Labor

The Labor Prospect: Getting Sick of No Paid Sick Leave

The case for paid leave, domestic workers win minimum wage protecton, and the fight to grow union membership at McDonald's. 

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File In this Friday, Jan. 18 2013 file photo, activists hold signs during a rally at New York's City Hall to call for immediate action on paid sick days legislation in light of the continued spread of the flu. Welcome to The Labor Prospect, our weekly round-up highlighting the best reporting and latest developments in the labor movement. D espite an expanding patchwork of paid sick leave policies cropping up around the U.S., an In These Times investigation reminds us that this country is woefully behind the rest of the world in terms of such worker rights. Lacking any sort of basic safety net, nearly one-quarter of working mothers are back on the grind within just two weeks of giving birth, the report finds . As Sharon Lerner writes, “most Americans don’t realize quite how out of step we are. It’s not just wealthy, social democratic Nordic countries that make us look bad. With the exception of a few small countries like Papua New Guinea and Suriname, every...

The Labor Prospect: Why Jonah Peretti is Wrong on Unions

Buzzfeed's CEO doesn't like unions, the minimum wage fight hits the Deep South, and Amazon's cut-throat culture.  

Bodo Marks/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
Bodo Marks/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images The founder of BuzzFeed , Jonah Peretti, speaks at the conference 'Online Marketing Rockstars' in Hamburg, Germany, February 21, 2014. Welcome to The Labor Prospect, our weekly round-up highlighting the best reporting and latest developments in the labor movement. G ood news for labor: More and more Americans are recognizing that unions are a crucial component in the workplace, according to a new Gallup poll . Rising five percentage points since just last year, 58 percent of Americans approve of unions and slightly more want to increase (not lessen) the influence that unions wield. Organized labor’s image has greatly improved since its rock-bottom point in 2009 when just 48 percent of Americans approved of unions. Shattered Perceptions and Misconceptions Buzzfeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti, we think, is a little confused about unions and maybe a tad megalomaniacal. After a growing number of digital media companies have successfully...

Banking on More Than $15

An inside look at bank-teller organizing, the latest front in the fight for higher wages.

(Photo courtesy of the St. Paul Union Advocate)
(Photo courtesy of the St. Paul Union Advocate) Activists demonstrate outside a Wells Fargo building in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, this past spring. L ast week, Amalgamated Bank announced that under its latest contract, all of its bank workers will earn a starting wage of at least $15 an hour. “We think it’s the right thing for our bank to do, and frankly we think it’s the right thing for all banks to do,” Amalgamated CEO Keith Mestrich told Buzzfeed News . “If any industry in this country can afford to set a new minimum for its workers, it’s the banking industry.” Though it’s not surprising that the union-owned bank is upping its wages, the move reflects a growing push among labor advocates, community coalitions, and financial reformers to improve the working conditions for the employees on the frontlines of highly profitable banking operations—the bank tellers who process your deposits; the customer-service representatives who answer your questions on the phone; the personal...

The Labor Prospect: Summertime (Job) Blues

Death of the summer job, living wage politics, and why Black Lives Matter and Fight for 15 depend on each other. 

AP Photo/Alan Diaz
AP Photo/Alan Diaz In this photo taken Wednesday, June 10, 2015, Lashrundra Wilfork, right, helps her daughter, Nala Wilfork, fill out a job application at a job fair in Sunrise, Florida. Welcome to The Labor Prospect, our weekly round-up highlighting the best reporting and latest developments in the labor movement. O ver the past few decades, the vaunted “summer job” (the thing that would keep all these lazy college students from burying themselves in loan debt) has lost most of its purchasing power. For those with at least one foot in reality, this is not news. However, it may be surprising just how bad it has become. As NPR reports , in 1982 a college student with the maximum Pell Grant could pay for tuition by working 16 hours a week year-round (or a full-time job in the summer). Today, Pell Grant and wage levels lag behind the exorbitant cost of tuition—the same college student would have to work 35 hours a week year-round or more than 20 hours a day(!) at a low-wage summer job...

Boosting Low Pay

A look inside the Summer 2015 cover package on new fronts in the labor movement.  

AP Photo/Seth Wenig
AP Photo/Seth Wenig Protesters rally for higher pay in front of a McDonald's, Wednesday, April 15, 2015, in New York. W idening inequality in America has its roots in several trends but is driven primarily by unequal earnings. In this package of articles, five authors address the pressure on middle- and working-class income—and strategies for reversing the trend. In a highly original essay, Harold Meyerson assesses the chilling parallels between the role played by the slave South in both the 19th-century global economy and the U.S. political economy—and the similar, wage-depressing influence of the South today. Robots are one more threat to jobs and pay levels. As economist Jeffrey Sachs explains , automation in a laissez-faire economy indeed produces that result. However, with the right public policies, robots can relieve a lot of human toil and spread wealth and leisure. Three companion pieces focus on organizing. They explore the rise of unions in three key sectors, two of them...

The Inclusive Strength of #BlackLivesMatter

Why the fast-growing movement has been intertwined with labor, economic justice, immigration, and LGBT rights from the beginning.

(Photo: AP/Seth Wenig)
(Photo: Amanda Teuscher) Attendees to the Movement for Black Lives Convening that took place in Cleveland July 24-26 gather for a group photo on the final day of the conference. An estimated 1,200 organizers and activists participated in the meeting. I t would be tempting to say the timing was surreal, if it didn’t happen so often. Less than an hour after the close of last weekend’s conference of Black Lives Matter activists, attendees were pepper-sprayed by a Cleveland transit police officer while they were protesting the arrest of a 14-year-old boy. The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) Convening at Cleveland State University brought together more than 1,000 activists and organizers from across the U.S., and even from other countries. Nearly one year after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, the goal of the convening was to provide a space for the activists to mourn the loss of those killed by police, to show support for one another, to demonstrate pride in their community , and...

Federal Contract Workers Are Demanding a Big Raise. But Will They Get It?

The Fight for $15 comes to Washington. 

Good Jobs Now
Good Jobs Nation J ust outside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, hundreds of workers wearing blue shirts that said "Strike!" rallied for more pay. Leaders led chants in English and Spanish, from "Hey, hey, ho, ho, $10.10 is way too low," to " ¿ Que queremos? Quince y un uni ó n ." These workers were striking for a day against companies contracted by the federal government to ring up powerful politicians’ lunch orders in the Senate, clean offices in the Pentagon, and cook food at the Smithsonian museums. As the Fight for $15 has gained traction across the United States, workers—supported by a coalition of unions, labor advocates, and politicians—are saying that it’s time for the federal government to become a model employer. A cadre of progressive politicians, including Senator Bernie Sanders, also used the event to introduce legislation that calls for a national $15 minimum wage. But with legislative success along those lines unlikely, advocates are calling on President Obama to take...

Why Joining a Union is Good For Your Well-Being

New research suggests that workplace organizing is key to personal happiness and overall well-being. 

AP Photo/Matt Rourke
AP Photo/Matt Rourke A Protestor gestures as he demonstrates to push fast-food chains to pay their employees at least $15 an hour, outside during a march to a McDonald's restaurant Thursday, September 4, 2014, in Philadelphia. A merican labor unions are facing a political assault unparalleled since the New Deal, from the Trans-Pacific Partnership to “right-to-work,” to the attack on public sector unions at the state level. And there’s a good chance it’ll just get worse. Ahead of Scott Walker’s possible nomination in the race for 2016, Republicans in Congress are already floating the “ National Right to Work Act .” If passed it would create a legal environment more hostile to the rights of workers than in any industrial democracy. Any conceivable Republican president would certainly sign such a bill if it reached his or her desk. As is well known, these laws dramatically and purposely reduce workers' ability to collectively bargain. Already, half of American states are right-to-work. A...

Should Liberals Back Public Employee Unions?

The stakes in the new battle over unions have far-reaching implications.  

AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal, John Hart
AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal, John Hart Hundreds of labor union members and supporters gather for a rally to protest the collective bargaining measures of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's administration at the Wisconsin State Capitol Building in Madison, Wisconsin, Thursday, August 25, 2011. This article appears in the Summer 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . Government Against Itself: Public Union Power and Its Consequences By Daniel DiSalvo 304 pp. Oxford University Press $27.95 Bring Back the Bureaucrats: Why More Federal Workers Will Lead to Better (and Smaller!) Government By John J. DiIulio, Jr. 184 pp. Templeton Press $9.07 E arlier this year, Wisconsin Governor and GOP presidential aspirant Scott Walker answered a question about how he’d handle the Islamic State with the assurance that “if I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.” Many people ridiculed Walker’s equation of Islamist warriors with American supporters...

SCOTUS Comes Calling on Public Sector Unions

A case that could decimate public sector unions is now headed to the Supreme Court. 

AP Photo/Nick Ut
AP Photo/Nick Ut Service Employees International Union (SEIU) members protest for higher wages in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday, October 1, 2013. T he Supreme Court was dishing out win after win for liberals: Affordable Care Act subsidies upheld; same-sex marriage made the law of the land; a legal blow administered to the undemocratic process of gerrymandering. But through it all labor activists were holding their breaths as a case that could decimate public sector unions inched perilously toward the Supreme Court. Then late last month labor’s worst fears were realized when the Court announced that in its 2015-2016 session it will hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association , a case that centers on the constitutionality of so-called “agency fees,” which require non-members to pay fees related to union bargaining and member representation efforts. “This is a very significant case. It may well be life or death for the unions,” Harvard Law School professor Benjamin Sachs told...

With Gawker Successfully Unionized, Is Salon Next?

Just weeks after Gawker's announcement, Salon staffers announce plans to unionize. 

Everett Historical/Shutterstock
Everett Historical/Shutterstock T he editorial staff for Salon Media, a progressive news and analysis outlet, unanimously announced in a letter today that they intend to unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East. “Every single one of the editorial employees at Salon supports unionizing with the Writers Guild of America, East, and today we’re asking the management of Salon to recognize our union,” the letter states. “We are doing this because we believe in our publication and want it to be successful. We’re especially proud to work for a media organization that has championed progressive values for nearly 20 years. We believe this organizing campaign is a positive and public way for us to put those values into practice, right here at home.” The announcement comes just weeks after 100 editorial staffers at Gawker Media successfully voted to unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE), notably with the support of management . It appears that Salon staffers—26 in total—...

Why Labor Law Should Stop Leaning So Hard on the Wagner Act

As the National Labor Relations Act turns 80, we should remember what the law was designed to do—and what it wasn't. 

AP Photo/Mike Groll
AP Photo/Mike Groll A fast-food worker raises her fist during a rally for a $15 an hour wage at the Empire State Plaza Concourse, Wednesday, April 15, 2015, in Albany, New York. T he Wagner Act turns 80 this week and it’s about time that we lessen the old man’s load. For too long, this legislation that was meant to encourage workplace democracy has actually shouldered much of the burden of our nation’s employer-centered social welfare state. It’s high time to get citizens’ health care, pensions and even guaranteed basic wages off its back, and to allow the Wagner Act to do its job: giving workers in the U.S. a real voice on the job. Signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on July 5, 1935, the Wagner Act (or National Labor Relations Act) marked the first time private-sector workers in the U.S gained permanent federal backing for organizing unions. Under the Wagner Act, if the government certified that the workers had a union—usually through a union election—then their...

First Gawker, Now Salon Staffers Announce Plan to Unionize

The union drives may signal a turning point for digital media. 

Everett Historical/Shutterstock
Everett Historical/Shutterstock T he editorial staff for Salon Media, a progressive news and analysis outlet, unanimously announced in a letter today that they intend to unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East. “Every single one of the editorial employees at Salon supports unionizing with the Writers Guild of America, East, and today we’re asking the management of Salon to recognize our union,” the letter states. “We are doing this because we believe in our publication and want it to be successful. We’re especially proud to work for a media organization that has championed progressive values for nearly 20 years. We believe this organizing campaign is a positive and public way for us to put those values into practice, right here at home.” The announcement comes just weeks after 100 editorial staffers at Gawker Media successfully voted to unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE), notably with the support of management . It appears that Salon staffers—26 in total—...

Will the New Federal Overtime Protections Apply to You?

The Labor Department just announced that millions of Americans will now be eligible for overtime protection for the first time. 

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais In this June 26, 2015, photo, President Barack Obama speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. Editor’s note: In 2013, Economic Policy Institute vice-president Ross Eisenbrey co-authored with economist Jared Bernstein a paper that first proposed expanding the eligibility of workers for overtime pay. Yesterday’s Labor Department ruling closely follows their proposal. T he overtime rules the Department of Labor announced yesterday are hugely important. They would restore in one action most of the overtime protections that have been lost over the past four decades through neglect and hostile regulatory changes, and prevent them from ever eroding again. Altogether, 15 million salaried workers would gain the right to time-and-a-half overtime pay or have their existing rights strengthened. Since the New Deal, the law has protected workers from being forced to work overtime without getting paid for it. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938...

Are the Dems Being Sucker-Punched on Trade?

With TPP on the ropes, passage hinges on a paltry worker assistance program. 

Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/AP Images
Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/AP Images House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi conducts her weekly news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center, June 4, 2015. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . T hanks to a last-minute deal last Thursday between President Obama and the Republican leadership in Congress, the fast-track bill is still alive. Its passage depends on whether a handful of Senate Democrats can be persuaded to go along. Quick recap: The trade negotiating authority that Obama needs to complete his cherished Trans-Pacific Partnership has been linked to passage of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). The House at first voted down assistance in order to kill the whole deal, but then Republicans promised a separate vote on adjustment assistance; and so the House on Thursday narrowly approved fast track, 218-208, with 28 Democrats in support. Now the Senate has to concur. Back in May, when the Senate voted for the package that was rejected by the House, 14...

Pages