Category: Labor

‘Mind-Blowing Abuse of Power’: Walmart Spied on Workers With FBI, Lockheed Martin’s Help

Common Dreams, By Nadia Prupis, November 25

Retail giant Walmart enlisted the help of a private military contractor and the FBI to spy on workers pushing for a $15 hourly wage and organizing Black Friday protests in 2012 and 2013, newly released documents (pdf) reveal.

“We are fighting for all workers to be paid a fair wage and enough hours to put food on the table and provide for our families,” said Mary Pat Tifft, a Wisconsin Walmart employee of 27 years. “To think that Walmart found us such a threat that they would hire a defense contractor and engage the FBI is a mind-blowing abuse of power.”

A document made public Tuesday by worker organization OUR Walmart reveals company testimony to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in January stating that Walmart had enlisted the help of arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin and the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force to monitor workers who were organizing for higher wages and the right to unionize. OUR Walmart workers said they were illegally fired and disciplined for taking part in the “Ride for Respect” strike during Walmart’s shareholder meeting in June of 2013.

But the surveillance had long been in progress. Walmart executives mobilized the so-called “Delta” emergency response team in 2012 when they first got wind of plans for a nationwide Black Friday worker strike. As Bloomberg explained in an investigative piece published Tuesday, “the stakes were enormous.” In addition to the NLRB testimony, the new reporting states, “The details of Walmart’s efforts during the first year it confronted OUR Walmart are described in more than 1,000 pages of e-mails, reports, playbooks, charts, and graphs.”

Left Parties Claim All India General Strike ‘a Great Success’

Outlook India, September 2

New Delhi – Terming the All India general strike called by central trade unions (CTUs) “a great success”, Left parties today congratulated the protesters for staging “one of the biggest” demonstrations of working class against Centre’s alleged anti-labour policies.

“Great success I should say. (The response) was more than expected. It is one of the biggest actions of working class and manifestation of their unity against anti-labour policies of Government,” CPI General secretary S Sudhakar Reddy told PTI.

The strike was “successful” despite Centre trying to “dissuade” workers from proceeding with the agitation at the eleventh minute, the CPI(M) said.

“Apart from dissuading RSS-affiliated Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh, they could not succeed in dissuading any other CTU from proceeding with the strike,” the party said in a statement.

[…]

Normal life was affected in various parts of the country, including West Bengal, Tripura, Kerala and Karnataka, as 10 CTUs today went on day-long nationwide strike to protest against changes in labour laws and privatisation of PSUs.

The strike affected transport, banking operations and other services in various parts of the country.

Trade unions’ 12-point charter of demands also included urgent measures to contain price rise, contain unemployment, strict enforcement of basic labour laws, universal social security cover for all workers and minimum wage of Rs 15,000 per month.

CPI national secretary D Raja claimed all sectors including banking, coal, transport were at the forefront of the strike and the “massive and tremendous” response to the protest sends a “clear” message to the Government that it can’t undermine the voice of working class.

Obama’s fast-track trade bill poised to clear final Senate hurdles

Los Angeles Times, By Lisa Mascaro, June 22

President Obama’s fast-track trade bill is poised to clear a procedural hurdle Tuesday in the Senate, all but ensuring it will win final passage this week and be sent to the White House for his signature.

Despite deep reservations from many in the president’s party, enough Democratic senators appear ready to join most Republicans to finish the legislation, which has sputtered in Congress but is a top White House priority.

“With just a little more trust, a little more cooperation, and simply voting consistently, we’ll get there,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday. “We shouldn’t let this opportunity for significant bipartisan achievement slip past us.”

[…]

Fast-track, or trade promotion authority, would allow the president to assure potential trade partners that the deals they negotiate with the U.S. will be presented to Congress for a yes-or-no vote without amendment.

The administration is wrapping up talks on the emerging 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, the largest deal of its kind, and fast-track authority would cover it and future pacts for the next president.

Fourteen Senate Democrats voted for the fast-track bill last month as part of a broader package that also included funding to continue a worker retraining program for employees who lose their jobs to overseas trade.

But their support is no longer guaranteed after the worker retraining legislation was split off by House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), who faced resistance from Republicans who view the Trade Adjustment Assistance program as government waste.

Harpers: Nonsense Brokers, June 12

Thousands in Germany protest against Europe-U.S. trade deal

Reuters, By Noah Barkin, April 18

Berlin – Thousands of people marched in Berlin, Munich and other German cities on Saturday in protest against a planned free trade deal between Europe and the United States that they fear will erode food, labor and environmental standards.

Opposition to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is particularly high in Germany, in part due to rising anti-American sentiment linked to revelations of U.S. spying and fears of digital domination by firms like Google.

A recent YouGov poll showed that 43 percent of Germans believe TTIP would be bad for the country, compared to 26 percent who see it as positive.

The level of resistance has taken Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government and German industry by surprise, and they are now scrambling to reverse the tide and save a deal which proponents say could add $100 billion in annual economic output on both sides of the Atlantic.

Sputnik News: Some 22,000 Participated in Anti-TTIP Protests Across Austria – Organizers

It’s illegal to prevent workers from talking about wages. T-Mobile did it anyway.

A judge has thrown out large sections of T-Mobile’s employee handbook for having a chilling effect on union organizing.

Washington Post, By Lydia DePillis, March 19

Carolina Figueroa works at a T-Mobile call center in Albuquerque, N.M., in the bilingual retention section, trying to talk Spanish-speaking customers out of canceling their accounts. She likes her job, and the pay is decent — $18.50 an hour after eight years working there, plus health coverage, which covers the bills for her and her young daughter.

There’s only one problem: the employee handbook, which covers some 40,000 employees across the country. As long as she’s worked there, workers at the call center have been discouraged from discussing wages and working conditions, through provisions that bar things like disclosure of employee information, making disparaging statements about the company and pursuing wage complaints through anyone other than human resources. Employees can be disciplined or fired for violating any of the rules.
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Judge clears way for Seattle’s minimum wage

Al Jazeera, March 18

A federal judge on Tuesday cleared the way for Seattle’s new minimum wage law to take effect as planned next month, rejecting claims by franchises of big national chains that it discriminates against them.

In his 43-page decision Tuesday night, U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones rejected all of the arguments brought forth by the International Franchise Association, which represents national chains ranging from fast food joints to hotels.

“Although plaintiffs assert that they will suffer competitive injury, loss of customers, loss of goodwill, and the risk of going out of business, the court finds that these allegations are conclusory and unsupported by the facts in the record,” he wrote.

“This is a great day for Seattle’s fast food franchise workers,” Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said in a statement Tuesday night. “This ruling ensures that on April 1st, the minimum wage will go up for everyone in our city.”

NYU Graduate Students Win Historic Victory

After over a year of tense negotiations, a tentative agreement is a major win, and the result of a renewed push to mobilize the Manhattan campus.

The American Prospect, By Kate Aronoff, Macrh 13

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, the Graduate Students Organizing Committee of the United Autoworkers, or GSOC, reached a historic, tentative agreement with administrators at New York University, averting a strike that was scheduled to begin just hours later. After over a year of tense negotiations, the agreement is a major victory for graduate students and the result of a renewed push to mobilize the Manhattan campus.

As GSOC member-organizer and sixth-year sociology Ph.D. candidate Daniel Aldana Cohen put it, “We definitely have the feeling that organizing is working right now.”

Under the prospective new contract, NYU will cover 90 percent of graduate workers’ health premiums, and provide basic dental insurance along with wage increases for Ph.D. students. The agreement further includes a 75 percent subsidy for child care, plus bonuses and back pay for some workers.

Last spring, the administration’s “basic offer was to take the situation that already existed at NYU and put the word contract on it,” according to Cohen. The agreement remained largely unchanged until early Tuesday morning, when—after five hours of negotiation—NYU representatives agreed to a compromise.

U.S. Oil Workers’ Union Expands Biggest Plant Strike Since 1980

Bloomberg, by Lynn Doan & Barbara Powell, February 21

The United Steelworkers, which represents 30,000 U.S. oil workers, called on four more plants to join the biggest strike since 1980 as talks dragged on with Royal Dutch Shell Plc, negotiating a labor contract for oil companies.

The USW, with members at more than 200 refineries, fuel terminals, pipelines and chemical plants across the U.S., asked workers late Friday at Motiva Enterprises LLC’s Port Arthur refinery in Texas, the nation’s largest, to join a nationwide walkout on Saturday, and issued notices for three other plants to go on strike in 24 hours.

This brings the work stoppage — which began on Feb. 1 at nine sites from California to Texas and expanded to two BP Plc refineries in the Midwest a week later — to 12 refineries and 3 other facilities. The union has rejected seven contract offers from Shell, which is representing companies including Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp.

An agreement would end a strike at U.S. plants that account for almost 20 percent of the country’s refining capacity. It’s the first national walkout of U.S. oil workers since 1980, when a work stoppage lasted three months. The USW represents workers at plants that together account for 64 percent of U.S. fuel output.

Previously: US oil workers on largest national strike since 1980

Wisconsin Republicans plan to push right-to-work bill next week

Reuters, By Brendan O’Brien, February 20

Milwaukee – Wisconsin Republicans plan to call an extraordinary session to fast-track a right-to-work bill in the state legislature next week, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said on Friday.

Governor Scott Walker, a potential Republican candidate for president in 2016, supports the policy and will sign it into law if the bill makes it to his desk, a spokeswoman said Friday.

So-called right-to-work laws prohibit workers from being required to join and financially support a union – such as by paying dues – as a condition of their employment.

The announcement drew immediate criticism from Democrats and a union leader in Wisconsin, where Republican lawmakers in 2011 approved restrictions on collective bargaining for most public-sector unions except police and fire amid large demonstrations.

Hey, Remember How VW Wanted to Open More Factories in the United States?

And remember how they supported unions, the (informed) workers supported unions, and hell, most of America wanted to see those plants opening up here because, jobs? And it was only a small handful of conservative morons who were all Socialism!!!!!, which of course neglects the fact that the same “socialism” was expanding production into America?

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By Your Leave

I meant to blog about this when the baseball season opened in April but it slipped my mind. Thankfully I have a second chance to:

CHICAGO — New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy and his family will be guests at the White House on Monday for a discussion about the state of working dads.

Murphy received talk-radio backlash after choosing to take paternity leave and miss the team’s first two games of the season to be present for the birth of his first child on March 31. Murphy’s wife Tori gave birth to 8-pound, 2-ounce son Noah about an hour before the first pitch of the Mets’ season.

The White House Summit on Working Families will be held in the South Court Auditorium of the White House. It aims to advance talk about how fathers play a role at home, discuss the challenges of balancing a career and family, and advocate for rights such as parental leave from work.

Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors Jason Furman will participate in the discussion along with Murphy.

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A Bit of an Eye-Opener

When you think “poverty in New York City,” what springs to mind? What stereotype has been so drilled into our heads from the newspapers, magazines and TV shows we all watch, like Law & Order or The Wanderers?

The very poorest among us in this city are Hispanics, perhaps African-Americans. Want to portray a neighborhood as poor in a TV show? Get a graffiti-coated wall, and stick a couple of Latinos playing handball against it.

Right? I mean, that’s the face of poverty in the Big Apple. Right?

Wrong:

Despite a rise in employment, nearly half of New York City’s population is living near poverty levels — a problem that is particularly striking in the city’s Asian population, which has surpassed Hispanics as the city’s poorest group, according to a new report conducted by the Center for Economic Opportunity. The study revealed 45.6 percent of New Yorkers are barely making ends meet, even with more adults working full-time since the recession. A combination of low wages, rising rents, and a lack of benefits is largely to blame.The dismal numbers, presented Tuesday to City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, follows a growing number of studies showing the harsh realities of income inequality in New York.Just last week, city comptroller Scott Stringer released a study showing just how unaffordable the city has become, with the median rent in New York City rising a staggering 75 percent from 2000 to 2012. The annual study also showed significant shifts within racial and ethnic demographics. As the report indicates, the poverty rate of Asians and Hispanics were “statistically identical” in 2008, at 22.4 percent and 23.5 percent, respectively. But by 2012, the rate surged to 29 percent for Asians, more than 3 percent higher than Hispanics.

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Pope Francis – Marxist in Disguise?

Pope Francis
Pope Francis

It is not surprising that Rush Limbaugh, spiritual leader of the Republican Party – the man who determines Republican ideology and who enforces obedience to orthodoxy within the party – now finds Pope Francis a “Marxist”.  Pope Francis, spiritual leader to over one billion Catholics, has issued a direct assault on the Rush Limbaugh’s of this world, their paymasters in the business and financial community, and their political lackeys such as Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin, Stephen Harper, David Cameron, Shinzo Abe, Tony Abbott, and Li Keqiang.  “I ask God to give us more politicians capable of sincere, effective dialogue aimed at healing the deepest roots – and not simply the appearances – of the evils in our world!”  Francis put an exclamation point at the end of that sentence, and he could have said “give us just one politician” rather than “more politicians”, because it is clear when you read his pastoral exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (the Joy of the Gospels), that none of the men or women in positions of power over today’s global economy qualifies as a healer of anything or anybody.

Political leaders come and go, but men like Rush Limbaugh seem to linger forever.  What is it about Pope Francis that makes Limbaugh see shades of Lenin, Stalin, and Mao?  Could it possibly be criticisms such as these:

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