Laura Clawson of Daily Kos helps us plan our holiday cook outs by presenting food that is produced by union labor. Her shopping list includes many large brand names, which should be easy to find. I would add to this list that we should try to shop at stores that have union employees - not an easy task.
Common Dreams features John Nichols of the Nation who links labor rights to human rights. What is he talking about? Primarily that workers should be allowed the protection common in any democracy: freedom of speech and association. Representative Keith Ellison and John Lewis are sponsoring the Employee Empowerment Act to help workers organize without retaliation. The problem in our current political culture is that this bill has no immediate chance of being debated much less passed into law.
Non-union workers at Market Basket won a battle when their strikes led to the reinstatement of a CEO they respect. However, this victory does not lead to any secure future for the workers. If the CEO they fought for decides to turn on them, they have no recourse in the form of a contract or collective rights. As Kate Aronoff notes, it is a victory, especially in demonstrating the power of any group of workers when they can join together to demand better working conditions.
Finally, Al Jazeera America’s Gregg Levine considers the holiday in light of the Pullman Strike and the recent Market Basket labor victory. He reminds us the President Grover Cleveland first declared Labor Day a holiday during the Pullman Strike. As he concludes, politicians once feared the American working class. Maybe the time is coming when labor will again have that power.
Have a happy Labor Day. Take a minute to think about what we have as working people, what we have lost, and – most importantly – what we should fight for in the future.
Nurses who work for Sutter hospitals and nursing facility have fought and won concessions from management. However, it took 9 strikes and public pressure for them to move a company that was not above spreading falsehoods to hold back workers. As Rose Ann DeMoro reports in Common Dreams, the company also tried to intimidate workers through pay and benefit cuts. The nurses hung together, and they won, which is a good lesson for workers across the country and throughout the world.
Is a big change coming? Fast food workers struck today in 60 cities. They are calling for a raise from wages as low as $7.25-$8 per hour to $15, a living wage. While the issue most often cited in the media is hourly pay rate, workers are also protesting work schedules that vary in hours per week. Most importantly, they are calling for the right to join together in a union, just as the super rich join together to achieve their interests in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or ALEC.
Is their request for $15 an hour unrealistic? Writing in Daily Kos, Laura Clawson points out that the minimum wage in 1963 was $2 per hour. Adjusted for inflation, that wage now would range between $13.39-$15.27. Over the last 30 years, the poorest working people have worked hard with less security while falling farther behind. Three cheers to the fast food workers for standing up. May many more low wage workers stand up and demand what is right.
Fast food workers stuck in 7 cities across the U.S. today. Common Dreams reports that this could be the biggest strike of its kind ever to take place. Workers, many of whom are only making the minimum hourly wage of $7.25, are calling for a living wage of $15 per hour. At first, it sounds shocking that anyone would ask to have their wages doubled. However, it’s not that big a challenge.
Writing in Huffington Post, Caroline Fairchild reports that it would be fairly to double the wage of McDonald’s workers. The price of a Big Mac would go up by all of .68, which would double the wage of all workers in the company, including CEO Donald Thompson, who takes home $8.75 million per year (probably with a few extra million in stock options tossed in). It wouldn’t take much to help those most in need of a raise.
If we dug just a little deeper and paid a little more, an army of consumers would lift this economy without any government intervention. For this to happen, large companies like McDonalds and Walmart would need to do two things: First raise prices a little. Second, pass the wealth along to their employees. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.
Writing in the Nation, Josh Eidelson reports that workers at “dozens” of fast food restaurants have walked off the job. Some restaurants had to be closed because so many workers are on strike. Eidelson also discuss a report that alleges wage theft in the New York fast food industry. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come. Low wage workers need to stand up, and the rest of us need to support them.
The British government is trying to “reform” (steal) the pension of public employees. It is also proposing cuts in pay and heavy layoffs. Public sector workers responded with a massive protest that closed schools, transit services, and many other government offices. BBC estimates that “tens of thousands” participated in the strike with 30,000 in the streets of Birmingham and 25,000 in London. Trying to play down the protest, Prime Minister David Cameron said, “It looked like a damp squid.” The squid may be damp, but it looks pretty big and mean. Politicians across the world need to wake up. Working people are getting fed up and angry.
The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) reports that a court in Saskatchewan has upheld the right of workers at Walmart to – gasp! – form a union. The province’s labor board had approved the union in 2008, which means Walmart has been fighting this decision for two years. United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1400 first applied to organize the store in 2004. Overall, this has been a six year struggle for working people.
In the U.S., we constantly hear how bad unions are. Unions delivered many of the benefits and security that once made the American middle class: 40 hour work week, overtime pay, pensions. Steadily, over the last 30 years (the Reagan Error), both blue and white collar workers have made concession after concession to save “their” jobs. Meanwhile the top 5% of income workers in this country (people who don’t have to work) have seen their incomes go up and up and up. Where is the justice? At least Canadian workers (and French workers and students) are fighting back. Americans need to wake up.