Labor Round-Up: October 2019

  • The Chicago teachers strike continues into its second week, as negotiations have yet to result in an agreement with both sides. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who campaigned on the promise that a teacher strike would not occur during her administration, has referred to adequately funding Chicago Public Schools as a “bail out.” Teachers are fighting to end the austerity that has underfunded and undermined Chicago’s Public School system. CPS and Mayor Lightfoot are refusing to address rampant understaffing, exorbitant classroom sizes, and replacing the prep time taken away from teachers by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

    A tentative deal has been reached with SEIU Local 73 members, which represents school support staff workers;-classes-canceled-monday/5652739/

  • Teachers in Dedham, MA defied an injunction filed by the state to prevent a strike. The strike resulted in a tentative deal.

  • Teachers in Park County, Colorado ended a 10-day strike last week as the union agreed to re-enter federal mediation

  • Over five months after around 1700 coal miners were abruptly laid off, left unpaid, and had their last paychecks bounce, leaving many with unpaid bills, bounced check fees, and late bill fees, some workers are reporting they are finally starting to receive paychecks this week.

    Some workers are reporting issues with cashing the new checks, that they were shorted hours in the paychecks, that banks are still holding onto the checks for several days to ensure they don’t bounce again, and workers are yet to be paid any severance or repayment for fees they incurred as a result of the unpaid paychecks.

    Updates are available on the public Facebook group made by unpaid miners and their family members.

  • Amazon workers at a warehouse in Etna, Ohio blew the whistle on two worker deaths this year where the workers were left without receiving medical attention for 20 minutes in once case and 3-5 minutes in another case. Both workers passed away due to cardiac arrest, while their colleagues were pushed to continue working through the incident.

    Billy Foister’s brother told me Amazon paid Foister’s wife $7,000 for the funeral expenses if she signed a NDA to not discuss what happened.

  • Sanitation workers are Republic Services continue their strike which began on August 29, 2019. The workers have set up picket lines across the US, with the latest in Indiana.

    Bill Gates owns about 34 percent of shares in Republic Services, the second largest sanitation company in the US. Workers are calling for wage increases to fix pay discrepancies among workers, and improvements to retirement pensions and healthcare

Amtrak's Elimination of Dining Car Service is Union Busting

Amtrak recently announced they are getting rid of dining cars on their overnight service routes, touting the change as their efforts to “continue to evolve the travel experience.”

In reality, the change is union busting that has been gradually enacted through steady cuts over the past few years.

“We’re looking at 1700 jobs that could be done away with, the complete onboard service. Our onboard service people, our cooks, attendants, LSAs like maitre d’s on dining cars, and waiters, who are also first line responders during emergencies, trained in first aid and cpr,” John Feltz, the railroad division director of the Transport Workers Union of America, told me in an interview.

Instead, Amtrak is replacing union workers with contracted workers who are paid a little over minimum wage, with no emergency training, while passengers are going to be offered pre-boxed meals either serve cold or microwaved.

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Amazon Continues Hurting Their Workers

Amazon is slowly rolling out news to part-time workers at over 400 of its Whole Foods Grocery Retail locations that the company plans on eliminating healthcare benefits offered to all part-time employees. The decision will impact around 1,900 workers.

Whole Foods has already been transitioning many workers to part-time. Both full-time and part-time workers have experienced significant cuts to their weekly schedules.

“They hardly hire any entry-level positions at full-time anymore. When a full timer quits they get replaced by part-time,” a Whole Foods worker told me. “The majority of the workforce isn’t on Whole Foods insurance because they literally can’t afford it,” they added in response to company claims that the decision only impacts a small number of workers.

“I personally was tricked into cutting from full time to part time, with the promise that I’d eventually be re-hired at full time, and that’s clearly never happening, and so I was already slated to lose my insurance before this announcement came down,” the worker added.

Another worker who has been with the company for 15 years said the benefits cuts are “devastating,” and they work for Whole Foods part-time primarily to provide health insurance to herself and her children.

49,000 GM workers represented by United Auto Workers are set to go on strike at midnight tonight. The strike will affect GM plants in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, New York, Texas and elsewhere in the U.S. The most recent union contract expired on Sunday, and General Motors is pushing to slash healthcare coverage for workers. Workers are also pushing for changes to the two-tiered wage system that was offered as a union concession during the 2008 recession, but remains in place and pits older workers against younger workers. GM is also increasingly relying on temp workers.

UAW Strike

Nestlé is pushing to expand their bottled water operations in Florida, despite drastic conservation efforts required to improve degraded Florida’s Springs

Labor Day-2019 Labor Stories Round-Up

Happy Labor Day!

Below is a round-up/list of some of the top labor stories of 2019 so far, including my own work and those of other labor reporters.

  • Verizon Union-Busting

In January 2019, I received leaked documents from a Verizon employee on how the largest wireless provider in the U.S. trains management to deter and break any union organizing efforts within its ranks. These culminated in a failed attempt by Verizon to decertify the union at several of its NYC based Verizon retail stores last Fall.

  • Spectrum Union De-certification efforts

    For two years, Spectrum workers in NYC have been on strike. The company pushed for a union decertification vote earlier this year, which has been the subject of scrutiny by the National Labor Relations Board over whether Spectrum broke the law in doing so.

  • Amazon working conditions

    Amazon continues to tout its $15 minimum wage to try to dismiss ongoing concerns/issues with working conditions. Warehouse workers are still being abused and denied support after sustaining on the job injuries, workers at Whole Foods are facing labor cuts

    After I reported Whole Foods workers experienced cuts to their working schedules in March 2019, Amazon/Whole Foods ignored it, then claimed there were no labor cuts, only to backtrack a few months later in claiming the labor cuts were unrelated to the $15 min wage increase in November 2018

    This year, Amazon has made significant efforts to control their last-mile delivery services in a push to make one-day delivery the new standard for Prime members. Amazon is relying on third party carriers to do this, often paying these workers less than their $15 min wage and undercutting the unionized USPS workforce

    BuzzFeed did a recent report on the pressure these workers experience from Amazon’s third party delivery carriers

  • ICE raid used as retaliation against workers at Mississippi poultry plant

    Koch Foods settled for $3.75 million over a massive sexual harassment lawsuit in 2018. Mike Elk reported the largest immigration raid in decades was carried out at the plant against workers represented by the UFCW.

  • Anti-Union Universities

    Graduate students across the U.S. are in the midst of labor struggles to form unions and negotiate contracts with their respective universities. In response, several of these colleges, including the University of Pittsburgh, University of Chicago, Harvard, Boston College, and many others have spent millions of dollars to hire union busting consultants and law firms to stop these efforts.

  • Coal Corporation files bankruptcy, leaves workers unpaid

    One of the largest coal companies in the US, Black Jewel, filed for bankruptcy in July 2019. Over 1000 workers found that their latest paychecks had bounced, leaving them behind in bills and with frozen bank accounts. The company’s owner and executives ensured they were paid, and the struggle continues for these workers to receive the back wages they are owed even miners in Kentucky staged a protest to prevent a train full of coal from leaving one of the shuttered mines.

  • Uber, Lyft and the misclassification and mistreatment of workers in the Gig economy

    Worker-led efforts have brought the practices of Uber, Lyft, and other gig economy apps to the forefront of the labor movement. In California, these companies are set to spend millions of dollars to fight AB5, a bill that would grant these workers employee-status.

    Workers have reported often making less than minimum wage, having their wages cut significantly by Uber and Lyft, having their tips stolen, living out of their cars, while executives for these companies pay themselves millions of dollars a year.

  • Trump busting federal unions

    The Trump Administration and federal agencies are working in unison to bust unions representing thousands of federal workers. Federal law guarantees these workers collective bargaining rights, while constraining them as they are not legally permitted to go on strike. The Trump Administration is imposing rules on these workers that essentially undercut the union’s ability to represent workers.

  • Union Busting Airlines

    Delta Airlines went viral earlier this year after anti-union posters distributed by management to workers were made public. One poster advertised that workers would be better off spending union dues on video game systems.

    Workers at Delta Airlines have faced termination, retaliation, captive audience meetings, and other forms of harassment in their push to form a union.

    In January 2019, JetBlue made similar anti-union pushes as their CEO sent a letter telling workers “don’t be fooled” by union organizing pushes and made claims that such employee perks like holiday parties and adding new nail colors to the uniform policy wouldn’t be possible under a union.

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