Welcoming China’s labor federation back into the global union family?

TU vs. workers

by Eric Lee

[Ed. Note: This image shows strikebreakers sent by the local union federation attacking young striking workers at a Honda parts plant in 2010  The local union  was forced to apologize and a higher level federation officer helped negotiate higher wages at the plant.  A wave of strikes at auto parts plants in China followed.  -Paul Garver]

At the end of March, the International Labour Organisation’s Bureau for Workers Activities (known as ILO-ACTRAV) and the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) signed a Memorandum of Understanding “to promote Trade unions South-South Cooperation in the Asia- Pacific region”.

The Director-General of the ILO, Guy Ryder, said “we need to find a way which so that the ACFTU can work more closely with other parts of the international trade union movement, sharing common objectives.”

Ryder is a former General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, which has decided to invite the ACFTU to attend its upcoming World Congress in Berlin in May.

These two events illustrate the fact that the trade union leadership in much of the developed world now seems keen on putting the past behind us and welcoming China’s trade unions back into our “global family”.

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Review of Lines of Work: Stories of Jobs and Resistance

by Joe Burns

LoW fcover pf5

Many times in discussing labor issues the tendency is to focus on policy issues or major events far removed from the workplace. In Lines of Work: Stories of Jobs and Resistance, a couple dozen workers from the US, Canada and Great Britain, loosely affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World, seek to turn the conversation in a different direction—to tell stories of work and the workplace. Sometimes they talk about workplace struggles and resistance; sometimes they talk about their jobs and work. There is something refreshing about this approach.

The book contains over thirty chapters with stories ranging from a warehouse worker’s fight against speedup to a clerical worker’s struggle to make her liberal boss at small non-profit understand her class privilege to a liquor store worker’s organizing against sexual harassment. Some of the stories are about organizing campaigns, such as Starbuck workers, others are about personal battles with victories as small as getting workers to celebrate each other’s birthdays over the boss’ objection. All, however, are up close and personal and share a common perspective that talking about time spent at work is important.

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Update on Cesar Chavez, farmworker organizing, and immigration reform

by Duane Campbell

Cesar Chavez at the Delano UFW rally.

Cesar Chavez at the Delano UFW rally. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Monday, as Californians celebrated Cesar Chavez Day the Real News Network has recorded an excellent two interviews with persons presently engaged in farmworker organizing. Both had worked with Chavez-
Marc Grossman and Rosalinda Guillen. They give current testimony to conditions in the fields, the role of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act, and two different views of the issues of immigration reform. Guillen describes the current largely indigenous labor force in the fields

I encourage all friends of labor to inform themselves and these important struggles.



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Beyond the Minimum Wage: Interview With Jobs With Justice’s Sarita Gupta

by Amy B Dean

Sarita  Gupta

Sarita Gupta

Raising the minimum wage is an idea whose time has come. Long an important grass-roots demand, campaigns to raise the wage are taking place throughout the country. Even the national Democratic Party has recognized it as it winning issue that its candidates should embrace. Yet, although a minimum wage boost is long overdue, an increase from $7.25 an hour to $10 an hour will not bring the working poor out of poverty. Nor will it restore the type of labor rights and collective organization that built the American middle class in the mid-20th century.

This dilemma raises a critical question: How do we use the enthusiasm around this issue to promote a more robust and thoroughgoing vision of economic justice?

Sarita Gupta is one progressive leader who is searching for an answer to this question. Gupta is executive director of Jobs With Justice, a national organization whose mission is to “win real change for workers by combining innovative communications strategies and solid research and policy advocacy with grassroots action and mobilization,” according to its web site. A dynamic contributor to the effort to build coalitions between labor and community, Gupta has led Jobs With Justice since 2007 in campaigns alongside employees at Walmart for better treatment, to help extend labor law protections to domestic workers and to defend immigrant workers from deportation.

In a recent interview, I talked with Gupta about connecting today’s minimum-wage demands to a more far-reaching strategy to counter inequality. In our discussion, Gupta emphasized a new generation of organizing tactics, such as the Retail Action Project’s Just Hours campaign for workers to be guaranteed enough hours on the job to have a living wage. This is the sort of tactic that could contribute to a comprehensive strategic agenda for economic justice. The following is a condensed and edited version of our conversation.

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The Death of an Employer Scam

The government cracks down on employers who pretend their workers aren’t really employees.

by Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

One of the most pervasive scams that employers use to lower their workers’ wages is misclassification—that is, turning their workers into independent contractors or temps when they are actually employees. Misclassification shouldn’t be mistaken for the whim of an errant employer. On the contrary, it’s a strategy that has been used to transform entire industries.

From an employer’s perspective, the benefits of misclassification are clear. Turning a worker into a temp or a free agent obviates any need to provide him with benefits. It shields the employer from legal liability for health and safety violations, for industrial accidents, or from wage and hour violations. It invariably lowers such workers wages as well. It makes it impossible for workers to form unions. Continue reading

The Minimum Wage is Really an Efficiency Wage

by Oren Levin-Waldman

Oren Levin -Waldman

Oren Levin-Waldman

Market Purists are steadfast in their belief that increasing the minimum wage will lead to lower employment. The standard textbook model holds that as workers lower their wage demands, employers will demand more of their services. A wage floor only prevents workers from accepting lower wages in exchange for opportunities to work. Therefore, fewer workers will be hired, with the result being lower employment. But opponents of minimum wage increases are only citing half of the model.

What the model really says is that a minimum wage if it is effective will do either one of two things: it will either result in the layoff of those workers whose value is less than the minimum or it will result in an increase in productivity among low-efficiency workers. Of course, one way to increase efficiency would be to substitute technology for low-skilled workers. But given that most low-skilled workers are concentrated in the fast-food and retail sectors, that option may have limitations. Another way to increase productivity is for employers to invest in the human capital of their workers by providing them with the type of training that will enable them to become more productive.

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“Raise the Federal Minimum Wage” Resolution Adopted at National Jewish Communal Affairs Gathering in Atlanta

Jewish Labor Committee

hhttp://engage.jewishpublicaffairs.org/images/Homepage/povertygrey.jpg New York — The Jewish Labor Committee is pleased to report that a resolution we cosponsored in support of Increasing the Federal Minimum Wage to $10.10, as well as raising the wage of tipped workers, was passed by an overwhelming majority of 250 delegates, from 60 groups across the United States, at the annual conference of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, meeting two week ago in Atlanta, GA.

Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee, noted that passage of the resolution on raising the Federal minimum wage is part of a broader campaign that must be waged community by community, and across the United States.

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Is Fast-food Business Model Based on Wage Theft?

by Gregory N. Heires

McDonaldsThe fast-food business model is based on wage theft.

That’s the thrust of seven lawsuits that hit McDonald’s in three states last week.

Employees are cheated out of overtime.

They are forced to clock out when a computer monitoring program determines that profits are at risk because not enough customers showing up.

And the exploited workers’ pay falls below the minimum wage because they are forced to pick up the tab for cleaning their uniforms.

The lawsuits seek class-action status, which means thousands of workers could be covered. Continue reading

The Social Costs of Paying Low Wages

Oren Levin -Waldman

Oren Levin -Waldman

The recent release of the Congressional Budget Office’s report that an increase in the minimum wage could lead to a loss of as much as one million jobs by 2016 has created quite a stir. Those on the right hailed it as proof that an increase in the minimum wage is a bad idea precisely because we are still plagued by long-term unemployment. Meanwhile, those on left hailed the report as a vindication that the minimum wage would result in at least 16 million Americans getting a raise, which in turn would benefit the economy through increased spending.

On one level, the controversy over the CBO report only highlights the narrowness of the minimum wage debate to date: adverse employment effects v. anti-poverty benefits. But on another level, it is typical of the type of cost-benefit calculus, which itself is too narrow. The only costs really considered are employment, specifically among low-skilled workers. Meanwhile, the only real benefits considered are those that accrue to the low-wage labor market earning either the minimum wage or wages around the minimum. And yet, there is a broader calculus that needs to be taken if we as a political community truly seek to formulate policy that truly reflects the collective will of the people. Continue reading

Amazon Warehouse Workers to Take Wage Suit to Supreme Court

by Bruce Vail


Amazon workers are demanding compensation for the up-to 25 minutes they were forced to spend waiting in security lines daily. (Robert Scoble/Creative Commons)

The Supreme Court agreed has agreed to hear a case over whether the retail giant Amazon stole wages from warehouse workers at its U.S. distribution facilities by forcing them to wait in long lines for security screening without pay.

The case, Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk, will be considered during the high court’s October term, with a decision expected by early next year. At issue is the proper application of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and a related law, the Portal-to-Portal Act, both of which govern overtime payment for wage-earners.

According to court documents, warehouse workers Jessie Busk and Laurie Castro were employed by the temporary labor agency Integrity Staffing Solutions between 2008 and 2010 to work at separate Amazon warehouses in Nevada. At the end of the work shifts, all workers were required to undergo security-screening procedures designed to prevent worker theft. The screening created long lines and waiting times for the workers, typically about 25 minutes, on a daily basis. In 2010, Bust and Castro filed a class action lawsuit under FLSA, claiming that they should be compensated for this time. Continue reading


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