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This Week in Workers’ News

Make Detroit the engine of a Green New Deal
“We must convert the Poletown plant into a publicly-owned green energy hub, and put our citizens to work making the products and infrastructure we need to survive as a species.” Read the full statement at The Detroit Socialist.

Victor Ashe: TVA shows insensitivity to workers in Kingston coal ash spill cleanup
“A few days before Christmas, Roane County held a memorial service for those who have died from the consequences of the ash spill by TVA. Roane County Executive Ron Woody and state Sen. Ken Yager spoke. What is stunning in my view is that TVA failed to send a single representative or even issue a statement.” Read the full piece at Knox News.

The Supreme Court Just Handed a Big, Unanimous Victory to Workers. Wait, What?
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court handed a victory to American workers, ruling unanimously that independent contractors who work in transportation may not be forced into mandatory arbitration. Thanks to this decision, hundreds of thousands of contractors in the transportation industry may now have their day in court and join together to pursue their claims collectively. That, of course, is a right that every American worker deserves, and it is a shame that SCOTUS has warped the FAA to deny it to them. Still, New Prime is a considerable success for labor rights at a time when corporate interests dominate the Supreme Court. Read the full article on Slate.

From Slavery to Social Contract: An Economy Designed to Leave Out Many Workers
Despite great progress, race and gender discrimination helped reproduce a dual or segmented labor market where minorities, women, and immigrants have been pushed into a parallel segment, working alongside formal workers for lower wages and with fewer benefits and protections. This is not an accident; it was the result of policy choices that ensured the continued availability of a large pool of workers willing to work for low-wages and less likely to organize. Having this sort of reserve army of labor has been central to the success of capitalism. Read the full story at KCET.

How workers are winning $15 an hour: by acting like a union
By sticking together on the job, workers have convinced politicians, voters and employers all across the country that $15 an hour is the bare minimum anyone needs to survive, no matter where they are from or what their race is. Read the full article on The Guardian.

“Welcome to the Revolution”: LA Teachers Strike Pits Working-Class Power Against Privatization
Because there’s so much at stake, the battle doesn’t really end with the strike. It’s also tied up with a quietly radical proposal looming from school superintendent and former investment banker Austin Beutner, which would divide the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) into 32 “networks.” Critics call the plan a blueprint to close neighborhood schools, pour money into charters and decentralize opposition to privatization. Beutner has even brought in a consultant, Cami Anderson, who tested this model while superintendent of schools in Newark, New Jersey. You cannot disaggregate the strike from these other issues. Union leaders see LAUSD as under attack, and are using all means at their disposal to stem the tide. Read the full story in In These Times.

Teachers strike at L.A. charter schools too, a first for California
Teachers at three charter schools in South Los Angeles walked off the job Tuesday, marking the first time ever that a charter school organization in California went on strike, according to the teachers union. The strikers joined thousands of other L.A. educators who began a strike a day earlier against the L.A. Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest school system. Nationally, this is only the second time that instructors at a charter school organization went on strike. Read the full story at the Los Angeles Times.

‘Tacos for Teachers’ GoFundMe feeds striking Los Angeles teachers
A GoFundMe campaign called “Tacos for Teachers” is sending taco trucks to schools across Los Angeles to feed staffers striking for higher salaries and smaller class sizes. The strike prompted the International Socialist Organization and Democratic Socialists of America to set up the fundraising page to help feed an estimated 32,000 striking teachers and staff members. Read the full story on WXYZ.

IRS Recalling 46,000 Workers To Handle Tax Returns Despite Partial Shutdown
The recalled employees will not be paid during the shutdown, now in its fourth week. The recall to work without pay was not welcomed by the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents about 70,000 IRS workers. In a statement, the union says the IRS employees are being forced “to show up in exchange only for an IOU.” Read the full story on NPR.

Administration recalls 2,500 USDA workers to help farmers hurt by shutdown
The federal employees will be unpaid while returning to work, part of 800,000 federal employees who are either working without pay or furloughed during the federal government shutdown that started Dec. 22. Read the full article at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Judge refuses to force government to pay workers
A federal judge in Washington on Tuesday refused to force the government to pay federal employees who have been working without compensation during the partial government shutdown, rejecting arguments from labor unions that unpaid work violates labor laws and the Constitution. Read the full story at The Mercury News.

Proposal would roll back wage hike for some Arkansas workers
A Republican proposal would exempt employees at public and private schools, including colleges and universities, and workers under 18 from voter-backed increases in the state’s minimum wage. It would also exempt workers at businesses that employ fewer than 50 full-time employees. Read the full story at WREG.

Migrant workers unable to get back into country, Louisiana farmers impacted
The partial government shutdown is now affecting those who put food on the table for millions of families. On Tuesday, Congressman Ralph Abraham announced some Louisiana farmers are having trouble getting their migrant workers back into the country. “On the local level, it can shut down an operation,” he said. “Some farmers may not get to plant their crops.” Read the full story at KNOE.

Texas workforce commissioners stack the deck against workers
By a 2-to-1 vote, the Texas Workforce Commission approved a rule that would classify almost anyone hired from a website as an independent contractor. The public has until Jan. 21 to comment, but if enacted, the rule would guarantee that companies like Uber, Handy.com and others will not have to follow the same labor regulations as brick-and-mortar companies. Read the full story at The Houston Chronicle.

Charter teachers at second Chicago operator to set strike date
The union is demanding increased pay and benefits, smaller class sizes, more staff for special education,, and a single contract covering all four schools. It also wants paraprofessionals, such as teachers aides, to join the bargaining team at the Civitas-managed school where they are not currently part of the union. Read the full story at Chalkbeat.

Tunisia’s powerful UGTT workers union holds nationwide strike
Tunisia’s biggest labour union is staging a nationwide strike to protest against the government’s refusal to raise the salaries of 670,000 public servants. Rail, bus and air traffic stopped while schools, ports, hospitals, government offices and state media were affected on Thursday. Read the full story at Al Jazeera.

Wharfies vote to strike over ‘attack’ on pay and conditions
“Our members refuse to sit back and watch as four-decades of hard-won conditions are stripped away by a greedy multinational whose only concern is maximising its own profits,” Maritime Union of Australia assistant secretary Warren Smith said. The union accuses Hutchison of refusing to back down from heavy-handed plans to slash staff wages by up to $10 an hour, strip away conditions, and automate or outsource a range of waterfront roles. Read the full story in The Age.

SpaceX to lay off 10 percent of workforce
Elon Musk’s rocket company SpaceX will reduce its workforce by about 10 percent of the company’s more than 6,000 employees, it said on Friday. Read the full story from Reuters.

Exploiting migrants ‘takes away all the integrity in the system’
Co-ordinator of Union Network of Migrants and the Indian Workers’ Association, Mandeep Singh Bela, is calling for work visas not to be tied to a named employer, so workers would be able to shift jobs and raise the alarm about dodgy bosses. Read the full article at Radio New Zealand.

Bangladesh garment manufacturers raise workers’ pay amid violent clashes with police
Low wages and trade deals with Western countries have made the sector a $30 billion industry accounting for 80 per cent of Bangladesh’s exports, making it the world’s second-biggest garment exporter behind China. Read the full story at ABC (Australia).

Bangladesh garment workers reject wage hike, walk off job
As the strike entered a second week Sunday, the government brokered a deal between unions and manufacturers to end the dispute, agreeing to raise wages for mid-tier tailors. But some received hikes of little more than 20 taka ($0.25) a month, angering many tailors who churn out boutique clothing for high-end fashion lines overseas. “I think the wage hike was unjust,” Ruhul Amin, executive president of the Garment Trade Union Centre, told AFP. Read the full article at Inquirer.net.

Miami airport closes terminal as TSA workers refuse to work without pay during government shutdown
Miami International’s TSA employees have been calling out sick at twice the normal rate since the government shutdown began Dec. 22, Chin said. As a result, TSA managers aren’t confident they can keep the 11 checkpoints staffed for normal operating hours. Read the full story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

ZCTU calls nationwide stay-away from work over ‘provocative’ fuel price hike
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the umbrella body for all Zimbabwean workers, on Sunday called for a nationwide job “stay-away” starting on Monday, accusing the government of “provocation” after the fuel price went up by 150 percent. Read the full article at ZimLive.com.

Report: Construction Contractors Cheating Workers, Taxpayers
A report finds that contractors in southeast Pennsylvania are cutting costs by misclassifying workers as independent contractors, cheating them out of overtime pay, investing little in worker skills and in some cases operating unsafely. Read the full story on Public News Service.

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