Monday, June 29, 2015

Housing costs are too damn high!

Homeownership, once considered the cornerstone of the American Dream, continues to slip away from more and more U.S. workers, a new report by Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) states. But the document also states that rent costs are straining the middle class as well.


The "State of the Nation's Housing 2015" paper detailed that the nation's housing recovery slipped last year as homeownership rates continued to fall. Meanwhile, rental markets continue to grow, but soaring rents combined with flat incomes means more and more households are paying too much for the roof over their heads.

Chris Herbert, JCHS's managing director, said:
Perhaps the most telling indicator of the state of the nation's housing is the drop in the homeownership rate to just 64.5 percent last year. This erases nearly all of the increase from the previous two decades. In fact, the number of homeowners fell for the eighth straight year, and the trend does not appear to be abating.
That, in turn, has caused a surge in rental demand. As a result, the national vacancy rate fell to its lowest point in nearly 20 years and rents rose 3.2 percent last year. Households headed by those aged 45-64 led the renter growth "movement."

Not surprisingly, the surge in rents has created an increase in the number of cost-burdened households -- those paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing. According to the latest numbers, nearly half of all renters now fall into that category.

This is what income inequality has done to this country. Working families are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. And increasingly, lower rent options are being torn down, replaced with high-rent alternatives that leave few places for low-income families to go.

A Slate article explains:
Rents are rising for the simple reason that, thanks to the never-ending hangover of the housing bust, a larger share of Americans are renting their living places now than they have in 20 years. And while developers have responded by building apartment buildings like mad—last year, there were the most multifamily housing starts for rent since 1987—it hasn't quite been enough to keep up with demand. (Moreover, new construction is largely catering to wealthier buyers, while the families most burdened by rent tend to be lower-income.)
Workers should be able to live a life of dignity. That means being able to have a place to call their own. But due to corporate greed, salaries aren't keep up. It's time for lawmakers to push for sustainable wages so hardworking Americans can afford the basics of life.

Today's Teamster News 6.29.15

Teamsters
Teamsters, Airgas employees on West Side, reject contract  Charleston Gazette  ...On Saturday, Teamster members working for Airgas Mid-America in Charleston unanimously rejected the company’s offer for a collective bargaining agreement. This would be the first contract negotiated by the union since the company’s employees on Charleston’s West Side voted to have the Teamsters represent them in July 2014. Local Airgas workers rejected the proposed contract in large part because the company refused to raise wages for their Charleston employees to a rate comparable to wages paid by its local competitor...

Global Labor & Trade
Pelosi on trade: 'The fight will continue'  The Hill  ...House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi vowed Thursday that liberals will carry their trade fight into the ongoing talks over a trans-Pacific deal at the top of President Obama's legislative wish list. The California Democrat said this week's passage of fast-track legislation, a key part of Obama's trade agenda, is just one setback in the much larger debate over the emerging Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)...
U.S. Democrats shrug off retribution threats for pro-trade votes  Reuters  ...Democrats in the U.S. Congress who backed legislation key to sealing a Pacific Rim trade pact this week shrugged off threats of retribution from labor unions and liberal activists who have vowed to hold them accountable at future elections. Forty-one Democrats this week defied pressure and supported legislation to let the White House seal trade deals and send them on a fast track through Congress...
The Trans-Pacific Partnership’s glaring double standard  Salon  ...Recently leaked drafts of the agreement show the pact includes the kind of “Investor-State Dispute Settlement” (ISDS) provisions written into most major trade deals passed since the North American Free Trade Agreement. Those provisions allow companies to use secretive international tribunals to sue sovereign governments. But also like past trade deals, the TPP is not expected to allow unions and public-interest groups to bring their own suits in the same tribunalss...
Why trade deals hurt Americans  PBS  ...The flood of imports has kept workers’ wages stagnant in the U.S. for decades and median household incomes declining—all at a time when importers like Wal-Mart and Apple are profiting tremendously from cheap overseas labor. While it costs only $2 to make bands for the Apple watch in Asia, those same bands retail at $49 in the U.S., making Apple a 96 percent profit. No wonder Apple has three times as much cash on hand as Uncle Sam. By shipping jobs overseas, companies make big profits, but deny Americans jobs. So yes, our trade policy is adding to inequality in the U.S...
King Obama, His Royal Court, and the TPP  (opinion) Common Dreams  ...The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – a global corporate noose around U.S. local, state, and national sovereignty – narrowly passed a major procedural hurdle in the Congress by gaining “fast track” status. This term “fast track” is a euphemism for your members of Congress – senators and representatives – handcuffing themselves, so as to prevent any amendments or adequate debate before the final vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership – another euphemism that is used to avoid the word “treaty”...
Anti-austerity protesters rally at Greek parliament  Reuters  ...Several hundred anti-austerity protesters, chanting slogans against the European Union and IMF, rallied near parliament in Athens on Sunday as a deepening crisis forced Greece's leftist government to announce capital controls on the banking system. The protest was the latest in a string of rallies both for and against the government in recent weeks...
Cash Withdrawals and Hoarding as Default Looms Over Greece  New York Times  ...Five years of economic misery have taught many Greeks how to endure hardship. There was no panic on the streets, even as the breakdown of negotiations in Brussels between the leftist government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the country’s creditors could ultimately push Greece out of the eurozone...
Liberia Law Boosts Rights of Informal-Economy Workers  Solidarity Center  ...Liberian domestic workers and other informal-economy workers in Liberia are set to receive significant wage gains, collective bargaining rights and labor law protection under the Decent Work Bill signed today by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The bill takes effect when printed into handbills for distribution. Unskilled workers will earn a minimum of $3.50 per day, an amount that is more than five times the $15 per month salary...

State & Living Wage Battles
State Moves To Block Cities From Increasing Minimum Wage Or Requiring Paid Sick Leave  Think Progress  ...Michigan’s legislature passed a bill this week that blocks any cities in the state from passing their own minimum wage increases or paid sick leave requirements. The text of the bill states that “the regulation of the employment relationship between a nonpublic employer and its employees is a matter of state concern”...
Assembly plan would scale back prevailing wage as budget stalemate enters fifth week  Star Tribune  ...Nearly 60 percent of public projects in Wisconsin would not be subject to the prevailing wage law under a proposal introduced Monday by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos as the state budget stalemate enters its fifth week. Gov. Scott Walker, who had previously said he wouldn't announce a presidential bid until after he signs the budget, is now planning to state his intentions as soon as July 13...
Maine lawmakers team-up to take down Right to Work  PR News Channel  ...In a move that surprised many labor supporters, especially in Ohio, Maine’s latest Right to Work effort was taken down with help from an unlikely source: state Republicans. Backed by Republican Gov. Paul LePage, the latest Right to Work bill was defeated 21-14 in the Republican-controlled state Senate. The Senate’s vote follows a similar result in the Democrat-controlled House earlier this month...
Changes to NC voter ID rankle some, but could preserve law  Citizen-Times  ...Federal and state lawsuits filed nearly two years ago challenging what’s in North Carolina’s election overhaul law are finally heading to trial starting next month. But unexpected moves on the way to the courthouse could break down arguments of plaintiffs seeking to overturn the law’s most high-profile component: a photo identification requirement to vote in person starting next year...
Jackson County Board votes to oppose 'Right to Work'  The Southern  ...In one of its largest gatherings in some time, the members of the Jackson County Board voted to support a resolution opposing right to work initiative. Last month, Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposal to allow Right to Work zones received zero votes from members of the Illinois State House...

U.S. Labor
Communications Workers Of America Ratify Agreement For AT&T  Nasdaq  ...AT&T on Friday said that wireline employees represented by the Communications Workers of America have voted to ratify a three-year contract for AT&T Corp. (CWA Telecommunications and Technology Office). The AT&T Corp. contract covers about 4,500 employees located throughout the country.
Milwaukee County Transit union members to vote on new contract  Fox 6 Now  ...A new contract is on the table. But no agreement has been reached between Milwaukee County and its bus drivers. The two sides spent Friday, June 26th negotiating. While a new proposal is out there, a strike is not out of the question. Drivers will vote on the contract on Monday, June 29th. The county is offering more money in this newest contract. But the Amalgamated Transit Union says, that’s not what this is about...
NLRB intervenes in clash between Time Inc. and News Guild  Capital New York  ...The National Labor Relations Board has announced its intent to issue a complaint against Time Inc. by the end of this month if the magazine publisher and the News Guild of New York fail to reach an agreement amenable to the federal agency. The announcement comes several months after the union filed a charge against Time Inc. with the NLRB, pushing back against what it characterized as the company's unilateral implementation of its "last, best and final offer"...
AFSCME, MAPE come to tentative contract agreements with state of Minnesota  Star Tribune  ...The two largest state government unions reached tentative contract agreements with the administration of Gov. Mark Dayton, giving raises to more than 30,000 state workers of 2.5 percent in July 2015 and another 2.5 percent in 2016. “It’s a proper balance between managing the state budget and a good pay package for the employees” that will help recruit, develop and retain a solid workforce...
Could This Be the Biggest Blow Yet to Uber’s Business Model?  The Nation  ...The sharing economy has been having a rough ride lately: Enraged taxi drivers rose up against Uber with flaming street blockades in Paris and San Francisco cabbies rallied at Uber headquarters to protest the “ride-share” platform’s outsized grip on local taxi markets. But another potentially more disruptive development unfolded more quietly, in a San Francisco courtroom, with the simple words “alleged employee”...
“I think America is out of hand”: The shocking numbers that reveal just how burnt out American workers are  Salon  ...The American worker is overworked, underpaid, and suffering from severe burnout. This sentiment isn’t populist rhetoric, there are numbers to back it up. A new study from WorkPlaceTrends — an HR-focused research firm — and  Staples Advantage polled over 2,500 workers and reached troubling results. According to the data, 53 percent of American workers report feeling burned out at work...
Once Again, Bosses Are Trying To Eliminate New Protections for Guestworkers  In These Times  ...Once again, the beleaguered H-2B guestworker program is the subject of a legal battle. Once again, the battle is over basic worker protections. While employers are fighting in court and in Congress to have newly implemented protections removed, guestworker advocates are calling for the public to demand that the government keep them...
GOP battles to defund work of Obama labor board  The Hill  ...Congressional Republicans are using the power of the purse to do battle against a series of controversial labor regulations from the Obama administration. They say the National Labor Relations Board (NRLB) gave a gift to labor unions by issuing what they call an “ambush election” rule that speeds up the process for organizing in the workplace...

Miscellaneous
Sysco Pulling Out of US Foods Buyout After FTC Move  New York Times  ...Sysco is scrapping its proposed $3.5 billion buyout of US Foods after a Federal Trade Commission legal victory that temporarily blocked the deal to combine the two food-service companies. The FTC opposed the deal, saying it would reduce competition. The U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., granted the halt on Tuesday...
Consumers Score Huge Victory as Federal Judge Blocks Sysco and US Foods Merger  Alternet  ...In a stunning victory for people, independent restaurants and public cafeterias, a federal judge struck down the proposed merger of Sysco and US Foods, the only two national food distribution companies in the United States. Sysco and US Foods are the only companies that provide national distribution networks to foodservice customers such as schools, restaurants and hospitals...
College is a con: The savage truth about your bachelor’s degree  Salon  ...Higher education wears the cloak of liberalism, but in policy and practice, it can be a corrupt and cutthroat system of power and exploitation. Tthe reality is that while college administrators might affix “down with the man” stickers on their office doors, many prop up a system that is severely unfair to American students and professors, a shocking number of whom struggle to make ends meet...
With Marriage Equality Won, LGBTQ Activism Continues for Bias Protections & Overlooked Trans Issues  Democracy Now  ...After the Supreme Court’s historic ruling on marriage equality, many LGBTQ leaders are now redirecting their attention to obtaining federal, state and local legal protections in areas of employment, housing and commerce. Nationwide, anti-discrimination laws for gay people are inconsistent and unequal with only 22 states barring discrimination based on sexual orientation...
The Supreme Court Knocks Down Major Death Penalty Challenge  Mother Jones  ...On Monday, the Supreme Court rejected a challenge to a state lethal injection protocol, allowing Oklahoma and other states to continue using a controversial sedative that's been implicated in a number of botched executions. The 5-4 decision in Glossip v. Gross was a win for conservatives who support the death penalty...

Friday, June 26, 2015

Report reveals McDonald's threw workers under the bus in Teamster campaign

The world's largest fast food company failed workers in its supply chain when it dropped business with Taylor Farms, the world's largest supplier of packed salad and produce.

That's the finding of a new report released by the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), documenting extensive violations of workers' rights at Taylor Farms' facility in Tracy, Calif., where workers have been trying to organize with Teamsters Local 601 for almost two years.

According to the report, titled "Golden Veneer: How McDonald’s Empty CSR Promises Failed Workers at Taylor Farms," McDonald's "failed to use its leverage" with Taylor Farms to address labor law violations and instead "caused further damage to the workers" by walking away from the situation altogether:
When workers asked McDonald’s to help address multiple cases of intimidation and sexual harassment at their supplier, Taylor Farms, McDonald’s response took workers by surprise. 
McDonald’s was a large buyer of Taylor Farms produce at the time and within a few months they sent representatives from a corporate social responsibility firm called Arche Advisors – a firm that promotes its expertise in stakeholder engagement – to look into the situation. Unfortunately, the only “report” workers received after the Arche Advisors’ visit was when McDonald’s pulled out of Taylor Farms four months after their visit, leaving dozens out of work just before the holidays. 
ILRF's report added that McDonald's actions inadvertently aided Taylor Farms' campaign against its workers and the Teamsters:
Although we have seen brands cut and run when trouble arises at a supplier before, the swiftness of McDonald’s action was destructive and the lack of transparency from Arche Advisors meant management was able to use McDonald’s review in its campaign against the union. Ironically, McDonald’s CSR programs actually undermined the same rights they were meant to protect.  
McDonald's code of conduct insists that suppliers must respect workers' freedom of association and collective bargaining rights. The code includes a phone number to call to report violations. And that's exactly what one Taylor Farms worker did last year after workers endured countless abuses by the company, included retaliatory firings, intimidation, threats to call immigration authorities and other unlawful tactics before and during the workers' election for Teamster representation.

After McDonald's consultants conducted several audits of the plants in Tracy, the fast-food giant cancelled its orders with Taylor Farms. Not only did this lead to loss of jobs for workers already suffering harsh conditions and company bullying, the salad company also blamed the loss of work on the Teamsters:
Multiple workers reported being told in one-on-one conversations with Taylor Farms managers that the union was the reason McDonald’s pulled its business. Flyers were widely circulated within the facility with photos of the union saying, “thanks for taking away McDonald’s,” and Taylor Farms managers had said repeatedly on previous occasions that union complaints would lead to job loss. Thus, rather than aiding in correction of the violation of McDonald’s Supplier Code, the audit became a tool management used to reinforce to the workforce that if they complain or attempt to unionize, they will face dismissal. 
ILRF concludes that a better "corporate responsibility" policy for McDonald's would be to re-engage with Taylor Farms in an effort to correct the union-busting behavior:
[W]e urge McDonald’s to correct the flaws in their system and to cut a new path in corporate accountability towards programs based on binding standards, transparent reporting, and engagement with trade unions to ensure workers’ rights are protected throughout their supply chain. We stand ready to engage in that redesign, but first we need McDonald’s to come back to the table to stand up for the workers’ whose rights were violated at Taylor Farms.
Teamsters have filed 87 unfair labor practice charges against Taylor Farms, which are still being investigated by the National Labor Relations Board after ballots were impounded from the election last year. Organizers say the Board is close to concluding its investigation and they believe a ruling favorable to workers' bargaining rights will be made soon.

The ILRF report shows us the limits of so-called "corporate social responsibility" -- and why these policies often mean nothing for workers without unions holding companies' feet to the fire. No wonder why Taylor Farms workers have bravely withstood so many indignities in their ongoing fight to become Teamsters.  

Today Teamster News 06.26.15

Teamsters
SEIRPC board OKs Teamsters contract   The Hawk Eye  ...The Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commissions approved a three-year contract with the Chauffeurs, Teamsters and Helpers Local Union No. 238, affiliated with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, at Wednesday's executive board meeting in West Burlington. The contract will need final approval by the full board at its July meeting. The contract includes a 3 percent increase in wages for each of the next three years for SEIBUS drivers and a maintenance manager...
GOP measure would permit longer tandem trucks  Associated Press  ...Over the objections of safety advocates, the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved a trucking industry bid to allow longer tandem trucks on the nation's highways. Pushing the measure were large trucking operations that stand to profit from lower costs. In opposition were unions such as the Teamsters, many states and local governments, and safety advocates. Many smaller trucking companies were against it as well...
Teamster Officers Training Being Held in Missouri  Teamster.org  ...A Teamsters officers’ training is being held today and Friday, June 26, at the Teamsters Complex in Kansas City, Mo. More than 50 Teamster officers are gathered to take part in the program that is hosted by Teamsters Joint Council 56 and Joint Council 56 President Jim Kabell and coordinated by the IBT Training and Development Department...

Global Labor & Trade
House completes Obama’s trade items as Pacific pact looms  Washington Post  ...The Republican-led Congress rounded out President Barack Obama’s trade package Thursday, overwhelmingly passing a worker training program just weeks after it was stymied. The House voted 286 to 138 to renew the program for workers displaced by international trade. Obama had said he wanted to sign that bill alongside the “fast track” negotiating authority that Congress approved a day earlier...
Congress approves assistance for workers who lose jobs to trade  LA Times  ...Congress gave final approval Thursday to a program that provides funds for retraining workers who lose their jobs to overseas trade, a key component of President Obama's trade agenda. The Trade Adjustment Assistance bill, which is now on its way to the White House, became tangled in a political debate over giving the administration fast-track authority to negotiate trade deals...
Obama Bolsters His Leverage With Trade Victory, but at a Cost  New York Times ...President Obama’s success in rescuing his high-priority trade legislation from a rebellion by fellow Democrats strengthens his hand internationally and paves the way for completion of the most expansive economic agreement in generations. While the turbulent process was embarrassing for the president and deeply confusing for foreign negotiating partners, Mr. Obama now has the leverage he sought to force the final concessions needed to wrap up a free-trade pact...
Democrats Mend Fences After Bloody Trade Fight  National Journal  ...After weeks of all-out fighting over President Obama's trade agenda—and a bitter defeat for its Democratic opponents—the combatants in the House Democratic Caucus are ready to bury the hatchet. That doesn't mean Democrats are done fighting over trade. TPA prevents Congress from amending the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership, but members will still get an up-or-down vote when the 12-nation trade deal is completed...
Sen. Stabenow Calls for Voluntary Country-of-Origin Labels on Meat  Wall Street Journal  ...U.S. lawmakers are weighing the fate of country-of-origin labels, known as COOL, after the World Trade Organization said in May that the existing requirement discriminates against animals from Canada and Mexico. Following their win at the WTO, both Canada and Mexico are now threatening retaliatory measures totaling more than a combined $3 billion. Canada has threatened trade restrictions on a range of U.S. products...
The Fight for Fair Trade: How Far We've Come, How Much Further We Will Go  (opinion) Huffington Post  ...After a long, arduous fight, Congress passed legislation that will put harmful trade pacts on the fast track. Now our job is to put aside this momentary loss, build on the incredible momentum we have created in the fight for fair and responsible trade, and shift focus to the even bigger fights ahead. We must now focus on defeating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)...
In China, Walmart Is Unionized, But Workers Have No Power on the Job  In These Times  ...Walmart has succeeded in meeting the Chinese government’s demands that the company allow unions to be formally established, but this has not translated into any effective collective bargaining power for some 107,000 workers at the company’s 411 Chinese stores, says Han Dongfang, Executive Director of the Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin...

State & Living Wage Battles
New Mexico Will Make It Even Harder To Get Food Stamps  Think Progress  ...With an unemployment rate well above the national average and more than one in four of its children on the brink of hunger, New Mexico is poised to make it harder to get food stamps. Like most other states, New Mexico has waived federal work requirements tied to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) since about 2009. The work rules are designed to lapse when the unemployment is severe, since requiring people to find work or starve makes little sense when there’s no work to be had...
Connecticut Just Passed a Law Requiring Bosses Who Steal Workers’ Wages to Pay Them Back Double  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. 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...
W.Va. governor: No prevailing wage July 1 due to lawmakers  Herald-Dispatch  ...Blaming inaction by state lawmakers, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's administration says the state's prevailing wage will disappear July 1 for a short-term lapse that is creating uncertainty for the construction industry. On Thursday, the Democratic governor's spokesman, Chris Stadelman, said WorkForce West Virginia couldn't calculate the rate for public construction projects by July 1...
Lawsuit aims to declare Nevada minimum wage unconstitutional  Las Vegas Review-Journal  ...Several Nevada businesses are asking a federal judge to declare the state’s minimum wage law unconstitutional. According to a recent fact sheet prepared by a Legislative Counsel Bureau researcher, an amendment to the Nevada Constitution to raise the minimum wage paid to employees was approved by voters in 2004 and was reaffirmed in 2006. The 2006 voter-approved amendment requires the minimum wage to be recalculated each year...
Maine House members launching push to impeach LePage  Bangor Daily News  ...Six lawmakers said Thursday they will attempt to launch impeachment proceedings against Republican Gov. Paul LePage for his alleged role in pushing Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves out of a new job at Good Will-Hinckley School. The House of Representatives has “sole power of impeachment” according to Article 4 of the Maine Constitution...

U.S. Labor
Truckers end protest over terminal wait time at Port of New Orleans  NOLA.com  The independent truck drivers who protested outside the Port of New Orleans this week returned to work Thursday morning (June 25) after reaching an agreement with terminal operators and local trucking companies that satisfied part of their demands. As part of the deal, drivers said the local trucking companies that hire them have agreed to pay them $40 to transport each damaged shipping container to a repair facility...
More Than 9,000 Santa Clara County SEIU Union Workers Vote to Strike Over "Unfair Labor" Practices  NBC  ...More than 9,000 Santa Clara County union workers voted on Wednesday to authorize a strike next week over what they say are unfair labor practices – the first time in more than four decades. SEIU 521 spokeswoman Khanh Weinberg said that 97 percent of the union members comprising of 911 dispatchers, janitors, librarians and nurses, voted to authorize the strike on Tuesday. Workers voted to hold an "open-ended" strike with no end date...
Ford, UAW talking in advance of contract talks  NWI Times  ...Ford and the United Auto Workers union have been talking before upcoming contract negotiations, which should officially start next month. The UAW represents about 5,000 workers locally at the Chicago Assembly Plant in Hegewisch and the Chicago Stamping Plant in Chicago Heights. The union hopes to boost pay and eliminate a two-tier system where newer workers make less to do the same job as more senior employees...
State, AFSCME OK ongoing talks without lockout or strike  News & Observer  ...Negotiations on a contract with Illinois' largest public employee union will continue without the possibility of a strike or lockout for one month after the contract expires next week. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's office and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31, released a statement Thursday about the agreement. The idea is to let both sides negotiate in July without the threat of disruption of public services. The statement says "all legal and contractual" rights will be preserved...
Showing Solidarity with Ink Master Workers  AFL-CIO  ...Workers at "Ink Master" voted overwhelmingly for a union last year. Since then, Original Media, the master behind "Ink Master," has refused to bargain in good faith with the Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO. Original Media is being investigated currently by the National Labor Relations Board for failing to bargain in good faith...
Inside the Growing Movement to Unionize Charter Schools  The American Prospect  ...The labor struggle happening in Los Angeles mirrors a growing number of efforts taking place at charter schools around the country, where most teachers work with no job security on year-to-year contracts. For teachers, unions, and charter school advocates, the moment is fraught with challenges. Traditional unions are grappling with how they can both organize charter teachers and still work politically to curb charter expansion...
Diversifying labor ‘one way or the other’  St. Louis American  ...Attendees gave a nod to union members at the Communications Workers of America (CWA), who passed a “Black Lives Matter” resolution at their national convention on June 10 to address the issues of “systematic racism” in the United States. “Part of our goal in passing the resolution is to start active members of CWA talking about these issues,” said Bradley Harmon, president of the CWA Local 6355. “That has already started. I think it deepened our commitment towards working for racial justice”...

Miscellaneous
Senate Recommends $1.7 Billion In Education Cuts  Think Progress  ...The Senate Appropriations Committee advanced a labor, health and education bill for the next fiscal year out of committee Thursday. The U.S. Department of Education would lose $1.7 billion in the Senate spending bill compared to its current funding levels. Those cuts were significantly less than the House Appropriations Committee, which cut the department by $2.8 billion...
In Surprise Decision, SCOTUS Rules Against Discriminatory Housing Practices  Common Dreams  ...In a decision applauded by housing and civil rights groups on Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Fair Housing Act (FHA) allows people to pursue lawsuits when a housing practice has a discriminatory effect, even if that practice wasn't intended to discriminate—an effect known as "disparate impact"...
Gay marriage declared legal across the US in historic supreme court ruling  The Guardian  ...Same-sex marriages are now legal across the entirety of the United States after a historic supreme court ruling that declared attempts by conservative states to ban them unconstitutional. In what may prove the most important civil rights case in a generation, five of the nine court justices determined that the right to marriage equality was enshrined under the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment...
"Slavery Deeply Embedded" in South Carolina: Emanuel AME Church on Street Named for Racist Lawmaker  Democracy Now  ...When Rev. Clementa Pinckney lay in state at the Capitol this week, his body had to be brought past the Confederate flag that still flies there and is the symbol embraced by his killer, Dylann Roof. The Emanuel AME Church in Charleston is located on Calhoun Street, named for one of the most prominent pro-slavery figures in history, the late Senator and Vice President John C. Calhoun, who argued slavery was a "positive good" rather than a "necessary evil"...
Separate Attacks Leave One Dead in France and Dozens Killed in Tunisia  Common Dreams  ...Violence was making global news headlines in two countries on Friday as an earlier attack on a U.S.-owned gas plant in France was later overshadowed by an attack on a hotel in Sousse, Tunisia, where nearly thirty people are reported dead. The Associated Press reports on the attacks in Tunisia: "Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has confirmed that one of the two beachside hotels where tourists were shot in Tunisia, killing at least 27 people, is owned by a Spanish company"...

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Misclassification is another corporate trick

Too many corporations are taking advantage of hardworking Americans who are trying to earn a living to support their families. Instead of bringing them on as full-time workers, these companies go on the cheap by hiring temporary or contract workers who don't have the same job protections or benefits. Meanwhile, the employer avoids paying some taxes and unemployment insurance.

Some firms are using temp workers to sort recycling.
Misclassification is getting worse nationwide, as we noted in another blog last week. A Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GALA) report released this week details another such example, U.S. recycling workers, who are often temp workers who have fewer workplace protections and are less likely to be informed of their legal right to a safe and healthy workplace.

As detailed in the document:
Reliance on temporary staffing agencies has allowed companies to distance themselves from responsibility for worker health and safety. Among employers who use temporary labor, failure to properly train and orient workers who are new to the job, or have been brought on as temporary labor, is a common practice and a serious concern. Research about work-related injuries for low-wage workers shows that workers who have received health and safety training are more likely to seek medical attention and to notify employers of injuries than workers who have not received health and safety training.
Such practices are the latest example of corporate America trying to fleece the public. Following the same playbook it uses to jam lousy trade deals through Congress, big business insists it needs to change the rules so can remain in business. This at a time when companies are registering record profits.

Luckily, there are some instances where misclassification is not allowed to run rampant. Fed Ex Ground, for instance, recently agreed to pay $228 million to about 2,300 drivers in California that the company improperly classified as independent contractors from 2000 to 2007. The settlement came after a federal appeals court in San Francisco last August determined the workers were employees under California law.

That determination and others like it are causing some employers to act. Instacart, an on-demand delivery service, announced this week that it will transition some 300 workers in Boston and Chicago from independent contractors to employees with benefits.

But that in and of itself won't change the dynamic that seems to be increasingly gripping our government. Our elected officials too often are doing the bidding of big business and instituting policies that are hurting workers. It happened with the fast track trade bill and it's happening with misclassification. They say these moves create jobs, but there is no evidence that it does. Instead, there are just bigger profits for corporations.

This is part of the reason that a presidential candidate like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is resonating with so many people. He makes it clear he won't turn his back on people, like many on Capitol Hill already have. Too many believe government is of and by corporations now. It should be of and by the people like our founders intended.

Today's Teamster News 06.25.15

Teamsters
EVSC, Teamsters to resume negotiations Monday  Courier & Press  ...After three weeks of standstill in discussions, the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. and Teamsters Local 215 negotiating teams have agreed to meet next week for collective bargaining sessions. Local 215 President Chuck Whobrey said meetings are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday...
Teamsters Join Battle Against HOS Changes, Truck Size Provisions  Trucking News  ...The Teamsters Union this week stood with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), representatives for highway safety advocates and law enforcement and families of highway accident victims to denounce a series of provisions it claims would threaten the safety of the driving public. This week, the Senate will follow the House and mark up the FY 2016 transportation appropriations bill...
Teamsters at Fleischmann's Plant Make Vinegar for the World  Local 727  ...Vinegar is Bob Maza’s unofficial family business. Maza followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps as an operator at Fleischmann’s Vinegar Co., beginning at age 17. “My dad got me the job. I started there right out of high school in 1972, and I’ve been there ever since,” said Maza, a Teamsters Local 727 steward...
The war against bad trade deals continues  TeamsterNation  ...The battle now turns to the TPP. Americans have not yet seen the text of this lengthy and complex agreement and even elected officials have limited access to the document. Teamsters and other advocates plan on keeping up the pressure to build real and enforceable labor and environmental standards...

Global Labor & Trade
Congress renews 'fast track' trade authority  USA Today  ...The Republican-controlled Congress delivered a significant second-term victory for President Obama, sending to his desk a six-year renewal of trade promotion authority intended to advance one of the largest trade pacts in history later this year. Trade promotion authority, more commonly referred to as "fast track" or TPA, reestablishes an expedited legislative process for presidents to submit trade deals to Congress that can only be approved or rejected, not amended...
Senate approves fast-track, sending trade bill to White House  The Hill  ...The Senate voted Wednesday to approve fast-track authority, securing a big second-term legislative win for President Obama after a months-long struggle. The 60-38 Senate vote capped weeks of fighting over the trade bill, which pitted Obama against most of his party — including Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)...
Fast-Track’s Passage Sets Up Round Two on Obama’s Trade Agenda  Wall Street Journal  ...The White House and Republican leaders notched a significant victory Wednesday with the Senate’s passage of divisive trade legislation, but the win kicks off a grueling, monthslong process to complete a Pacific trade pact that still faces domestic opposition and must win final congressional approval. President  Barack Obama is expected to sign the fast-track legislation within days, clearing a negotiating roadblock that prevented officials from moving ahead on the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership...
Here’s how much corporations paid the Senate to fast-track passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership  Raw Story  ...The US Senate passed Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) — the fast-tracking bill — by a 65-33 margin on 14 May. Last Thursday, the Senate voted 62-38 to bring the debate on TPA to a close. Those impressive majorities follow months of behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing by the world’s most well-heeled multinational corporations with just a handful of holdouts.
Even in Chicago, Democrats Sprint Away From Obama on Trade  National Journal  ...Even in Obama's home base, trade has driven a deep rift between the president and his fellow Democrats. At the same time, the labor movement has ramped up pressure on lawmakers to vote against fast-track, which they say will cost American jobs and slash wages. And Chicago-area Democrats locked in primaries that could be decided by a spare few thousand votes can ill afford to get on the wrong side of labor on a litmus-test issue...
Pay deal averts rail strike threat  BBC  ...The threat of a UK national rail strike has been averted after Network Rail agreed a two-year pay deal with unions. Members of the RMT, TSSA and Unite unions have voted to accept the offer. The deal includes a 2% pay rise this year and a pay increase in line with RPI inflation next year...
Greece 'Shoved Over Red Line' as IMF Pushes Even Harsher Cuts  Common Dreams  ...More austerity, more cuts, or no deal. That's the message the International Monetary Fund threw back at the Greek government after negotiators on Wednesday rejected the latest reform proposals submitted by the Syriza government. According to reporting on the ground, there were a "flurry of proposals, counter-proposals, leaks and verbal attacks" in Brussels as Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras continued to try to hash out an acceptable bail-out...
China Workers Contracted by Uniqlo Strike Over Plant Closure  ABC News ...More than 300 Chinese workers at a garment factory that supplies international brands such as Uniqlo have been protesting for about two weeks what they say is a unilateral decision by the management to close down. The strike is one of more than 1,000 collective actions since January by Chinese workers, who are increasingly turning to group actions in fighting for their rights...

State & Living Wage Battles
Dispute over union fees could return to Supreme Court  Sacramento Bee  ...Powerful public-sector unions are facing another high-profile legal challenge that they say could wipe away millions from their bank accounts and make it tougher for them to survive. A group of California schoolteachers, backed by a conservative group, has asked the Supreme Court to rule that unions representing government workers can't collect fees from those who choose not to join...
Scott Walker Reveals Extreme Views On Equal Pay  Think Progress  ...He likened the push for equal pay laws to seeking to make more people reliant on government. “For [Obama and Clinton], your measure of success in government is how many people are dependent on the government.”
But what Walker implies he’d rather do to address the wage gap — give women more education and qualifications — won’t do the trick...
Debate ramping up ahead of vote on right-to-work veto  Joplin Globe  ...While it never received support from a number of House and Senate Republicans from districts near the state’s urban cores, right-to-work received unanimous support from the Republicans who represent Southwest Missouri. The bill was passed out of a committee chaired by Lant, R-Pineville, who said in a recent interview that he is pushing the effort to override Nixon’s veto...
NAACP head says state ‘blinked’ on voter ID  Winston-Salem Journal  ...A noisy protest staged last week by the state NAACP at the N.C. Legislative Building in Raleigh forced legislators to pass the law that modifies the voter ID law, the Rev. William Barber, the president of the N.C. chapter of the NAACP, said Wednesday. “They blinked,” Barber said. “They had to go back and fix what was clearly voter suppression”...
De Blasio refused offer linking minimum wage to pension deal  Capital New York  ...Mayor Bill de Blasio was offered a deal to raise the minimum wage for New York City in exchange for supporting a police pension proposal, but he rejected the offer, multiple sources told Capital. The deal, offered by the Republican-controlled State Senate, would have established an $11.50-an-hour minimum wage for New York City, the sources familiar with the talks said...
Lawmakers Unanimously Approve Country’s Most Robust Paid Sick Leave Law  Think Progress  ...The Montgomery County, Maryland council voted unanimously to pass a paid sick leave bill on Tuesday, making the town the 23rd place in the country to enact such a requirement. The law is one of the most robust to be passed at the city or state level so far. “The Montgomery County paid sick days laws is one of the strongest yet, and it should serve as a model for the state of Maryland and the nation,” said Charly Carter, director of Maryland Working Families...

U.S. Labor
Someone Has to Sort Your Recycling, and It’s a Disgusting and Dangerous Job  The Nation  ...The industries that pride themselves on being friends of the earth are often hostile to workers, according to new research on the safety conditions in recycling plants. Published by the Massachusetts Council for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH), National COSH, and other advocacy groups, the analysis of the industry shows that, despite the green sector’s clean, progressive image, workers remain imperiled by old-school industrial hazards...
Marathon refinery workers in Texas to end strike July 6  The Courier  ...Unionized workers at Marathon Petroleum Corp.’s Galveston Bay refinery in Texas will go back to work July 6 following nearly five months of striking. They ratified a contract with the company on Tuesday. About 1,200 workers at the refinery in Texas City, Texas, walked off the job Feb. 1...
Verizon and its unions off to tough start to contract talks  Times Union  ...Verizon and the unions that represent 38,000 of its workers in the Northeast, including about 1,000 in the Capital Region, have gotten off to an acrimonious start to their contract negotiations. After Verizon publicized it had offered employees wage increases, which included a $1,000 cash payment in the final year of a proposed three-year agreement, union officials accused the company of trying to surgarcoat what was really a bad deal...
AT&T, CWA begin negotiations for 27,000 Southeast employees  Fierce Telecom  ...AT&T  has begun contract negotiations with 27,000 employees in its Southeast territory represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA). The Southeast region, which was formerly BellSouth, has wireline employees in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Both parties met yesterday with both presenting their own position statements on the negotiation process...
School bus company underpaid workers in NY state more than $290K, Cuomo says; Poughkeepsie employees affected  Daily Freeman  ...More than $290,000 in wages have been returned to 462 workers at Durham School Services locations across New York as the result if an investigation by the state Department of Labor’s Division of Worker Protection, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday. The labor department launched an investigation after Service Employees International Union Local 200 raised concerns about possible pay violations at the Durham location in Syracuse...

Miscellaneous
Federal Judge Halts Sysco-US Foods Merger  Wall Street Journal  ...A federal judge on Tuesday issued a preliminary injunction blocking Sysco Corp.’s planned acquisition of US Foods Inc., a ruling that could kill a deal to combine the nation’s two largest food distributors. The decision handed a high-profile victory to the Federal Trade Commission, which filed a lawsuit in February chanllenging the transaction on anti-trust grounds...
Obamacare upheld by US supreme court as conservative justices rescue law  The Guardian  ...Chief justice John Roberts has come to the rescue of Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms for a second time as the US supreme court struck down a Republican-led challenge to Obamacare that could have gutted the legislation and stripped millions of Americans of their health insurance. The decision in the high stakes case of King v Burwell all but guarantees that Obamacare will survive...
U.S. to Reduce Long Stays for Families at Immigration Centers  New York Times  ...In a sharp change of policy, Homeland Security officials announced plans Wednesday to end the long-term detention of mothers with children caught crossing the border illegally by allowing most of them to be released quickly on bond. The changes by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson expanded policies he ordered last month that were designed to shorten family detention but that had only limited effect...
Deadly American Extremism: More White Than Muslim  The Atlantic  ...It’s an accident of fate that Dzokhar Tsarnaev’s formal sentencing for the Boston Marathon bombing is happening just now, as the U.S. continues to reel from the Charleston massacre. Jihadists have killed 26 people, versus 48 by what New America calls “right-wing extremists.” In that way, Dylann Roof is far more representative of political violence in 21st century America than Dzokhar Tsarnaev could ever be...

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The war against bad trade deals continues

The Teamsters joined fair trade advocates earlier this month in protesting TPP.
The Senate is on the verge of giving final approval later today to fast track legislation that will allow lousy trade deals like the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to speed through Congress with little debate and no chance to amend them. Sadly, a majority of lawmakers will choose to side with the powerful over the people.

It is discouraging to lose this battle. More than 57,000 contacts with lawmakers were made through the Teamsters' phone and e-mail tools in recent weeks to tell them to stick up for American workers. But it wasn't enough. As Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said:
History shows it makes no sense to give a quick up-or-down vote to bad trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that will only ship jobs overseas and lower wages in the U.S. Yet again, workers have been tossed aside by some lawmakers who are more interested in pleasing their corporate cronies than doing what’s best for their constituents.
But the trade war isn't over. Not by a long shot. The fast track fight has been a galvanizing battle in the effort to build a fair trade movement for the 21st century that protects American jobs and the environment. The momentum is on the side of the hundreds of thousands of people who are now engaged in this effort, organized in the states and intent to fight for their rights.

The battle now turns to the TPP. Americans have not yet seen the text of this lengthy and complex agreement and even elected officials have limited access to the document. How can Congress approve such a trade deal when it doesn’t know everything that is in it?

What the public does know, however, isn’t good. Several TPP chapters have been unveiled by WikiLeaks, and they show the 12-nation Pacific Rim trade deal would result in lost American jobs, bigger U.S. trade deficits due to the currency manipulation practices of other countries and even the possibility that this country’s laws could be challenged by foreign corporations and overturned by an international tribunal.

That’s why the Teamsters and other advocates plan on keeping up the pressure to build real and enforceable labor and environmental standards. A process also needs to be established that includes and informs the public, rather than keeping people on the outside of the negotiating process.

TPP backers have made big promises about how the trade deal will change the lives of Americans for the better, even though The Washington Post found it won’t create any new U.S. jobs. Now they have to make good on those promises. American workers need to get something from these agreements. The corporate class insists they will. The Teamsters and those standing up for workers will hold them accountable for their promises.