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LABORPRESS: Weekly Labor Digest

Novemer 24, 2015

THIS WEEK: Airport Workers Strike, A Wage Thief Gets Jail Time and Culinary 226 Questions Duetsche Bank. Also: An Appeal to Poultry CEOs, A Union at HuffPo? AFL’s Trumka on Refugees… and for history buffs: Utah’s Joe Hill archive.

2,000 AIRPORT WORKERS STRIKE IN SEVEN CITIES: Ever wonder who checks your bags, cleans your plane, or helps passengers to their gates? At many airports, it’s no longer airline employees, but contract workers who are paid badly and treated even worse. Pushing for $15 an hour and union rights, 2,000 contract workers from SEIU affiliate Airport Workers United went on strike for 24 hours on Nov. 18 and 19, hitting seven of USA’s busiest airports: Boston, Chicago, Ft. Lauderdale, NYC (LGA + JFK), Newark, and Philly. Workers in four more cities – LA, Minneapolis, Portland, OR and Seattle– staged rallies and demos to support the strikers.  

While airlines rake in billions, says SEIU, widespread use of third-party employers “has resulted in a system where bottom-feeder contractors have taken over the market, and intimidation and harassment are now routine.”

WAGE THIEF GETS JAIL TIME: Memo to bosses — don’t cheat your employees. Also, don’t file fake records to cover up your cheating, it will end badly. That’s the lesson for Abdul Jamil Khokhar, owner of nine Papa John’s pizza franchises in the Bronx, sentenced to 60 days in jail on 11/16 after getting caught not paying overtime to workers. Khokhar compounded his legal problems by creating fake payroll records and false tax returns. In addition to being a guest of NY State for two months, fines and penalties will cost Khokhar more than $500k.

Also: Nov. 18th was a national Day of Action against wage theft; workers across the country rallied to protest lower-than-minimum wages, unpaid overtime, working off the clock and other thievery that takes billions a year from their pockets. Check this video at WageTheft.org for highlights from Cincy, Central NY, Grand Rapids, Houston, MN, Nashville, NJ, NYC, and South Florida.

Culinary Workers Question DeutscheBank:Members of the Culinary Workers Union, UniteHERE’s powerhouse affiliate representing more than 50k workers in Nevada, rallied outside the state’s Gaming Commission on Nov. 19th. Workers want state authorities to probe whether Germany’s Deutsche Bank is a suitable partner for non-union Station Casinos, which operates more than 20 Nevada gaming establishments. The bank, owner of a 25 percent stake in Station, has pled guilty to wire fraud, paid $2.5 billion in fines for rigging interest rates, and is under investigation for money laundering.

Station Casinos is planning an initial public offering (IPO) to attract new capital. Potential investors, says Culinary Research Director Maya Holmes, need “certainty that we have not become a permissive regulatory system where someone mired in regulatory investigations and criminal scandals is allowed to own Nevada casinos.” 

Thanksgiving Appeal to Poultry CEOs: Eating turkey this week? You’re not alone; Americans will consume 46 million big birds this Thanksgiving. But workers who prepare poultry for our tables don’t have much to crow about: A two-year investigation of the poultry industry by Oxfam America revealed “low wages with scant benefits…extremely high rates of injury and illness,” and “workers who live and work in a climate of fear.”

Just before Oxfam’s report came out in October, Tyson Foods pledged to raise wages to $10 for new hires; $12 for workers with one year’s seniority. On Nov. 19th, worker advocates launched an appeal to CEOs of three other big poultry companies – Perdue, Sanderson Farms and Pilgrim’s Pride – calling for “immediate action” to improve wages and worker conditions, and respect for workers’ rights.  Signers are National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH), Interfaith Workers’ Justice, and Western North Carolina Workers’ Center

Full disclosure: I’m a media consultant for National COSH. But you don’t have to be on the payroll of a safety group to know poultry workers deserve a better deal. Consumer can sign Oxfam’s petition for fair, safe working conditions here. (See the “Take Action” tab, upper right.)

A union at HuffPo?  More than 80 editorial employees at The Huffington Post have gone public with a letter calling for union representation at the trend-setting digital publication. “A union contract can bring standards and security,” they write, encouraging other workers to sign union cards. “Most of all, it would give us a voice in how this place operates.”

HuffPo workers are seeking affiliation with the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE). If successful, they’ll join a rapidly growing cadre of workers at online pubs who are sporting a digital version of the union label.  Since June of this year, editorial staffers at Gawker, Slate, Think Progress and Vice have become WGAE members, while majorities at Al Jazeera and Guardian US have voted to join the News Media Guild, an affiliate of CWA.

AFL-CIO’s Rich Trumka on Syrian refugees:“We urge unwavering commitment to provide support to those fleeing oppression and violence to build a better life among us. We will continue to call upon our government to live up to its obligation to meet the needs of refugee families, whether they be from Syria or right here in our own hemisphere.

STRAIGHT OUTTA UTAH, A JOE HILL ARCHIVE:  On Nov. 19, 1915, the state of Utah executed Wobbly organizer and troubadour Joe Hill, on a charge of murdering a grocery store owner. 100 years later, state archivists have posted a dossier of documents about the case, including petitions asking then-Gov. William Spry to commute Hill’s sentence. (He didn’t.) The singer’s trial, the archivists write, “engendered international debate over Hill's conviction and whether his activity as a labor organizer had made him a target of political and business interests in the west.”

This LaborPress Weekly Labor Digest is a selective round up of news about working people and our unions. Send news releases, links, images (we love pictures!) announcements of coming events and good rumors to: Roger@RKCommunications.net

Roger Kerson provides national labor news for LaborPress. He also works with labor unions, environmental groups and non-profit organizations. Roger is a member of UAW Local 1981, the National Writers Union. Opinions expressed here are entirely his own.

November 24, 2015

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