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Entries tagged "Labor Rights"Page 1 • 2 Next
February 27, 2013 · By Robin Broad and John Cavanagh
Cross-posted from the Yes! Magazine blog.
You are celebrating your birthday at your favorite restaurant and you’ve just ordered a tasty, locally grown organic meal. You savor the food, while feeling good that you are contributing to a better world. What could be better?
Well, for starters: the conditions of the people serving and busing your table.
Most don’t make a living wage. Indeed, most of your servers work for the same minimum wage they’ve gotten for 22 years: $2.13 an hour. That’s right: no increase for a generation. Therefore, most workers have no choice but to work if they’re sick because nine out of ten don’t receive paid sick leave. Yes, if you are reading this now because you’re sick at home, you may well have caught your disease from a sick restaurant employee who had no choice but to work.
There is a new chilling-yet-ultimately-hopeful book that tells the story of the millions who toil to serve us in restaurants: Behind the Kitchen Door. It is hopeful because its dynamo author, Saru Jayaraman, and dozens of courageous restaurant workers created a group that is fighting for their rights: the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC).
August 27, 2012 · By Emily Schwartz Greco
This OtherWords Labor Day Special features a wide range of commentaries addressing worker rights. Deborah Burger calls for better nurse-staffing ratios at the nation's hospitals, Amy Dean makes the case for accountability when companies getting tax breaks for being "job creators" don't create jobs, and Virginia Sole-Smith casts light on how Mary Kay exploits its own sales force.
- The Lipstick Profiteers / Virginia Sole-Smith
Mary Kay's biggest revenue source may be the dreams of its own pink-clad sales force.
- How to Safely Scale Down the Fiscal Cliff / Salvatore Babones
A slow descent wouldn't be disastrous.
- Rooting out Fake Job Creators / Amy Dean
Without serious accountability, the rallying cry for more "job creation" is likely to amount to nothing more than empty rhetoric.
- Healing our Health Care System / Deborah Burger
Unsafe nurse-to-patient staffing levels are a key cause of 98,000 preventable deaths each year.
- A Bold New Call for a 'Maximum Wage' / Sam Pizzigati
A national labor leader aims to expand the economic fairness debate.
- Percolate-Up Economics / Jim Hightower
Every dime of a minimum-wage hike is spent by its recipients -- circulating upward in our local economies as they increase their purchases of such basics as food, kids' clothing, and health care.
- The Race to the Bottom / William A. Collins
The American middle class isn't the envy of the world anymore.
- Hellish Working Conditions / Khalil Bendib (Cartoon)
February 29, 2012 · By Sam Pizzigati
We’re all still feeling, four years later, the 2008 Wall Street crash that tanked the financial industry — and our economy. But an even deadlier 2008 crash in Manhattan has largely faded into obscurity. Last week, in a New York courtroom, memories of that forgotten tragedy edged back onto the public stage.
This particular stage would be the manslaughter trial of multi-millionaire James Lomma, the owner of New York’s largest construction crane company. In May 2008, one of Lomma’s giant cranes crashed down on New York’s Upper East Side, killing two construction workers.
These two men died, an assistant D.A. told a packed courtroom Tuesday, “because a wealthy man” cared about “the bottom line and nothing else.” The crashed crane, the D.A. noted, had suffered damage the year before. Lomma, the prosecutor charged, had refused to wait for a qualified repair firm. He cut corners instead to rush the damaged crane back into service.
Lomma may beat this rap. Cases against big cheeses remain devilishly difficult to bring to trial, let alone win, one reason why no high-finance chief exec has yet gone to jail for the frauds behind Wall Street’s epic 2008 crash. But you don’t have to be a Wall Streeter in America today to dodge accountability. We have more, on that score, in this week’s Too Much.
Each and every week, Too Much explores excess and inequality, in the United States and throughout the world. Subscriptions are free and you can sign up here.
June 22, 2011 · By Sarah Anderson and Marlee Blasenheim
Nurses from across the United States rallied on Wall Street today, calling on the financial industry to pay their fair share of the costs of the economic crisis.
Coming from the frontlines of the suffering, the nurses had some gut-wrenching stories to tell. Sandy Falwell, who has worked in an intensive care neonatal unit for 20-plus years, told one of the most painful: After a woman gave birth to a 2-pound baby, the woman told Falwell that she blamed herself for her baby’s premature birth. During her pregnancy she had been unable to afford insulin treatments for her diabetes — in part because she was taking care of her elderly parents.
How does the nurses union that spearheaded the rally propose to raise the funds necessary to cover the costs of such urgent needs? National Nurses United Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro explained: “There’s a financial transaction fee that we’re going to have Wall Street pay. They have paid it here in the past. It’s very American. These yo-yos who buy and sell and buy and sell our country should have to pay a tax on that.”
The way such taxes work is they place a small fee on each trade of stocks, derivatives, foreign exchange, and other financial instruments, with the goal of raising massive revenues while also discouraging reckless speculation.
As DeMoro mentioned, the United States had a transactions tax from 1914 to 1966, which levied a 0.20 percent tax on all sales or transfers of stock. In 1932, Congress more than doubled the tax to help financial recovery and job creation during the Great Depression.
The Wall Street rally was part of a global day of action on financial transactions taxes involving more than 35 countries. The actions were timed for the eve of a meeting of leaders of European Union nations, where the debate over such taxes is much further along than in the United States. There are high hopes that Europe will implement them in the near future, which would give a big boost to U.S. advocates.
Here are a few highlights from other countries, where many of the campaigns have taken on a “Robin Hood” theme:
- In Berlin, Robin Hoods rolled giant Euro coins down the street to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s residence, where someone who looked an awful lot like her (except with a head four times as large as a normal human) received the money as she prepared to depart for the European Council meeting.
- In Lebanon, the League of Independent Activists did a direct action on the Central Bank, opening a banner in English and Arabic that states: "Big Day for a Tiny Tax," before delivering a statement to government officials.
- In Brussels, activists met the Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme, who assured them that his government will support a Europe-wide transaction tax.
- In Nepal, activists met their Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister and delivered a lobby letter before taking their message to different historical sites in Kathmandu.
- In Norway, a casino/stock exchange installation was set up alongside a “Robin Hood forest” in the center of Oslo.
- In New Zealand, activists with 350.org and Oxfam did an action at a shopping mall, resulting in this not-to-be-missed short video of a break-dancing Robin Hood.
For more on these actions and continued coverage of the global day of action, click here.
Karen Higgins, a co-president of National Nurses United, told the crowd on Wall Street, “Around the world, we’re calling for a more fair and just economy. The finance tax we’re talking about comes from the trillions of trade of stocks and bonds sold here every day. The revenue is badly needed in our communities.”
The nurses union was joined on the street by a long list of other unions and organizations, including the Amalgamated Transit Union, Vocal NY, AFSCME, UNITE HERE Local 100, Community Voices Heard, Transport Workers Union Local 100, United Steam Workers, and PSC-CUNY.
A big theme of the day was that the New York rally was just the beginning of what they're hoping to be a growing movement. Minnesota nurse Jean Ross, clearly angered by the role of the financial industry in creating the current crisis, said, “Wall Street should be happy that we’re just talking about a financial transaction tax. We could be talking about restitution.”
June 16, 2011 · By Tiffany Williams
The ILO voted by a whopping 396 to 16 margin to adopt a "historic set of international standards" known as the Convention on Domestic Workers.
This great news from Geneva was many years in the making, as domestic workers from all over the world have been organizing in their home countries and through the International Domestic Worker Network (IDWN) for rights and respect. It has been on the ILO's official agenda for two years — last year was spent on the work of drafting the convention, and this year was spent on finalizing and preparing for a vote. For the next few years, the ILO will work for widespread ratification and offer technical assistance on implementation to member countries.
In the United States, the organizing effort for domestic workers has been led by the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) a partner of Break The Chain Campaign, an Institute for Policy Studies project. The AFL-CIO, which has typically represented U.S. labor in the tripartite International Labor Organization system (labor, employers, and government), opened up seats on the delegation so that domestic workers could represent themselves in the meetings and even have an official vote.
I believe that this convention will open the doors to other "excluded workers" around the world (and in the United States) to use the ILO system to push for rights and recognition.
The nature of the domestic worker industry lends itself to abuse. In the United States, this workforce is comprised largely of immigrant women of color, doing work that has been regarded as "women's work" (thus not "real work" but something that women are expected to do as part of their natural role), and work which takes place in the private, unregulated household, where workers are typically alone. Adding to this stacked deck is the fact that many important U.S. labor laws simply don't cover domestic workers.
At the Break The Chain Campaign, which has fought migrant domestic worker exploitation and human trafficking since 1997, we hope that the ILO convention will have a significant impact on the severe abuse and trafficking of domestic workers. We have assisted more than 250 domestic workers in the DC/MD/VA metro area, a large number of whom arrived to the United States on legal work visas — particularly the A3 (for domestic workers employed by diplomats) and G5 (for domestic workers employed by staffers of the World Bank/IMF and other international organization).
This convention's widespread ratification will push both the countries that send migrant domestic workers and those that receive them to acknowledge that domestic workers are real workers, not powerless individuals who are expected to remain in quiet servitude and endure long hours without overtime pay, along with hazardous working conditions without access to health and safety protections.
It will also end the "cultural relativity" excuse that sleeping on a mattress in an unheated garage is "better than what she would get in her home country" or "the way that servants are treated according to tradition." Workers will be armed with the knowledge that there is an international standard that protects them.
I hope that the United States will be a leader and ratify this convention. The State Department has recently begun to implement provisions of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (2008) that specify protections for A3/G5 visa holders and other temporary non-immigrants (such as a "know your rights brochure" that is supposed to be given to domestic workers before they arrive in this country). We hope that the State Department will advocate for U.S. ratification, use its diplomacy missions to spread the word about the convention, and use it as a companion to its worldwide anti-trafficking work. In the meantime, our laws must match the international law proposed in order for the ILO convention to be ratified here.
Domestic workers have already won labor rights through legislation in New York State and a similar California law is in the works. Now we have the promise of this convention to guide our national work. This is truly a victory in itself.
For more information, please check out NDWA Director Ai-jen Poo's recent FPIF commentary.