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Georgia state flag superimposed on map of Georgia.
There are a lot of barriers to workers organizing unions in Georgia, and public workers in particular. So this is a pretty amazing win:
Although the future Teamsters Local 728 members had the support of their company’s CEO and county commissioners, it took months to find a solution to the state’s No Rights at Work laws. State law does not give public sector workers the right to collectively bargain. Today, DeKalb County Commissioners unanimously passed an ordinance allowing county employees to organize.

Commissioners essentially voted to recognize the Teamsters as the workers' union representative. The ordinance takes effect Jan. 1.The 400 workers who have already signed membership applications will become members of Teamsters Local 728 that day.

Another 4,000 DeKalb County workers are gaining union rights as a result of the ordinance.

Continue reading below the fold for more of the week's labor and education news.

A fair day's wage

  • Hey, it's me! On a podcast! I joined regular host Sarah Jaffe to guest-cohost Belabored. We talked shutdown, default, and a whole bunch of stories, including several featured in this post right here.
  • A slate of reformers will become the new leadership of the American Postal Workers Union after winning the union's election. Labor Notes reports:
    ... the union made dramatic concessions in 2010—including a three-tier system that funnels new hires into low-paid, perma-temp positions. [...]

    After APWU agreed to the three tiers, the Postal Service went after the other three other postal unions for the same concessions—but the Letter Carriers and Mail Handlers fought it to arbitration. In the end arbitrators imposed a version of two-tier, but both unions got better deals than APWU: new hires start lower than current letter carriers and mail handlers, but their top pay is the same.

  • Grocery workers in Washington state are close to striking.
  • It's not the 1,100 killed at Rana Plaza or the hundred-plus of the Tazreen fire, but another garment factory fire in Bangladesh killed 10, which is not a small number in pretty much any killed-on-the-job context other than a list of the all-time biggest disasters.
  • Women may hold the most jobs we've ever held in the United States, but women face a whole bunch of employment problems nonetheless. Like way too many women's jobs are low-wage jobs.
  • Workers at Dylan's Candy Bar, a fancy Manhattan candy store owned by Ralph Lauren's daughter, are organizing.
  • The cuts the University of California is imposing on low-wage workers while giving high-wage workers raises drew criticism from state legislators. Now, the workers' union is calling for a strike vote.
  • Ken Ward Jr. reports on a coal miner's widow's plea to the West Virginia Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety to require "proximity detection" systems that would have saved her husband's life. The mining industry's representatives on the board blocked the proposal.
  • When federal contracts turn into corporate welfare:
    The progressive think tank Demos calculates in a new research report that private contractors have funneled up to $24 billion in federal funds into executive salaries. Yet, according to the analysis, the same system of contracted firms—from defense manufacturers to concession stands at national tourist sites—also employs hundreds of thousands of poverty-wage workers at the bottom.
  • Oh, hey, a Democratic senator goes on offense with a strong family and economic plan:
    ... in unveiling her five-point family and economic policy plan at the Center for American Progress on September 27 in Washington, D.C., Gillibrand stressed that almost every part of the plan applies to all workers, not just women. Ensuring families have access to quality child care, family leave, decent (and equitable) wages and pre-kindergarten education would benefit a large portion of the workforce.

    Talking about family policy can be a double-edged sword. Gillibrand hasn't shied away from issues of particular concern to women—she told one reporter, “Sometimes people say, 'Well, why do you just focus on women's issues?' Well, why do you focus on issues that pertain to 52 percent of the population? It's pretty important.” And yet to assume that family policy is only a woman's issue is to accept the stereotype that caring for children and family members is women's work, not men's, and to allow people to write it off as something that just pertains to the ladies.

Education

  • A Teach for America alum explains why she won't write her current students recommendations for Teach for America:
    The simple fact is that students who apply to TFA are not trained to be teachers. So by refusing to write TFA letters of recommendation, we’re merely telling our students that we can’t recommend them for a job they’re not qualified for. An increasing amount of research shows that TFA recruits perform at best no better, and often worse, than their trained and certified counterparts. What’s more, they tend to leave after just a few years in the classroom. Would a biology professor write a recommendation to medical school for an English major who’s never taken any core science courses? That would be strange. It would be even stranger if the professor knew the English major was just going into medicine for a few years, as a way to boost his resume, before ultimately going on to a career in public relations.

    So competence is one core issue here. Another one is race. Rooted in the corporate discourse around reform, charter schools, and “urban revitalization” is the hope that the (mostly white) elite class and free-market ideologies will combine to solve every social ill. Meanwhile, whole communities of African-American and Latino men and women are being warehoused in prisons, the racial income gap is widening, and urban communities of color are being gentrified out of their neighborhoods. TFA—and the charter schools that function as TFA’s biggest partners—perform a similar kind of gentrification by ridding cities of veteran teachers of color. Despite what you might hear, there is no teaching shortage. Schools and districts fire their unionized, more expensive professional staff in order to make slots for the cheaper, eternally revolving wheel of TFA and other nontraditionally certified recruits, who quickly burn out.

  • What's that you say? "Choice" and "competition" are the key to thriving school districts? You might want to check out Milwaukee.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sat Oct 12, 2013 at 10:55 AM PDT.

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

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