Laura Clawson of Daily Kos reports that the National Labor Relations Board is holding large fast food companies responsible as “joint employers” with franchise owners. This news is major. Employees will have more power to unionize and bring claims against global corporations who have denied responsibility for working conditions. Hopefully this is one more step toward giving more rights to hard working people who are paid too little.
In the wake of the German airline disaster, Bloomberg reports on an employer’s right to assess their employees’ mental health. As the article notes, this situation is very sticky. Employees fear they will not be hired or get promotions if any employer discovers that they suffer from depression or a related illness. On the other hand, as the case in Germany shows so well, employers can claim that they need to know to protect their customers and their business. This is a situation without an easy or good answer. We need to protect employees’ rights while protecting people they serve.
Anyone who cares about working people needs to read Laura Clawson of the Huffington Post. Today she examines the state of Workers Compensation, which has been cut in 33 states. There is also great disparity between states and how they pay for injuries. Clawson points out that if a worker in Alabama loses an eye, she will be awarded $27,280. The same injury in Pennsylvania will be compensated at $261,525. Companies are paying less and less in damages every year and finding new ways to restrict workers' benefits. This story is outrageous, but it’s no more outrageous than stories of workers losing pensions or wage theft or union busting. Until American workers – white and blue collar – realize their common interests, employers will continue to find new ways to make them suffer. It’s easy to blame the super rich. They are acting in a way that makes sense for their interests and security. What is our problem?
- Employers should offer full time jobs whenever possible.
- Employers should offer predictable schedules that let workers plan their lives.
- Employers should encourage worker retention and job security after companies are sold.
I agree with these points and would add the following for all workers:
- Workers should have the right to form unions without facing intimidation from their employers
- The minimum wage should be raised according to changes in inflation.
- The use of non-compete clauses should be limited and regulated. No minimum wage worker should be restricted by a non-compete clause.
- Equal pay for equal work.
- Repeal Taft-Hartley and other anti-worker, “Right to Work” [for less] laws.
Working people need to demand some protection. They deserve a workers' bill of rights.
Life is settle a matter of white and black. Hobby Lobby has come under fire for its role in the Supreme Court’s decision that will let the company not pay for certain kinds of birth control. As someone who supports workers’ rights, this case bothers me and makes me afraid that much worse is to come from the Supreme Court. On the issue of minimum wage, however, Hobby Lobby is something of a trailblazer. According to Demos, a left-leaning think tank, the company raised its minimum wage to $14 per hour in 2013. Demos points out that Hobby Lobby will win greater worker loyalty by paying a higher wage. It also is closed on Sunday, which means that every employee gets that day off. However, a year later, the company has lost some of that good will by its stance on paying for birth control options. An employee who is forced to pay for contraception might resent this restriction and the religious motivation behind it. My fear is that the Hobby Lobby case and other recent Supreme Court decisions will let companies take even more liberties with workers’ rights. What if a company says that its religious beliefs require women to dress a certain way? What if a company refuses to hire gays based on religious beliefs? I can’t argue with what Hobby Lobby pays as a minimum wage, but the Supreme Court's decision that a company’s religious beliefs puts us on a very slippery slope.
Today’s top story is all about the world’s greatest basketball player, LeBron James, who has decided to return to Cleveland because he wants to raise his children where he was born. This story warms the hearts of people, especially for those like me who root for rust-belt cities like Cleveland and Detroit. There’s a deeper story that the media is not covering. As a free agent, James was able to move to the team he choose. Once upon a time, pro athletes were tied to the same teams for their entire career. Players organized in unions and sued for the right to control their futures. The most important names in this struggle were probably Curt Flood and Marvin Miller, of the baseball players union. Flood prematurely ended his career to sue and break the “reserve clause.” Many of the people cheering for LeBron James are probably anti-union. They’ve been influenced by more than thirty years of propaganda funded by large corporate interests. When they cheer for James, they should think about the freedom and security he has because of those who came before him and fought for his right to choose where he wanted to work.
Ian Millhiser, Supreme Court writer for Think Progress, examines the case of Quinn v. Harris, which will have a major impact on worker’s rights. This case could affect the future of labor unions and possibly the legality of the minimum wage. Millhiser’s analysis is rich in detail and explanation that I don’t want to try to summarize. I urge you to read this article.
I will post commentary on the decision tomorrow.
Common Dreams has published several great posts that link the late Pete Seeger to progressive politics and workers’ rights. Today, it posted a remembrance by David Lindorff, a journalist who talks about Seeger’s impact on his life. While this essay touches on politics, it is more about how an artist can touch us and change our lives. All great art, like politics, is personal.
Today in over 100 cities workers at fast food restaurants walked off the job. It’s easy to call this a strike. We see people with signs walking a picket. We are used to seeing those images and don’t think enough about what it means when the people striking are not protected by a union. In most states, employers can fire employees for such action. These strikes show how desperate workers are getting in the U.S. Who can live on $8-$9 an hour, especially when they are scheduled to work less than 40 hours per week? The workers marching outside of fast food restaurants today are brave Americans, and they are giving us all a lesson in what it means to be a citizen.
A friend sent me an article from the Society of Human Resources Managers (SHRM). It discussed the case of an employee who was fired for what she wrote in a personal blog. A TV reporter mocked her managers and, worst still, viewers. The article notes that this was not the first time that the employee posted negative comments about her job and pay.
Some might say that this was a personal space, the employee’s blog. That claim might work if she had written her words in a journal that no one else sees or if she used a function similar to the one on Facebook that limits who can view an online post. A blog is public. It can be viewed by anyone, including employers.
If your thoughts about your job are disparaging or harmful to the company, it can – in most cases – end your employment. Use “social” media very carefully. We’ve all heard stories of people who lost opportunities because of photos or posts on Facebook. Companies are using social media to evaluate both prospective and current employees. Practice good career management: Think before you post.
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