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This Week in Workers’ News

Video Game Unions the Next Big Thing?
Game Workers Unite became a legally recognized in the UK this month, and they believe Canada and the US are next. “By the end of 2019, you’re going to see some public campaigns.” Efforts are currently ongoing inside at least 12 existing studios to form bargaining units and demand the right to negotiate the terms of employment and compensation as a collective. Full article at Polygon.

Teachers Roar into 2019 Ready to Fight
“A groundswell of teacher discontent across the nation is spreading to California, energizing teachers unions to demand higher salaries and improved working conditions from school districts, along with more money for public education from the state.” The Los Angeles Unified School District is slated to go on strike January 10th, if a deal is not reached before then, and Oakland’s school district looks to not be far behind. Full story at Mercury News.

Go Tesla Workers!
With help from a host of unions and labor organizations—United Steelworkers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the CWA, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, the Public Employees Federation, the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York and the Coalition of Economic Justice—Tesla workers are organizing, and we are super excited about it. Full story at WKBW.

Grocery Store Workers Screwed Out of $80 Million
Sun Capital Partner, a private equity firm that purchased midwestern grocery chain, Marsh Supermarkets, 11 years ago, did what it—and other private equity firms—have been doing for a while now: it ran the company it purchased into the ground, selling it off piece by piece along the way. It made money (plenty of money) for investors, and screwed its workers—in this case to the tune of $80 million. Over the past 10 years, Sun Capital has taken five companies into bankruptcy, at a cost of $280 million to workers. Full story at the Chicago Tribune.

Trump Nixes Pay Increases, Cost of Living Adjustments for Federal Workers
While 420,000 federal workers are being forced to work pay and another 380,000 are furloughed during the government shutdown, Trump has announced that none of the 2 million civilian federal workers will receive modest pay increases or COLA adjustments for 2019. It’s merely an executive order, and Congress can vote in a raise, but it would require the president’s signature. (I think Congress should do that, and further isolate Trump, but that’s just my opinion. The Senate had already passed a 1.9% raise. The outgoing House didn’t bother, but the incoming House is a different House.) Full story at the New York Times.

The federal government’s Office of Personnel Management suggested that currently furloughed federal workers should offer to do maintenance work for their landlords if they can’t make their rent payments. They also suggested workers should negotiate with their creditors & consult their personal attorneys (and then I guess you’re supposed to negotiate with your personal attorney to barter home-baked cupcakes, or maybe live chickens, for their services…). The OPM says that the release of these letters was “inadvertent.” Full story at The Washington Post.

Public Unions Push Back on Trump’s Characterization
In the face of Trump’s assertion that “many” federal employees support the shutdown it if it leads to funding for the wall, unions representing federal workers—including American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), and National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU)—say that that’s not what they’re hearing from actual federal employees. Full store at Time.

Workers at a North Carolina Restaurant Left in the Lurch
When Wahlburgers in Raleigh suddenly shut down last week, it came as a surprise to workers—but probably not a complete surprise since workers had been struggling with bounced paychecks, no heat or air conditioning, no working hot water, and vendors who weren’t getting paid. Despite all that, management assured workers their jobs were safe. “Those now out-of-work staffers are considering their next move. They’re gathering as a group over the weekend to discuss the potential for some kind of group legal action to recoup the money they’re owed.” Full story at ABC News 7.

Retailers are Paying More, but It Comes at a Cost
“To try to raise productivity, retailers are turning mainly to technology rather that hounding employees to work harder. But pressure does creep in: At Target, workers who carry online orders to shoppers’ cars now hear a honking horn on their devices, instead of a generic bell, to signify that customers are waiting” and “CEO Brian Cornell said in November that the company wants to achieve efficiencies to help offset the cost of higher pay and other investments. So Target has redesigned the back rooms of most of its 1,800 stores to shave seconds off picking and packing and to accelerate online shipments.” And also “Mooyah, a hamburger chain with 80 restaurants mostly in the South, is responding to higher wages by reconfiguring its new restaurants to enable cooks to function like basketball players – pivoting on one foot when necessary but mostly remaining in place.” That sounds like hell. Read the full article at WNDU.

Latest on the National Grid Lockout
Back at the end of June, National Grid locked out 1,200 unionized gas workers after the utility company and workers failed to come to an agreement during contract negotiations. The main sticking points have been pensions for new hires, changes to workers’ health care plans, and contracted work. The two sides were supposed to come to an agreement that would end the lockout by December 28th, but that hasn’t happened. Meanwhile, the Massachusetts legislature has passed a bill extending workers’ unemployment benefits (due to expire Jan 14th) another 6 months. The government has not yet signed the bill. Full article at The Boston Globe.

War on Workers in Turkey
“For the last three years, the International Trade Union Confederation Turkey has labeled Turkey one of the world’s ‘ten worst countries for workers,’ a distinction matched only by Colombia and Guatemala. As the report put it, Turkey has ‘no guarantee of rights,’ with firings and detentions of union activists all-too common.” Full story at The Nation.

The Next Big Supreme Court Labor Rights Fight
In a further effort to dismantle public unions, Uradnik v. Inter Faculty Org is heading to the Supreme court. This case seeks to end the rule that a union represents all of the workers in a workplace (exclusive representation). Like Janus, it’s being argued as a free speech issue. The implications of this one are enormous. Full article at Splinter.

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