This week, Elvia Bahena, who worked at the Indianapolis Hyatt through a contractor, was fired for being a terrible, terrible worker, something that coincidentally Hyatt and the contractor decided to take action on right after she testified in front of the city council about blacklisting in the hotel industry. Actually, the contractor denies that Bahena has been fired. It's just that she's gone from working full-time at the Hyatt for the past six months to being "currently unassigned." In other words, they stopped giving her work, because of problems that were bad enough to be documented, supposedly, but for which Bahena says she had never been disciplined, and which it seems just coincidentally came to a head right after her city council testimony.
Hyatt workers aren't alone, of course. It's a common feature of any attempt by workers to organize for better wages and working conditions that the most vocal activists get fired. Walmart and Walmart contractors do it. The 87 labor law violations found (so far) at Station Casinos during the union drive there include firings. Not long before truck drivers at Toll Group had a union vote, a union supporter was fired for taking an emergency bathroom break. Farm workers who resist sexual demands from their supervisors are often fired, as are their friends and family who speak up for them.
But somehow we're always supposed to believe it's a coincidence, that the fired worker had been screwing up right and left, completely unrelated to being an activist. Yeah, right.
(Continue reading below the fold for safety violations, sick leave, recycle drivers, and more.)
A fair day's wage
- Recycle and yard waste drivers in the Seattle area are on strike against Waste Management and have filed unfair labor practices complaints with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming that the company has been bargaining in bad faith, retaliating against drivers for their union activities, and more. Waste Management is bringing in scabs.
- Unionized charter school teachers in New York are still fighting for a contract after two years.
- More about the fight to get New York City workers paid sick leave despite the opposition of Council Speaker Christine Quinn, from Nancy Scola, Chris Hayes, and Sarah Jaffe.
- Gawker's Hamilton Nolan is collecting first-hand stories of unemployment in a must-follow series.
- AT&T and the Communications Workers of America have reached tentative agreements on new contracts for two bargaining units. That was possible because, unlike Verizon and so many other companies these days, AT&T didn't demand huge concessions from workers. Meanwhile, CWA is asking for mediation in the Verizon talks.
- Some recent workplace safety violations: Georgia's Thomson Plastics was hit with 11 safety and health violations and faces more than $160,000 in fines; the company had been cited for some of the same violations in 2010. Ditchdiggers of Fort Pierce, Florida, was cited for one willful and one serious violation including failing to provide workers with cave-in protection. Remember Erin Brockovich and hexavalent chromium? Tenneco Automotive Operating Co. has been cited for 14 serious violations including exposing workers to said hexavalent chromium.
State and local legislation
- Oh, this is fantastic. Last year, the New Jersey legislature effectively cut the pay of state workers by raising their required contributions to health care and pensions. Now, the state Supreme Court has said that judges are exempt from those increased contributions, since it is effectively a pay cut and the state Constitution says sitting judges can't have their pay cut. And judges get to make that call for themselves, unlike janitors and teachers.
- Pennsylvania's Republican governor and legislators keep wanting to add charter schools, even though the ones they have are insanely corrupt. Most recently, five charter school executives were charged by federal prosecutors with 62 counts including wire fraud, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering, related to their defrauding three charter schools of $6.5 million in public money.
The war on education
- Teacherken goes to the AFL-CIO blog to detail how the American Federation of Teachers advocates against a one-size-fits-all approach to education.
- Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. has spun off its education division into a new brand. That should be as good for education as Murdoch's news division has been for news.
- On Tuesday, it was three years since the last time the minimum wage went up. Jon Soltz explains why a minimum wage increase would be important to veterans, and Bryce Covert looks at why it would be important to women.
- The 401(k)-style, defined contribution retirement system has America on course for a major problem with elder poverty. Teresa Ghilarducci lays out some hard facts: You need to retire with 20 times your annual income saved, but 75 percent of Americans nearing retirement age in 2010 had less than $30,000. That means that "Almost half of middle-class workers, 49 percent, will be poor or near poor in retirement, living on a food budget of about $5 a day."
- And this drought means that $5 won't go very far starting real soon. What food prices will go up because of the drought?