With a vote on union representation at the Amazon’s JFK8 facility on Staten Island, New York, set for March 25-30, the company had the leader of the union arrested on charges including trespassing on company property.

The union has responded by filing an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board claiming the company violated a December order not to inhibit workers’ ability to engage with colleagues in non-work areas on their own time. The union leader, Chris Smalls, said that the reason for his arrest was “we’ve got an election and they’re scared.”

Portside, 2/28

 

Drivers who deliver food from New York City restaurants will now be entitled to use customer restrooms from restaurants when they’re picking up food. Beginning January 31, the drivers for app-based delivery companies like UberEats, Grubhub, and others will no longer have to resort to the indignity of relieving themselves between parked cars and risking possible arrest and fines.

The new rules, approved by the New York City Council gives the drivers that simple human right to take care of nature’s necessities during their working day. Many restaurants had previously refused to allow them to use the restrooms. The rules come after a campaign waged by Los Deliveristas Unidos, a labor group representing thousands of delivery workers. The effort gained the support of prominent political figures like NY Senator Chuck Schumer, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, City Comptroller Brad Lander and several City Council members who introduced the bill. They were present at a Times Square rally January 23 where workers celebrated their new protections.

A large portion of them are immigrant workers from countries like Mexico, Guatemala, Bangladesh, Mali and others, who historically have been among the most heavily exploited.

More Transparency Over Their Earnings

Among other gains they have received as a result of the new rules are greater transparency from the companies over their earnings, much of which is in tips, usually added onto credit cards customers use to pay for their meals. Workers have complained that companies have dishonestly withheld some of their tips from them. Companies will now be required to disclose how much the customer tips for each delivery and pay drivers at least once a week The city will also set a new minimum pay rate for basic wages. A majority of the drivers earn only $7.87 an hour before tips, far lower than the city’s $15 minimum wage. After tips, their earnings still amount to only $12 an hour. Discussions are currently under way between the Department of Consumer and Worker Protections and representatives of the drivers on the ways to enforce these rules.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez hailed  the development as “expanding the quality of life for people, particularly those who make a living through all of these apps” and expressed the hope that it would become “a launching point for growth in workers rights and greater dignity for workers across the state and across the country.”

The City, 1/23; Portside, 1/28

 

 

 

 

 

 

In what the union described as a landmark agreement, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employers (IATSE) reached a three-year agreement with motion picture and television producers in October. The agreement affects 60,000 film and television workers in 36 IATSE locals across the country.

IATSE member posting a message on the car of a union member prior to the members overwhelmingly voting to authorize a strike in October. Photograph: Myung J Chun/Los Angeles Times/Rex/Shutterstock

Two weeks earlier the union members voted to authorize a nationwide strike, the first in the union’s 128 year history, with 98.6% voting in favor if an agreement with the industry wasn’t reached. In the union’s demands, in addition to pay raises, were a list of  quality of life issues that have been plaguing workers in the industry for years. Workers were often expected to work long hours at a stretch without a break, working into the weekend through Saturday and Sunday.

The settlement includes reasonable rest periods throughout the day including weekends, meal breaks, substantial raises for those at the bottom of the wage scale and retroactive raises of 3% annually. The new agreement affects film and television workers at Warner Bros. Paramount Pictures, Walt Disney Studios, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and others.

IATSE Special Bulletin, 10/16

Despite the very small number of workers involved, the Starbucks store in Buffalo, NY made history Dec. 9 when it became the first one in the Starbucks chain to vote to unionize. The workers voted 19-8 to be represented by Workers United in an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board.

Starbucks, the biggest coffee seller in the world, operates nearly 10,000 stores in the United States. It has waged a relentless war on union organizing attempts in Buffalo, closing some stores, and packing the others with new workers who, they hoped, would outvote the pro-union employees there. To counter the union organizing drive they sent in managers and executives to intimidate workers who have been complaining for years about the understaffing, chaotic conditions, restrictions on sick days, low pay and erratic hours.

Although the number of workers is small, the election is significant because it could mark a significant boost in the unionization of other Starbucks stores and among restaurant workers who are the least unionized workers in the country.

Robert Reich newsletter;  NY Times, 12/9;  Vox, 12/9;  AP News, 12/9

With the singing of “Solidarity Forever” occasionally ringing out on their picket line, some 3,000 graduate school workers at Columbia University are on strike in their quest to obtain a fair contact. As many of the university’s faculty members walked out of their classes in a show of support on Dec. 6, the strikers are calling on others to help them shut down the university by not crossing their picket line.

The strike, in its fifth week as of the beginning of December, is the second one this year by the student workers at Columbia. It is currently the largest one in the country at this time. At issue is the workers demand for cost-of-living raises, healthcare that includes vision and dental benefits, and protections against discrimination and sexual harassment. The graduate school workers teach classes, serve as teaching and research assistants, and perform duties, at much reduced pay and benefits, that many of the professors would ordinarily do. They are represented by the Student Workers of Columbia, United Auto Workers Local 2110.

Taking on the perception that the strikers are just students and not workers, Paul Brown, a Local 2110 organizer at Columbia, called on he university to “respect the labor that we put into this institution.”

The strike comes as many universities in recent years have increasingly relied on grad student workers rather than tenured professors to teach classes, thus reducing the cost to the university. “We are the ones who do the research that wins grant money for the university,” said Johannah King-Slutzky, one of the strikers in an interview with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez. “I teach my own class. Many of my colleagues teach the same classes that a professor would teach. We’re the ones who have the most face-time with the undergraduates who are paying Columbia’s bills, paying tuition.”

The school has responded with heavy-handed attempts to break the strike. The latest is an email from its Vice President of Human Resources to the strikers that if they do not return to work by Dec. 10 they will be terminated and replaced. Branding it “an illegal form of retaliation,” King-Slutzky pointed out that it is “an unfair labor practice (that) protects us from our labor being permanently replaced.”

 

 

In a stunning upset that reflects the growing militancy of workers and union members, a rank-and-file slate swept to victory in Teamster Union elections last month. The Teamsters United slate routed the incumbent slate that has ruled the union for years by a margin of about two-to-one. The incumbent backed slate had the backing of James P. Hoffa who is retiring. Hoffa has headed the union since 1998.

Defying Hoffa and his slate, the Teamsters United slate captured all national offices, from president down to a majority of the international executive board. Heading the slate, to take office in March, is the President-elect Sean O’Brien, currently President of Boston Local 25 and General Secretary-elect Fred Zuckerman, currently President of Louisville, Kentucky Local 89. They will serve five-year terms.

O’Brien has been sharply critical of the current contract with United Parcel Service and has vowed a campaign to take a more militant stand on future contracts with the company. He is also committed to a full-fledged campaign to organize Amazon drivers.

The vote signals a growing sentiment in the union movement that are fed-up with contracts that  have left millions of workers behind while corporate profits soar.

NY Times, 11/19; Labor Notes, 11/18; Teamsters for a Democratic Union website

We link below to the newspaper of two international unions, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (UE) and the United Auto Workers,  listing their accomplishments this past year. We will be linking to other union newspapers from time to time.

https://www.ueunion.org;  https://uaw.org