Amazon Prime Day deals aren’t worth the moral cost of exploiting their workers

Tuesday, July 16, 2019
By Michelle Chen, NBC News

The promise of Amazon Prime Day — to be an all-encompassing one-stop shop for all our material desires at the lowest possible prices — increasingly rings hollow both for the people who fill the boxes and for the consumers who unpack them. Amazon might offer shoppers infinite choice, but there are often vanishing few alternatives for those who want to escape its grip. Whenever we “proceed to checkout,” our wish becomes the command of a distant anonymous warehouse worker, but the transaction comes at the cost of our civic soul.

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A $15 minimum wage started as a slogan. This week, it’s set to pass the House

Monday, July 15, 2019
By Lydia DePillis, CNN Business

Nearly seven years ago, a week after Black Friday, a few dozen workers walked off their New York City fast food jobs to demonstrate for higher pay. The median wage for fast food workers was $9 an hour, CNN reported at the time. The demand that would soon emerge as the movement’s rallying cry — $15 and a union — seemed hopelessly ambitious, like a wild-eyed opening bid.

This week, the House of Representatives will vote on the Raise the Wage Act, which would make $15 an hour a reality for nearly all American workers by 2024, up from the current national minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. And it’s expected to pass.

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America’s labor movement is finally waking up after a 30 year slumber

Sunday, June 30, 2019
By George Pearkes, Business Insider

You may have noticed some labor disruptions in the headlines. A few examples from the past month: employees of Vox Media successfully negotiated a collective bargaining agreement, Buzzfeed employees walked out in an effort to get recognition for their union, and Volkswagen workers in Tennessee talked wildcat strikes after a vote to unionize failed by a small margin.

Last year, teachers walked off the job in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona with walk-outs and other disruptions from Colorado to the Carolinas. This may seem like bad news for capitalists, but unions can be a source of stability as well as class conflict. The recent labor renaissance could help to reverse some worrying long-term trends in the American economy, while also still benefiting the businesses from which workers are extracting gains.

The recent uptick in strikes is not just your imagination, and it recalls an earlier era when unions played a greater role in the American labor market. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed more than 485,000 workers were impacted by large strikes that started during the year, the highest number since 1986.

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Brooklyn Wireless Workers Vote to Save Their Union

Thursday, August 30, 2018
By Sarah Jaffe, DISSENT

For Jazmin Warthen-Sypher, a seven-year employee at Verizon Wireless in Brooklyn, going on strike in April of 2016 was “liberating.”

“I’ve never seen or experienced so much power, so much union power, in my life,” she explained.

Part of the first group of Verizon Wireless workers to form a union when they voted in the Communications Workers of America (CWA) in May of 2014, Warthen-Sypher was then part of the massive—and successful—2016 strike that drew national attention, pulled presidential candidates to picket lines, won raises, job creation, and pension stability for the workers, and perhaps most significantly, saw picketing at Wireless retail locations for the first time. The Wireless workers had organized to challenge what they saw as favoritism, arbitrary promotions and discipline, and to get some say over their wages and scheduling.

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Missouri voters strongly reject right-to-work law

Tuesday, August 7, 2018
By Jason Hancock And Aaron Randle, KANSAS CITY STAR

Missourians voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to reject a proposed right-to-work law, derailing a decades-long push by Republicans and business groups to enact a law reviled by labor unions.

With more than two-thirds of precincts reporting, right to work was losing 65 percent to 35 percent. If that tally holds, it would be more lopsided than the vote in 1978, the last time Missourians rejected a right-to-work law.

“Tonight we send a clear message to any politicians, CEO, dark-money donors who want to silence working people,” Reginald Thomas, the executive vice president of the Greater KC Chapter of the AFL-CIO, told hundreds of union workers and supporters gathered at the Pipefitters Local 553 Hall in Kansas City.

“We will stand together,” he said, “and yell louder than ever before, because our families depend on it.”

Read the full story from the Kansas City Star

A Question of Legitimacy Looms for the Supreme Court

Thursday June 21, 2018
By Linda Greenhouse, NEW YORK TIMES

Any day now, perhaps as soon as Thursday, the Supreme Court will issue a decision that more than any other case this term will reveal to us the heart and soul of the Roberts Court at the end of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s 14th year.

The case is Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. It presents the question of whether the court will adhere to its 41-year-old precedent under which states can require public employees who object to joining a union to nonetheless pay their fair share of the union’s costs of the collective bargaining from which all employees benefit.

I’ve just made a bold claim for a case that’s not at the top of most people’s Supreme Court watch lists. What about Trump v. Hawaii, the case on the validity of the president’s Muslim travel ban, also due for a decision in the coming days? That case is extremely important, of course, but here’s the difference: There was no way the court was going to avoid a case presenting fundamental questions of presidential authority. But Janus is a case, it’s fair to say, of the Supreme Court’s own creation.

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More Americans view long-term decline in union membership negatively than positively

Tuesday June 5, 2018
By Hannah Fingerhut, PEW RESEARCH CENTER

The number of Americans represented by labor unions has decreased substantially since the 1950s, and a new Pew Research Center survey finds that the decline is seen more negatively than positively by U.S. adults. The survey also finds that 55% of Americans have a favorable impression of unions, with about as many (53%) viewing business corporations favorably.

In 2017, just 10.7% of wage and salaried workers in the United States were members of labor unions, down from 20.1% in 1983 (the first year for which comparable data are available), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unionization in the U.S. peaked at more than 34% in 1954, according to the Congressional Research Service.

About half of Americans (51%) say the large reduction in union representation has been mostly bad for working people in the U.S., while 35% say it has been mostly good, according to the Center’s survey, which was conducted in April and May. Views about the impact of diminished union membership are little changed from 2015.

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Can Weak Unions Get Teachers More Money?

Sunday May 6, 2018
By Noam Scheiber, NEW YORK TIMES

On Thursday, a weeklong walkout by teachers in Arizona resulted in a major victory, as the state’s governor approved a 10 to 20 percent wage increase and a significant investment in public schools.

That followed a roughly $6,000 salary increase that Oklahoma teachers won by threatening a walkout (and later following through). Which in turn came on the heels of a 5 percent raise for teachers in West Virginia, who had shut down schools for almost two weeks.

The teachers were intent on making a statement. “No funding, no future!” they chanted in Oklahoma. And their mantra seemed to carry the day.

That all this took place in so-called right-to-work states, where the power of unions is limited, raises some interesting questions: Do weak unions go hand-in-hand with more effective political activism? Would strong organized labor prevent teachers from getting their way? After all, in Wisconsin, a state where unions were famously powerful, public sector workers suffered a historic defeat at the hands of Gov. Scott Walker in 2011.

Yet the reality is closer to the opposite.

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At a warehouse shipping phones for Verizon, women say sexual harassment was common

Thursday May 3, 2018
By Mike Snider, USA TODAY

Verizon is investigating complaints of sexual harassment filed by eight women against a Memphis firm it contracts with for shipping of cellphones.

Eight current and former female employees at XPO Logistics filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in April saying they were aggressively groped, faced unwanted sexual advances, lewd comments and retaliation for reporting harassment to their human resources department.

Under a contract with Verizon, XPO Logistics receives and distributes the wireless provider’s cellphones at the Memphis work site. About 900 employees work at the XPO Logistics facility in Memphis.

One of the women employees alleging harassment, Debra Perry, says in her complaint a male supervisor had “touched her inappropriately on several occasions, such as touching her side or rubbing her arm. … In March 2018, he came over to give her a peppermint, dropped it into her hand, then reached down and grabbed her left breast. It happened so quickly that Ms. Perry didn’t know how to react.”

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The Teacher Uprising Spreads Far and Wide

Friday April 27, 2018
By STAFF, LABOR NOTES

An Associated Press poll found that 78 percent of Americans think teachers are paid too little, and a majority support teachers’ strikes to win higher pay. Fifty percent said they favor higher taxes to pay teachers more.

After weeks of protesting proposed pension concessions, Kentucky teachers were shocked to learn in March that their Republican-dominated legislature had suddenly amended a bill on sewer system regulations to include 291 pages on pension reform. The new law creates a two-tier pension system. Teachers reacted with sickouts, closing schools in a dozen districts as thousands rallied at the capital.

Read the full story from Labor Notes