While the loss in Wisconsin is a big one for unions and workers more generally, the week wasn't without some small victories in fights across the country.
American Airlines has been trying to block a union representation election for 10,000 passenger agents by arguing to the National Mediation Board, which governs airline unions, that the Communications Workers of America did not have enough worker petitions for a union vote under the heightened requirements Republicans inserted into the FAA reauthorization. But the NMB has set a date for the election.
It's still an extremely uphill climb for American's passenger agents, who face a tough intimidation campaign from the airline in the upcoming weeks leading up to and during the vote. But at least they got their vote despite strong management opposition.
In a more final win, the Hilton Hotel near LAX settled a class-action lawsuit by agreeing to pay workers $2.5 million. According to the lawsuit, about 1,200 workers didn't get overtime or meal or rest breaks they were due and had wages withheld. Getting businesses to obey wage and hour laws is a really minimal step, but given that so many businesses do not pay their workers for all the hours they work, or allow them to take breaks they're legally entitled to, a settlement in a lawsuit like this is actually a real win.
It's also worth talking about the ongoing small victories for workers in an Occupational Safety and Health Administration that, under President Obama, is making the most of its limited resources to protect workers from dangerous conditions on the job. Or, as Republicans would call it, over-regulation.
OSHA cited roofing contractor Woodridge Enterprises for multiple violations, including two repeat violations for lack of fall protection. DD Stucco and Renovation LLC was also cited for fall hazards, including two willful violations. Willful violations are ones "committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health." Contractors at Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire were also cited for a mindbending array of hazards, including fall, crushing and cave-in hazards. When three different contractors on one worksite have such serious issues, you have to look askance at the entity that hired them and ultimately controls the worksite. So it's of note that in this case it's a school.
A further glance through OSHA's releases for the week finds multiple repeat violations at a Walmart, including an electrical hazard, and an order for reinstatement of a whistleblower who was fired from an Alaska residential youth facility after expressing concerns about the safety of drinking water at the facility.
Isn't it just terrible how all that over-regulation is crushing job creators?
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- Workers at the San Jose Doubletree hotel, meanwhile, are still fighting. They held a four-day strike this week over hotel management's insistence that they accept a contract with long-term wage freezes and increased health care costs. San Jose Doubletree workers make an average of about $12.80 an hour and face high cost of living in Silicon Valley. Meanwhile, area hotel revenues have been increasing substantially.
- Also still fighting: Workers at Palermo's Pizza in Milwaukee are organizing a union. So management is using workers' immigration status to intimidate them.
- If you took the "millionaires vs. billionaires, both sides are being greedy" view of last year's lockout of NFL players, consider this: The NFL has now locked out its referees.
- Obviously we know how Tuesday's election in Wisconsin turned out, but if you're curious about how conversations with voters in the final days of the campaign went, check out Josh Eidelson's report on his time with canvassers for four different anti-Walker groups in Milwaukee.