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strawberry pickers working hunched over in the field. worker transporting a full crate accross the field.
Some things you should know:
Since 2005, at least 16 farm workers have died due to heat illness.
In California, farm workers don't have the same heat protections under the law as animals do. But there's a bill that could change that—if Gov. Jerry Brown will sign it:
AB 2676 requires that farm workers must be given “continuous, ready access” to shade and enough “suitably cool” water for each employee to drink one quart per hour throughout their eight- to 10-hour work shift. Employers would be guilty of a misdemeanor subject to a six-month jail term and a fine of up to $10,000, increasing to one year in jail and a $25,000 fine if the worker-victim suffers injury.
Another bill, AB 2346, would allow workers to sue employers who repeatedly violate requirements to provide workers with water and shade.

That doesn't sound unreasonable, does it? Not if you don't represent agribusiness, anyway. Agribusiness, of course, is freaking out in the same way it freaked out when back-breaking short-handled hoes were banned. And that freak-out means it's very much in question whether Brown will sign the bills. Even though what we're talking about are bills saying you can't treat a person worse than you'd treat an animal, and one that creates consequences for breaking the law.

A fair day's wage

  • Ugh:
    With the stroke of a pen, federal Judge Sean L. Lane this week stripped away the contract rights of about 10,000 men and women who work as unionized pilots for American Airlines.
  • Labor law professor Julius Getman writes that, if workers at Hyatt hotels in Texas could organize, it could have "enormous" political implications:
    Immigrant workers generally and Hispanic workers in particular are the sleeping giant of politics in States like Texas and Arizona. As Harry Reid’s union energized, come from behind, victory in Nevada in 2010 demonstrated , unions stimulate political involvement and provide a vehicle for it. Many years ago unionized immigrant workers transformed politics in states like New York, New Jersey, and Ohio. They can do the same in Texas. If Texas is changed politically the country will inevitably and permanently be different politically.
  • Karen Nussbaum, the executive director of Working America (and my wonderful former employer), reflects on her decades of organizing workers:
    We often asked women whom they could turn to if they had a problem on the job. After a pause, a woman might answer, "NOW" (the National Organization for Women) or "9to5"; "I could call a government agency" or "my congressman." Some suggested calling a union. Most workers could identify an institution on their side, someone or something to back them up.

    But over the decades, the answer to the question "Whom do you turn to if you have a problem on the job?" has changed. The scope has narrowed. "I might call my mother," I heard more frequently over time. Then, "I pray to God." Today, the typical working woman doesn’t even have God in her corner if she’s getting shafted at work. "I rely on myself" is the most likely answer. We went from a group for every cause and "Solidarity Forever" to "the feeble strength of one."

  • Volume seven of the unemployment stories Hamilton Nolan is collecting at Gawker has a nice little moment. A formerly unemployed person now working in staffing writes:
    I now do staffing for clerical and administrative positions in support of several Fortune 500 companies. It's horrible. I want to hire everyone, but I can't. However, I would like to maybe pass along a maybe hopeful message: when I am given sole hiring authority, which happens often, I always hire the long-term unemployed first. I nearly cracked after two months. I can't imagine what two+ years feel like. Even if it's just for shitty temp positions, I try to hire them first. They need the resume update, they need the money. When they let me hire who I please, I go in order of length of unemployment from longest to shortest.
  • Unsurprisingly, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka does not think much of the scab NFL referees. "Incompetent," actually, is one of the words he used. (And one he's not alone in using.)

    Tell Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL's owners to end the use of scabs and bring back the league's experienced officials.

  • Speaking of Trumka, he met with the CEO of Palermo's Pizza, where workers are striking after management refused to recognize their union, then went after workers' immigrant status and fired 75. Palermo's, which manufactures frozen pizza for stores including Costco, faces a boycott.
    "No justice, no pizza." Fantastic.
  • A class-action lawsuit by workers at Walmart-contracted warehouses is helping shed light on a lot of things Walmart and its contractors are trying very hard to keep hidden. Warehouse workers are on a six-day, 50-mile journey from the warehouses to Los Angeles to draw attention to their working conditions.
  • An interview with Ai-Jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
  • The daughter of an IBEW member writes that "my father built this":
    When I was in college, my dad, with pride, gave me an alabaster brick taken from his job site at the (then called) Standard Oil Building. They had just completed the work on the beautiful, stark white building. "I helped build this," he told me. "Keep it and show it to your kids someday, and remind them that their grandfather helped build this great city." It is as ludicrous for Mitt Romney to say "I built this" as it would have been for my father to take sole responsibility for creating the Amoco Building. Nobody builds anything themselves, with no help from government, from stone masons, electricians, plumbers, pipe-fitters, truck drivers, teachers, policemen, firemen. It's especially fitting to remember that on this Labor Day.
    Daily Kos diarist and third-generation sheet metal worker Todd Farally also thinks back to his father's words as he looks at the choice in this election:
    We in the building trades have really hit a rough patch. I was laid off for twenty four months straight from late 2009 to late 2011, was lucky enough to work for seven and a half months and am currently laid off again. I know what it’s like to wake up feeling that all you want to do is go to work, to feel like you have a purpose, and the fear of uncertainty. But things can get much worse if we either don’t vote at all or vote for people that will work against our economic interests. And saying you’ve always voted Republican is not an excuse because you simply don’t want to face the fact that your party has turned on you. I can understand that  - change is hard, but betrayal is even worse, and  you have to ask yourself: What has this party said or done to deserve my vote? Speaking as a union member, I can say that the Republicans seem to say and do more and more against us and our families. As my Dad used to say, “Always vote your job, because the other guy sure as hell is.”
  • Some workers at the RNC were paid below minimum wage, thanks to deductions from their paychecks for uniforms.
  • Organizing the South is a tough lift for unions, as for Democrats and other progressives. But that's not to say it's not worth trying.

State and local legislation

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sat Sep 08, 2012 at 10:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Daily Kos.

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