Hey, Walmart, Want to Fix Those Sales Problems? Why Not Invest in Workers?

An internal memo, recently leaked by a Walmart manager, urged store managers to improve lagging sales, primarily through addressing problems with understocked shelves and with keeping fresh meat, dairy and produce stocked and aging or expired items off the shelves. Such complaints are widespread at Walmart stores and are likely a significant factor in the company’s sales, which have lagged for 18 months. While the memo catalogs problems the company faces, it ignores the two most obvious solutions—giving workers adequate hours and paying those workers the $15 living wage they’ve been calling for.

Janet Sparks, a member of the OUR Walmart campaign seeking to improve wages and working conditions, said that substantial staffing cuts that began in 2010 are a big part of the problem: “Understaffing, from the sales floor to the front end, has greatly affected the store.”

Retail consultant Burt P. Flickinger III echoed Sparks’ comments:

Labor hours have been cut so thin, that they don’t have the people to do many activities. The fact that they don’t do some of these things every day, every shift, shows what a complete breakdown Walmart has in staffing and training.

Want to stand with Walmart workers? Get involved at blackfridayprotests.org.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Kentucky Voters Turn Back Republicans’ Right to Work Push

Rep. Gerald Watkins, USW Local 550 photo.

You have to look pretty hard to find something for unions to celebrate after the election.

But take a gander at the Bluegrass State beyond its much-publicized and hotly contested U.S. Senate race, and you’ll see where anti-union Republicans failed, big time.

The Kentucky GOP very publicly promised to put the Bluegrass State in the “right to work” column if they flipped the Democratic-majority state House of Representatives. The Republicans came up short.

While Mitch McConnell beat labor-endorsed Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in the U.S. Senate battle, the state House is still Democratic and by the same 54–46 pre-election margin.

Of course, McConnell v. Grimes grabbed the lion’s share of media attention nationally and statewide. Even so, the House results are good news for unions in an otherwise generally disappointing election.

With the Democrats holding onto the House, Kentucky will remain the only non-right to work state in the South. Jeff Wiggins, president of the Paducah-based Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council, said:

The outcome of the House races was huge for us. All that stands between us and a right to work law is that Democratic House.

The state Senate has a right to work Republican majority. Gov. Steve Beshear, a union-backed Democrat, would almost certainly veto a right to work bill. But in Kentucky, a simple majority of both houses of the legislature overrides a governor’s veto.

The House Republican candidates united to make right to work one of their top issues. Rep. Jeff Hoover, the House minority leader, stumped the state for right to work, posing for TV and newspaper cameras with local Republican candidates in tow.

A slew of GOP radio, TV and print ads touted a right to work law. The Republicans maintained such a measure would lead to dozens of companies and thousands of good jobs coming to Kentucky.

Paducah Plumbers and Steamfitters (UA) Local 184 challenged the Republicans on some of their turf, the GOP-friendly, anti-union Paducah Sun. The newspaper endorsed McConnell. Even so, Local 184 took out a full page in the paper debunking Republican claims about right to work.

State Rep. Gerald Watkins of Paducah was one of the victorious labor-endorsed Democrats. “The ad was great and strong union support really helped me,” said Watkins, one of the pro-union incumbents the GOP targeted for defeat.

Wiggins, who is also president of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9447, said a Republican majority legislature wouldn’t have stopped with a right to work law.

They would have repealed our prevailing wage law, too. We’d have ended up working for less money, and our workplaces would have become less safe. The Republicans would have turned back the clock to the time of no unions and the company store.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Migrant Workers ‘Shouldn’t Have to Be Tortured to Have Work’

Three times each month, dozens of women gather in dusty courtyards in rural towns in Manikganj, Dinazpur or other districts across Bangladesh to learn all they can about the only means by which they can support their families: migrating to another country for work.

In leading these information sessions, the Bangladesh Migrant Women’s Organization (BOMSA) seeks to assist women in understanding their rights—from what they should demand of those who facilitate their migration, to the wage and working conditions at the homes in Gulf and Asian countries where they will be employed as domestic workers.

“What I want for these women is that they are safe, they get their wages,” says Sheikh Rumana, BOMSA general secretary. Rumana founded the organization in 1998 with other women who worked with her for years in Malaysian garment factories. Before she migrated for work in Malaysia, Rumana was promised a good salary at an electronics plant. But when she arrived, she was put to work at a plant making jackets and paid pennies for each piece she sewed.

The gap between the promise and reality of migrating for work overseas is the focus of migrant worker activists across Asia. This month, Rumana and seven other migrant worker activists from Bangladesh, India and the Maldives are traveling across the United States as part of a Solidarity Center exchange program supported by the U.S. State Department. The group is meeting with U.S. activists working on labor rights, migrant rights and anti-human trafficking issues in Washington, D.C., New York and Los Angeles to discuss best practices to promote safe migration and share ideas for raising awareness about the risks of migrating for work.

Like BOMSA, the Welfare Association for the Rights of Bangladeshi Emigrants Development Foundation (WARBE-DF) assists those seeking to migrate, provides support for workers overseas and assists them upon their return. The organization also has successfully pushed the Bangladeshi government to ratify the United Nations (UN) convention on the protection of migrant workers and is campaigning for passage of the International Labor Organization convention covering decent work for domestic workers, says Jasiya Khatoon, WARBE-DF program coordinator and AFL-CIO Solidarity Center exchange participant.

“Lack of job opportunities” is what drives millions of Bangladeshis out of their country in search of work, Khatoon says. Some 8.5 million Bangladeshis are working in more than 150 countries, according to 2013 government statistics.

Many workers migrating from Bangladesh and elsewhere are first trafficked through another country—where a lack of proper documentation may result in their arrest. In Mumbai, India, a transit point for many migrants, human rights lawyer Gayatri Jitendra Singh works both to assist imprisoned migrant workers and to change the country’s laws so that, rather than penalizing migrant workers, the laws recognize the culpability of traffickers and corrupt labor brokers.

Singh, a former union organizer, and other migrant advocates, point to the actions of labor brokers as the biggest underlying problem in the migration process. Many labor brokers charge such exorbitant fees for securing work that migrant workers cannot repay them even after years on the job, essentially rendering them indentured workers. They remain trapped, often forced to remain in dangerous working conditions because their debt is too great. Unscrupulous brokers also lie about the wages and working conditions workers should expect in a destination country, the migrant advocates say.

Singh and the other migrant advocates came to the United States filled with fresh stories about the suffering of migrant workers and their families: a Bangladeshi domestic worker in Jordan and another in Lebanon who had just returned to Bangladesh, still suffering the effects of nightly sexual abuse by their employers; the family of an Indian construction worker who died in Qatar and is unable to pay for the return of his body; the 12-year-old Bangladeshi girl whose passport cites her age as 25 so she can migrate overseas to support her family because her father is ill.

Bangladeshis “wouldn’t go if there were jobs in their country,” says Rumana. But faced with grinding poverty and no chance for decent work in Bangladesh, they uproot their lives to make a living. But as long as they do, Rumana says, they “shouldn’t have to be tortured to have work.”

This post originally appeared on the Solidarity Center website.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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6 Reasons Why Bob Beauprez Is One of the Worst Candidates for Working Families in the 2014 Elections

It’s an election year and we are quickly approaching the time when working families will have the opportunity to go to the polls and vote against a whole host of extreme candidates who support policies that limit rights, make it even harder to afford a middle-class life and pad the pockets of their corporate buddies. One of the “Worst Candidates for Working Families in the 2014 Elections” is Bob Beauprez, who is running for governor in Colorado.

1. Beauprez supported legislation that deregulated financial systems, one of the major causes of the 2008 financial crisis that hit Colorado families so hard. [H.R. 2061, introduced 5/3/05; The Denver Post, 6/11/06]

2. He voted for laws to weaken consumer protections. [H.R. 2061, introduced 5/3/05; The Denver Post, 6/11/06]

3. He also voted for laws reducing the supervision of bankers and co-sponsored more than 100 pieces of legislation on taxation and banking that benefited Wall Street at the expense of working families. [H.R. 2061, introduced 5/3/05; The Denver Post, 6/11/06; Library of Congress, accessed 7/30/14]

4. Beauprez voted to enrich his Wall Street friends and even tried to reduce oversight on the bank where he made his $400 million fortune. [Library of Congress, accessed 7/30/14; H.R. 2061, introduced 5/3/05; The Denver Post, 6/11/06]

5. On taxes, Beauprez is even worse, having voted in favor of $774 billion in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans while trying to make working families pay a 23% tax on everything they buy. [H.R. 5638, Vote 316, 6/2/06; The Denver Post, 10/7/06]

6. At the extreme right-wing sight Townhall.com, Beauprez endorsed “right to work” legislation that does nothing but strip rights from workers, and he was a keynote speaker at a right to work convention in New Orleans. [Townhall.com, 7/14/12]

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Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Maine Gov. Paul LePage Afraid to Debate Steelworker Mike Michaud

Apparently Maine Gov. Paul LePage (you know, the guy who previously removed the labor mural from the Maine Department of Labor and said the state’s child labor laws were too burdensome for business) has indicated he will not debate his challenger in this election, United Steelworkers member Mike Michaud.

The Maine AFL-CIO reacted to LePage’s duck:

“Paul LePage has spent four years advocating for policies that harm working people, and now he won’t even face them in person,” said Matt Schlobohm, executive director of the Maine AFL-CIO. “No matter how many debates LePage ducks, there will be no hiding from his failed, divisive record of putting special interests and billionaire funders before working-class Mainers.”

Check out “6 Reasons Union Member Mike Michaud Is a Candidate Who Cares About Working Families.”

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Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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At First, These Images Look Like A Bunch Of Lazy Workers. But Then, You See They’re Actually Heroes

The 1936 sit down strike at GM’s Flint, Mich., plant was a pivotal event in the establishment of workers’ rights and power in the United States and the growth of theUAWThis installment of Upworthy’s mini-series on labor history examines the strike that it calls a turning point and game changer for workers and their unions. Read it here.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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N.Y. Bike Share Workers Join Transport Workers

TWU photo

Next to food trucks, one of the fastest growing trends in cities across the country is bike sharing, with racks of bicycles for rent by the hour or longer positioned around town for easy pick up and drop off. But it takes dozens and sometimes hundreds of workers to make bike-sharing operations run smoothly. On Tuesday, the more than 200 workers in New York City’s Citi Bike program chose the Transport Workers (TWU) to help make their jobs run more smoothly, too.

The bicycle mechanics, dispatchers, call center operators and technicians began their organizing drive for better wages, regular schedules and a voice on the job with TWU Local 100. The support throughout the workforce was so strong, Citi Bike voluntarily recognized their choice of Local 100 as the workers’ representative.

The union represents bus and subway workers in the city, and Local 100 President John Samuelsen said:

We view bike sharing as another important mode of public transit. We fully intend to throw our energy and political support behind expanding these bike-sharing systems and ensuring they are designed in a way to support existing transportation networks.

He also said that contract bargaining will focus on “advancing the livelihoods of bike share workers” and added that bike share workers in several other cities are seeking union representation.

The New York victory, said Citi Bike worker Dolly Winter, “feels great, very empowering.”

In related news, last week the 550 call takers and reservation agents at Global Contact Services in Queens, N.Y., who schedule paratransit services for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, voted to join Local 100. Read more here.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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After 11 Years, CNN Techs Finally Get Justice

Photo courtesy Gregor Smith on Flickr

After 11 years, technicians working for a CNN subcontractor have received justice after the company initiated what Communications Workers of America called a “phony reorganization scheme to get rid of unionized workers.” The National Labor Relations Board found overwhelming evidence that the news channel engaged in anti-union activity and that CNN was a joint employer of the technicians and subcontractor. CNN was ordered to rehire about 100 workers and compensate 200 others, with the total CNN has to pay expected to be tens of millions of dollars. Additionally, the channel is required to restore any bargaining unit work outsourced since previous contracts ended, recognize the employees’ union, and begin bargaining with the two National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians locals that represent the workers.

In December 2003, CNN terminated its relationship with subcontractor Team Video Services, whose workers were represented by NABET-CWA in Washington, D.C., and New York City. The union filed unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB. In 2008, a judge ruled against CNN, but the channel appealed the ruling and challenged the NLRB’s legal authority in the case. The delays lasted until this year. During that time, many of the workers lost their homes, went bankrupt and struggled to pay medical bills. A number of them have passed away.

NABET-CWA President Jim Joyce said the union’s members were grateful for the decision:

These workers have waited far too long for this measure of justice to finally be delivered and have suffered far too much as the result of these unlawful activities. CNN should finally do the right thing now and immediately comply with the orders of the National Labor Relations Board issued today.

Tyrone Riggs, one of the workers who lost his job in 2003, echoed those sentiments:

Today is a good day to stand up straight. I never gave up hope. I never wavered. I knew justice would prevail.

CWA President Larry Cohen added:

All of us in CWA should be proud of our work and the coalition that helped support Senate confirmation of the NLRB members in July 2013. Without a functioning NLRB, this decision would never have been possible. But today belongs to the 300 technicians and their families, and our hearts and minds are with them.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Study Takes Down T-Mobile’s ‘Facade of Good Behavior’ Toward Workers

If you looked at the list of awards T-Mobile has received over the past few years as a “Top Workplace,” “Best Place to Work,” “Best Employer,” etc., you might be knocking on the door to apply for a job—despite the history of National Labor Relations Board complaints against T-Mobile for its alleged mistreatment of workers.

University of Massachusetts sociology professor Tom Juravich and graduate student Essie Ablavsky decided to take a closer look at the accolades T-Mobile touts as proof it is a top-flight employer and found that the awards are as phony as T-Mobile’s claims.

The study, “The Corporate Rating Sham: The Case of T-Mobile,” found that the majority of corporate recognition contests are based on self-nomination and self-reported data with little independent verification. The programs often lack transparency in terms of the criteria used for evaluation, resulting in the inclusion of questionable employers, and many of the firms conducting national evaluations also provide consulting services to the same companies they are supposed to be rating. According to the report:

Rather than evaluating actual company performance, the ratings are a better indicator of a company’s allocations of resources to win awards and its work to create a facade of good behavior.

Juravich and Ablavsky say that at the same time T-Mobile was named one of the “World’s Most Ethical Companies” by one corporate ratings organization, a highly respected independent analyst gave T-Mobile a CCC rating, the lowest score possible.

As the National Consumers League (NCL) points out, T-Mobile has drawn the attention of concerned observers—members of Congress, investors, progressive organizations—for its treatment of workers, “ranging from overbearing and disrespectful management styles, to suppression of workers’ rights.” Says NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

T-Mobile is a good demonstration of what is wrong with corporate recognition awards. The company’s well-known problematic labor practices put these ‘best of’ awards in doubt. A company’s treatment of workers must be a key factor in any ratings process, and awards for quality must not be allowed to mask abusive workplace policies.

T-Mobile workers at call centers and retail stores across the country have been fighting for a voice on the job and respect at work for several years. They say they have faced an extensive anti-union campaign by the company that in 2012 closed seven call centers in the United States and shipped more than 3,300 jobs overseas.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) and ver.di, which represents workers at T-Mobile’s parent company Deutsche Telekom, are working to help T-Mobile workers get the union representation they want. Find out more at TMobileWorkersUnited.

Click here to hear from workers about what it’s really like to work at T-Mobile.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Meet the Women Workers Who Make All Other Work Possible

Domestic workers are essential to the global economy. They care for children, the elderly and people who need extra help around the house so that family members can leave the house and go to work. Unfortunately, as Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, points out, many domestic workers, while caring for our families, do not earn enough to provide for their own.

Domestic workers in the United States and across the world are organizing for living wages, better working conditions and a bill of workers’ rights, which has passed in four states.

Poo recently has been named a MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant recipient. Read her NBC News interview hereand check out the video in the post.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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