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This Week in Workers News

Nearly 1,500 Metro Schools employees call out in protest over pay

The teacher “sick-out” comes just days after Mayor David Briley revealed his budget for Metro Schools at his State of Metro address where he proposed $28 million for Metro Schools, a far cry from the more than 76 million the school board had asked for. Read the full story at WKRN.

Tennessee governor and Volkswagen give middle finger to workers

In an extraordinary act of coercion, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee led an anti-union meeting on Monday at Chattanooga’s Volkswagen plant, where last month workers petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for an election to join the United Auto Workers. All of the plant’s day shift employees were required to attend, but the broader public was shut out. Audio of the meeting, obtained by Labor Notes, reveals the most powerful politician in the state throwing his support behind Volkswagen management and against the plant’s workers. Read the full story at Facing South.

Knox rally to highlight scandal of workplace safety violations for coal ash workers

Sessions said it was the news organization’s coverage that led to a discussion among Interfaith and Labor Council members about devoting its 2019 rally to highlighting the treatment of the Kingston workers and the safety needs of all of the nation’s coal ash workers. “The coal ash spill just came to the surface more and more,” Sessions said. “We really think this was not just a local scandal but a national one, so we want to dedicate that event to them.” Read the full story at Knox News.

‘It’s because we were union members’: Boeing fires workers who organized

“They started writing people up for things that were the norm. They’ve targeted union supporters,” said a current Boeing employee who requested to remain anonymous due to fear of retaliation. The worker explained that after the union vote Boeing increased the workload of the group of workers who voted to form a union, reduced quality control and frequently sends the workers job openings in different locations. Read the full story at The Guardian.

Gig workers are fighting to be classified as employees. Trump’s Labor Department just came out against this.

A letter from the US Labor Department could have huge implications for the future of the gig economy. It essentially renders gig workers exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act, a law written in 1938 that guarantees overtime pay and a minimum wage to many who work more than 40 hours. Read the full story on Vox.

Why don’t restaurant workers unionize?

“‘Once we vote, then we’ll be a union,’ is not how you want to think about it,” said Esealuka, who became an organizer for Local 100, and is now co-chair of the Democratic Socialists of America’s New Orleans chapter. As an example, she cited the efforts of the IWW in Portland, Oregon, which has unionized several Burgerville locations. “They help workers set up an organizing committee, then train them to act together, and to combat specific grievances in the workplace. With that confidence, then they’re able to expand, and with majority status, file for an election.” Read the full story at New Food Economy.

Colorado grocery workers union approves new contract with largest companies

The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 union voted to approve new contracts with Colorado’s largest grocery companies — King Soopers, City Market, Safeway and Albertsons. The contracts were supported overwhelmingly by UFCW members, and they include pay raises for thousands of families across the mountain west. Read the full story at Greeley Tribune.

‘996’ is China’s version of hustle culture, tech workers are sick of it

Rank-and-file tech workers in China, discouraged by a weakened job market and downbeat about their odds of joining the digital aristocracy, are organizing online against what in China is called the “996” culture: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week. Read the full story at ET RISE.

Walmart is trying to rally workers around gold stars and ‘attitude cards’

As part of the new system, managers are encouraged to carry “attitude cards” to help refresh employees on behaviors supported by the new program, including prompts to “be bold,” “be an owner,” and “be open and be kind,” according to Bloomberg’s report. The system also encourages managers to reward good behavior with gold stars. The star system has been derided by some employees as childish. Read the full story at Business Insider.

Sex Workers’ Rights Are Workers’ Rights

Sex workers don’t need saving. They need what every other worker needs: the power to dictate the terms of their labor. Read the full story on Jacobin,

Ryan slams Falcon Transport for impact on workers

“A trucking company, Falcon Transport, just outside of Youngstown, Ohio, their workers get a text message, 600 workers get a text message, at 8:00 on a Saturday night, ‘You lost your job,’” said U.S. Rep Tim Ryan. “We got bailout money for every bank that wants one, every savings and loan. Every corporation gets a tax cut to the tune of $2.3 trillion, and no one gives a damn about the workers. If we could bail out the corporations that have done everything wrong, we can start helping the workers who have done everything right.” Read the full story on The Vindicator.

Trump’s Labor secretary comes out against giving workers a raise

Alexander Acosta may bear the title of U.S. secretary of Labor, but you wouldn’t know it from the policies he has implemented as head of the one cabinet-level department explicitly devoted to the welfare of American workers. This week, Acosta again showed his fealty to business lobbies instead of workers. In separate appearances before Congressional committees Wednesday and Thursday, he expressed his opposition to increasing the federal minimum wage, which has sat at $7.25 an hour since 2009. Read the full story at the Los Angeles Times.

Strike by Tunisian fuel workers leads to queues and empty pumps

Fuel distribution workers in Tunisia began a three-day strike on Thursday to demand higher wages, leading to long queues and empty pumps at petrol stations across the North African nation. Read the full story at Reuters.

Pennsylvania’s public workers don’t have workplace safety protections. This bill would change that

For 577,000 Pennsylvanians, no state agency oversees their workplace safety. Legislation that’s being pushed by organized labor and its allies would change that. Read the full story at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.

The Real Reason American Workers Have It So Hard

Workers are bearing on their backs tax breaks that benefited only the rich and corporations. They’re bearing overtime pay rules and minimum wage rates that haven’t been updated in more than a decade. They’re weighted down by U.S. Supreme Court decisions that hobbled unionization efforts and kneecapped workers’ rights to file class-action lawsuits. They’re struggling under U.S. Department of Labor rules defining them as independent contractors instead of staff members. They live in fear as corporations threaten to offshore their jobs—with the assistance of federal tax breaks. Read the full story on Common Dreams.

AP PHOTOS: Workers of the world, uniting on May Day 2019

Recognizing the contributions and struggles of laborers on May 1 has roots in late 19th-century Chicago, but there was a timeless quality to some International Workers’ Day observances held around the world Wednesday. View the photos at AP News.

Facing relocation, USDA’s research arm will vote to unionize

Employees at the Economic Research Service (ERS), an independent agency at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), will vote to form a union on May 9. The election is scheduled just days before the USDA announces where in the United States it intends to move them. Read the full story at The New Food Economy.

Sen. Bernie Sanders rips CEO Bob Iger’s pay and urges Disney to use ‘Avengers: Endgame’ profit to give employees raises

Sanders’ tweet comes just a day after Disney revealed that “Endgame” shattered box-office records, taking in $356 million in the U.S. and more than $1.22 billion internationally in just five days in theaters. Read the full story at CNBC.

Workers, City Colleges of Chicago reach deal to end strike

About 450 clerical workers at all seven city colleges walked off the job on Wednesday after working without a contract for three years. Thursday, workers reached a tentative deal with the City Colleges of Chicago to end a strike. The agreement still needs to be voted on by the union members before it takes effect. Read the full story at ABC7.

Leftist memes are everywhere on Instagram. Now their creators are unionizing.

What do the memers want? Adryn Alvarez, a representative of the organizing committee who runs the meme page @rezuler, told me that right now the union is focused on holding Instagram accountable to its ever-changing algorithms and practices that it deems shady: limiting the audience of individual accounts, censoring posts without reason or disabling accounts entirely, and the rampant practice of large accounts stealing content from smaller accounts and then monetizing it. Read the full story at Vox.

NY official: Trump golf workers object to wages, conditions

The New York state attorney general’s office says it received complaints about wages and working conditions at a Trump golf club outside New York City after a news report quoted several workers in the country illegally saying they had been cheated out of pay. Read the full story at Stars & Stripes.

Older workers haven’t seen a raise. Here’s why

A vicious cycle develops, in which older workers lack the bargaining power to negotiate better wages, and then the lower wages they pick up make it all that much harder for them to walk away from the workforce. “More people will die in their boots,” Ghilarducci said. “They’ll never be able to retire.” Read the full story at CNBC.

Tech workers are organising – and asking what technology is actually for

When Deliveroo couriers went on strike in November of 2018, they timed their action to happen at the same time as striking fast food workers at chains like TGI Fridays and Wetherspoons, highlighting the necessity of worker solidarity across industries. “In the UK, workers are getting organised across a much wider area, and there’s no central laboratory of struggle.” Read the full story at NewStatesmanAmerica.

Tesla rolls out employee loan benefit as factory workers cope with unpredictable hours

Some workers said while they like the new financial benefit, it is a band-aid solution to unpredictable income resulting from shifts cut short for maintenance, repairs or unexpected shut-downs. They would prefer more predictable income from a set, 40-hour work week, or if possible, better wages and meaningful raises. Read the full story at CNBC

Workers say KC Harley-Davidson plant ignored racist incidents

They said that, over time, white employees began making racial threats to African American coworkers. They showed KCTV5 News pictures of a noose left to taunt them and a swastika scrawled on a bathroom stall with a racist and threatening message. “It made us feel uncomfortable to work and walk in the plant,” said Ulysses Smith, a forklift operator. The workers said those incidents were only part of the problem. They described verbal and physical threats, as well as racist music that was played. Read the full story at KCTV.

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