The Guardian Releases Series on Workplace Fatalities

This week, The Guardian is running a brief series on workplace fatalities.

Thousands of workers in the US die on the job every year. Since OSHA was first founded, fatalities in the workplace have decreased dramatically, but the US still outpaces most industrialized nations in workplace fatality rates and the Trump Administration is taking steps to set back worker safety by severely understaffing OSHA.

As part of the series, three stories on different workplace fatality categories are being published. Two stories have been published so far, on excessive heat and fatal falls, with the third on silicosis/black lung disease to be published on Friday. Check them out at the links below.

FedEx Spent $837k on Union Busting Consultants

FedEx intimidated, fired workers, held captive audience meetings, cookouts, and distributed anti-union propaganda to scare workers from joining a union.

Between 2014 to 2018, FedEx spent $837,000 on union busting consultants.

In recordings of captive audience meetings I obtained, FedEx HR managers claim union negotiations are just like going to Las Vegas, and characterize union supporters as ungrateful.

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New Year, Same Old Union Busting

In Seattle, Boeing gave big pay raises to non-union pilots and are withholding the raises from unionized pilots until they decertify their union; Boeing is also outsourcing jobs to non-union pilots through contractors. Boeing as a notorious reputation for union busting, including firing workers for union activity, and opening plants in South Carolina to avoid union support in the State of Washington

Workers at a Winnipeg, Canada location of Tim Horton’s have been locked out this week as their union is currently disputing a measly 20 cent hourly wage increase offered to workers by the fast food retail chain

AMC Movie Theatre Workers Don't Receive Holiday Pay

Workers at the largest cinema chain in the US don't receive any extra compensation for working Christmas or Christmas Eve

This week is one of the busiest for movie theatres across the United States, with around 5 percent of annual box office sales occurring in the week of December 24 to December 31.

The largest movie theatre chain in the United States, AMC Theatres, do not pay their employees extra at all for working Christmas or Christmas Eve, and due to an outdated federal labor law loophole from the 1930’s, exempting theatre employees from overtime laws.

“AMC claims because we are in the ‘entertainment’ sector, by law we aren’t required holiday pay or overtime pay if we work more than 40 hrs,” said a current AMC employee in Detroit, Michigan who requested to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. “It is at the manager’s discretion to give employees an extra $1 raise an hour on holiday but you have to have a manager that has enough heart to fight for things like that. The management at our particular store claims they can’t get corporate to sign off on that decision but I feel as though its not a priority to them. I know this year nobody is getting holiday pay for Thanksgiving or Christmas.”

A petition on has received thousands of signatures calling on AMC to pay employees holiday pay for sacrificing time away from their families on the holidays to work, even as management at AMC Theatres do receive time and a half holiday pay.

Retail Workers Face Erratic Scheduling, Anxiety, Poor Pay Over Holiday Shopping Season

Thanksgiving and Black Friday marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season for retailers across the US, as more than 165 million people in the US are expected to shop between Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, according to a National Retail Federation survey. The organization projects 2019 holiday sales to grow around 4 percent compared to 2018, citing current consumer spending and economic growth trends. 

For over 4 million workers in retail and thousands of temporary seasonal workers, the Black Friday sales that begin in many stores on Thanksgiving Day worsen erratic scheduling in the industry and come with anxiety, long hours, and low pay in exchange for missing time spent with family over the holiday. 

“It’s a two pronged experience for workers. On one hand, they’re not getting all the hours they want during the rest of the year and this is a time to catch up and make up those hours, but never knowing how many they’re going to get scheduled and what their schedules are going to look like,” said Janna Shadduck Hernandez, the project director for the UCLA Labor Center, which has published extensive research on retail workers as Los Angeles City Council and other municipalities around the US are currently considering or have already passed fair work week laws that mandate employers give workers predictable work schedules. 

“Black Friday brings up all these issues,” added Shadduck Hernandez. “Retail workers are anticipating it with mixed emotions, angst, and hopefulness there is going to be a bigger paycheck at the same time with facing a lot of frantic, stressful experiences.”

23 year old Courtney Hines worked at Target for about eighteen months in St. Louis, Missouri area until she quit this past week over scheduling issues with the Thanksgiving holiday. 

Hines, currently studying to become an esthetician, had asked her availability to be limited to 25 hours per week, but was scheduled for 34 hours this week, which included a Wednesday over night shift from 6pm to 2:30am, despite never working an overnight shift before. 

“I talked to my store director and told her it would be too much for me to be getting up for school on Wednesday at 5 am, going to school all day, coming into work, and leaving at 2:30am. I would be up for almost 24 hours. I told her I didn't feel comfortable working for that long and I thought it would be dangerous if I am too tired to drive myself home,” Hines said. “I felt pushed to quit because if I hadn't shown up for the overnight shift I may have been fired anyway. “

She was also scheduled to work Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and the following day. 

Another Target employee, who requested to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, volunteered to work a ten hour shift on Thanksgiving Day in hopes they would be given Black Friday off to be with their family. Instead, she is scheduled to return to work on Black Friday at 10am. 

“For Black Friday, before we open any time after midnight, then you get an extra dollar raise, but as soon as we open that goes away,” the worker said. “Also, you can’t request off between November 14th to January 5th, which isn’t fair. I’ve requested for a night off here and there and they laughed in my face.” 

Black Friday Protests

Workers and the AFSCME Union are holding protests today at 45 Guess Jeans retail locations in solidarity with the 70 workers who were abruptly laid off by the Guess Jeans Founders’ Marciano Art Foundation immediately after announcing a union organizing drive.

United For Respect is also holding protests at H&M stores around the US in solidarity with an H&M employee who was fired in retaliation for advocating in favor of Fair Work Week legislation.

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