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Striking fast food workers hold signs saying
Mississippi Republicans don't want any of this in their state.
Mississippi has not been what you'd call a pro-union state, but it's really hammering that point home this week, with the state Senate passing not one, not two, but THREE anti-union bills and sending them to Gov. Phil Bryant for his signature:
Senate Bill 2473 would make it illegal to coerce a business into staying neutral in a union drive or to allow workers to choose union representation by signing cards instead of by secret ballot. It’s not clear what would constitute coercion, but businesses could sue anyone they believed engaged in it. [...]

Senate Bill 2653 tries to restrict mass picketing of a residence or place of business. It says pickets would be legal as long as they weren’t violent and didn’t block entrances. But it also makes getting a court stop order against picketing easier.

Senate Bill 2797 says the Legislature would have to pass a law to allow any state or local government to make an agreement to use unionized workers on a project. Such a project labor agreement was used to build the Toyota Motor Corp. plant in Blue Springs.

So basically, "unions GTFO. We will sue you for breathing."

Getting companies to enter neutrality agreements in union representation elections is an important tool for union organizing, and since it rarely happens without some public pressure and this bill doesn't really define coercion, it sounds like almost any effort to get a business to simply refrain from pressuring its workers against unionizing would be vulnerable to a lawsuit. Anti-picketing bills have come up repeatedly in the south in recent years, with the attorney general of Tennessee recently concluding that a bill targeting union picketing in his state was unconstitutional.

Mississippi Republicans are, of course, feeling particularly fearful of unions lately because of the organizing drive at a Nissan plant in the state, which is drawing celebrity support.

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

A fair day's wage

  • Nine injured in explosion, chemical spill at Rolls Royce plant.
  • And Thursday afternoon:
    Breaking: NLRB says Kellogg's locked of 225 workers in Memphis is illegal, says mgmt insists on bargaining items settled in master contract
  • Keep track: Debunking a "debunking" of 10 poverty myths.
  • Ten Las Vegas casinos may face a strike; union members authorized a strike, after working for months without a contract.
  • Computer problems have left many North Carolina families without the food stamps they rely on to eat.
  • Harold Meyerson writes about the death of an employer scam:
    One of the most pervasive scams that employers use to lower their workers’ wages is misclassification—that is, turning their workers into independent contractors or temps when they are actually employees. Misclassification shouldn’t be mistaken for the whim of an errant employer. On the contrary, it’s a strategy that has been used to transform entire industries. [...]

    Over the past two years, however, governments have begun to crack down on misclassification.

    Let's hope it is the death ...
  • SeaTac workers fight for their 15:
    Early this year, the city of SeaTac, Washington inaugurated the highest minimum wage in the country: $15 an hour. The law already suffered a setback when a judge ruled that airport employees—who make up the majority of the city's workforce—would not be eligible for the higher wage. Yet among the SeaTac workers who do qualify for a raise, a number have had to take the enforcement of the new standards into their own hands.

    On Wednesday morning, four recently-terminated employees of Extra Car Airport Parking, a parking service that serves the Seattle-Tacoma Airport in SeaTac, rallied in front of their former workplace. The workers were joined by a group of about 30 supporters, drawing attention to the company’s alleged wrongdoings, which include shirking the new $15 wage floor and engaging in retaliatory firings against workers who have voiced complaints.

  • Another coal miner dies on the job.
  • James Rebhorn, one of those actors whose name you probably didn't know but whose face is instantly recognizable, died recently, and he wrote his own, very touching obituary. In addition to sweet testimonials to members of his family, he had this to say:
    Jim was fortunate enough to earn his living doing what he loved. He was a professional actor. His unions were always there for him, and he will remain forever grateful for the benefits he gained as a result of the union struggle. Without his exceptional teachers and the representation of the best agents in the business, he wouldn't have had much of a career. He was a lucky man in every way.
  • Sarah Jaffe muses about port truckers, temp workers, and "the end of jobs:"
    The full-time job itself is only a fairly recent development in human history, spanning a couple hundred years or so, and the attendant expectation that a job be “good,” paying a living wage and providing healthcare and retirement benefits, with a union and some security, is a peculiar historical development of the New Deal era in the United States—an era that is almost without question over.

    Power created that era—the power of organized workers in unions demanding better conditions. But the bosses, it's worth noting, never stopped trying to dismantle the deal. [...]

    We should carefully consider what comes next, whether that be high-end freelancers hopping from gig to gig, disdaining a full-time job, or more likely, the further fragmentation into piecework that we see happening in digital spaces like Amazon's Mechanical Turk, and the conversion of formerly full-time union jobs such as port trucking or auto manufacturing into low-security independent contracting or temp labor.


  • Confessions of a teacher in a "no excuses" charter school. Or, how to turn children into robots and substitute rote memorization for actual learning.
  • More on the organizing effort by adjunct faculty at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
  • A longtime kindergarten teacher explains why she quit:
    Each year, I have been required to spend more time attending classes and workshops to learn about new academic demands that smack of 1st and 2nd grade, instead of kindergarten and PreK. I have needed to schedule and attend more and more meetings about increasingly extreme behaviors and emotional needs of children in my classroom; I recognize many of these behaviors as children shouting out to the adults in their world, “I can’t do this!  Look at me!  Know me!  Help me!  See me!” I have changed my practice over the years to allow the necessary time and focus for all the demands coming down from above. Each year there are more. Each year I have had less and less time to teach the children I love in the way I know best—and in the way child development experts recommend. I reached the place last year where I began to feel I was part of a broken system that was causing damage to those very children I was there to serve.

    I was trying to survive in a community of colleagues who were struggling to do the same: to adapt and survive, to continue to hold onto what we could, and to affirm what we believe to be quality teaching for an early childhood classroom.  I began to feel a deep sense of loss of integrity. I felt my spirit, my passion as a teacher, slip away. I felt anger rise inside me. I felt I needed to survive by looking elsewhere and leaving the community I love so dearly. I did not feel I was leaving my job. I felt then and feel now that my job left me.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sat Mar 29, 2014 at 10:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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