Slavery 21st Century You thought it was over, think again july 24, 2017
Slavery did not end it was merely outsourced,
reconfigured, and made politically correct
headlines and issues
*ANOTHER YEAR OF CONGRESSIONAL INACTION HAS FURTHER ERODED THE FEDERAL MINIMUM WAGE (ARTICLE BELOW)
*BRAZILIANS FUNNELED AS "SLAVES" BY US CHURCH, EX-MEMBERS SAY(ARTICLE BELOW)
*WORKERS SHINE A SPOTLIGHT ON EMPLOYER ABUSES IN MUSIC CITY (ARTICLE BELOW)
*CARTOON: TESLA'S MODEL 3 AND CHEAP-LABOR-FOR-YOU, INC.(ARTICLE BELOW)
*WHAT OLDER WORKERS IN THE RUST BELT NEED FROM TRUMP(ARTICLE BELOW)
*OFFSHORING SOLIDARITY: HOW CALL-CENTER WORKERS ARE ORGANIZING ACROSS BORDERS (ARTICLE BELOW)
*THIS WEEK IN THE WAR ON WORKERS: WHEN THREE DAYS SICK MEANS LOSING A MONTH'S GROCERY BUDGET(ARTICLE BELOW)
*HOW FREE IS "FREE" LABOR?(ARTICLE BELOW)
*Grand Theft Wage (ARTICLE BELOW)
*Why women need to keep fighting: No amount of education is enough to close the wage gap(ARTICLE BELOW)
*INSIDE THE CORPORATE UTOPIAS WHERE CAPITALISM RULES AND LABOR LAWS DON’T APPLY(article below)
From Daily Kos: Tell me again about how the gender wage gap is because women leave the workforce to stay home with the kids, or whatever the excuse du jour is:
Right out of college, youngmen are paid more than their women peers—which is surprising given that these recent graduates have the same amount of education and a limited amount of time to gain differential experience. While young men (age 21–24) with a college degree are paid an average hourly wage of $20.87 early in their careers, their female counterparts are paid an average hourly wage of just $17.88, or $2.99 less than men. This gap of $2.99 per hour is particularly striking as young women have higher rates of bachelor’s degree attainment (20.4 percent) than young men (14.9 percent). This difference would translate to an annual wage gap of more than $6,000 for full-time workers. And the gap has widened since 2000. Read More
Another year of congressional inaction has further eroded the federal minimum wage Economic Snapshot • By David Cooper • July 24, 2017
From EPI: This week marks the eighth anniversary of the last time the federal minimum wage was raised, from $6.55 to $7.25 on July 24, 2009. Since then, the purchasing power of the federal minimum wage has fallen by 12.5 percent as inflation has slowly eroded its value. However, this decline in the buying power of the minimum wage over the past eight years is not even half the overall decline in the minimum wage’s value since the late 1960s. As the figure below shows, at its high point in 1968, the federal minimum wage was equal to $9.90 in today’s dollars. That means that workers at the minimum wage today are paid roughly 27 percent less than their counterparts almost 50 years ago.
Measuring the minimum wage against changes in prices is only one way to think of where it could be today. Given growth in the economy and improvements in labor productivity over the past half century, the minimum wage could have been raised to a point considerably higher than its 1968 inflation-adjusted value. As the middle line in the figure shows, if the minimum wage had been raised since 1968 at the same growth rate as average wages of typical U.S. workers, it would be $11.62 today. (We measure wages here by changes in average hourly earnings of nonsupervisory production workers, a group that comprises roughly 80 percent of all U.S. workers and excludes highly-paid supervisors and executives.)
Prior to 1968, the federal minimum wage was raised at roughly the same pace as growth in labor productivity—i.e., the rate at which the average worker can produce income from each hour of work. This makes sense—if the economy as a whole can produce more income per hour of work, it means there’s capacity for wages across the distribution to grow at a similar rate. Had the minimum wage risen at the same pace as productivity after 1968, it would be over $19 per hour today.
No matter how you measure it, it’s clear that the federal minimum wage is overdue for an increase. If we raised it to $15 by 2024, 41 million American workers would benefit. Read more about who would benefit from raising the minimum wage. (see graph)
Brazilians funneled as "slaves" by US church, ex-members say
Mitch Weiss, Holbrook Mohr and Peter Prengaman, Associated Press Updated 7:05 am, Monday, July 24, 2017 (video)
From Chron: SPINDALE, N.C. (AP) — When Andre Oliveira answered the call to leave his Word of Faith Fellowship congregation in Brazil to move to the mother church in North Carolina at the age of 18, his passport and money were confiscated by church leaders — for safekeeping, he said he was told.
Trapped in a foreign land, he said he was forced to work 15 hours a day, usually for no pay, first cleaning warehouses for the secretive evangelical church and later toiling at businesses owned by senior ministers. Any deviation from the rules risked the wrath of church leaders, he said, ranging from beatings to shaming from the pulpit.
"They trafficked us up here. They knew what they were doing. They needed labor and we were cheap labor — hell, free labor," Oliveira said.
An Associated Press investigation has found that Word of Faith Fellowship used its two church branches in Latin America's largest nation to siphon a steady flow of young laborers who came on tourist and student visas to its 35-acre compound in rural Spindale. Under U.S. law, visitors on tourist visas are prohibited from performing work for which people normally would be compensated. Those on student visas are allowed some work, under circumstances that were not met at Word of Faith Fellowship, the AP found.
On at least one occasion, former members alerted authorities. In 2014, three ex-congregants told an assistant U.S. attorney that the Brazilians were being forced to work for no pay, according to a recording obtained by the AP.
"And do they beat up the Brazilians?" Jill Rose, now the U.S. attorney in Charlotte, asked.
"Most definitely," one of the former congregants responded. Ministers "mostly bring them up here for free work," another said.
Though Rose could be heard promising to look into it, the former members said she never responded when they repeatedly tried to contact her in the months after the meeting.
Rose declined to comment to the AP, citing an ongoing investigation.
Oliveira, who fled the church last year, is one of 16 Brazilian former members who told the AP they were forced to work, often for no pay, and physically or verbally assaulted. The AP also reviewed scores of police reports and formal complaints lodged in Brazil about the church's harsh conditions.
"They kept us as slaves," Oliveira said, pausing at times to wipe away tears. "We were expendable. We meant nothing to them. Nothing. How can you do that to people — claim you love them and then beat them in the name of God?"
The Brazilians often spoke little English when they arrived, and many had their passports seized.
Many males worked in construction; many females worked as babysitters and in the church's K-12 school, the former members said. One ex-congregant from Brazil told AP she was only 12 the first time she was put to work.
Although immigration officials in both countries said it was impossible to calculate the volume of the human pipeline, at least several hundred young Brazilians have migrated to North Carolina over the past two decades, based on interviews with former members.
The revelations of forced labor are the latest in an ongoing AP investigation exposing years of abuse at Word of Faith Fellowship. Based on exclusive interviews with 43 former members, documents and secretly made recordings, the AP reported in February that congregants were regularly punched, smacked and choked in an effort to "purify" sinners by beating out devils.
The church has rarely been sanctioned since it was founded in 1979 by sect leader Jane Whaley, a former math teacher, and her husband, Sam. Another previous AP report outlined how congregants were ordered by church leaders to lie to authorities investigating reports of abuse.
The AP made repeated attempts to obtain comments for this story from church leaders in both countries, but they did not respond.
Under Jane Whaley's leadership, Word of Faith Fellowship grew from a handful of followers to about 750 congregants in North Carolina and a total of nearly 2,000 members in its churches in Brazil and Ghana and its affiliations in Sweden, Scotland and other countries.
Members visit the Spindale compound from around the world, but Brazil is the biggest source of foreign labor and Whaley and her top lieutenants visit the Brazilian outposts several times a year, the AP found.
Former member Thiago Silva said he was excited when he boarded a plane in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte to fly to a Word of Faith youth seminar in North Carolina in 2001. He was 18 and expecting to use his tourist visa to meet new people and visit the U.S.
He soon learned, he said, that there would be "no happiness."
"Brazilians came here for labor. I'm telling you, that's it," Silva said. He called the treatment "a violation of human rights."
Silva, now 34, recounted being among a group of Brazilians working alongside Americans — the locals were paid, the Brazilians were not, he said.
Silva and others also said Whaley took complete control of congregants' lives on both continents, mandating such daily staples of life as where they lived and when they could eat — and even forcing some into arranged marriages to Americans so they could stay in the country.
The lack of freedom was pervasive, they said: Silva, for example, said he could phone his parents from the U.S only if someone who spoke Portuguese monitored the call.
"There's no free will," he said. "There's Jane's will." (read more)
Workers Shine a Spotlight on Employer Abuses in Music City
Sunday, July 16, 2017 By Sonia Singh, Labor Notes | Report
From Truthout: Marches by immigrant workers are not an everyday sight in Nashville, Tennessee. But 50 hotel workers and supporters took to the streets June 20 to make visible the conditions facing low-wage workers in this city.
With the support of the worker center Workers' Dignity, they marched through downtown and led delegations to management at six prominent hotels, handing in petitions calling on the hotels to adopt a Cleaning Workers' Bill of Rights.
"This is the first time we've done something like this," said Gerson Méndez, a leader in Workers' Dignity who has worked for multiple Nashville hotels doing housekeeping, laundry, and dishwashing. "But it won't be the last action if we don't get any responses."
The city is undergoing a hotel boom, Méndez says, but hospitality workers -- mainly Latinos and African Americans, along with some Arabic-speaking workers -- are not seeing the benefits.
"We know many hotels are receiving millions of dollars [in subsidies] from the city government," he said. "But they are paying us miserable wages, sometimes even $7 an hour, and that's not enough to provide for our families." Tennessee does not have a state minimum wage, and preempts cities and counties from passing their own, so the federal minimum wage of $7.25 is in effect.
In a 2016 report, "Hotels Shouldn't Hurt," workers documented concerns over high rates of injuries of the job, discriminatory treatment, and systemic wage theft.
"People get in trouble if they have to take off work because they are sick," says Méndez. "Other times they'll say you need a doctor's note, but a lot of times it's hard for us to go to the doctor, because many of us don't have health insurance."
He himself was fired from one hotel job after he was sick one day.
Beating Wage Theft In contrast to many other cities, Nashville doesn't have a single unionized hotel.
Many hotels staff their cleaning jobs through temp agencies. "We've even heard stories of agencies threatening workers that if they go to the authorities to speak about accidents at work, the agencies will make it impossible for them to get work with an agency again," says Méndez.
Workers' Dignity was formed in 2010 and almost immediately began hearing from hospitality workers eager to organize. Its first campaign, against the Best Western Music Row and the Comfort Inn Downtown, helped seven workers win back $73,000 in unpaid wages and damages. The workers had been receiving wages as low as $3.63, and working 70-hour weeks without breaks.
Later that year, the center helped nine housekeepers who were cleaning for a DoubleTree hotel to organize a public campaign for back wages. Their paychecks from a subcontracted cleaning agency had been bouncing.
After a 100-person march outside the DoubleTree, the women won $13,000 in unpaid wages. They also forced the hotel to raise wages and benefits for 30 other workers.
Workers' Dignity has since led campaigns at a handful of other Nashville hotels, backing up workplace direct action with community support. Its leadership training program helps hospitality workers learn how to map their workplaces, identify leaders, and organize action campaigns on workplace issues. In the last year, eight different groups of hotel workers have successfully negotiated with their employers for wage increases or reduced room counts, says Workers' Dignity organizer Alexa Malishchak. But the center is also developing strategies where members make demands of the hotel industry as a whole, with support from community allies.
"Before, these things were happening behind closed doors," says Méndez. "We want to make them visible, so that people know you are spending a lot of money for one night, but the workers are being paid very little."
In 2013 Workers' Dignity launched its Just Hospitality Campaign. An assembly of hospitality workers drafted the Cleaning Workers' Bill of Rights, which calls on Nashville hotels to pay a $15 minimum wage and provide paid sick and vacation days, health care benefits, seniority rights, health and safety protections and training, and protection against sexual harassment and discrimination.
It's part of a wider strategy to improve standards for low-wage jobs in the city, especially for projects receiving public subsidies or funding, says Malishchak, "from construction all the way down to the workers cleaning the hotels."
While the hospitality workers' march had been planned for months, Workers' Dignity often has to respond to organizing leads at a moment's notice. That's what happened when a group of construction workers approached the center in June.
They had been doing stucco work on a high-end apartment complex in a rapidly gentrifying Nashville neighborhood for three weeks and had yet to see a single paycheck.
"One day they would say, 'Monday we'll pay you,' then they would say Friday," says Mario Martínez, one of 65 people who had been working on the site. "Many workers pretty much had nothing to eat, so we decided, 'This is impossible.'"
Most of the workers had travelled from other Southern states to do the job. It's common for labor brokers to recruit workers from other states, says William Cardenas, a Laborers regional organizer. "They'll put together the labor force from around the country and act as a middleman for these other companies." To show their collective strength, all the workers walked off the job on June 16. They returned to the job site the next day, but refused to work until they were paid.
"We were getting tired [of waiting]," says Martínez. "We said, 'We're not going to work. We're going to show them that we can stop.'"
Workers' Dignity planned a rally on two days' notice. Forty workers and supporters picketed outside the partially constructed building.
So far the company has only responded with more broken promises, but Martínez says workers were buoyed by the community support and their own action. Many have since had to move on to other job sites in other cities, but with support from Workers' Dignity and the Laborers they're exploring legal strategies to get their wages back. 'Nobody is going to keep working for fun," says Martínez. "In this country, with all the money, it can't be this way." He wants other workers to know they can come forward too: "If you are also a victim of companies like this, you have the same right to take action publicly and peacefully."
Cartoon: Tesla's Model 3 and Cheap-Labor-For-You, Inc.
By Mark Fiore Friday Jul 14, 2017 · 7:01 AM PDT
From Daily Kos: I'm on vacation but wanted to repost this cartoon as Tesla begins to roll out it's new Model 3 this week. Besides being really super-dooper cool and high tech, Teslas come with some increasing labor issues, too. Every once in a while a story comes along that really shocks and surprises me, often right in my backyard.This is one of those stories. How could the Tesla car company, symbol of forward-thinking, wealth and techie cool have people from Eastern Europe working at their Bay Area factorymaking $5 an hour?! That’s right, over a hundred people were brought to Tesla’s Fremont, California plant from places like Slovenia and Croatia to work ten-hour days making $5 an hour.
These guys built a huge new paint shop at the Tesla factory that is rapidly ramping-up production for the Tesla Model 3. (Tesla has alreadypre-sold over $10 billion worth of these cars!) Oh, and one of the workers almost died, which is why we know about this story. So amidst the wealth of Silicon Valley and high tech bells and whistles, a bunch of guys were effectively making $5 an hour—while their American counterparts would make$52 an hour for the same work.
Thanks to great reporting by Bay Area News Group’s, Louis Hansen, we also know that Tesla isn’t the only company that got mixed up in sub-contractors that bring in dirt cheap labor from abroad. There are other instances of this happening in Silicon Valley as well as at other car companies. And, look, not one mention of a certain orange-hued presidential candidate in the entire cartoon, whew! (Remember to check out the behind-the-scenes goodieswhen you support me on Patreon, thanks!) (Click here for video)
What Older Workers in the Rust Belt Need From Trump
June Unemployment Report for Workers Over 55 Teresa Ghilarducci — July 13, 2017
From Public Seminar: The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) today reported a 3.2% unemployment rate for workers age 55 and older in June, an increase of 0.1 percentage points from May. The low unemployment rate for near retirees is good news. The bad news is that no one can work forever, and our calculations report a collapse in retirement plan coverage for near retirees in the 36 years since Reagan took office.
Unfortunately, workers in the four rust belt states — states where workers once had bargaining power — suffered steeper declines in retirement plan coverage rates than did workers in the rest of the country. Thanks to unionized manufacturing jobs, 61% of near retirees in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin were covered by a retirement plan at work during Reagan’s first term. The share of covered workers collapsed by 10 percentage points to 51% during Obama’s second term, after which these states voted for Trump. In the rest of the U.S., the share declined by 7 percentage points, from 53% to 46%.
The closing coverage gap reflects a race to the bottom in which firms are less likely to offer retirement benefits. As a result, workers are at greater risk of facing poverty and hardship in old age. Obama’s automatic IRA plan didn’t get anywhere, and in 2017 Congressional Republicans rolled back support for state and city coverage reform efforts. Now it’s up to the Trump administration to make a dignified retirement possible for workers by expanding Social Security and increasing access to retirement savings plan for future generations through Guaranteed Retirement Accounts (GRAs). GRAs are individual accounts requiring contributions from employees, employers, and government throughout a worker’s career. They provide a safe, effective vehicle for workers to accumulate personal retirement savings.
Offshoring Solidarity: How Call-Center Workers Are Organizing Across Borders
BY DAN DIMAGGIO - FRIDAY, JUL 7, 2017, 3:45 PM
From In These Times: One big issue in May’s three-day strike by 38,000 AT&T workers was the company’s offshoring of jobs. To shine a spotlight on the issue and strengthen international solidarity, a group of union members visited the Dominican Republic a couple of weeks before the strike to meet the call center workers on the other end of that offshoring.
According to the Communications Workers (CWA), AT&T has closed 30 U.S. call centers and downsized dozens of others since 2011, eliminating 12,000 jobs—nearly one-third of all its call center employees.
That work has been outsourced to El Salvador, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and the Philippines. The workers in the Dominican Republic earn between $2.13 and $2.77 an hour. Employers dangle the prospect of supplementing those wages with incentive pay, but in reality the targets are nearly impossible to reach.
“When companies in the U.S. offshore jobs to countries like the Dominican Republic, they are not exporting job opportunities—they are exporting exploitation,” says Hanoi Sosa, an organizer with FEDOTRAZONAS, a union in the Dominican Republic that includes call center workers. “They come here because they know they can deliver even lower labor conditions than in the U.S.”
Local 7750 member Mimi Mahdi, who works at the DirecTV call center in Denver, Colorado, was one of three CWA members on the delegation to the Dominican Republic, along with one union staffer and a representative of the UNI Global union federation.
Mahdi was “appalled” by what she learned on her trip. “The pay is terrible,” she said. “They do not get paid to go to the bathroom. They do not get paid for their 15-minute breaks. They do not get paid overtime.
“Their managers manipulate all their information so that they don’t get their commissions or monthly bonuses. A lot of the women say they have to sleep with management to get ahead, or they’re threatened to get fired.”
Mahdi and the others joined Dominican union organizers to hand out leaflets outside two call centers in Santo Domingo. “All of the call centers are behind tall locked gates, like prison gates, which is strange and depressing,” she said. “As the workers went in the gates, they had to give the leaflets to the security, and they were even attempting to check the employees’ pockets and pat them down.”
Nevertheless, Mahdi says, Dominican workers “were excited that we were there to support them becoming unionized, and happy to meet us.”
Mahdi also got a crash course in the country’s labor laws. “They have better labor laws in the Dominican Republic than we do, as far as time off, as far as hours worked, when they can take their lunch and breaks, vacation times. They just don’t enforce it. Management acts like it does not exist.”
Dominican call center worker Oliver Benzon and his co-workers at Teleperformance, which handles calls for the AT&T subsidiary Cricket, formed a union last June to try to force management to abide by labor law. For instance, they wanted the company to stop deducting wages when workers used the bathroom or went to get water.
“These people at Teleperformance were working against the law, and that’s when I said I want to be part of the union,” says Benzon.
It takes only 20 workers to form a union in the Dominican Republic. The first 10 to sign on are protected from firing for as long as the union lasts, while the other 10 get only three months of protection.
Workers at a dozen call centers in the Dominican Republic have formed unions since 2010, according to Sosa, himself a former call center worker. But none of the unions in the industry, which employs 55,000 workers, have collective bargaining agreements—which require that a majority of workers sign cards in support of the union.
That has a lot to do with the anti-union hostility of Dominican employers. “Companies do everything in their power to prevent workers from organizing,” says Sosa. “If you’re a worker and you’re caught doing drugs at work, you might get penalized, or you might get fired. But if you’re caught trying to form a union, you’re going to be fired, you’re going to be blacklisted, and management is going to do everything in their power to get you arrested.”
Teleperformance has been trying to deregister the union, firing leaders, and threatening to blacklist them from working in the industry.
A December post from Benzon on social media drew AT&T’s attention. “Companies like Verizon, AT&T, Samsung, and others,” he wrote, “outsource their operations to companies like Teleperformance, Convergys, and Alorica with the objective of reducing costs. These companies take advantage of the economic situation and the low educational quality of many countries in the world, mainly in Latin America, to squash labor rights and basic human rights.”
After Benzon made that Facebook post, AT&T asked Teleperformance to remove him from its account. He’s now working the Megabus account.
Same job, lower wages
Benzon learned English in part by working two summer jobs in the U.S., on J-1 visas, the first at Six Flags near Chicago and the second at a restaurant in Ocean City, Maryland. “One of the supervisors was very discriminating—he was racist,” Benzon said. “He used to say to the Americans, ‘You cannot tell the J-1 students how much you are earning.’” Benzon found out that U.S. workers doing the same job made $16 to $18 an hour, while he was making $9.
“I learned what is abuse, what is exploitation, in the United States,” says Benzon. “Then I came back to my country and I said, ‘This is almost the same.’ I’m working for a company, I’m doing the same job as an American, but I’m not getting paid the same amount!”
Workers in the Dominican Republic also know what it feels like to lose their jobs to lower-wage competitors. An international agreement called the Multi-Fiber Arrangement used to allow industrialized nations like the U.S. to set quotas on garment imports from specific countries. But after it expired in 2005, says Sosa, “many textile factories moved from the Dominican Republic to places which could deliver lower labor conditions, like Bangladesh, El Salvador, Vietnam.”
So what’s the solution? “We believe the only way we can avoid these companies going from one place to another is by organizing workers globally,” says Sosa. “That way, companies will not be able to move from the Dominican Republic to El Salvador, because they will have to maintain labor conditions there. That way, if companies from the U.S. move to the Dominican Republic, it’s because our country provides better investment opportunities, not better opportunities for exploitation.”
Sequel to Verizon
CWA’s delegation to the Dominican Republic mirrors a similar trip during last year’s Verizon strike. A delegation of strikers visited the Philippines after call center workers there made contact through the union’s “Stand Up to Verizon” Facebook page.
Verizon has call centers in Mexico and the Philippines. The latter is now the world’s call center capital, with 1.2 million workers. Companies are lured there by cheap, English-speaking labor and lucrative tax rebates.
For CWA Local 1105 steward Alexis Perez, a Spanish-language customer service rep in Queens, the trip last year “was an eye-opening experience.” He was shocked at the call center workers’ low wages—$1.78 an hour—and cramped living conditions.
Because of the time zone difference, Filipino call center workers generally work overnight, taking calls while it’s daytime in the U.S. The workers he met one morning “looked like zombies,” Perez said. “Imagine you work overnight and then you go to this place where there’s no air conditioning, it’s 98 degrees, you can’t sleep, you can’t rest.”
Most of the call center workers are hired on short-term contracts, meaning they’re permanently stuck at entry-level wages. “A Verizon job there is not a good-quality job,” Perez said. “They don’t have any kind of benefits, they don’t have any kind of job security, and the wages are way lower than what they need to make a good living.”
The call center sector is overwhelmingly non-union, but several groups are working to organize and raise standards—and workers have pulled off some creative job actions.
Just as the delegation arrived, 50 workers at Verizon contractor Teletech held a slowdown to demand overtime premiums and company-provided lunches. Workers handling Verizon calls said during the strike they were forced to work two hours of overtime a day without premiums.
A delegation picket with local worker organizations KMU and BIEN Philippines inspired another 100 workers at a Verizon subcontractor to boycott overtime. Though at least two workers were later fired for their participation, organizers reported that the U.S. unionists’ visit had sparked increased interest in organizing.
“It’s a good thing that they’ve gone on strike,” one worker at Verizon subcontractor TechManager told Labor Notes via Skype last June, “because it’s actually opened our minds here in the Philippines. These people are actually fighting for their rights—why don’t we fight for ours?” (We chose not to use her name given the dangers of retaliation.)
She and her co-workers learned about the strike from the news and from the daily meetings that management held to discourage them from joining the strike. “They even threatened us. Say, for example, that if we join the strike, or we give out a statement [in support], they threatened that they are going to have us blocked from all the centers in the Philippines and that we will never be able to work again.”
The visitors also got a taste of the power that Verizon and other multinational corporations can bring to bear. After a representative of the union delegation went inside a Verizon office on the outskirts of Manila to deliver information about the strike, company security sent armed guards on motorcycles to detain the entire delegation, then called in a SWAT team.
By going on the trip, Perez said he learned how important it is to support organizing in the Philippines and anywhere else Verizon sends work. “If we organize people where they outsource,” he said, “they won’t have anywhere to go.”
In the end, the Verizon strike won 1,300 new unionized call center jobs in the U.S. Since then, CWA has continued to support organizing by Filipino call center workers.
Workers at one of the Philippines’ pioneer call center companies, SiTEL, have just formed a union, SPARK, the SiTEL Philippines Association of Rank and File Workers, to fight for 1,000 jobs at risk after four clients reportedly pulled their contracts. The workers are demanding that they be placed on SiTEL’s other accounts—which are continuously hiring—at their existing salary and seniority levels, without having to re-apply. They are also asking that SiTEL stop forcing its workers to handle multiple accounts at the same time with no additional pay, a move that would create more jobs for the displaced workers to fill.
This week in the war on workers: When three days sick means losing a month's grocery budget
By Laura Clawson Saturday Jul 01, 2017 · 4:00 PM PDT
From Daily Kos: Nearly two-thirds of private-sector workers in the U.S. have access to paid sick leave, but as with so many labor and economic statistics, that masks serious inequality: 87 percent of the top 10 percent of earners have paid sick leave, while just 27 percent of the bottom 10 percent do. And what that means is that the people who can least afford to take a day off without pay are the ones who are forced to do so if they’re too sick to go to work. A new Economic Policy Institute analysis shows how devastating that choice can be:
Without the ability to earn paid sick days, workers must choose between going to work sick (or sending a child to school sick) and losing much-needed pay. For the average worker who does not have access to paid sick days, the costs of taking unpaid sick time can make a painful dent in the monthly budget for the worker’s household:
If the worker needs to take off even a half day due to illness, the lost wages are equivalent to the household’s monthly spending for fruits and vegetables; lost wages from taking off nearly three days equal their entire grocery budget for the month.
Two days of unpaid sick time are roughly the equivalent of a month’s worth of gas, making it difficult to get to work.
Three days of unpaid sick time translate into a household’s monthly utilities budget, preventing the worker from paying for electricity and heat.
In the event of a lengthier illness—say, seven and a half days of unpaid sick time—the worker would lose income equivalent to a monthly rent or mortgage payment.
State-level paid sick leave laws are starting to make a difference—in 2012, when the first such law was passed, in Connecticut, just 18 percent of low-wage private-sector workers had paid sick days. But workers outside of the five states with such laws need the federal government to act, and that’s not going to happen under Republican control. Read More
How Free Is "Free" Labor? Saturday, July 01, 2017 By Leela Yellesetty, Socialist Worker | Op-Ed
From Truthout: Recent articles in the New York Times and elsewhere have highlighted the spread of so-called "noncompete clauses" in employment contracts.
While such clauses have long been commonplace for executives or highly paid professionals -- and justified by companies as a means of protecting trade secrets or market share -- they are increasingly being demanded of even low-wage, blue-collar workers.
According to a recent University of Maryland study, about one in five workers are bound by noncompete clauses, and 42 percent of workers have signed one at some point in their working lives. These clauses have rightfully come under fire for essentially trapping workers in their current jobs -- and leaving them with little leverage to demand better wages and working conditions, since they couldn't find another job if they left. For employees with a skill set for, or experience in, a certain field or industry, this could be crippling to their career trajectory. For low-wage workers, it could mean a lack of any job opportunities at all.
Take, for instance, the agreement that Amazon makes their warehouse employees sign: "During employment and for 18 months after the separation date, employee will not...engage in or support the development, manufacture, marketing or sale of any product or service that competes or is intended to compete with any product or service sold, offered or otherwise provided by Amazon." Given that Amazon sells practically everything, this would seem to effectively bar any employment for 18 months.
As there are no federal regulations about noncompete clauses, enforcement varies from state to state. Enforced or not, in the context of an economy in which the majority of workers are struggling to get by, many feel they have no choice but to sign whatever terms an employer demands -- out of fear of losing their livelihoods if they challenge these provisions.
You might say, with only a bit of hyperbole, that workers in America, supposedly the land of the free, are actually creeping along the road to serfdom, yoked to corporate employers the way Russian peasants were once tied to their masters' land. And the people pushing them down that road are the very people who cry "freedom" the loudest. --- For critics like Krugman, the solution lies in enacting progressive policies and reining in the worst excesses of employers, to the extent that they infringe on the free workings of the market. But for socialists, the problem -- and the solution -- goes much deeper.
What are the common wages of labor depends everywhere upon the contract usually made between those two parties, whose interests are by no means the same. The workmen desire to get as much, the masters to give as little, as possible. The former are disposed to combine in order to raise, the latter in order to lower, the wages of labor.
It is not, however, difficult to foresee which of these two parties must, upon all ordinary occasions, have the advantage in the dispute, and force the other into a compliance with their terms...A landlord, a farmer, a master manufacturer or merchant, though they did not employ a single workman, could generally live a year or two upon the stocks which they have already acquired. Many workmen could not subsist a week, few could subsist a month, and scarce any a year, without employment. In the long run, the workman may be as necessary to his master as his master is to him; but the necessity is not so immediate.
Karl Marx -- who studied the work of Smith far more closely than many modern-day libertarians seem to have -- argued that the apparently "free" market masked a hidden coercion.
In the first place, capitalism depends on one group of people that owns the means of production -- factories, offices, machinery, raw materials, etc. -- and another, much larger group that owns none of these, and must go to work for the smaller group to survive.
The worker leaves the capitalist, to whom he has sold himself, as often as he chooses, and the capitalist discharges him as often as he sees fit, as soon as he no longer gets any use, or not the required use, out of him. But the worker, whose only source of income is the sale of his labor-power, cannot leave the whole class of buyers, i.e., the capitalist class, unless he gives up his own existence. He does not belong to this or that capitalist, but to the capitalist class; and it is for him to find his man -- i.e., to find a buyer in this capitalist class. --- There is nothing natural about how this state of affairs came about. It was the result of a long and violent campaign of forced expulsions of peasants from the land in Europe and the conquest and enslavement of millions in the colonized world. As Marx put it, "[C]apital comes dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt."
Marx further observed that even the minimal freedom granted to workers to choose their particular employer evaporates once they set foot on the job. At work, the bosses exert complete control. That this is a given is illustrated in a line in the New York Times article on noncompete clauses, which notes in passing: "Companies have always owned their employees' labor, but today's employment contracts often cover general knowledge as well."
For Marxists, this goes to the heart of how the capitalist system works. Employers purchase not a given amount of work, but a certain number of hours of labor power -- and their profits derive from the value of the goods produced for them beyond the cost they pay out in wages.
Employers therefore have every incentive to squeeze as much labor out of workers as possible at the lowest cost. Noncompete agreements are just one of many methods of intimidation and compulsion used to achieve this purpose -- to get employees to work harder for less.
This exploitation is the secret behind the tendency toward inequality built into capitalism. What masquerades as a free and equal exchange -- a certain amount of work for a certain amount of pay -- is actually a system of organized theft.
That such theft is taking place can be verified simply by observing the tremendous rise of worker productivity in the past few decades, even as wages continue to stagnate. As a result, we have the highest levels of inequality in human history -- and the ruling class uses its wealth and power to further control and subordinate the rest of us. --- This lack of freedom for workers has both a material and a spiritual cost. The vast majority of people are stuck in jobs we don't find intrinsically meaningful or fulfilling, but are simply a means to survive. This state of affairs leads to widespread alienation, not just from our work, but from ourselves and each other -- which manifests itself in skyrocketing rates of depression, suicide and substance abuse, to name just a few of the bitter fruits of our so-called "free" society.
As British Marxist John Molyneux wrote in a pamphlet about the future socialist society: The ultimate goal of Marxism, of socialism, and of the struggle of the working class is freedom. The bourgeoisie are, of course, keen to proclaim their commitment to freedom: freedom of speech, of the press, of the individual to do what they please with their money and so on. They know full well that as long as they control the means of production and therefore the wealth, the media, and the state, these freedoms remain enormously restricted and almost meaningless for the vast majority. They know also that they have the power to limit or indeed trample on such freedoms whenever they find it necessary.
In contrast, Marxists recognize that in a society divided into antagonistic classes, founded on exploitation and ruled by capital, there are and can be no "absolute" freedoms. We expose the sham abstract freedom offered by the bourgeoisie because what we want is real concrete freedom.
Freedom from hunger and poverty (without which all other freedoms mean nothing), freedom from war, from endless toil, from exploitation, from racial and sexual oppressions -- these are the real freedoms we fight for. They can be made a reality only by establishing the positive freedom of the working class to run society.
for $1 per hour
Grand Theft Wage April 18th, 2017 by Phil Mattera
From Dirt Diggers Digest: Several weeks ago, in one of his few legislative successes, President Trump signed a bill rescinding the Obama Administration’s executive order on Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces. The order, designed to promote better employment practices by companies doing business with the federal government, instructed procurement officials to consider the labor track record of contractors, which were required to disclose their recent violations.
Business groups, which had attacked the order as a form of blacklisting, have gotten their way, but it is still possible for a federal procurement officer to determine whether a bidder is a rogue employer. It’s simply a matter of plugging the company’s name into Violation Tracker, the free database on corporate crime and misconduct I have assembled with my colleagues at the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First.
We’ve just announced the latest expansion of the database: 34,000 Fair Labor Standards Act cases brought since the beginning of 2010 by the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Labor Department. The dataset, covering cases with back pay and penalties of $5,000 or more, represents the recovery of more than $1.2 billion by WHD investigators.
Many of the offending employers are smaller businesses, but wage theft is far from unknown among large corporations. The biggest cumulative amounts collected by the WHD since 2010 came from oilfield services company Halliburton, which in 2015 agreed to an $18 million settlement of alleged overtime violations, and CoreCivic (the new name of private prison operator Corrections Corporation of America), which in 2014 agreed to an $8 million settlement. Also among the top ten are Walt Disney ($4.2 million) and Royal Dutch Shell ($2.6 million).
The wage and hour cases supplement existing Violation Tracker data in two other key areas that had been included in the executive order: workplace safety (OSHA cases) and employment discrimination (cases brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs). We are now in the process of obtaining data on the remaining category — unfair labor practice cases — from the National Labor Relations Board. DOL administrative actions are not the only game in town when it comes to challenging wage theft, which a 2014 Economic Policy Institute report estimated could be costing U.S. workers as much as $50 billion a year. Some of the biggest recoveries come in lawsuits known as collective actions that are brought in federal court on behalf of groups of workers and often result in multi-million-dollar settlements. Unfortunately, there is no central information source on these settlements. The Corporate Research Project is in the process of piecing together the data from multiple sources and will add it to Violation Tracker later this year.
The issues covered by the Obama executive order are just a portion of what can be found in Violation Tracker. We now have 158,000 cases brought by 42 federal regulatory agencies and all divisions of the Justice Department. The fines and settlement amounts in these cases total more than $320 billion.
Violation Tracker data is now current through late March of this year, but for some agencies there was not a lot of case information to collect for the first two months of the Trump Administration. For example, the Wage and Hour Division, which in recent years usually announced numerous case resolutions each month via press releases, has posted only a handful of such releases since Inauguration Day. There’s no indication that the work of the division has stopped, but it appears that the Trump appointees now running the Labor Department are not eager to publicize enforcement activities.
corporate utopias in the 21st century
INSIDE THE CORPORATE UTOPIAS WHERE CAPITALISM RULES AND LABOR LAWS DON’T APPLY
To entice capital, many countries are carving out union-free zones.
SPECIAL INVESTIGATION BY MATT KENNARD AND CLAIRE PROVOST
From In These Times: UNDER CAMBODIAN LAW, THE RIGHT TO ORGANIZE IS SUPPOSED TO BE IRONCLAD. No employer, government agent or citizen may impede union activity. Inside the walls of Cambodia’s largest special economic zones (SEZs), however, In These Times’ reporters saw a system designed to tightly control the workforce by keeping workers fenced in and unions out. More than a dozen workers and labor activists confirmed that, while it's not easy to independently organize anywhere in Cambodia, the law is flagrantly violated in SEZs. The result is seething discontent.
Over the past 50 years, more than half of the world’s countries have carved out pieces of their territories to hand over to foreign investors as SEZs. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that more than 66 million people—most of them young migrant women—work in the world’s more than 3,000 SEZs.
After World War II, countries from Ireland to South Korea set up these zones in bids to attract foreign capital and create jobs. In the 1980s and 1990s, states in every region of the world followed suit. Today this model is experiencing a fresh surge in popularity, with countries from Burma to Cuba racing to open new zones.
“Any country that didn’t have [an SEZ] 10 years ago either does now or seems to be planning one,” the World Bank’s Thomas Farole told The Economist in 2015. But while the success of such zones is often gauged by how much foreign money they attract, or how much economic growth they generate, the voices of the millions of workers that power these spaces are seldom heard. This is the story of SEZs from workers’ perspectives.
Typically, the carrots offered investors are special tax and tariff breaks, as well as cheap land, water and electricity. In some countries, such as Pakistan and Namibia, these enclaves also confer exemptions to national labor laws. But even when this is not the case, these zones have become hotspots for workers’ rights violations.
In Shenzhen, China, one of the world’s oldest and largest SEZs, In These Times witnessed the second chapter of the SEZ story. SEZs offer the tacit—if not explicit—promise of a steady supply of cheap, biddable labor. Once an SEZ’s workforce mobilizes and begins to make demands, companies can simply move on to a new frontier. The ILO calls SEZs “a symptom of the race to the bottom in the global economy.” In Shenzhen, factory closures and redevelopment are leaving migrant workers jobless, homeless and desperate.
THE NO-STRIKE ZONE
Early SEZs, such as those established in the Philippines in the 1960s and 1970s, were “almost like labor camps,” says Jonathan Bach, associate professor and chair of the global studies program at the New School in New York. “They were separate from the cities: You would bring in the workers, you’d house them in dormitories, you’d sort of use them up and get rid of them and then get new ones. And then if the cost of doing business got too expensive, or too problematic—if there were protests or something—then you would just pack up and move somewhere else.”
This is still the model in many SEZs today. In some countries, governments have sweetened the pot by giving investors in these zones formal exemptions from national labor laws. In Pakistan, workers are forbidden to strike or take other industrial action in these enclaves. In Togo, government labor inspectors struggle to enter the zones because of laws restricting their access. The website of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority declares: “There shall be no strikes or lock-outs for a period of 10 years following the commencement of operations in the zone ... and any trade dispute arising within a zone shall be resolved by the Authority.”
But even where there aren’t these formal exemptions, local authorities in SEZs are regularly accused of turning a blind eye to labor rights violations.[...] (Read the complete report at Inthesetimes.com)