Briana Kerensky: Author Archive

Briana Kerensky, Communications Intern, assists with American Rights at Work’s website content and social media outreach. A recent graduate of Ithaca College, Briana holds a BA in journalism and a minor in politics, with a focus on political violence and human rights in Latin America. In addition to writing for American Rights at Work, she is also a contributing writer for the news website OhMyGov!, and is in the 2005 Guinness Book of World Records for helping to spin the most dreidels simultaneously for 10 seconds.

Coming soon: Made in Dagenham

Made in Dagenham posterChristmas came early (or in my case, Hanukkah came late) to the American Rights at Work staff this week. We got invited to a preview screening of “Made in Dagenham“, starring Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins and Richard Schiff.

“Made in Dagenham” is a dramatization of the 1968 Ford sewing machinists strike at the Ford Dagenham assembly plant in England, where women were classified as “unskilled” workers and paid considerably less than their male co-workers. They eventually brought Ford’s assembly line to a halt, walking out in protest against sexual discrimination and the unequal pay. Their actions were instrumental in England’s Equal Pay Act of 1970. Read more »

 

The human right to organize

Today is the 62nd anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, one of the most important documents of the 20th century. Written after the genocide and horrors of World War II, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts that everyone on earth is equal and has the right to live with dignity.

But there’s at least one part of the Declaration that seems to get overlooked in this country: human rights extend to the workplace.

Millions of employees in the United States, including taxi drivers, restaurant workers, day laborers, domestic workers, and guestworkers, are excluded from the one of most basic human rights—the right to organize. Read more »

 

A prescription for unionbusting

This holiday is shaping up to be a pretty bleak one for workers, at a time when the economy needs them most. Unemployment is hovering at 10 percent, and yesterday Congress failed extend unemployment benefits. Now, Express Scripts Inc. (ESI), one of the nation’s largest pharmacy benefit management companies, announced plans to close a prescription processing facility that employs 650 people in a suburb northeast of Philadelphia.

Express Scripts, which verifies written prescriptions, checks claims histories and formularies, and calls physicians and patients, says they are closing the facility after seeking wage and benefit concessions that would bring labor costs at the plant in “line with costs at its facilities elsewhere in the country.”

That’s what the situation looks like on the outside. But the dirty truth is that the company is knee-deep in unionbusting. Read more »

 

Take action! Save local communities from a football lockout!

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, which means for most American families a day of eating excessive amounts of turkey and pumpkin pie, then sitting in a food coma on the couch and watching football. I say most families because somewhere along the line, my family started the bizarre tradition of watching Fiddler on the Roof. We’re not normal.

Football is one of America’s most beloved pastimes. We have an entire culture built around watching it. But the NFL is ready to call a time-out and forbid players from hitting the field next season. Why? Because they want to completely eliminate ALL healthcare benefits for the athletes and their families, in addition to other ridiculous concessions. Read more »

 

Unstoppable

At first glance, the movie “Unstoppable” seems to be standard Thanksgiving weekend action flick fare. There’s Denzel Washington, a runaway train full of toxic chemicals, and a bus of innocent children stranded on the tracks. But the movie transcends the action film stereotypes with an unconventional plot twist.

Spoiler alert!

Read more »

 

The crime wave no one is talking about

There are now two very good reasons to be excited it’s November 18.

One: It’s Owen Wilson’s birthday.

Two: It’s the National Day of Action Against Wage Theft.

Across the country, corrupt employers are abusing their workers’ rights and finding ways to cheat them out of their proper salary. Wage theft is the pervasive and illegal practice of not paying workers for all of their work. Bosses try to find ways to line their pockets with their employees’ money by refusing to let them take breaks, misclassifying them as independent contractors, or even paying under the minimum wage. Read more »

 

For restaurant workers, a carrot on Saturday could mean sick leave with pay

If there’s one thing people in Washington, D.C. talk about more than politics, it’s food. In a city roughly 10 square miles wide, there are almost 2,000 eating and drinking establishments. By year’s end, the restaurant and bar industry in D.C. will have generated an estimated $2.4 billion in sales in 2010 alone.

Unfortunately, most of that money is not getting into the hands of the waiters, bartenders, and other restaurant workers that keep the industry alive. In 2009, the average annual salary for restaurant employees was $22,982, just below the poverty line to raise a family of four. In addition, many of these workers face poor working conditions and a severe lack of benefits.

A few years back, the city passed the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act, which requires employers to provide paid sick leave for workers. But in the negotiations to secure that law, restaurant owners managed to bend the rules in their favor. Read more »

 

Facebook: the new watercooler?

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) broke new ground this week, filing a complaint against American Medical Response of Connecticut for firing an emergency medical technician who posted a criticism of her boss on her Facebook profile.

The NLRB’s decision comes at a time when employers are increasing their use of social networking websites to keep an eye on their workers—and prospective employees.

The company in question, an ambulance service provider, accused Dawnmarie Souza of violating a policy that prohibits workers from portraying the company “in any way” on social media websites like Facebook. Then they fired her. Read more »

 

Justice for garbage disposal workers in El Paso

Justice prevailed in El Paso, Texas yesterday. For the first time in 35 years, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of an NLRB injunction, which requires a garbage collection and disposal company to rehire 32 union-supporting employees.

In the fall of 2007, the employees of El Paso Disposal (EPD) went on strike after the company refused to bargain with their union, the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). Within a week, EPD hired a team of strikebreakers to replace the union members. By December, the union offered to end the strike and return to work, but EPD refused to re-hire them. Read more »

 

The sweet, fizzy taste of victory

When tCoca-Cola logohe Sacramento Coca-Cola Bottling Company agreed to recognize their workers as union members, The Teamsters got a sweet, fizzy taste of victory.

The 310 workers at the Coca-Cola Bottling Company have been members of a small, independent union for over 40 years. But when they decided to merge with the larger Teamsters Local 150 back in April, the management at the factory refused to recognize their newly-affiliated union as a bargaining representative.

But now management has agreed to settle with the workers, only a week before the situation was to go before an administrative law judge from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). According to the settlement, the Coca-Cola Bottling Company must bargain in good faith with the Teamsters, process union grievances, and pay the union dues for which the employees had authorized payroll deduction. In other words, it’s got to follow the law.

Coca-Cola workers are not the only ones who achieved victory lately. Two weeks ago the Board ordered Regis Corporation, owners of salons like Cost Cutters and Master Cuts, to cease threatening to fire workers if they tried to join a union. They’re showing Big Business that workers’ have the right to organize and collectively bargain.