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This Week in Workers’ News

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s Office is Working with Volkswagon to Crush a Union Drive

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s office has been secretly assisting Volkswagen’s efforts to defeat the United Auto Workers organizing drive in Chattanooga, according to emails obtained through the state’s public records law. Read the full story at The Intercept.

VW Chattanooga union election dates are set for June

An election in the East Tennessee assembly plant has been scheduled June 12, 13 and 14, the UAW reported Wednesday. Scheduling the vote ends a lingering dispute between the German automaker and the Detroit union about going forward with an election. Read the full story at the Commercial Appeal.

As VW Election Nears, CEO Stokes Fears over Plant Closing from 1988

The new head of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant led two all-plant captive-audience meetings on Tuesday, a day before the National Labor Relations Board announced it has scheduled a union election. Labor Notes has obtained audio of the speeches by CEO Frank Fischer. Both times he insinuated that the United Auto Workers were to blame for the closure of Volkswagen’s plant in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, in 1988. Blaming plant closures on the UAW has also been a central theme of the anti-union campaign by several business-backed astroturf organizations that have involved themselves in the Chattanooga election. Read the full story in Labor Notes.

‘To Live Here, You Have to Fight’ examines role of female activists in Appalachia

Through this study, Wilkerson — a native of East Tennessee who teaches history and Southern studies at the University of Mississippi in Oxford — sets out to show that women were consistently present, active and influential in social justice and labor movements in 20th-century Appalachia. They brought with them the insistence that their roles as caregivers be counted as worthy aspects of citizenship. In other words, she writes, “the act of caregiving animated their understanding of politics and activism and infused their movements.” Read the full story at Knox News.

AOC Mixes Drinks in Queens in Show of Support for Restaurant Workers

“The federal tipped minimum wage is $2.13 an hour. That is unacceptable,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Any job that pays $2.13 an hour is not a job, it’s indentured servitude.” Ocasio-Cortez served pizzas and poured drinks for around twenty minutes to a crowd of several dozen invited activists and supporters before drawing attention to federal legislation she’s co-sponsoring that would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 over the next six years. Read the full story at WNYC.

Workers Came Up With a Brilliant Plan to Use Postmates’ Exploitative Platform Against Itself

“Just this year they have cut the [pay] rates twice. … They have these incentives to keep people motivated. They make it sound so possible,” he said, recounting how his attempts to live off gig work alone resulted in becoming briefly homeless. Earlier this month, Postmates changed its pay structure again for the worse, and some aggrieved drivers engaged in a relatively disorganized strike. Instead of refusing to work completely, some drivers, as well as organizing group Working Washington, have come up with a plan that could turn the quirks of app-based employment against itself. They’re calling it a Blitzup. Read the full story at Gizmodo.

California Lawmakers Move to Protect Gig-Economy Workers

The proposed law cuts to the heart of one of Silicon Valley’s fiercest debates at the moment: Should tech giants be allowed to classify the legions of gig-economy workers their companies rely on as independent contractors, or should they be forced to regard them as employees, and compensate them as such? Read the full story at Wired.

Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez say Eddie Lampert “betraying” thousands of Sears workers

Eddie Lampert’s recent legal maneuvering marks a betrayal of his promise to pay severance to tens of thousands of Sears workers laid off following his tenure as CEO of the bankrupt retailer. When Lampert sweetened his offer to buy Sears out of bankruptcy in a $5.2 billion deal earlier this year, the increased ante included a provision setting aside up to $43 million for severance for thousands of laid-off retail workers. But Lampert is asking a judge to relieve him of the obligation. Read the full story at CBS News.

Powerful general strike in Sudan: now kick out the junta!

Defying numerous threats by the military junta known as TMC, the Sudanese masses brought the country to a complete standstill. Throughout the nation, the Sudanese working class, flanked by the poor, the peasants and the youth, showed that, once organised, their power is unmatched.  All ministries and government institutions, schools and hospitals were closed. Buses and truck drivers shut down operations. So did airport workers and civil aviation engineers, with large protests taking place at Khartoum airport. Read the full story at In Defence of Marxism.

Ohio Hospital Attempts to Divide Striking Unionized Workers

From the bargaining table, it seems that Mercy Health was trying to divide the three units (nurses, tech staff and support staff) that are on strike. “The committees regrouped, and to us, it looked like they were trying to get one group to recommend it and not the other…. They’re trying to divide us…. We weren’t going to allow that,” Draper said. Read the full story at Truthout.

Art Workers Union Forms at the Frye Art Museum

“We’re doing this because we love the Frye Art Museum and we love working here,” said Caitlin Lee, who has worked as a security guard at the Frye since 2017. “But if something doesn’t change we’re not going to afford to keep working here.” Most of the security staff at the Frye have college degrees and are artists themselves, but Lee says they’re stuck making minimum wage and working part time hours with no benefits. Read the full story at The Stranger.

Art Workers Circulate Public Spreadsheet to Promote Salary Transparency, Reveal Pay Gaps

Current and former employees of art institutions are sharing the terms and salaries of their employment in a public Google Spreadsheet titled “Art/Museum Salary Transparency 2019.” Michelle Millar Fisher—an assistant curator of European decorative arts and design at PMA and previously a staffer at MoMA, the Met, and the Guggenheim—created the document and posted it to her Instagram page, where she wrote: “A few years ago, thinking about transparency and the multi-vectored gaps in pay, I started sharing my salaries for each job I’ve had, from nannying to curating, every time I give a career talk. . . . Please contribute if you can.” Read the full story at ArtForum.

Truck drivers, port workers call on Lowe’s to ‘clean up’ supply chain

Truck drivers and warehouse workers from the Port of Los Angeles, along with Teamsters Local 391 from North Carolina, are calling on Lowe’s to “clean up [its] broken supply chain” and break ties with NFI Industries, which they say is misclassifying workers and violating labor laws. Read the full story at SupplyChainDive.

U.S. Workers Are Standing Up for Their Rights. A New Law Would Back Them Up.

More workers engaged in collective action last year than in any other year in the past three decades. In 2018, 485,000 people participated in work stoppages—from teachers to hotel workers to workers in the telecommunications industry and more. In 2019, working people’s appetite for collective action shows no signs of slowing down. The PRO Act would make it easier to form unions and force employers to pay a price for violating worker rights. Read the full story at Common Dreams.

Bernie Sanders backs 2 policies to dramatically shift corporate power to U.S. workers

The plans would give millions of workers the type of workplace influence typically reserved for shareholders and executives. “We can move to an economy where workers feel that they’re not just a cog in the machine — one where they have power over their jobs and can make decisions,” Sanders said in an interview. “Democracy isn’t just the opportunity to vote. What democracy really means is having control over your life.” Read the full story at The Washington Post.

Why some think exploiting culture workers is okay

The study, snappily titled Understanding Contemporary Forms of Exploitation: Attributes of Passion Serve to Legitimize the Poor Treatment of Workers, could have been written with the typical artist, performer, writer, creative technician, arts administrator or any other cultural employee in mind. Alongside the “work for free, it’ll look good on your CV” mantra that is rife in the exposure and gig economies, there is the core issue of the deeper running-down of the arts that has been going on since the recession. Read the full story at The Irish Times.

Countrywide port shutdown in South Africa looms as workers strike over wage ‘racism’

The union said in a statement on Tuesday that the issue revolved around the discrepancy in salaries between black and white staff – including marine pilots, tug masters and chief marine engineering officers. White mariners allegedly draw higher salaries than their black counterparts, even when they have less experience. Read the full story at Sowetan Live.

Trump’s Trade War with China Benefits Big Corporations—Not Ordinary Workers

Unfortunately, trade policy is not crafted in the national interest, it is crafted with the goal of making the rich richer. This is what Donald Trump’s trade war is all about. And, as is the case with so many other wars, it is about working class people being forced to sacrifice by paying high tariffs to advance the goals of the rich. Read the full story at In These Times.

Landmark court case for domestic workers in South Africa – here’s what you need to know

The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) brought an application on behalf of the worker to compel the Department of Labour to amend section 1 of COIDA to include domestic workers. A new High Court decision could have a major impact on the rights of domestic workers in South Africa, as they will be eligible to claim from the compensation fund if they are injured, contract a disease or die at their place of work. Read the full story at BusinessTech.

Workers Center of Central New York wins lawsuit to let farm workers organize

Fabiola Ortiz Valdez, who works with the New York Immigration Coalition, says their work is not over. They plan to push for the passage of the Farm Workers Fair Labor Practices Act, a bill that would guarantee these workers paid overtime and time off, and fight for the right to driver’s licenses for all people regardless of their immigration status. Read the full story at WRVO.

‘The Louvre Is Suffocating’: Museum Closed As Workers Strike, Citing Overcrowding

The Louvre was shuttered on Monday, leaving hordes of tourists outside amid its famous glass pyramids. The reason? The Paris museum’s security and reception staff were on strike, protesting “unprecedented deterioration of conditions” amid record crowds. Read the full story at NPR.

Vox Media has shifted its hiring toward part-timers and contract workers since its staff unionized

A corporate shift away from full-time staffing and toward a more part-time, contract, and freelance workforce might well have been something Vox Media would have wanted to do even if the Vox Media Union had never come into existence. That said…this is also a pretty common way for a company to respond to labor organizing. Read the full story at Nieman Lab.

Daily minimum salary of 249 pesos proposed for domestic workers

Commission president Andrés Peñaloza Méndez said that a Conasami study estimated that 90% of employers have the financial capacity to pay the wage proposed. The rate is more than double the national minimum wage, which increased by 16% to 103 pesos on January 1. Read the full story at Mexico News Daily.

Will Google’s struggle with its ‘underclass’ lead to white-collar workers becoming the next labor activists?

When a front page New York Times article this week described Google’s reliance on an “underclass of temp labor,” it opened a window into a growing hunger for protections among white-collar workers in industries not historically known for activism and organizing. Read the full story at The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Dozens of dairy workers demand $1 million in alleged unpaid wages from Mabton farm

Dozens of dairy workers from Mabton demonstrated in Yakima on Wednesday night, demanding years of alleged unpaid wages from a Darigold-affiliated dairy amounting to roughly $1 million. “What’s so frustrating about this is, again, these are mothers and fathers of families. All they want to do is work, earn a fair wage and live their lives,” he said. “Simply get paid the wages that they’re owed.” Read the full story at Yakima Herald.

Connecticut Workers Fought for a $15 Minimum Wage — and Won

The push to increase Connecticut’s minimum wage to $15 an hour began five years ago, with the inception of the Fight for 15 movement that has staged a series of increasingly large strikes across the country to demand that wage floor. But in Connecticut, the movement hit “many years of frustration,” said Juan Hernandez, vice president of 32BJ SEIU in Connecticut, because “politics got in the way.” Lawmakers stood opposed, and the business lobby fought against increases, even arguing that raising it to $10.10 an hour would make companies flee the state. Read the full story at Truthout.

Trump Administration Puts Offshore Oil Rig Workers’ Lives at Risk

The first step to rolling back oil rig workers’ safety was the Trump administration canceling a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) study intended to investigate how to improve safety inspections of offshore oil rigs. While it is odd for any administration to cancel a study led by the country’s most prestigious scientific institution, it also was odd that this study was halted because the agency it was intended for asked for the study to be conducted…then made a U-turn and asked for the study to be halted. Read the full story at Union of Concerned Scientists.

Global garment companies failing to deliver on living wage promises to workers, study finds

An investigation by researchers at the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) at the University of Sheffield found that many companies do not have concrete, measurable action plans for achieving a living wage in their global supply chains, or benchmarks for calculating living wage rates. The experts said it would take a “step-change in approach” for major corporations including Nike, Primark and Adidas to pay wages that “meet the basic needs” of workers and their families. Read the full story at

How facial recognition is being used to target sex workers

Technology had until recently made sex workers safer, allowing them to share client references and GPS locations. Yet developments in machine learning, compounded by governments’ slowness to protect citizens’ data, has made the internet an ever-more hostile environment. As Gracie Bradley, policy and campaigns manager for human rights organisation Liberty put it at a recent event, police use of facial recognition technology is “turning us all into walking ID cards”. Read the full story at New Statesman.

Game Workers Unite And Solidaire Informatique Challenge Activision Blizzard Layoffs

“So which one is it – are the layoffs really necessary in economic terms, or is it outsourcing, plain and simple?” The statement recalls French labor laws, which reportedly state that companies are “not allowed to fire employees simply to satisfy shareholders and without ensuring that people will be able to find new work in the best possible conditions.” Read the full story at Variety.

Lawsuit accuses second Syracuse hotel of taking workers’ tips

Tiara Jocko, a banquet and catering server at the Syracuse hotel since 2013, alleges in the lawsuit filed May 21 in state Supreme Court in Onondaga County that the hotel adds a 22% “service charge” onto banquet customers’ bills but does not give any of the money to its restaurant and catering employees. Read the full story at

Arconic workers in Quad-Cities approve possible strike

While union contract talks with Arconic are stalled, members of United Steelworkers in Bettendorf on Thursday voted to authorize a strike if deemed necessary. Read the full story at the Quad-City Times.

Baltimore Teachers Unseat Incumbents, Who Demand a Do-Over

What happens when new leaders run for office and beat an eight-term incumbent? In the Baltimore Teachers Union, it seems, the incumbent tries for a second bite at the apple. Read the full story at Labor Notes.

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