This Saturday is Workers Memorial Day, a time when working families across the country gather to remember the dead and fight for the living — as Mother Jones put it. Though we’ve made significant strides in workplace safety over the years, it’s clear that we’ve still got some work to do.
After a nationwide frenzy, lottery officials revealed yesterday that three Maryland residents had pitched in to buy one of the winning Mega Millions tickets. Each of the lucky winners will pocket around $35 million, after taxes.
That figure is exciting in its own right. But what makes this story truly remarkable is that all three of these winners, who have chosen to remain anonymous, work in the state’s public education system—and they’ve all decided to keep doing the work they love.
Earlier this month, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed H.B. 4246, a bill that will prevent graduate research and teaching assistants at the state’s public universities from forming unions and bargaining collectively. We asked Alix Gould-Werth (pictured), one of the graduate student research assistants (GSRA) involved in an organizing drive at the University of Michigan, to shed some light on this latest attack on workers. Read more »
Fed up with the relentless attacks on workers from state legislators, Michiganders have launched a new campaign to protect collective bargaining rights. The Protect Our Jobs campaign has already begun collecting signatures to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would ensure workers’ rights to form unions and bargain together for fair pay and better working conditions.
There’s no doubt that this initiative would be good for workers, but it’s also crucial for the state’s economic recovery. With the ability to bargain collectively, workers can regain their grasp on the middle class and pump much-needed consumer spending into the economy.
As a former student organizer, I’ve been keeping a close eye on the University of Virginia, where 12 students (including a UVA football player) were on hunger strike to advocate for a living wage for campus workers—who all too often face bottom-of-the-barrel wages and benefits. The hunger-striking students received an outpouring of solidarity across the country and after 13 days of fasting, the university finally agreed to take steps toward a living wage for its employees. Read more »
Earlier this month, Los Angeles workers got some long-awaited good news: The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Board of Directors unanimously approved a project labor agreement (PLA) for upcoming projects that will create an estimated 270,000 good, family-supporting jobs over the next 30 years. What’s even better? Forty percent of work hours will go to disadvantaged communities, and at least half of those hours will go to apprentices—meaning a career path for workers who might otherwise be stuck in dead-end, low-wage jobs. Read more »
Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its annual report on union membership rates in the United States. In stark contrast to the decline in union membership we’ve seen in recent years, union membership levels held relatively steady at 11.8 percent in 2011.
Though cash-strapped state and local governments cut jobs, the percentage of public sector workers in unions increased from 36.2 percent to 37.0 percent. Job loss in the public sector was offset by gains in the private sector, where union membership stayed at 6.9 percent with an increase of 110,000 union members. The construction industry, which experienced one of the greatest drops in unionization in 2010, saw 73,000 union members added in 2011—the largest net gain for any industry. Read more »
Late last week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a decision in D.R. Horton, Inc., ruling that companies cannot prevent employees from bringing workplace grievances as a class in all judicial venues under mandatory arbitration agreements.
The decision didn’t come as much of a shock to anyone familiar with the details of the case. Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), employees have full freedom to come together and engage in concerted activity to address workplace concerns. In clear violation of the Act, D.R. Horton enforced its arbitration agreement by dividing a group of workers facing overtime violations into single units. In other words, workers had to seek justice as individuals rather than as a group—even though they shared the same complaint against their employer. Read more »
When Craig Becker’s recess term on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) expired in December, the outlook didn’t look good for workers in 2012. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the NLRB needs three members to exercise its authority, so without new appointees, the Board would have been forced to shut down—leaving workers and employers alike in the lurch.
It’s been quite a year for workers. From Wisconsin to Washington, D.C., on the football field and the factory floor, we’ve seen unprecedented attacks on workers’ rights from Big Business and corporate-backed politicians. But we’ve also seen the resurgence of a movement to ensure fairness for all Americans and the beginnings of a great political awakening for the 99 percent.