Tag Archives: unionize

In Historic Victory, Los Angeles Times Votes to Unionize

On Friday, January 19, journalists at the Los Angeles Times voted overwhelmingly, 248-44 in favor of a union. It’s a milestone for the 136-year-old paper that historically has been under management hostile to unionization.

Through their membership in the News Guild-Communications Workers of America, LA Times reporters and staff members, all “at-will employees” without benefits, can now focus on negotiating job protections. There are few reporters who have not felt the “specter of layoffs,” says reporter Carolina Miranda. The LA Times, which employs about 500 newsroom employees—down from 1,200 at the turn of the millennium—has experienced multiple layoffs and buyouts, including a mass layoff of 250 people in 2008.

According to Dave Roeder, a consultant for the Chicago News Guild, “[The LA Times union drive] has prompted a lot of discussion among journalists here in Chicago who are not in the union. Is it a time to organize so we can better advocate for ourselves with ownership? In the difficult state of this business, you find old-line media that are in the hands of owners who may not have journalism as a core principle; they might just be interested in mining the company for assets, selling what they can, and leaving the rest. The case for being in a union in this field, in particular, is very clear right now.”

University of Chicago Grad Students Organize

In October, graduate students at the University of Chicago became the latest to vote to unionize, despite opposition from administrators. Currently, 12 academic institutions host Graduate Student Unions. Penn students faced the same opposition when they voted for unionization last year.

Senator Bernie Sanders, a 1964 UChicago graduate, commented in a letter: “Having a union ends the arrangement where the employer makes all the decisions unilaterally, and institutes a legal process where your union organization collectively bargains with the employer regarding the issues you have identified as needing improvement. I respect the critical work you do every day, and wish you the very best in your efforts to create a democratic workplace where your voice can really be heard.”

MTV News Votes to Organize

The Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) announced in a press release, that the editorial staff at MTV News today announced plans to unionize. More than 80% of MTV News’ editorial staff have signed cards electing the WGAE as their representative in collective bargaining.

“In an age when independent voices are more essential than ever, we are heartened that these digital news creators recognize collective bargaining is the most effective way to protect those voices and to address critical issues like transparency in compensation and other policies, reasonable benefits for all, and an inclusive workplace,” says Lowell Peterson, executive director for WGAE.


Minnesota Co-Op Votes to Unionize Despite Threats

The majority of Whole Foods Co-Op workers in Duluth, Minnesota, voted to join United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1189. “The organizing committee worked really hard even though management was working every day to make people afraid,” says Diana Tastad, the lead organizer. “I am so proud of them for sticking together, despite the fear tactics.”

Whole Foods Co-Op is the second Minnesota co-op to organize.

Google Workers Vote to Unionize

According to Fortune, workers at Google Shopping Express have joined the growing number of Silicon Valley workers eager to unionize. The 151 workers voted to join a local chapter of the Teamsters union. They say that they face poor working conditions—lack of ventilation, low wages, poor benefits, and damaged equipment. They are also currently being hired by an outside staffing agency that makes them sign contracts that limit them to two years working with the company.

The local they wish to join, Teamsters Local 853 (San Leandro, CA) already represents some workers at other high tech companies among them Facebook, Apple, and Yahoo, which have a habit of showering their engineers and executives with high salaries and other perks, while low ranking workers enjoy virtually no benefits.

Live Nation Among Employers Who Misclassify Workers

A new study from the Economic Policy Institute shows that more than 10 million American workers are misclassified as independent contractors, when they are really employees. The study points to Live Nation and FedEx as businesses that routinely abuse the system, to save money on taxes, employment insurance, overtime pay, minimum wage, and workmen’s compensation.

For example, the concert producer uses subcontractor Crew One to staff its shows in Atlanta. Crew One treats the workers it employs for Live Nation as independent contractors, providing no safety training, work shoes, hard hats, and saving the expense of payroll taxes. Crew One stagehands have voted (2 to 1) to form a union, but the company is challenging the election results on the grounds that the workers are independent contractors.

FedEx is currently fighting a legal battle over worker misclassification in 27 states. Drivers are treated as independent contractors, but they must provide their own trucks painted to FedEx specifications and purchase FedEx specified uniforms, scanners, and other equipment. They also work according to FedEx hours and procedures. As independent contractors, FedEx drivers take on immense financial liability.

A tax loophole called the “Safe Harbor Rule” protects employers, allowing misclassification for tax purposes, even if it is demonstrated that they really are employees. President Obama proposed closing this loophole in his 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 budget proposals. The US Treasury estimates that doing so would generate $9 billion in tax revenue over 10 years.

To read the entire EPI report visit www.epi.org/publication/independent-contractor-misclassification/.