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.
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.
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.