With the dog days of summer upon us, we’re bringing back our news roundup to check in on what’s been happening in labor, in our cities and in our wild and changing world:
- The Fight for Fifteen held a national convention last weekend. It’s been a remarkable four years: from New York to the nation; from fast food to a diversity of sectors. And the wins just keep on coming. Looks like organizing might just work after all. Meanwhile, Fight for 15 organizers are turning on their primary funder, SEIU, which, according to some, doesn’t pay its own organizers $15/hr.
- On the heels of investigations revealing the inhumane conditions in private prisons, the Justice Department is closing all federal private prisons. All…13 of them. An important first step, but hardly a solution to the widespread problem of mass incarceration.
- Donald Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort resigns amid investigations into his pro-Russian lobbying in the Ukraine.
- Gawker.com, whose staffers were the first digital newsroom to unionize and successfully bargain a contract earlier this year, will be shuttering its doors following a devastating lawsuit waged by Terry Bollea (aka Hulk Hogan) and secretly backed by billionaire Peter Thiel. Gawker Media is being bought by Univision for $135m, but the flagship site — known for incisive political commentary and no-holds-barred investigations — will be shutting down at the end of next week. Once a gossip site for the NYC media landscape, over the years, Gawker.com became one of the last and most beloved/hated bastions of real journalism on the web, covering social movements and politics and fearlessly taking on power. Lots of swan songs being sung on this particularly sad day for independent journalism.
- What happens when you don’t pay your workers? Well, sometimes they don’t show up: a lesson learned by the International Olympic Committee in the lead up to this year’s games in Rio. Relying in 50,000 unpaid volunteers to produce the games, organizers saw an “average attendance rate of just over 70 percent.”
- Berkeley issued a historic wage theft ordinance after 21 construction workers found themselves unpaid following 5 months of work. The measure adds new conditions to contractors seeking permits, mandating that they outline their capacity to pay workers and subjecting them to periodic audits.
- Speaking of wage theft: Alex Rosenblat, fellow at Data & Society here in New York City, studies and writes about how the design of Uber facilitates it.
- Is Rite Aid management attempting to weaken its workers’ bargaining power while withholding health benefits? That’s what employees are saying.
- Who’s got the power when it comes to housing development in New York City? Inwood residents and housing advocates voiced opposition to the Sherman Plaza affordable housing project, arguing that it wouldn’t be affordable enough. They made an impression of City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who ultimately voted the project down — sending Mayor Bill de Blasio back to the drawing board on building more affordable housing in the northern Manhattan community.
- This week marked the 60th anniversary of the Federal Highway Act of 1956, which charted a defining course for this country and its cities, contributing to the defunding of public transportation networks and facilitating the decades-long suburbanization that reshaped the American landscape. End-of-summer road trip, anyone?
Photo by Andy Miah via flickr (CC-BY-NC)
The Pope is in NYC, offering a takedown of “exclusion and inequality” while also jamming up traffic. A skilled practitioner in the art of direct action? You decide. In other news:
- John Boehner resigns from his congressional seat and position as Speaker of the House. (via The Nation)
- Pharmacy workers at a Target store in Brooklyn have voted to form a “microunion” — making it the first unionized store in Target’s history. Just a day later, the retailer announced a “plan to develop automation systems and replace workers with robots in their retail locations.”
- Activists in NYC and beyond demonstrated to mark the 4th anniversary of Occupy Wall Street — and to continue the fight for social and economic justice.
- Meanwhile, prominent human rights activists in Uzbekistan have been beaten and detained for documenting forced labor in the country’s cotton fields. (via HRW.org)
- New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo named Roberta Reardon, former official with the AFL-CIO, as the new Labor Commissioner. (via CapitalNewYork.com)
- Also in New York State, “recent investigations to protect exploited workers […] have led to nearly $3.3 million in back wages, damages and settlements for 800 workers.” (via LaborPress.org)
- The California waste workers at the center of the NLRB’s joint employer ruling have voted by more than a 4-1 margin to join the Teamsters Union. (via Teamster.org)
- The struggle continues: more class action complaints have come in regarding the treatment of workers in the on-demand economy, this time at food delivery companies DoorDash and GrubHub in California state court. (via Wired)
- Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) relaunched last week. A minor schism has appeared between the alt-labor organizing effort and the United Food and Commercial Workers, the original backers of the drive — marking an interesting (if confusing) development in the fight.
Photo by Roadsidepictures via flickr (CC-BY-NC)
No matter where they might fall on the political spectrum, it seems like everyone’s got something to say about the presidential candidates — and it’s only August. And in the space of it — in no small part due to the tactics of some #BlackLivesMatter activists — people are talking about racial justice. Here’s some of what’s been happening in progressive circles and beyond:
- #BlackLivesMatter activists disrupted a Bernie Sanders rally in Seattle, setting off a progressive firestorm, question of allyship and tactics, and more. Dara Lind gives a good summary of the way it’s all shaken out over at Vox. The upshot, at least in the short-term? The Bernie Sanders campaign has released a racial justice platform.
- Since then, Sanders has pulled ahead of Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire polls. Meanwhile, the National Nurses Union became the first trade union to endorse Sanders.
- The one year anniversary of Mike Brown’s murder by a white police officer in Ferguson, MO came the past week, and with it, demonstrations and arrests — including the arrest of Cornel West — over a “weekend of resistance” to the ongoing assault on black lives in the United States.
- Meanwhile, California has banned secret juries and affirmed the right to film police (via DemocracyNow!)
- More coverage of the toll that unpredictable schedules is taking on the lives of workers, this time in the form of a NYTimes editorial by Teresa Tritch. A choice excerpt: “being on-call, even when one is not called, decreases an employee’s well-being and increases the need for “recovery,” (read: sleep and time off).” Meanwhile, Sabri Ben-Achour at Marketplace.org asks: Will last-minute work soon be history?
- Academic freedom may soon be a memory in the state of Wisconsin, thanks to new policies pushed forward by Gov. Scott Walker and the Wisconsin State Legislature (via the Guardian).
- 4000 workers have gone on an indefinite strike at a GM plant in Brazil in the face of ongoing layoffs (via LaborNotes)
- Verizon contract negotiations continue, with Verizon East contract workers rallying up and down the coast. Meanwhile, AT&T faces a possible strike thanks to the expiration of a contract covering 23,000 of its union workers.
- Ever wonder how Amazon continues to offer those low prices, that quick delivery, that effortless consumer experience? David Golumbia wrote a piece (The Amazonization of Everything) for Jacobin explaining who pays and how.
- In NYC yesterday, protesters demonstrated outside of the offices of Paulson & Co in response to Puerto Rico’s fiscal problems and those who appear to be profiting off of them.
July flies by, swirls of activity and here we are: the fight for fifteen changing the landscape for low-wage workers across the country, while the deaths of Sandra Bland and Samuel Dubose make it clear that #blacklivesmatter remains as pressing as ever.
- Greenpeace activists in Portland, Oregon suspended themselves from the St. John’s Bridge to obstruct a Shell icebreaking trip en route to the Arctic. After forcing the ship to turn around yesterday, today the activists were removed by law enforcement officers. (via DemocracyNow!)
- The NYTimes featured a long-ish read by Ian Urbina on “sea slaves,” workers from Cambodia and Myanmar sold into forced labor on fishing boats, fueled by “lax maritime labor laws and an insatiable global demand for seafood.” A horrifying and eye-opening article.
- Teamsters labor organizers are holding a vote to unionize Google Express, the low-wage workers who power the online empire’s shopping service (via MotherJones)
- The Guardian US became yet another media outlet to successfully unionize, when the newsroom staffers voted unanimously on Wednesday to unionize (via HuffPost)
- Chicago unions won a court ruling stating that pension cuts are unconstitutional
- Last week, 1000+ protesters headed to San Diego to demonstrate against the annual meeting of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Committee, “a conservative nonprofit organization known for drafting and sharing legislation amongst politicians, thus facilitating the collusion between corporations and government” (via WagingNonviolence)
- How can the labor movement support police unions in a time of police brutality and oppressive injustice, particularly against communities of color? According to Shawn Jude at Jacobin, we can’t.
- Trying to make sense of the New York State wage panel’s minimum wage proposal? Here’s an explainer, courtesy of the New York Times.
Photo by Twelvizm via flickr (CC-BY-ND).
Happy hot, hot Friday. The world continues to turn — a promising week on the civil rights front, a high-intensity time on the geopolitical stage. Here’s what you might have missed:
- South Carolina takes the confederate flag down from its state house. #finally. Check out Wanda Williams-Bailey, Strom Thurmond’s granddaughter — an interracial woman — talk about the decision on Democracy Now.
- In somewhat related news, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the appointment of the Attorney General as a special prosecutor in all cases involving unarmed or potentially unarmed civilians killed by the police — a welcome step in the right direction. (via CNN)
- The Obama administration is set to release new regulations on segregation “designed to repair the law’s unfulfilled promise and promote the kind of racially integrated neighborhoods that have long eluded deeply segregated cities like Chicago and Baltimore” (via Washington Post)
- Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association will be tried before the Supreme Court next term, which starts in October. Learn more about the potential effects on public sector unionism at SCOTUSblog.
- In the face of civil rights advances for same-sex couples, the culture appears to be shifting to final discussing the plight of transgender individuals. The NYTimes ran a feature this week highlighting some of their stories. Read about Joni Christian, a union member and transgender woman.
- London Underground employees went on strike yesterday for the first time in 13 years.
- After a resounding “No” vote by Greeks to the last deal on the table with Greece’s creditors, PM Alexis Tsipras has surprised many by offering a deal with similarly harsh austerity measures.
- Rumors have it that the US State Department is reclassifying Malaysia’s status as a human rights violator in order to allow the Southeast Asian country to remain in TPP negotiations. If true, it would mean that human rights violations are “being trumped by corporate trade.”
Photo by Will Spaetzel via flickr (CC-BY-NC-SA).
What a couple of weeks. Civil rights tragedies and victories, both. Marriage equality, a supreme court upholding of the Affordable Care Act, direct action against the confederate flag. In the wake of the South Carolina tragedy, we want to celebrate and mourn, both. And yet, we can’t help sense the march of progress moving inexorably forward. In brief:
- Tired of waiting for the South Carolina State Representatives to get with the program, activist Bree Newsome (she of #freebree) took direct action by climbing the flag pole in front of the State House to take the confederate flag down.
- The Supreme Court’s been an active one. In addition to same-sex marriage becoming the law of the land, sections of the Affordable Care Act have been further upheld. In less uplifting news, the EPA’s limits on power plant emissions were deemed to be in violation of the Clean Air Act, and states have been given latitude to use questionable drugs in executions. Still coming up: Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a high-stakes case that could transform public sector unions for the worse.
- Over at Al Jazeera, Amy B. Dean draws connections between the labor movement and #BlackLivesMatter, asking: Is the fight for $15 the next civil rights movement?
- Despite earlier setbacks and a strong opposition, after a 60-38 Senate vote in favor of the TPA, President Obama signed the bill into law — granting himself fast track authority to negotiate the forthcoming (and persistently opaque) Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
- In These Times ran an interview by David Moberg of exiting CWA President Larry Cohen about the past and future of the labor movement. According to Cohen, “If labor is going to be just a group of unions with different strategies, it’s not going to be a movement. We need to be organizing other people.”
- In a welcome act of common sense and dignity, New York City is banning “poor doors” — that is, developers will no longer be allowed to built separate entrances for rich and poor tenants in buildings constructed using tax breaks granted in exchange for low-income units.
- Janitors from eight companies across the Twin Cities, representing 50 retail locations, participated in a one-day strike on July 1st, raising the profile of organizing efforts within the difficult-to-organize cleaning sector.
- NYC is set to receive expanded wi-fi coverage with the arrival of LinkNYC, which will turn converted pay phones into wireless hubs. Three cheers for digital access and connectivity! The downside? This means the arrival of “tall, thin pillars with digital tablet interfaces and large ads slapped on the sides.” So long to the psychic environment. We hardly knew ye.
- It’s anybody’s guess what’s going to happen in Greece and Puerto Rico in the face of un-payable national debts. Stay tuned.
Photo by Robert Couse-Baker via flickr (CC-BY).