Labor News Briefs

Weekly Digest – Sept. 25, 2013

Compiled by Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel

Angry Bangladesh Garment Workers Take Streets

As many as 200,000 garment workers poured into the streets in Bangladesh Sept. 23, blocking roads and attacking vehicles in the industrial areas surrounding Dhaka. The workers are demanding that the government raise the minimum wage from $38 a month to $100. Police said about 300 factories that produce clothing for companies such as Walmart were closed after workers attacked plants that stayed open. At least 50 people were reported injured when police fired tear gas and plastic bullets at the protesters, who responded by throwing broken bricks.

Employment Gap Between Rich, Poor Widest in Last Decade

The gap in employment rates between America's highest- and lowest-income families is wider than it’s been in the last decade, according to an analysis of government data conducted for The Associated Press. People in households earning less than $20,000 a year have a Depression-level unemployment rate of over 21 percent—and almost as many underemployed—while households with incomes of more than $150,000 have an unemployment rate of 3.2 percent. The report also noted that low-wage workers are now older and better educated than ever. “This was no 'equal opportunity' recession or an 'equal opportunity' recovery,” said Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University. “One part of America is in depression, while another part is in full employment.”

Hodge, Carteris Vie for SAG-AFTRA VP

In what’s been described as a contest between Hollywood and New York, SAG-AFTRA’s New York local president, Mike Hodge, is running against Los Angeles First National VP Gabrielle Carteris to be the union’s executive vice president. Hodge, who narrowly defeated Roberta Reardon in the New York local’s election last month, is being backed by union president Ken Howard and Clyde Kusatsu, head of the Los Angeles local. Carteris, who starred on the ’90s TV series Beverly Hills 90210, has been endorsed by Reardon and secretary-treasurer Amy Aquino. The vote will take place at this week’s convention.

Federal Court Delays Vote on Minnesota Child-Care Union

The federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals granted an injunction Sept. 19 to delay a vote by Minnesota’s 12,500 in-home child-care providers on joining the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The state enacted a law to let the workers join unions earlier this year, but the court ordered the vote delayed until the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether to hear a challenge to a similar Illinois law. Both challenges are being handled by anti-union litigators the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “It’s a temporary roadblock that doesn’t stop us from organizing,” said AFSCME spokesperson Jennifer Munt. “We are moving full-speed ahead, because child-care providers want a union.”

Tennessee Governor Denies Offering VW Anti-UAW Incentives

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said Sept. 18 that he “did not” offer Volkswagen specific incentives to reject the United Auto Workers’ attempts to unionize its Chattanooga factory. State House Democratic Caucus chair Mike Turner of Nashville has filed a request under the state Open Records Act seeking documents that might indicate that Haslam, who opposes unionization, was offering such a deal, saying reports he's heard sound “almost like he’s trying to bribe them if they don't bring the union in.” The UAW has announced that a majority of workers at the Chattanooga plant have signed cards supporting being represented by the union in a European-style works council.

Seattle Space Needle Accused of Union-Busting

The Seattle office of the National Labor Relations Board held hearings Sept. 16-20 on charges by Unite Here Local 8 that the Space Needle’s management engaged in unfair labor practices, unlawfully encouraging employees to quit the union or stop paying dues. Food and banquet workers at the local landmark have been unionized since it opened in 1962. The NLRB’s administrative law judge isn’t expected to issue a decision for several weeks, said Unite Here Local 8 spokesperson Jasmine Marwaha.

ILO Estimates 168 Million Child Laborers

More than one out of every 10 children in the world are doing work considered “child labor,” according to a report issued this month by the International Labour Office in Geneva, Switzerland. The report, “Marking Progress Against Child Labour,” estimated 168 million child laborers worldwide, including 73 million kids under 12 and 85 million in jobs considered “hazardous.” The number of child laborers has declined by almost one-third since 2000, it said. More than three-fourths of them are in Asia and in sub-Saharan Africa, where one out of every 10 children is working at a “hazardous” job. About two-thirds of child laborers are doing unpaid work for their families, most in farming or services.

Anchorage Tries to Stop Vote to Repeal Anti-Union Law

The city of Anchorage is appealing to the Alaska Supreme Court, trying to keep an initiative to repeal its new labor law off the city ballot. The law, enacted earlier this year, limits raises, eliminates binding arbitration, and allows outsourcing of work currently done by unions. It was suspended after municipal unions filed a petition for a vote on repeal, and the unions say they’ve gathered enough signatures to get the initiative on the ballot. In August, local Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth rejected the city’s arguments that the law was too narrow and technical to be judged by voters.

Northwesterners Disrupt ‘Right-to-Work’ Planning

When backers of proposed right-to-work initiatives in Oregon and Washington gathered to plan strategy for 2014 at Clark College in Vancouver, Wash., Sept. 5, more than 50 protesters greeted them. Protesters, primarily from construction trades unions, blocked cars and entered the building with signs and a bullhorn. “We want to let them know that they’re not going to come into Washington or Oregon without a fight,” said Eric Fanning, a member of Plumbers and Fitters Local 290. The proposed initiatives would outlaw any requirement that public employees pay dues or fees to unions representing their workplaces. On Sept. 12, the Oregon Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the initiative’s ballot title should be changed from the “Public Employee Choice Act” to something that indicates the “free-rider effect” of letting represented workers avoid union dues.

German Amazon Workers Strike Again

Hundreds of workers at two of Amazon.com’s shipping and warehouse facilities in Germany went on strike from Sept. 19-21. The brief strikes, in Bad Hersfeld and Leipzig, are the latest in a series organized by the German labor union ver.di to win raises and paid vacation time. “We can't accept that Amazon won't adopt collective bargaining, gaining a competitive advantage at the expense of employees,” Bernhard Schiederig, union negotiator at Amazon’s Bad Hersfeld site, said in a statement. Germany is the online retailer’s second-largest market after the U.S., producing about one-seventh of the company’s revenue.

August 14, 2013

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