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)
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.
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).
Unions. What can we say — we love ‘em. And if recent news is any indication, the future’s looking (mostly) bright. Some developments from the past couple weeks…
- The Trans-Pacific Partnership was significantly set back in Congress as the House of Representative voted down fast-track authority (via Washington Post). Russell Berman over at the Atlantic credits none other than the American labor movement.
- Gawker Media became the first digital media company to be unionized (via CBS News)
- Contingent faculty members at Barnard have moved to organize (via Columbia Spectator)
- About 1,300 low-wage workers gathered in Detroit to celebrate minimum-wage hikes (via Al Jazeera)
- On Wednesday, the NYC City Council passed the Fair Chance Act, blocking private companies with 4+ employees from discriminating against applicants based on arrest or criminal record (via Colorlines)
- Internal training materials from Walmart reveal an unfortunately not-so-shocking anti-union bias. Steven Greenhouse describes in detail over at The Atlantic. (“How Walmart Persuades Its Workers Not to Unionize”)
Photo by Mike Mozart via flickr (CC-BY).
Happy Friday! Each week, we come across interesting articles and stories around labor, community, and struggles for equity and justice in our changing world. Here’s a sampling of what we’ve found and liked on the world wide web in recent days:
- Over at Al Jazeera, Sarah Jaffe writes about the growing cooperative movement in New York City and beyond. (Can worker cooperatives alleviate income inequality?) Roots the present moment in the larger history of cooperative. Lots of exciting work brewing for the future.
- On Shareable, Nathan Schneider has been writing about how the so-called sharing economy might be disrupted by projects that are actually user-owned. Last month, he wrote a great piece called Owning is the New Sharing about projects that are trying to combine the ease of peer-to-peer sharing platforms with ownership structures that are decentralized and autonomous. This week, he interviewed founders of La’Zooz: The Decentralized, Crypto-Alternative to Uber.
- At the Washington Post today, Lydia DePillis describes organizing efforts at Politico — which, if successful, would be the first organizing campaign to successfully get off the ground at a major new media company. (Why Internet journalists don’t organize)
- Last week, the battle for fair wages and labor standards for fast food workers took on a new dimension, as a group of McDonald’s workers in Virgina filed suit against the company for alleged racial and sexual harassment in its stores. At stake is whether McDonald’s could be held jointly liable for the actions of its franchise operators, per the NLRB decision from this past June. Read more at Gawker.