Tag Archives: workers

New Occupational Health and Safety Rules Protect Alberta Workers

For decades, Alberta has suffered higher worker injury rates than other jurisdictions in Canada. Bill 30 updated Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act for the first time since its introduction back in 1976.

“These long overdue Occupational Health and Safety changes will put workers at the center of the workplace health and safety equation by building an OHS system on three fundamental worker rights: the right to know about workplace hazards, the right to participate in workplace health and safety programs and policies, and the right to refuse unsafe work,” says Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan.

Other key changes in the new legislation include broader workers compensation coverage for workers who are either injured or killed on the job, as well as the continuation of pay and benefits when stop-work orders are issued.

CWA Asks Corporations to Make Worker Pay Pledge

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) has asked companies where its members work (Verizon, AT&T, and six others) to pledge in writing that they will increase employee pay if Congress cuts corporate taxes. Specifically, CWA has asked for them to commit to giving workers a $4,000 raise for every year that the corporate rate is reduced to 20%.

“We are going straight to the people who know how corporations plan to spend the billions of dollars being handed over to them—the CEOs—and asking them if they intend to keep the promises that Trump is making on their behalf,” says CWA President Chris Shelton.

The Trump administration has claimed that, if the corporate tax rate were cut from 35% to 20%, a typical American would make $4,000 more per year. No companies were willing to make the pledge.

More Workers Financially Stressed

According to the 2017 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey released in late November by Willis Towers Watson, only about a third of all US employees are satisfied with their financial situation. The results demonstrate a reversal from improvements in employee attitudes since 2009.

Of the 4,983 participants surveyed in July and August, 59% say they worry about their future financial state, compared to 49% just two years ago.

A growing proportion, 34%, say current financial concerns—stagnate wages, health care costs, and the erosion of pension plan coverage—are negatively affecting their lives and ability to do their best work.

Seven out of 10 report high or above average stress levels and 30% describe their health as poor. In contract, those who have no money problems were in very good health (55%) or good health (35%), with just 5% reporting high stress.

Union Blasts Company for Using Out of State Contractors to Build Wind Farm

In October, the New York State Laborers Organizing Fund held a rally in front of the American Wind Energy Association investor conference in Manhattan, New York. The union says that the California-based company EDF Renewable Energy hired out-of-state workers to build a wind farm in Lewis County in order to avoid paying prevailing wages.

“EDF’s decision to use out-of-state contractors to perform work being subsidized by New York tax dollars is a disgrace,” says John Hutchings, director of the New York State Laborers Organizing Fund. “Public subsidies should come with public responsibilities. We should be using the state’s limited development resources to fund projects that provide middle class jobs.”

Tesla’s Firing Motives Questioned

Labor groups blasted the electric vehicle maker in a letter to Tesla executives, claiming union-supporters may have been dismissed because they raised issues about wages and safety in the plant. While Tesla insists the workers were let go because of poor performance, some workers among the 400 to 700 employees fired, claim they had consistently strong performance reviews before being let go. The National Labor Relations Board is also looking into whether Tesla harassed workers distributing union materials.

Tesla employs about 33,000 workers. The firings ranged from factory workers in Fremont to engineers at its Palo Alto headquarters. The company, which lost $336 million in the second quarter of the year, is preparing to ramp up production for its lower-cost Model 3 sedans. It has about 450,000 reservations for the all-electric vehicles and produced only 260 last quarter.

Postal Workers Rally in Boston

On October 18, Postal workers and their supporters rallied in front of Boston’s main post office to protest job cutbacks that have led to long lines and delivery delays around New England. Scott Hoffman, president of the Boston chapter of the American Postal Workers Union, says hundreds of area vacancies have gone unfilled.

A pilot program to outsource operations to Staples, Inc. was scrapped last spring after a National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge ordered the US Postal Service to discontinue its retail relationship with Staples. The Staples deal was an attempt to replace union jobs with low-wage, nonunion workers.

150 Workers Die Every Day

A recently released AFL-CIO study showed that 4,836 workers died in 2015 after suffering workplace accidents and 150 workers died each day from hazardous working conditions. The study was compiled from 2015 injury and fatality data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and FY 2016 enforcement data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. This is the 26th year the AFL-CIO has published Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, which usually comes out close to Workers Memorial Day, April 28—a day of remembrance to those who have suffered and died on the job and to renew the fight for safe jobs.

may day

Groups Call for May Day Work Stoppage

Workers around the country are planning to participate in labor stoppages and rallies on May 1, under a national call to action. “May Day is rooted in the struggle for workers’ rights, dignity, and respect. This includes all workers, especially immigrant workers in this country who are more likely to work hazardous jobs with low wages and without union representation. On May Day we will take to the streets and demand justice for workers and our families,” says Martin Unzueta, executive director of Chicago Community and Workers Rights.

Almost 350,000 service workers plan to strike, demanding among other things:

  • Stop to the criminalization, mass incarceration, and deportation of particular people of color.
  • Defense of the right to organize and earn a living wage.
  • Defense of the rights of women, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ communities.
  • Act on climate change, especially to protect the migrant, poor, and other communities disproportionately affected by pollution and climate change.
  • Defense and fully funding of public services, including education and health care.

Among the workers and organizations who have committed to collective action on May 1 are: members of Chicago Community and Workers rights, tens of thousands of members of the California SEIU, a thousand Rural Community Workers Alliance workers in Milan Missouri, and the Restaurant Opportunities Center United food industry worker advocacy group.

may day

Will You Celebrate May Day?

May 1 is International Workers’ Day. Though it is celebrated as Labor Day in many parts of the world, it is not widely recognized in the US. Surprisingly, the holiday began here as part of the 19th century labor movement’s drive for a 40-hour workweek. Until then, it was common to work 10 to 16-hour days in unsafe conditions. In some industries, life expectancy was as low as the early 20s. The epicenter of the movement for an eight-hour day was Chicago where the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (predecessor to the American Federation of Labor) declared at its convention: “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labor from and after May 1, 1886.” Around a quarter-million Chicago workers—Trades and Labor Assembly, the Socialist Labor Party, and local Knights of Labor—became directly involved in the crusade.

On May 1, 1886, more than 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses across the US walked off their jobs. There were some instances of violence in the days following when demonstrating workers were beaten and shot, including the famous Haymarket Square Riot.

The pagans, Romans, and Druids had May Day festivals of rebirth to celebrate spring, flora, and fertility. In the US, for the working class the day is also a moment of rebirth that began with the labor movement’s drive for a 40-hour work week. Organizers sought better working conditions but also better social conditions for workers. Consequently, many unions, like the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union, focused on more than life on the factory floor. They served as vehicles to build the community—in the workplace, in the halls of government, and in neighborhoods.

This May 1 remember those workers and union organizers who all those years ago improved our lives through their sacrifice.

Foreign Fisherman Mistreated on American Boats

Following a scathing AP report about the plight of foreign workers on American fishing vessels working out of Hawaii, state and federal lawmakers are promising to reform laws that allow the mistreatment of the workers. Mostly from impoverished Southeast Asia and Pacific Island nations, the men are able to live and work on the ships without a visa so long as they don’t set foot on shore. The AP report revealed instances of human trafficking, tuberculosis, food shortages, unsanitary conditions, and being paid as little as 70 cents per hour.

Whole Foods has halted all purchases of seafood from ships with foreign crew until it’s clear the men are being treated fairly. In addition, the Hawaii Seafood Council said that, starting October 1, the Honolulu Fish Auction would sell only fish from boats that have adopted its new, standardized contract aimed at assuring no forced labor exists onboard.