Labor News Briefs

Weekly Digest – November 26, 2014

Compiled by Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel

Kmart Workers Resist Working on Thanksgiving
Almost 5,000 people have signed a petition calling for Kmart to give its workers enough time off on Thanksgiving. “Kmart’s unnecessary hours are forcing its employees to miss out on important time with their families,” said the campaign’s organizer, 25-year-old Jillian Fisher of Wilmington, Delaware, whose mother had to work a split shift last Thanksgiving. Chains including Macy’s, J.C. Penney, and Target are extending their Thanksgiving hours this year, and Kmart stores will stay open for 42 hours, from 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving to midnight on Black Friday. “Even if a company says it is voluntary, let’s put that in quotes,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union. “The people who work that day should have the option of choosing whether or not to work.” Read more 

Facebook Shuttle Bus Drivers Join Teamsters
The bus drivers who shuttle Facebook employees around San Francisco and Silicon Valley voted 43-28 on Nov. 19 to join the Teamsters Union. "I hope this will set a trend with other drivers in Silicon Valley and the tech industry so we can set a pattern to make the companies pay these drivers decent wages and benefits," said Rome Aloise, international vice president and secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 853. The drivers, who work for contractor Loop Transportation, say they earn between $18 and $20 per hour, but work split shifts, one in the morning and another in the evening, and are not paid for the hours in between. Read more

Silicon Valley Health Workers Arrested in Protest
Five people, including SEIU president Mary Kay Henry,were arrested Nov. 18 during a protest by home-care workers in California who haven’t gotten a raise since 2007. About 150 In-Home Supportive Services aides, disabled people they care for, and union representatives demonstrated at a meeting of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors in Redwood City, demanding that their wages be raised from $11.50 an hour to $15 over the next four years. The county had offered a gradual increase to $12.65. "By denying home care providers a just and fair living wage, you are treating them as second-tier citizens," SEIU Local 521 Chief Elected Officer Luisa Blue, who was also arrested, told the board.
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Maine Machinists Mad at Outsourcing
It’s been 14 years since a 55-day strike at the Bath Iron Works shipyard in Bath, Maine, but yet another management proposal to outsource work might crack that relative peace. Company President Frederick Harris says it needs to contract out work from destroyer power panels to door hatches in order to win a contract to build Coast Guard offshore patrol cutters. “He’s been looking for anything we currently build that we could buy cheaper somewhere else,” said Jay Wadleigh, president of Machinists Local S6, which represents about 3,500 Bath shipyard employees. “We don’t believe ‘outsourcing’ work is the answer,” said a memo the union sent to workers Nov. 21. Read more 

L.A. Teachers Seek More Than Just a Raise
The United Teachers Los Angeles union held five rallies Nov. 20 to dramatize its contract demands for a 10% raise, a full-time nurse at every school, increased counseling staff, and a “dramatic reduction” in class sizes. “We want at least a district that won’t sabotage the dreams of its youths,” Roosevelt High teacher Mariana Ramirez told more than 500 teachers and supporters in the Boyle Heights neighborhood. Talking about the district’s former plan to spend $1.3 billion to buy iPads for every student, teacher, and administrator, she added that they didn’t want “technology geared toward robotically testing students rather than stimulating them to learn.” Read more

Green Groups Join Walmart Labor Fight
With Walmart workers and their allies preparing for what they say will be the largest strike in the company’s history on Black Friday, environmental and climate-justice organizations plan more than 100 protests in support of them, Brooke Anderson of Movement Generation’s Justice and Ecology Project said Nov. 21. Environmental groups, said Joe Uehlein of the Labor Network for Sustainability, are "more and more aware of Walmart's carbon footprint and certainly have been reaching out and working with worker rights organizations in the Walmart campaign." An Institute for Local Self-Reliance study released Nov. 20 said Walmart consumes 0.5% of all coal electricity in the United States. Read more

Detroit Retirees Appeal Pension Cuts
A group of 133 retired Detroit workers filed an appeal Nov. 17 asking U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes to delay the implementation of pension cuts imposed under the city bankruptcy plan he approved earlier this month. The city, former deputy police chief Jamie S. Fields wrote in the motion, should not be able “to avoid any meaningful appellate review of the unprecedented approach” used to reach agreements with labor unions, retiree groups, the city’s pension funds, and its creditors. Judge Rhodes said there was a 25 percent chance his ruling could be overturned on appeal; the petitioners said those were better odds than the 4-to-1 on the Denver Broncos winning the Super Bowl, so “therefore, there is a reasonable likelihood of prevailing on the merits.” Read more

Austin Bus Drivers Win $665G Settlement
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1091, which represents bus drivers and mechanics in Austin, Texas, has won a $665,000 National Labor Relations Board settlement from Travis Transit Management Inc., a subcontractor of the company that runs the city’s Capital Metro transit system. The union had filed an unfair labor practices complaint charging that TTMI unilaterally increased health-care costs, cut retirement benefits, imposed a no-strike rule, and refused to hire Local 1091 President Jay Wyatt because of his union activities. Read more

Manufacturers Fill More Jobs with Temps
Temporary workers are a growing part of the workforce, especially in manufacturing. In 2013, 16.2% of assembly-line workers were employed by staffing agencies, four times as many as in 1999 and more than five times their record-high share of the general workforce, said Susan Houseman, a senior economist with the W.E. Upjohn Institute in Michigan. Manufacturers like it because they can pay less and add or lay off workers as needed to meet demand. But labor advocates like Tim Bell, senior organizer of the Chicago Workers' Collaborative, say the instability of temp work means staffing agencies can hire people who don't complain about working conditions, pay, or safety issues. Read more

Dog-Care Chain Makes Pet Sitters Sign Non-Compete Agreements
Workers at Camp Bow Wow, a doggy day-care franchise with more than 100 locations in the U.S. and Canada, have to sign strict non-compete contracts before they can take care of people’s pets. They have to agree not to work for a competing business within 25 miles of their Camp Bow Wow location's "franchise territory" for two years after they stop working there. Although workers are technically employed by the individual franchises and not by Camp Bow Wow, the company’s contract with franchisees requires them to force workers to sign. Non-compete agreements have traditionally been applied to executives or workers like software designers or pharmaceutical researchers, but they have recently spread to low-wage jobs like the Jimmy John’s sandwich chain. Read more

August 14, 2013

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