McDonald’s Korea Fires Worker for Supporting Global Fast Food Protest

by Paul Garver

 MCD kOREA

Gahyun Lee was dismissed from her job at a McDonald’s outlet in Yeokgok, Gyeonggi Province on September 15 following her visit to Los Angeles earlier that month to support the national action by US fast food workers.

Management had previously warned her about union activity in May – citing a phone call from the head office – after she denounced wage and scheduling manipulation and unsafe workplace practices at a May 15 Seoul rally in support of global fast food workers. Management refused to provide her with an explanation of why her contract was terminated, instead telling her to reapply for the job. Her application was rejected.

The Arbeit Workers’ Union (which organizes precarious workers) is demanding her reinstatement and publicizing her case. You can support them by sending a message to McDonald’s Korea corporate management calling on the company to reinstate Gahyun Lee, recognize union rights and representation and enter into good faith talks with the union over unfair practices.  Go to:

http://www.iuf.org/cgi-bin/campaigns/show_campaign.cgi?c=922

Port Truck Drivers on Strike! A Dispatch from Two of the Nation’s Largest Ports

 by David Bensman

 November 22, 2014

bensman

All Photos Courtesy of the Author

On Thursday, November 13, port truckers struck at the nation’s largest ports, Los Angeles and Long Beach, demanding an end to misclassification and wage theft. It was the fourth strike in a campaign initiated by the Teamsters and Change to Win seven years ago. It’s been a long campaign and the cost has been enormous.

The trucking companies categorize the truckers as independent contractors, a ploy that relieves the companies of the responsibility of employers. They don’t have to pay payroll taxes, don’t have to contribute to unemployment or workers’ compensation funds, don’t have to respect labor and employment laws: no right to unionize, no health and safety protections, no freedom from discrimination. After several strategies stalled, the Teamsters and Change to Win embarked on a campaign to prove that the drivers were employees, not contractors, and therefore fell under the jurisdiction of the Wagner Act. (The first step was convincing the drivers themselves that they were misclassified.) Having spent seven years researching the port trucking industry, I wanted to find out if the unions’ organizing campaign had finally broken through, so I flew out to Long Beach last weekend. This is what I saw.
Friday, November 14, 2014

Things are breaking on the port truckers’ strike. Nick Weiner, Change to Win’s lead organizer on the campaign, met with two trucking company heads and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti about respecting the workers’ right to unionize. Court rulings and NLRB actions are taking a toll on the companies. At the end of two days of picketing, the parties issued a joint statement that, amazingly, recognized the independent contractors’ right to join a union if they so chose—a major breakthrough. The union agreed to suspend the picket lines on Saturday, with the understanding that if the companies did not sign agreement next week, the strikes would resume. Two other trucking companies are reported to be close to a card check agreement.

In the afternoon, members of Teamsters Local 848 and International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) staff joined drivers from two struck companies on the picket lines. Truck after truck was turned away at terminals by terminal operators who did not want to bring down the wrath of the IBT. At the Pac9 picket line, striking drivers actively blocked traffic while discussing strategy in loud Spanish. I met with one driver, Alex Paz, who was discharged by another trucking company, TTSI, for filing charges in court complaining of wage theft and misclassification. Alex was one of thirty-five drivers illegally discharged for speaking up. The unfair labor practice complaint against the company is before NLRB. While awaiting restitution, Alex is working as an employee of Toll, a member of the Teamsters, where—for a change—he enjoys overtime pay and health care coverage.
Continue reading

Wage Theft Confidential

Do Laws Work?

By Seth Sandronsky

California has roughly a dozen labor codes governing wage-theft on the books, with more proposed each year in the state legislature. Are these laws proving effective? Fausto Hernandez is one worker who doesn’t think they are. The 55-year-old native of Oaxaca, Mexico, has labored in the carwash business for a decade.

“For several years I worked at Slauson Carwash in South L.A. — 10 to 11 hours a day,” he told Capital & Main. “The employer would only pay me for three hours, never for all the hours I worked.”

According to Hernandez, he sought relief by contacting the CLEAN Carwash Campaign, a community coalition led by the United Steelworkers union. The campaign helped him file a claim with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), an office of the state’s Labor Commissioner.

Workers who take such action face employer retaliation. Hernandez’s employer fired him, he said. Hernandez was eventually hired at another carwash that later closed. “Recently I received a letter saying that the [Slauson Carwash] owner didn’t pay me correctly and that I’m owed tens of thousands of dollars,” he said. “I am still waiting to see the actual money.”

Continue reading

Seeds of a New Labor Movement ?

Harold Meyerson.

Mother Jones, American labor activist.

Mother Jones, American labor activist. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sit down and read. Prepare yourself for the coming battles.  Mother Jones.

 

DSA Honorary Chair Harold Meyerson has written the following important long form piece on the US. Labor Movement for the American Prospect. This piece merits discussion.

Excerpts:

“The path to collective bargaining has been shut down in the United States,” says Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and head of the AFL-CIO’s Organizing Committee. Where Rolf differs from most of his colleagues is in his belief that collective bargaining—at least, as the nation has known it for the past 80 years—is not coming back. In a paper he distributed to his colleagues in 2012 and in commentaries he wrote for several magazines (including this one), he argued that unions should acknowledge their impending demise—at least in the form that dates to the Wagner Act—and focus their energies and resources on incubating new institutions that can better address workers’ concerns. “The once powerful industrial labor unions that built the mid-century American middle class are in a deep crisis and are no longer able to protect the interests of American workers with the scale and power necessary to reverse contemporary economic trends,” he wrote in his paper. “The strategy and tactics that we’ve pursued since the 1947 Taft-Hartley Amendments [which narrowed the ground rules under which unions may operate] are out of date and have demonstrably failed to produce lasting economic power for workers. We must look to the future and invest our resources in new organizational models that respond to our contemporary economy and the needs of today’s workers.”

This October, with funding from his local, from the national SEIU, and from several liberal foundations, Rolf will unveil The Workers Lab, housed at the Roosevelt Institute in New York. The center will study and, in time, invest in organizations that, in Rolf’s words, “have the potential to build economic power for workers, at scale, and to sustain themselves financially.” Whatever those organizations may be, they won’t be unions—at least, not unions as they currently exist… Continue reading

Bay Area Victories for Living Wage

by Seth Sandronsky

sf-living-wage

On Tuesday San Francisco voters approved by a 77 to 23 percent margin Proposition J, which will increase the city’s minimum wage from the current $10.74 per hour to $12.25 per hour by May 1, 2015. The city’s minimum wage would climb to $13 per hour by July 2016; to $14 per hour by July 2017 and $15 per hour by July 2018.

“Prop. J will provide a much needed raise to $15 per hour for 140,000 of the lowest paid workers in our city,” Gordon Mar, executive director of Jobs with Justice, San Francisco, told Capital & Main. “Prop. J will also raise the bar nationally for minimum wage policies.”

The “Fight for $15” to gain a higher minimum wage for workers began in Seattle, Washington. Voters there, with Socialist Alternative city council member Kshama Sawant spearheading a grassroots movement, approved phased-in hikes to the minimum wage, eventually reaching $15 per hour, this year. That momentum in no small way encouraged people in U.S. cities such as San Francisco and Oakland to vote for increasing the pay of low-wage service workers to $15 per hour in this year’s midterm elections. Continue reading

Walmart to Cut off 30,000 Workers from Health Insurance

Amid Soaring Profits, Walmart to Cut Off 30,000 Workers From Health Insurance

Largest private employer in U.S. announces elimination of insurance for part-time workers and across-the-board hikes in premium costs

by  Sarah Lazare, staff writer, Common Dreams

English: Walmart Supercenter front end in Hage...

Walmart, the largest retailer in the world and the biggest private employer in the United States, announced Tuesday it is eliminating health insurance for 30,000 of its workers and hiking the costs of premiums across the board.

The cutbacks to coverage, which many charge was insufficient to begin with, were met with immediate criticism.

“Our schedules and hours are all over the place, and I often find less than I expected and less than my family needs when I see my paycheck,” said Nancy Reynolds, a member of OUR Walmart and worker at a Merrit Island, Florida Walmart store. “Taking away access to healthcare, even though many of my co-workers couldn’t afford it anyway, is just another example of Walmart manipulating the system to keep workers like me in a state of financial crisis.” Continue reading

The Umbrella Movement in its Second Week

by Paul Garver

28 year old man brings daughter to occupation

28 year old man brings daughter to occupation

“I am bringing my daughter here so she can see what we are doing for her future.”

I have been following the excellent hour-by-hour live coverage of the events in Hong Kong through the superb international English-language blog edition of the South China Morning Post.

Update (October 9): The Hong Kong Government cancelled Friday’s scheduled talks with the Hong Kong Federation of Students, denouncing the Federation’s call for a mass rally at Harcourt Road (“Umbrella Square”) while the talks were taking place. Protest leaders said that the government’s cancellation of the talks demonstrated the government’s lack of sincerity, and are planning for new non-cooperation actions.

Admiralty rally 1010

Update (October 10): It is Friday evening in Hong Kong, and over 10,000 citizens turned out for a mass rally to demand that the Hong Kong government negotiate with the Federation of Students over political reforms. Others rejoined the smaller occupation sites at Causeway Bay and Mong Kok to reinforce their numbers and show that support for the protests remained strong.

What strikes me as an outsider most about the movement in Hong Kong is the extraordinary patience and long-term perspective of the mainly young protesters. Even as their barricades and banners are slowly coming down, and as the leaders of the Hong Kong Federation of Students are preparing for the formal opening of discussions with the government over political reforms, the protesters are maintaining a creative and self-disciplined stance.

Some examples stand out. On Monday, as government workers left for the day, protesters handed them flowers and soup. Disruptive counter-demonstrators were surrounded by nonviolent protesters singing Happy Birthday! And protest art is blossoming – see the collection at

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1607587/illustrate-your-opinion-artists-draw-support-hong-kong-protesters

Each evening the remaining occupation sites are flooded with students who were resuming classes and adult supporters returning from work. The smaller number of protesters who remain behind the barricades day and night are becoming exhausted, but have vowed to maintain their protest until the talks with the government yield at least some kind of progress.

The university student leaders of the Hong Kong Federation of Students will be the direct spokespeople for the movement, but they are consulting with the high school students of Scholarism and the democratic politicians and leaders of Occupy Central. No one expects many of the core political and economic demands of the umbrella movement to be met, since the Hong Kong government and the corporate elite, staunchly based by the Chinese Communist Party and the mainland Chinese government, remain adamantly opposed to any real concessions.

Nonetheless I believe that the Hong Kong movement can be provisionally regarded as successful. It has been perhaps the first global Occupy movement to formulate a clear set of demands and to rally behind spokespeople for those demands. It has dramatically called attention to the failure of the central government to honor its promises to move towards fuller democracy, while simultaneously asserting the need to reverse growing economic inequality in Hong Kong. Its mixture of audacity and pragmatic commonsense has helped build the institutions of civil society in the city-state and reinforced the popular sentiment of the Hong Kong population that they have something precious to preserve and to contribute eventually to China as a whole.

This video captures the spirit of the Umbrella Movement in song and images.

For a century, student movements have played key roles in signalling major changes in Chinese society. Hopefully this generation of Hong Kong students, with its key leaders ranging from 17 to 24 years old now, will be able to survive and gain more traction with other societal classes. From the comments of protesters that I have read in the press and social media this week, increasingly focused on inequality and economic injustice, I believe that a next positive step could involve greater and deeper interaction with young workers and with the independent unions of Hong Kong.

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