story from The Guardian

Striking Workers in North Dakota Threaten Food Supply Chain in the Midwest

Friday, November 20, 2020
By Lauren Kaori Gurley,
Vice

Seventy-five warehouse workers and delivery drivers at a major regional food distributor in Fargo, North Dakota went on strike on Wednesday to protest their employer Cash-Wa’s refusal to implement protections to curb the spread of COVID-19—prompting union officials to warn that there could be food supply disruptions at restaurants, schools, and hospitals throughout the Great Plains states. 

The workers are employed by Cash-Wa—whose customers include Dairy Queen, Qdoba, Subway, Taco John’s, Pizza Ranch, and four public school districts in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota. Altogether, Cash-Wa’s customer-base includes more than 10,000 restaurants, hospitals, convenience stores, and schools across 10 states. 

Since March, essential workers across the country have walked off the job at Whole Foods marketsAmazon warehousesTaco Bells and McDonald’s restaurants, and poultry packing plants to protest working conditions during the pandemic, some asking for hazard pay and others demanding protective gear. Few of these strikes have resulted in major commercial disruptions and product shortages—but as the workforce behind a massive food distribution company, the 75 striking Cash-Wa workers are in a unique position to disrupt a major supply chain if their employer refuses to provide them with more protections.

Read the full story from Vice

The Supreme Court will hear a new attack on unions.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020
By Ian Millhiser,
Vox

he Supreme Court announced on Friday that it would hear Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid, a case targeting a 45-year-old California regulation that allows union organizers to briefly enter agricultural workplaces to speak to farmworkers. But the case has implications that stretch well beyond labor organizing. Among other things, Cedar Point could potentially allow businesses to deny entry to health inspectors and other government officials who ensure that those businesses are being operated safely.

The Fifth Amendment provides that private property shall not “be taken for public use, without just compensation.” The Cedar Point plaintiffs argue that this “takings clause” gives them a broad right to “exclude unwanted persons from [their] property,” including union organizers — and that property owners are entitled to compensation if this right is violated by a state regulation.

If the Supreme Court were to hold that the government may not require a business to allow unwanted people on its premises, the implications could be staggering. It could mean, for example, that the government runs afoul of the takings clause if it requires restaurants to submit to periodic health inspections, or if it requires power plants to be inspected to monitor their emissions, or if factories are required to allow workplace safety inspectors to observe working conditions.

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Biden wants to undo Trump executive orders on federal workers

Friday, November 13, 2020
By Andrew Keshner,
Market Watch

In May 2018, President Donald Trump signed executive orders mandating stricter deadlines and procedures when federal workers collectively negotiated new contracts, curbing on-the-clock time for union duties as well as giving some under-performing workers tight time frames to boost their performance.

In January 2021, newly-inaugurated President Joe Biden is likely to pull back those same orders, according to union members, who say the orders have weakened their ability to ensure rank and file staffers are treated fairly.

The Biden transition team didn’t respond to a request for comment, but Biden’s campaign website has signaled that the president-elect will address these issues: “There’s a war on organizing, collective bargaining, unions, and workers. It’s been raging for decades, and it’s getting worse with Donald Trump in the White House.”

The President-Elect, among other things, supports laws that would penalize companies trying to interfere with worker organizing efforts, according to his website.

Biden is expected to rely on executive orders for government policy if he cannot make changes through law in a divided Congress.

Read the full story from Market Watch

The lesson Democrats should take from Florida’s $15 minimum wage vote

Monday, November 5, 2020
By Emily Stewart,
Vox

Joe Biden supports an increase to the national minimum wage; Donald Trump does not. Biden’s is a widely popular position, but one that he and many other Democrats often fail to highlight. During the final presidential debate, “wages” was the most-searched term on Google, as viewers seemed surprised to see that the issue was really even in play.

In the 2020 election, Florida voted 60-40 in favor of Amendment 2, a ballot measure to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 by September 30, 2026, even as it also voted to keep President Donald Trump in office. Beyond signaling that people just aren’t ideologically consistent, there is another — and perhaps more important — read into Florida’s results: Increasing wages is an attractive proposition to a lot of people, and it’s a position Democrats should embrace and highlight more.

“Across the board, it is not necessarily a left or right issue. Voters across the aisle actually know that it is impossible in Florida and around the country [to] actually survive on $8.56 and what the current minimum wage is,” Allynn Umel, national organizing director of the Fight for $15, a group that advocates for a $15 minimum wage and a union, said on a call with reporters Wednesday.

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6 McDonald’s workers say they were pressured to work despite being infected in Chicago

Monday, November 2, 2020
By Kate Taylor and Avery Hartmans,
Business Insider

Two new OSHA complaints allege that workers are being pressured to continue working at a Chicago McDonald’s, after six employees caught the coronavirus. According to one worker, the incident comes after two McDonald’s employees died from COVID-19. 

A complaint filed on Friday by McDonald’s worker Kenia Campeando alleges that store managers dismissed employee reports of COVID-19 symptoms, failed to sanitize or enforce social distancing, and did not provide personal protective equipment to workers. McDonald’s failures contributed to a cluster of cases that sickened six workers at a single store, according to Campeando. 

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Instacart provided some contract workers with stickers and fliers promoting controversial ballot measure that decides their fate

Tuesday, October 13, 2020
By Sara Ashley O’Brien, CNN Business

With just weeks left until Election Day, Instacart attempted to leverage the labor of some of its workers to promote its messaging about a controversial California ballot initiative, the outcome of which will shape how gig economy businesses operate in the state and whether workers are treated as contractors or employees.

According to screenshots posted this weekend by Vanessa Bain, an Instacart shopper and co-founder of a nonprofit called Gig Workers Collective, Instacart prompted a shopper to “retrieve one Prop 22 sticker and insert and place it in your customer’s order” before delivering. The shopper could select “found” if the materials were in stock at the store, or “not found,” if out of stock.

Instacart confirmed to CNN Business that inserts and stickers were available over the weekend in the staging area at one store in the Bay Area for shoppers to add to orders. It said it does not currently plan to expand the effort but would not explain why it was only offered in one store for one weekend.

Read the full story from CNN Business

Judge Barrett’s Record: Siding With Businesses Over Workers

Tuesday, October 13, 2020
By  David Dayen, The American Prospect

With the opening statements and the grandstanding now over, today the nomination hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court begin in earnest, as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee launch into their questioning. Supreme Court confirmation hearings have become a high-level version of dodgeball, where nominees work tirelessly to evince no opinion on any legal matter whatsoever, using the excuse that the topic might come up before the Court in the future, and the nominee wouldn’t want to prejudge any decision.

In this case, both Barrett’s record and the entire process can be prejudged. Though she only has three years on the federal bench, Barrett has nearly two decades’ worth of law review writing from her time as a professor at Notre Dame. Everyone knows she has been installed to deliver victories on long-sought, ideologically conservative priorities, from eliminating the right to choose an abortion to the overturning of a century of labor law jurisprudence. And everyone knows conservative senators will vote in lockstep to get Barrett on the Court to commence this work. The only drama lies in whether enough of them are actually available to complete the task before the general election.

Read the full story from The American Prospect

24 hours in the life of American workers

Tuesday, October 13, 2020
The Washington Post

To pay the bills, they must go to work. And theirs is work that cannot be done from the confines of home, distanced by email and Zoom meetings from the deadly dangers of the coronavirus.

A trucker waiting on his load for another cross-country haul. A public defender meeting with a client in a dingy courthouse holding room. The owner of a small hardware store trying to make sure customers mask up as they walk in.

The stark reality is that the pandemic has put millions of American workers at risk in ways that few could have imagined just seven months ago. The fallout has revealed an economy and labor force sharply divided along lines of race, class and privilege.

Workers who are able to do their jobs remotely are almost twice as likely to be White as Black or Hispanic, according to recent studies. They also are far more likely to be highly educated and well-off. Only 18 percent of people from households with incomes less than $50,000 were able to work from home this spring, compared to 45 percent of those from households making more than $100,000, and the gap remains significant despite a big increase since then in the number of Americans working remotely.

Read the full story from The Washington Post