Pair of NLRB Cases Could Land Temps, Low-Wage Workers the Protections They’ve Long Desired

by Chaz Bolte

Photo by Chris Dilts Flickr

Photo by Chris Dilts Flickr

Two cases currently before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will determine what it officially means to be an employer, and the ramifications for management in industries ranging from fast food to waste collection could be serious.

Given the complicated nature of modern American labor the two decisions seek to determine who employs whom and therefore who can enter into collective bargaining agreements.  The cases aim to undress the chain of command hidden by layers of temporary staffing and franchising laws many companies exploit to lower labor costs.

The first case is a consolidated case that will determine the future of fast food franchises. At question is whether McDonalds qualifies as a ‘joint employer’ along with the franchise owners.  It is one of the byproducts of a growing campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 which has swept the nation.

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The Precariat and the Global Erosion of Job Security

by Wade Rathke

9781849664561_p0_v2_s260x420 London        When I first saw the term “precariat,” it was used by a labor relations professor in the United Kingdom referring to my advocacy of the need to aggressively organize lower waged workers into unions. Though I wasn’t sure I had heard the term used before I was pretty clear we were talking about families whose lives and work were precarious meaning  uncertain, unstable, and without income security or what I’ve called “citizen wealth.”  All of which led me to a recent book by a British economist named Guy Standing, called, The Precariat:  The New Dangerous Class, which I finished reading before boarding a plane to London.

I’ll need to ask around and get a better feel for how widespread the sense of the precariat is in England, though my small sample indicates it’s in somewhat common usage among those people interested in some of the more disconcerting manifestations of globalization not only in Britain, but around the world.  Certainly Standing ramps it up a notch by linking this emerging precariat with street riots in London and other English cities in recent years reflecting the alienation and anger of young people who are increasingly futureless without long term and certain job prospects.

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Organizing Precarious Workers

Click here to listen to audio from Dissent’s Left Forum panel, “The New Dangerous Class? Perspectives on Organizing Precarious Labor.”

There has been a heated discussion on the left about “precarity.” The debate, often theoretical, has centered on whether the “precariat”—made up of contingent laborers, the under- and overemployed, freelancers, undocumented workers, and so forth—can be considered a new class, perhaps even the “revolutionary subject” of the twenty-first century. Meanwhile, in the realm of active politics, the Left perennially bemoans the decline of labor unions and the impossibility of a resurgent Left without finding a way to organize workers in the new economy.

The goal of the panel discussion we at Dissent co-hosted with Verso Books at Left Forum this year—“The New Dangerous Class? Perspectives on Organizing Precarious Labor”—was to bring these two issues together, drawing precarity out of the realm of theory and into practical politics. We wanted to see if the idea of precarity itself made sense: do adjunct faculty, domestic care workers, interns, guest workers, and graduate students really have enough in common to justify the umbrella term? And if so, what can this tell us about organizing workers to fight?

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Korean Hyundai Workers End Occupation Strike

by Paul Garver

UAW Rally for Korean Hyundai Workers

Ending a one month sit-in strike, subcontracted workers at Hyundai in Korea returned to work and began negotiations with the company. At the heart of the dispute are the workers’ demands for full union rights and to be recognized as permanent workers, in line with a July Korean Supreme Court decision.

Workers of an in-house subcontractor at the Ulsan factory of Hyundai Motor began the sit-in on November 15 after the closure of in-house subcontractor Dongsung Industries, and were supported by sympathy strike actions from subcontracted workers in three other Hyundai plants.
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