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

The Nightmare Facing the Poor and Working Class If There’s Not Another Stimulus – In These Times

Monday, October 12, 2020
By  Jeff Schuhrke, In These Times

As mil­lions of U.S. work­ers face unem­ploy­ment, food inse­cu­ri­ty and evic­tion amid the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic, the lim­it­ed aid pro­vid­ed by the fed­er­al government’s flawed CARES Act from March has long since dried up. 

Last week, fol­low­ing more than six months of stalled nego­ti­a­tions with con­gres­sion­al Democ­rats over a new eco­nom­ic relief pack­age, Pres­i­dent Trump abrupt­ly announced he was halt­ing talks until after the Novem­ber election.

While the pres­i­dent quick­ly back­tracked and is now report­ed­ly con­tin­u­ing to nego­ti­ate, the fed­er­al government’s ongo­ing fail­ure to pass a new relief pack­age spells cat­a­stro­phe for a U.S. work­ing class already pushed to the brink by an eco­nom­ic cri­sis seem­ing­ly on par with the Great Depression. 

The Eco­nom­ic Pol­i­cy Insti­tute found that the con­sumer spend­ing gen­er­at­ed by that extra $600 per week sup­port­ed over 5 mil­lion jobs, and that con­tin­u­ing the sup­ple­ment through the mid­dle of next year would have raised U.S. gross domes­tic prod­uct (GDP) by a quar­ter­ly aver­age of 3.7 percent.

Read the full story from In These Times

U of I Hospital nurses’ strike continues, with SEIU Local 73 workers join picket lines

Monday, September 14, 2020
By  Alexis McAdams, abc 7 Chicago

University of Illinois Hospital nurses on strike are getting a show of solidarity on Monday as they are joined by hundreds of SEIU-73 members.

The nurses walked off the job over the weekend. The Illinois Nurses Association Union is demanding a comprehensive contract that includes better staffing levels, higher pay, and more personal protective equipment. Leaders say it is the first strike for the union at UIC Medical Center in more than four decades.

“We are warriors in this fight,” said Doris Carrol, President of the Illinois Nurses Association. “During the pandemic, our hospital called us heroes and now they are treating us like zeros.”

Also, the union says there needs to be a set limit on how many patients a single nurse is treating at any one time, while the hospital believes a set nurse to patient ratios do not work.

“In an ICU – an ICU nurse should have no more than two patients,” Carrol said. “However, if a patient comes in and needs one to one care then the nurses will switch assignments.”

In a statement, Michael Zenn, CEO of University of Illinois Hospital, said he “values and respects” these nurses’ work but argues ratios “…ignore fair workload distribution among peers on a shift-to-shift basis. Nurse staffing ratios also result in longer Emergency Department (ED) wait times, increased ambulance diversion hours, reduced patient services and higher operating costs.”

Around 1,300 nurses originally planned to walk off the job, but a judge granted a temporary restraining order Friday limiting that number after the hospital filed a lawsuit citing patient safety concerns.

Read the full story from abc 7 Chicago

New Trump administration rule could make it harder for gig and contract workers to have rights as employees

Tuesday, September 22, 2020
By Eli Rosenberg, The Washington Post

The Department of Labor released a rule proposal on Tuesday that could make it more difficult for those engaged with contract work to be classified as employees, in what labor advocates described as a potential blow to protections for workers.

Labor advocates say the proposal would raise the threshold for contract workers, which includes gig workers, to be considered employees, a category that comes with significantly more protections. The proposed rule is the first of a multistep process with potential consequences for millions of workers.

Under the proposal, the Department of Labor — which has the power to investigate worker complaints about misclassification — said it would adopt a few guidelines to test whether workers should be considered employees or contractors.

This test would assess whether a worker is truly in business for themselves, like a contractor, or whether they are economically dependent on their employer, as an employee. It would also examine the degree of control a worker has over their work, and whether their earnings came from their initiative or investment.

Read the full story from The Washington Post

Strike. This Could Be Our Last Stand.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020
By Farhad Manjoo, The New York Times

Inaction may prove disastrous. Beth Ann Bovino, chief U.S. economist for S & P Global, told The Times last week that federal aid was meant as a kind of economic bridge through uncertain times, but, she added, “it looks like the ravine has widened and the bridge is halfway built, so there are a lot of people stranded.”

Bovino’s image suggests a way out of this mess: Workers should band together and demand, collectively, a bridge across the ravine.

To put it more plainly: It’s time for a general strike. Actually, it’s time for a sustained series of strikes, a new movement in which workers across class and even political divides press not just for more unemployment aid but, more substantively, a renewed contract for working in an economy that is increasingly hostile to employees’ health and well-being.

This may be the American worker’s last stand: If we can’t get our government to help us now, when will we ever?

The political case for an expanded safety net is drop-dead obvious. Through no fault of their own, because their government failed to keep the nation safe, millions of Americans have lost jobs, they have lost or may soon lose health coverage, they may lose housing, and many are going without food.

Read the full story from The New York Times

‘I cry before work’: US essential workers burned out amid pandemic

Wednesday, September 23, 2020
By Michael Sainato, The Guardian

Terri Prunty Kay has worked as a cashier at Walmart in Sonoma county, California since 2011. She had never cried at work because of treatment from customers before the pandemic.

“It’s been a nightmare,” she said. “The first three months there were item limits. Everyone was angry and combative. Now it’s the masks.”

Prunty Kay has asthma and wears a mask at work, but not all customers follow the mask policy. The heat in the store and through the summer has made it unbearable to work and she said her store is understaffed with long lines at the registers.

“It’s exhausting, mentally, emotionally and physically,” she added.

Punty Kay is just one of the millions of essential jobs around the US reporting burnout, fatigue, stress and anxiety while continuing to work through Covid-19.

national poll conducted in August 2020 by Eagle Hill Consulting found 58% of US workers reported burnout, compared to 45% polled in the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in April 2020. More workers also attributed their burnout to Covid-19 circumstances, at 35% compared to 25% in the previous poll. A July 2020 poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation on adults in the US found 53% reported their mental health was negatively affected by coronavirus related worry and stress, compared to 32% reported in March.

Read the full story from The Guardian

The Labor Department Is Tearing Down a Landmark of Investor Protection

Friday, September 11, 2020
By Kurt N. Schacht, Barron’s

Corporate governance and shareholder rights have seldom witnessed an assault on investor protection like the current federal government’s onslaught. Whether weakened rules on broker accountability, rules designed to eliminate shareholder proposals, or those taking direct aim at neutering proxy voting, the feds’ decisions are to the great detriment of Mr. and Mrs. 401(k).

The latest move is the Department of Labor’s new proposal to undo a major landmark of fiduciary duty for proxy voting. The so-called Avon Letter was written in 1988 and stemmed from a proposition raised by shareholder-rights warrior Robert Monks when he served at the DOL. The letter said that fiduciaries that oversee retirement plans regulated by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or Erisa, must treat proxy voting as another of the fund’s assets. They must do so with diligence and care when analyzing and voting proxies in the best interests of beneficiaries.

The Avon Letter still serves market integrity admirably. It has led to a much more consistent and accountable proxy voting process by fund managers. Because of the letter, the industry has moved away from treating proxy voting as an afterthought, having often failed to submit votes at all. Avon started the discipline for not just Erisa funds but also many public pension funds to pay attention, review the proxy issues, and submit votes that reflect the interests of investors, not just rubber-stamping management’s views. It was an important impetus for better governance and the exercise of shareholder rights.

Read the full story from Barron’s

Teachers unions around the world clash with governments over coronavirus and school reopening plans

Saturday, September 12, 2020
By Miariam Berger, The Washington Post

Public-sector teachers unions around the world vary widely in role and makeup, shaped in part by local regulations, state-labor relations and the climate for political dissent. But a common thread ties many of them together: opposition to policies that have eroded public education, said Ellen David Friedman of Labor Notes, a grass-roots labor organization based in Detroit.

“We are now at a crisis moment where all over the world people are realizing the centrality of public education,” she said. “Teachers unions are the last line of defense.”

Edwards said he has observed three trends among his organization’s global affiliates.

In places with “high trust, high dialogue” — including Argentina, New Zealand and Scandinavian countries — teachers “haven’t needed to resort to industrial action,” he said. Instead, they have been in continuous talks with policymakers over when and how to reopen schools, and related issues such as sick pay and overtime.

In Britain, France, Germany and Greece, among other countries in Europe, some unions have been very vocal in opposition to official plans.

In countries with “a history of lack of dialogue and consultation with the government,” teachers have been more likely to threaten or resort to strikes, he said.

Read the full story from The Washington Post