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This Week in Workers News

Volkswagen Workers in Tennessee Won’t Give Up the Fight for Unionization

For the third time in five years, auto workers will vote on whether to form a union at the country’s sole Volkswagen plant, located in Chattanooga, Tennessee. First, though, Chattanooga workers will have to face down the inevitable onslaught of anti-union attacks. Read the full story at In These Times.

Union seeks to organize Eastman workers

“The people just want a voice. They’re tired of being taken from. Eastman is a large company and they are doing well. (Eastman Board Chair and CEO Mark) Costa, his salary goes up tremendously each year. He makes his money based on what these people are doing. They are giving up part of their life every day, breathing the chemicals, working in, you know, long hours, working weekends, nights, time away from their families. They just want a voice. They want a say in their future. … We’re talking operations, maintenance and hourly workers.” Read the full story at the Times News.

Thousands of Stop and Shop union workers go on strike, walk off job

“Instead of a contract that recognizes the value and hard work that our members provide every day, Stop & Shop has only proposed drastic and unreasonable cuts to health care benefits and take home pay, while replacing real customer service with more serve-yourself checkout machines,” the union statement said. Read the full story at WCVB.

How Tesla and its doctor made sure injured employees didn’t get workers’ comp

Interviews with former clinic employees and internal clinic communications show how Tesla and Besh coordinated behind the scenes in an arrangement that financially benefited both the carmaker and the doctor, to the detriment of the injured. Read the full story at Reveal.

Democrats’ sweeping new anti-harassment bill, explained

Called the Bringing an End to Harassment by Enhancing Accountability and Rejecting Discrimination (BE HEARD) in the Workplace Act, it would close loopholes in federal discrimination law that leave many domestic workers without legal protections from sexual harassment. It would authorize grants for low-income workers to help them seek legal recourse if they are harassed. And, crucially for food service workers like Tucker, it would eliminate the lower minimum wage for tipped workers, which many say makes servers vulnerable to harassment by customers. Read the full story at Vox.

#RedforEd Protests Driving ‘Substantial’ Increases in Education Funding

The funding gains were significant, especially in Oklahoma, where lawmakers increased formula funding per student by 19 percent, adjusting for inflation. Arizona, North Carolina, and West Virginia also saw significant gains, ranging from 3 percent to 9 percent per student, again after adjusting for inflation. Read the full story at NEA Today.

New Labor Rule Means Gig Economy Workers In Texas Can’t Get Unemployment Benefits

The rule exempts app-based companies that hire contractors – like Uber or DoorDash – from paying state unemployment insurance taxes for those workers. “Many workers may be reclassified as independent contractors under these proposed rules, and these rules may have a major effect on those who are most vulnerable – landscapers, housekeepers and general laborers.” Read the full story at Houston Public Media.

To Uber, I’m a driver but not a worker. But their billion-dollar IPO is built off my labor.

Drivers do the vast majority of the work that makes Uber money, and they won’t even acknowledge us as part of their workforce. We drivers risk life and limb but others, sitting comfortably at their desks, will get the reward. Read the full story at Think.

Transgender State Employees Sue North Carolina for Discriminatory Health Plan

The State Health Plan stopped covering transition-related care after a Republican state treasurer took over.

“The only reason our plaintiffs are being denied coverage for medically necessary health care is because they are transgender or they have children who are transgender,” said Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Taylor Brown in a statement. “This is clearly unlawful discrimination that jeopardizes the health of hardworking state employees and their families. It stigmatizes them and brands them as second-class.” Read the full story at NewNowNext.

How the Disappearance of Immigrant Workers Created a Movement in a County That Voted for Trump

This rural community might have agreed with Trump’s anti-immigration policies on paper. But it could not abide their neighbors being taken away. Read the full story in Yes!.

San Francisco city workers rally for equal pay, livable wages

“We need these big corporations like Uber and Lyft with all these billion dollar corporations and new IPOs to pay their fair share in taxes so that citizens could get services that they need so nurses like myself can work and live in San Francisco.” Read the full story at KRON4.

Amazon employees rarely speak out publicly against their company. But 3,500 just did.

In an unprecedented move at Amazon, more than 3,500 of the company’s corporate employees signed their names to a letter published on Wednesday that urged Jeff Bezos to create a comprehensive climate-change plan for the company. The letter calls for a company-wide plan backed by six principles; they include “a complete transition away from fossil fuels rather than relying on carbon offsets” and “prioritization of climate impact when making business decisions.” Read the full story at Recode.

This undocumented worker and her husband were owed $11,000. Then their boss called the cops.

“I felt very frustrated because he literally set a trap for us, and he wanted us go to jail instead of actually paying us,” Alex said in a March interview with The Washington Post. “He didn’t think about how my family was going to be unprotected.” The Golinellis’ case highlights the exploitative underbelly of the construction industry in Texas, where workers’ rights advocates say the state’s undocumented workforce remains largely unprotected from wage theft and unsafe, potentially fatal working conditions. “The government will always want us to feel suppressed, and the government will always want us to feel that fear because that’s a good way to exploit us.” Read the full story in the Washington Post.

America’s $103 billion home health-care system is in crisis as worker shortage worsens

“These are workers taking $10-an-hour jobs, often without benefits, to provide services to extremely vulnerable people, doing work that 99.9 percent of the population would like to avoid doing. There has to be a change in our culture to respect these workers and hold their jobs in high esteem.” Read the full story at CNBC.

Employers and workers battle over Chicago’s proposed predictable scheduling law. ‘You never know what your paychecks are going to be like.’

“While we are not surprised by today’s maneuver to sabotage a vote on the Fair Workweek Ordinance, we are eager to continue working on an even stronger set of workplace protections for hourly workers who have been abused and mistreated for too long,” said a statement from the Chicago Federation of Labor and the Chicago Fair Workweek Coalition. “And we’ll be met by a more progressive City Council and a mayor who has already said she supports the concept of fair workweek regulation.” Read the full story at the Chicago Tribune.

Subcontract Workers Tell Disney to Stop Mousing Around

“We wear Disney uniforms, we follow the same rules and regulations as Disney, so why aren’t we earning the same amount as Disney workers?” Currently, some 400 workers represented by Unite Here Local 737 are pushing for a $15 minimum wage in negotiations for a new contract with food and beverage contractor Palmas Services; their last contract expired in April 2018. The workers are employed at Disney World’s Epcot Mexico pavilion and Coronado Springs Resort, and have not received any wage increase since October 2017. The union represents cooks, stewards, food runners, servers, bussers, bartenders, and hosts at Palmas Services. Read the full story at The Progressive.

Council bars employers from testing would-be workers for marijuana

The City Council moved Tuesday to bar most businesses, nonprofits and agencies from screening job applicants for marijuana use. The measure, sponsored by newly-minted Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, includes carve-outs for cops, construction workers, commercial drivers and individuals in the health and child care industries—as well as those mandated to drug-test employees because of federal contracts. But it broadly prohibits other organizations from obligating potential employees to undergo a test for tetrahydrocannabinols, the chief psychoactive compounds in marijuana. The council paired the measure with a proposal from Queens Councilman Donovan Richards to forbid the Department of Probation from testing probationers for marijuana use except in special cases. Read the full story at Crain’s New York.

Fighting Against Racism—And For a Better Paycheck—On the Docks

As a racially integrated union with a large black membership, the ILWU naturally played a leading role in connecting the labor and civil rights movements. The Bay Area locals were key organizers of a local 1963 civil rights demonstration, in addition to organizing one of the farthest-traveling contingents to that year’s famous March on Washington. They formed the membership backbone of the local chapters of the NAACP and Urban League. They pressed successfully for fair employment and housing laws in Oakland, and the union used its pension fund to build racially-integrated cooperative housing in the rapidly gentrifying Fillmore neighborhood in San Francisco. As Cole notes, the exceptional role of the ILWU in many left-wing struggles is often glancingly mentioned in historical accounts of the postwar labor movement. This book is the first time all of these examples and more have been brought together in a comprehensive narrative. Read the full story at In These Times.

Study finds staggering suicide rate for construction workers

According to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more male construction workers take their lives than any other industry. The CDC report showed the 2015 suicide rate for men in construction was four times higher than the overall suicide rate. Read the full story at Boston 25.

Texas has plenty of money but stiffs its state employees, angry workers say

Several hundred state workers marched Wednesday in downtown Austin, demanding a $6,000-a-year, across-the-board raise. The paltry salary increases over the last decade have driven turnover to a 30-year high, said Judy Lugo, president of the 10,000-member Texas State Employees Union. Read the full story at Dallas News.

Stanford project gives voice to Chinese workers who helped build the Transcontinental Railroad

Often left out of the storytelling about the effort is the labor of an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 Chinese migrants who laid the tracks of the western half of the railroad. Those workers pounded on solid rock from sunrise to sunset, hung off steep mountain cliffs in woven reed baskets and withstood the harshest winters on record in the Sierra Nevada. They were paid less than white workers, and hundreds lost their lives as a result of the dangerous work. Read the full story at Stanford’s website.

Payroll ‘upgrade’ means thousands of workers face week without pay

One of Britain’s largest outsourcing companies and its clients are facing mounting protests over plans to withhold the pay of thousands of workers who are among the lowest paid in the UK. They include security guards at Barclays Bank and Goldman Sachs and porters and caterers at NHS hospitals who are facing hardship as a result of plans by ISS to pay staff one week later than they currently do as it “upgrades” its payroll system. Read the full story at The Guardian.

Bernie Sanders Is Making Union Solidarity an Essential Theme of the 2020 Campaign

Sanders has made overturning so-called “right to work” laws—which undermine the ability of workers to form unions and collectively bargain—a major theme of his 2020 bid. The senator is championing a workplace-democracy agenda, which he has proposed in legislation cosponsored by Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Mark Pocan. “This legislation that we’ve introduced says that, in America, workers have the constitutional right to organize. That’s called freedom of assembly,” Sanders explained in a speech last week. “And therefore in that legislation, we outlaw the ability of states to pass and maintain right-to-work legislation.” Read the full story at The Nation.

Spanish unions planning strikes during Easter travel crunch

Airport ground workers, pilots and train drivers will all walk out on the job in April, coinciding with passenger peaks at transportation hubs. These unions want employers to honor a clause in the last collective bargaining agreement concerning worker right guarantees for employees who are transferred to a new employer; this negotiation has been underway for more than two and a half years. Read the full story at El País.

Poland’s teachers come out on strike

Teachers in almost 80 per cent out of Poland’s 26,304 primary and secondary schools went on strike on the morning of April 8. Last-minute negotiations between the government and the trade unions the previous evening ended in failure. Read the full story in Emerging Europe.

During campus protest, Rutgers faculty threaten to strike

Rutgers University faculty members and graduate workers who protested on the Newark campus Tuesday had a sharp message to the university’s board of governors: Classes will shut down if they don’t agree on a new contract soon. Read the full story at

How Faking Positivity Can Push Service-Industry Workers to Drink

A study featuring 1,592 Americans whose work puts them in daily contact with outsiders reports that “surface acting”—the process of feigning positive emotions and repressing negative ones—is “robustly related to heavy drinking.” Read the full story at Pacific Standard.

The historic strikes and protests by teachers across the country aren’t over

Earlier this year, we surveyed thousands of educators and public school supporters to find out what they saw as the biggest obstacles facing public education in North Carolina. At the convention of the North Carolina Association of Educators last month, delegates were polled to determine, of the challenges identified, which were the five most pressing. Our delegates then voted overwhelmingly to hold a Day of Action on Wednesday, May 1. On that day we will descend on Raleigh again to send a clear message to lawmakers about what our public schools need from them. Read the full story at The Washington Post.

Bus drivers, cafeteria workers, retirees, other school staff asked to join May 1 teacher rally

Deborrah Bailey is a school custodian and said she wants to be paid a livable wage, as she believes her job helps children too. “My question is what is the incentive to remain in these roles? Are we not worthy of $15?,” Bailey asked. Read the full story at WRAL.

Thousands strike at five UC hospitals today, alleging unfair labor practices

“As UC’s employees have worked to voice concerns over outsourcing and income inequality over the last several months, the University of California has worked even harder to unlawfully silence those voices,” said Kathryn Lybarger, the president of AFSCME Local 3299, in a prepared statement. “Through illegal actions, UC has trampled state law and created an unwelcoming workplace that undermines workers’ ability to exercise their rights.” Read the full story at The Sacramento Bee.

German doctors walk off job in nationwide strike

In addition to a pay rise of five percent, the doctors are demanding at least two weekends free per month as well as higher payments for being on call. They’ve also called for stable appointment rosters which are less subject to last-minute changes. Read the full story at The Local.

Barr orders FBI, Bureau of Prisons to probe discrimination against LGBTQ workers

The announcement came in response to concerns from DOJ Pride, a group that represents thousands of LGBTQ employees at the Justice Department and its component agencies. The concerns included allegations that LGBTQ agents at the FBI academy face discrimination and different evaluation standards, as well as gay agents being dismissed from the academy “because they are not ‘bro-y’ or masculine enough.” Read the full story at PBS.

Black unemployment rates are double that of white workers

“The 2-to-1 ratio is unique to African-Americans.” Achieving employment parity will require changes in both the private and public sectors. She argues that employers and Congress and individual states need to prioritize addressing the gap. “Rigorous enforcement” of anti-discrimination laws could keep workplaces diversified, while the government should enact policies to improve employment opportunities for communities of color. Read the full story at Yahoo! Finance.

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