The NLRB hearing held at the beginning of the week produced plenty of anti-worker testimony from the usual suspects, but also lots of powerful statements—at the hearing and elsewhere—of why the NLRB’s proposal to streamline union representation elections and cut down on delays and frivolous litigation is important. For instance, workers at the reality TV production company ITV voted to unionize seven months ago. Today, they are still waiting for their vote to be ratified. Similarly, a pharmacy technician wrote about delays she and her coworkers face en route to unionizing.
As the Economic Policy Institute‘s Ross Eisenbrey put these experiences in the broader economic context:
The bargaining power of U.S. production workers has declined dramatically since the 1970s because of a combination of forces, including declining union density, the blatant greed of corporate executives, and increased and unbalanced international trade. Union participation fell from more than 25% of the workforce in the early 1970s to about 13% today, and studies show that this decline has been a substantial factor in the rise of income inequality, responsible for at least one-fifth of that rise and probably more. The U.S. trade deficit ballooned over the same period and regularly exceeds $ 500 billion a year. U.S. workers are now in competition for their jobs with poorer (and more poorly paid) workers around the world, putting tremendous downward pressure on their wages. [....]
The results of this loss of employee bargaining power are striking: the share of national income claimed by the bottom 90% of Americans fell from 65% in 1968 to just 52% in 2008. The share claimed by the top 1% grew from 11% to 21% over the same period. If the relative shares had remained unchanged, the income of the bottom 90% would have been $ 1.1 trillion greater in 2008.
So what else happened this week?
- Hyatt, with its heat lamp shenanigans, wasn’t the only employer causing its workers to suffer from heat. In Ohio, twelve workers were fired when they wouldn’t work 10 hours in the blazing heat:
Lucas said the heat sent a couple workers to the hospital.
“They got real white, all the signs of heat exhaustion,” said Lucas. “They were throwing up. They were in pretty bad shape.”
Purdue officials said when the heat index inside the T-Rec reaches 95 degrees, the facility shuts down.
The union workers said they are working in a warmer and higher environment just across the street at the Co-Rec.
- I wrote about this deeply flawed report claiming that Project Labor Agreements raise construction costs. For more, see here.
A smattering of good news:
- Misclassification leading to wage theft isn’t the only shady deal going on here, but at least these workers got back pay:
The United States Department of Labor has recovered $ 105,000 in back wages for 57 workers in Anahuac, TX who had been denied overtime compensation. The discovery of violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) followed an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division. The workers were employed by Cecil Parker Jr., the owner of a debris cleanup company in Anahuac.
Here’s where the story gets a little fishy. Cecil Parker, Jr. is also a former Mt. Belvieu city councilman who was in no way involved in the debris cleanup business until Hurricane Ike. Parker previously had no standing contract with FEMA. However, after Hurricane Ike, when help was needed most, Parker and his friend, Chambers County Judge Jimmy Sylvia, used the tragedy to fleece FEMA and make themselves $ 22 million.
- As hard as it is to form unions, given that it often takes place in the face of massive employer intimidation, any successful organizing drive is worth noting, but more so when it’s some kind of a first. This week we have two such firsts. Both are very small units, but pathbreaking.
There is a challenge going on with two out of 14 votes, but it looks like staff at the Bay Citizen, a nonprofit news site, have successfully unionized, joining The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America. That makes it one of the first, if not the first, small start-up news sites with a union.
And 15 T-Mobile workers in Connecticut have voted to join the Communications Workers of America-TU, making them the first T-Mobile workers in the United States to do so. German employees of T-Mobile’s parent company are unionized, but as I’ve written, in the US the company has waged a major battle against worker organizing.
- Lest we forget, the campaign to repeal Ohio’s SB 5, which would eliminate collective bargaining for public employees, is on the ballot for November.
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