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This Week in Workers News

Black Workers Say Walmart’s Background Checks Are Racially Discriminatory

“They told me to ‘roll the dice and try again,’” says Balentine. “And I was like, ‘this is my life.’” Racial discrimination in the temporary staffing industry is notoriously difficult to address. A series of lawsuits in Illinois and elsewhere have accused staffing agencies of discriminating against Black workers by, among other things, requiring them to submit to criminal background checks to which other workers are not subjected. Read the full story at In These Times.

LGBT workers should be protected from discrimination. Let’s hope the Supreme Court agrees

The Williams Institute has estimated that there are 8.1 million LGBT workers age 16 and older in the United States, about half of whom live in states without explicit legal protections against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in the workplace. And across the country, these workers are all too frequently subject to discrimination and harassment. Read the full story at CNN.

Historic ‘wall-to-wall’ education worker union forms

Education workers at the University of Mississippi have struck an effective blow at the anti-union laws of that “right-to-work-for-less” state. In November they formed the United Campus Workers of Mississippi and affiliated with the Communication Workers (CWA), an international union that serves as its parent organization. Read the full story at Workers World.

Union-Busting Lawyer to Host Biden’s 1st Fundraiser

According to Cozen O’Connor website, the firm specializes in union busting advertising that it helps employers to “avoid unionization through positive employee relations and regain nonunion status when employees indicate they no longer wish to be union-represented”. The firm also boasts on its website that it helps employers to lock out their unionized workforce. The inclusion of Cozen on Biden’s first fundraiser raises lingering questions about Biden’s continued commitment to organized labor and why so many labor leaders are eager to hop on board with Biden. Read the full story at Payday Report.

The largest private sector strike in years is over. Supermarket workers won.

The new contract, which still requires approval from union members, ends a 10-day strike at hundreds of Stop & Shop stores in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Some stores had to close during the stoppage, while others were left with empty shelves and few customers. Cashiers and deli workers walked off the job on April 11 at 240 stores, protesting the company’s effort to slash their pay by hiking health insurance premiums and lowering pension benefits for new employees. The strike had overwhelming local support, with many customers refusing to cross picket lines and bringing meals to workers protesting outside the stores. Read the full story at Vox.

Maine AFL-CIO Becomes First State Federation to Support a Green New Deal Bill

The bill calls for 80 percent renewable electricity consumption by 2040, solar power for public schools, the creation of a task force to study economic and job growth, and a commission to help facilitate a just transition to a low-carbon economy. Its backing from a coalition of over 160 labor unions offers an instructive lesson for other states looking to build union power to tackle a warming planet. Read the full story on In These Times.

How Amazon automatically tracks and fires warehouse workers for ‘productivity’

Critics see the system as a machine that only sees numbers, not people. “One of the things that we hear consistently from workers is that they are treated like robots in effect because they’re monitored and supervised by these automated systems,” Mitchell says. “They’re monitored and supervised by robots.” Read the full story at The Verge.

Amazon’s Plan for One-Day Prime Shipping Is Going to Be Hell for Its Workers

Amazon’s delivery contractors do not have labor protections, they must pay out-of-pocket for the maintenance and wear on their own vehicles, and some who deliver for its Prime Now program have alleged that the company effectively steals their tips by using them to supplement their base pay—a controversial practice that is used by other gig economy companies like DoorDash. Meanwhile, Amazon just months ago managed to spin this already hellish labor environment as a funky new weight loss method. Read the full story at Gizmodo.

‘We Are Treated Like Animals,’ Say Amazon Flex Drivers

Amazon Flex is, in essence, the company’s in-house Uber-esque package delivery program. You can claim delivery shifts (called “blocks”) via an app, then drive your own car to an Amazon warehouse, pick up packages, and deliver them and be paid directly. Of course, this means that Flex drivers are not Amazon employees, earn no benefits, pay for their own car maintenance and gas, and generally have no rights or influence over their own working conditions. Read the full story in Splinter.

Fast-Food Workers Are Always in the Line of Fire

The bill prohibits fast-food companies from firing workers or significantly reducing their hours without a stated reason and would give employees the chance to correct their behavior before termination. With this legislation, New York City could lead the nation in offering job security for fast-food workers. Read the full story at Eater.

Poultry workers rally for workplace safety, better conditions

Central Minnesota poultry workers and advocates rallied Thursday for better working conditions and to commemorate Workers Memorial Day, which remembers workers who have died on the job or were injured at work. Pilgrim’s Pride, headquartered in Greeley, Colorado, operates the poultry processing plant in Cold Spring. Workers at the Cold Spring facility are not unionized. Read the full story at SC Times.

Why Health Workers In The Ebola Hot Zone Are Threatening To Strike

The doctors and nurses who work in the heart of the Ebola outbreak zone in Democratic Republic of the Congo say they’ve had enough. For weeks they’ve been subjected to threats of violence and even actual assaults. On Wednesday they gave the government an ultimatum: Improve security within one week or we’ll go on strike. Read the full story at NPR.

How many worker deaths have there been in the last year? No agency has the answer.

PhilaPOSH gets data from the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA), but the federal agency covers only private-sector employees, leaving out public-sector workers, independent contractors, and anyone else engaged in a more informal work arrangement. That’s especially concerning in a time when an estimated 1 in 5 jobs in the United States is held by a worker under contract. Read the full story at

Workers Protest Lockout At Dow Chemical Plant In Deer Park

Workers have been silently picketing outside the Dow chemical facility on Tidal Road in Deer Park since Monday, when the company locked out about 240 workers without pay or benefits. The lockout comes after nine weeks of negotiations with the United Steelworkers union (USW), with neither party budging on their demands. “The company has saw it fit to lock out its hard-working employees in an effort to get them to agree to a less than fair and equitable contract,” Ben Lilienfeld, sub-district director for the union, told News 88.7. Read the full story at Houston Public Media.

Underpayment of UK workers on minimum wage on the rise

Up to 439,000 people were paid less than their legal entitlement in April 2018, equivalent to 23 per cent of all minimum wage workers and including 22 per cent of those on the main adult rate. Read the full story at the Financial Times.

Workers at Hilton Hawaiian authorize strike as negotiations drag on

UNITE HERE Local 5 workers at the hotel include housekeepers, cooks, bartenders, and food and beverage servers. They’re seeking higher wages and to address a number of workplace issues, including subcontracting, automation, workplace safety and job elimination. Read the full story at Hawaii News Now.

Google Staffers Share Stories of ‘Systemic’ Retaliation

Hundreds of Google staffers met on Friday and discussed what activists allege is a frequent consequence of criticizing the company: Retaliation. Two leaders of recent company protests said they’ve been mistreated by managers and collected similar stories from other workers at the world’s largest internet company. Read the full story at Bloomberg.

Kennametal Union Workers: Contract or else

“Get up, get down, Greenfield is a union town,” about 50 people yelled in the pouring rain Friday afternoon. “Contract — or else.” The last time Kennametal’s unionized workers authorized the right to strike was in 1986. Read the full story at The Greenfield Recorder.

Disabled Hong Kong workers hit back against ‘bullying’, marginalisation and ‘unfair’ retirement age

Workers at the Factory for the Blind in To Kwa Wan say they are treated as ‘cheap labour’ and are unhappy with the factory’s planned relocation.
Disabled workers are also forced to retire at 55, which they say leaves them vulnerable to isolation. Read the full story at South China Morning Post.

New York City nurses threatened to strike against the Hospital Alliance—and won. But the fight’s not over.

Several other New York City private hospitals in Brooklyn where nurses are represented by NYSNA remain at the bargaining table now. The public NYC Health and Hospital system nurses (whose negotiating catchphrase is aptly “healthcare justice for the other New York”) are also in bargaining, and may experience distinct challenges in their contract campaign. All of these facilities continue to appreciate support; the Facebook page “We Stand with NYC Nurses & Patients” is one way to share messages of solidarity. Thank you in advance! Read the full story at Strikewave.

Healthcare Labor Unions Flex Their Muscles

Labor unions for healthcare workers are ramping up their activity in 2019, pushing for increased charitable activity from non-profit health plans and full staffing of healthcare jobs at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Read the full story at MedPage Today.

Freshmen state legislators in NC want to overturn law that has held back unions for 60 years

Two first-term Democratic state legislators have filed bills hoping to overturn a 1959 ban on collective bargaining by public-sector employees. That means labor unions would have negotiating power. In North Carolina, instead of through collective bargaining, government workers’ wages are set by the legislature or a local government. So workers lobby for what they want rather than negotiate a union contract. Read the full story at the News & Observer.

Hollywood’s Labor Force Has Always Had to Fight for Workers’ Rights

This current stalemate is a civil war of sorts — and the union isn’t backing down. On April 13, the 43-year-old deal between the WGA and the ATA was officially over, and WGA has called for agencies to sign on to a code of conduct that explicitly bans package fees and working with affiliate producers. The union asked members represented by agencies that refused to sign to fire their agents, and thousands, though not all, have shown solidarity and heeded that call by voting in favor of the code. Read the full story on Teen Vogue.

‘The Fight for $15 Was Never Just About Raising Wages’

When the $15 minimum wage was signed into law in Saint Paul City Hall in November, I burst into tears. I spent three years working on the campaigns for $15 in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, including 18 months as the co-director of 15 Now Minnesota (link is external), where I coordinated the coalition of faith, labor, and community groups that fought for and won $15 in Saint Paul. I poured my heart and soul into the campaign. Most of the people who saw me that day in City Hall probably assumed I was crying tears of happiness and satisfaction, and in part I was. But I was also overwhelmed with exhaustion, frustration, and fear and that I hadn’t expected to feel so strongly. It was hard to celebrate our victory without thinking about the context of what lies ahead. Read the full story at Workday Minnesota.

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