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Pedro Taverna, 18, takes part in a protest for better wages outside Wal-mart in Los Angeles November 7, 2013. More than 50 people demanding better wages for Wal-Mart workers in a protest organized by a union were arrested outside the retailer's store in t
Mother and Walmart worker Gail Todd has a great piece at Salon explaining why she's fighting for better treatment from her employer. It's not just that she nearly had to choose between paying the electric bill and paying her daughter's high school graduation fees. It's that:
... trying to get enough hours to make ends meet and be around for my kids has been incredibly difficult with Wal-Mart’s scheduling demands.

At first, I had what Wal-Mart calls an “open schedule,” meaning that I had to be available to work any shift, on any day.  My shifts were all over the place – a few hours in the morning one day, a few hours in the evening the next. And every week, it was different.

Finding childcare — especially on short notice and with an irregular schedule – was a constant challenge. Ultimately, it became impossible to be available 24-7 for Wal-Mart.

Even though I was afraid of what it would mean to lose work hours if I changed my availability, I have to make sure my kids were taken care of. And with my change in availability, Wal-Mart cut my hours. Sometimes, I’m only on the schedule for 12 hours a week.

As Todd points out, the requirement that workers be available 24-7 imposes extra costs on them. To make that low Walmart wage, workers may have to pay extra for childcare. Having a second job is a classic way for low-wage workers to make ends meet, but it's next to impossible if you can't predict when your boss will call you in. Walmart doesn't just devalue its workers' time by underpaying them, it also does so through scheduling practices that require them to be always ready and waiting ... and, often, waiting some more for too few hours to pay the bills.

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

A fair day's wage

  • A union is made up of its members, but typically it's union staff who carry out most of the day to day business of running the union. So how can staffers ensure that the members are truly running the union, and avoid falling into the trap of believing that because they, say, know the law better or how to run an email list better, they should control what happens? Labor Notes' Alexandra Bradbury tackles these questions in How to Be a Staffer in a Democratic Union. The lessons are valuable for any kind of organizer. For instance:
    For Chicago Teachers Union organizer Matthew Luskin, a big part of the job is to put union strategy on the table for members to discuss.

    “Organizing can’t just be about getting people to do things,” he said. “It has to be about getting people to believe in why we’re trying to do these things.” [...]

    “It’s important to push back against the ultra-professionalization of organizing work,” Luskin said, “the idea that it requires a secret handshake and training that are not accessible to the rank and file.

    “Are there skills and training that staff get, through experience and time? Sure. But the problem we have in the labor movement is not needing more brilliant strategists and tacticians. It’s ‘do we have huge numbers of people willing to take real risks to fight?’”

    It's an incredibly important discussion to have, in the labor movement and in the progressive movement more generally. Check out the whole thing for more thoughts on organizing democratically.
  • Flight attendants at Virgin America are trying—for the second time—to unionize.
  • What happens when low-wage workers suddenly get a living wage? Gothamist talked to five of the workers at New York's Resorts World Casino, where a union contract brought major advances for workers:
    I can tell you the difference between making a living wage and not is because I've lived this way the majority of my life. When you have a living wage, you don't get paid and think: do I buy food this week? How am I going to pay this bill? Are they gonna shut my lights off?

    The other night I was on the train coming home and there was this young girl with three young children, and she had a container of milk, and I heard the middle child of the three ask, "Mom, can I have some milk?" and the mother said, "No, you know we need it for the baby." And I remembered feeling like that. So when we got off the train I gave her a few bucks and told her to go get some milk. And I saw the look in her face, and I've been there before! There are so many people who have been there before.

  • Unions want collective bargaining rights for everyone.
  • The UAW has a new president: Dennis Williams, previously the union's secretary-treasurer.
  • If you're like me, an article claiming that everyone is winging it all the time has shown up in your social media feeds more times than you can count recently. Ladies Against Humanity has an important rejoinder:
I actually think this kind of thinking is symptomatic of a crisis in American business structure: the valuing of intangible skills such as “leadership” or “vision” over hard skills and expertise. People who are seen as smart enough to talk about work for a living get to run the show, while people who do work for a living are seen as executors rather than innovators. [...]

This is in no small part connected to systemic sexism and racism in the workplace — most women and people of color assume that the way to prove yourself is to work twice as hard and produce twice as much, when in reality doing that often gets you pegged as a worker rather than a leader.

Union negotiating committees representing workers at the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino reached a tentative agreement for a new five-year contract with the company on June 1. The latest settlements conclude the Culinary and Bartenders Unions’ year-long citywide contract negotiations for 44,000 housekeepers, cooks, food servers, cleaners, cocktail servers, and other hospitality workers at major casino-hotels on the Las Vegas Strip and Downtown Las Vegas whose contracts expire June 1, 2013.

There are now new contracts with: MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment, Tropicana, Riviera, Treasure Island, Stratosphere, LVH, Golden Nugget. Properties with tentative agreements where workers will have to vote next week to ratify: The D, Four Queens, Binion’s, Fremont, Main Street Station, Plaza, Las Vegas Club, El Cortez, and the Golden Gate.

Engineers investigating the leaning bridge that was shut down along I-495 this week discovered that steel piles in the bridge's foundation are deformed and displaced sideways, creating cracks across the width of at least two concrete footings, state officials said Thursday.
No big deal—it only carries carried 90,000 vehicles a day. Officials say it will be "weeks to months" before the bridge is repaired and reopened.

Education

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sat Jun 07, 2014 at 10:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'll consider supporting... (12+ / 0-)

    ...a employer's requirement that workers make themselves available for all possible shifts when that same employer actually pays their workers for that availability. If you're requiring that I give up anything and everything because you want to be able to call me in, you can blasted well pay me for that requirement!

    •  Damn Straight (5+ / 0-)

      Of all the ways you can steal from a person, the theft of their time may be the most intolerable.

      "My one hobby is maintaining a Democracy. If you get these 500,000 soldiers advocating anything smelling of Fascism, I am going to get 500,000 more and lick the hell out of you and we'll have a real war right here at home. - General Smedley Butler, 1933

      by Dave925 on Sat Jun 07, 2014 at 11:18:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Higher wage? (0+ / 0-)

      Maybe we add something to the minimum wage law that if a work schedule is highly flexible, there has to be a higher minimum wage?

      But really all that will do is create a system where a workers work less hours.  Retailers depend on highly flexible scheduling so they can pay employees only when they are needed, often not giving very much notice of a schedule change  Gone are the days when schedules made by hand meant that one might know what hours one is working next week.

      This is another reason why an $10-15 minimum wage makes so much sense.  Workers are being asked to do more in less time and asked to spend a higher fraction of their own time prepping for work(for working 3 hours, it might be 2 hours on either end to get there and back, plus cost half hour of pay).

      Again, efficiencies in the work place are not being represented in higher pay for workers.

      She was a fool, and so am I, and so is anyone who thinks he sees what God is doing. -Kurt Vonnegut Life is serious but we don't have to be - me

      by lowt on Sat Jun 07, 2014 at 11:32:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Higher wage isn't sufficient... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Justanothernyer

        ...because they're only paying that higher wage for hours worked -- which will be decreased to counter that higher wage (though with no accompanying decrease in the "must be available" requirement).
        If a company wants me available 24/7, then they can pay me the regular wage for hours worked, and pay actual wages -- possibly the equivalent of "tipped wages," but wages -- for all of the hours they want me to essentially be on call.
        And if that means I'm getting paid regular wage for 16 hours a week, and 152 hours a week for "on-call" hours, well, they'll have to figure out whether that's worse or better for them than actually figuring out when to schedule me.
        And yes, I know, they want flexibility on staffing equivalent to "just-in-time" manufacturing, but it really doesn't work the same way. You can't just turn people off until you need them.

    •  let's make it simple: if you have to be available (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a2nite, Words In Action, Eric Nelson

      you are working and must be paid for the time you have been available.   (And, of course, if you are on call more than 30 hours a week, the obligation to provide health insurance arises.)

      If your schedule can change with less than two weeks notice, you are working for all the times on which you could be required to work.  

    •  With the Republican mind-set (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric Nelson

      of vilfying unions, with fewer unions to protect employee's exploitation, this is what many  find themselves  to be, in a kind of "slave" labor.  

       

  •  A Nation That Allows a Wal-Mart and its Evil (9+ / 0-)

    to go unrestrained is neither free, civilized nor decent. It is simply intolerable and illustrates the gross hypocrisy that is America and its idea of "freedom".

    "My one hobby is maintaining a Democracy. If you get these 500,000 soldiers advocating anything smelling of Fascism, I am going to get 500,000 more and lick the hell out of you and we'll have a real war right here at home. - General Smedley Butler, 1933

    by Dave925 on Sat Jun 07, 2014 at 11:17:10 AM PDT

  •  Companies act like they're entitled to impoverish (6+ / 0-)

    their workforce.

    They insist on open availability, to keep people from being able to get a second job or make it very difficult, but then don't make any guarantees about hours.

    If they want you available all the time, but only schedule you for 12 hours in a week, there's no way to pay your bills, and companies like Wal-Mart act entitled to treat American workers that way. What utter bullshit.

    If they want open availability, they should have to promise full-time hours. No exceptions.

    The day I realized how utterly insane the open-availability thing had gotten was three or four years ago. My daughter was home from college and needed a job. She'd mentioned maybe working at a vet clinic or kennel. I was on my computer and thought I'd just check Craigslist in our area.

    A search on the word kennel brought up a job listing. They demanded open availability for something like only 16 hours a week, over the course of five days for minimum wage, and I thought, "Who the hell are you to feel entitled to someone you decide someone should work for you five days a week at minimum wage for so few hours?

    But the real kicker was the job: scooping shit! I'm not kidding. That was the job. Cleaning up after dogs in the yard and in their cages.

    Open availability for that? That's nuts.

    Confession time: When I'm not ranting about politics, I write romance novels

    by teresahill on Sat Jun 07, 2014 at 11:21:23 AM PDT

    •  Ya know.... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cjtjc, MarkW53, Book of Hearts

      Having looked for jobs recently, I am not surprised at all by this.
      Sweatshops don't necessarily mean deplorable physical working conditions anymore, but deplorable attitudes towards, and extremely deplorable control over, underpaid employees.

      I think, therefore I am........................... Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose....AKA Engine Nighthawk - don't even ask!

      by Lilyvt on Sat Jun 07, 2014 at 12:03:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Not disagreeing but this "War On..." gotta stop (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Justanothernyer, AlexDrew

    We have multiple "War On" memes.  I believe this is no longer effective.  The electorate is tuning out anytime anything starts with this.  We've been riding this pony for years, time to find something new.

    "When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains, And the women come out to cut up what remains, Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains An' go to your Gawd like a soldier." Rudyard Kipling

    by EdMass on Sat Jun 07, 2014 at 11:28:10 AM PDT

  •  This country was created for slavery now it's (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Words In Action, Shawn87

    called Walmart or other big stealing wages & taxes (as a biz model)

    I voted Tuesday, May 6, 2014 because it is my right, my responsibility and because my parents moved from Alabama to Ohio to vote. Unfortunately, the republicons want to turn Ohio into Alabama.

    by a2nite on Sat Jun 07, 2014 at 11:33:30 AM PDT

  •  Ya know.... (5+ / 0-)

    It isn't only Walmart that wreaks this scheduling hell on its' employees.
    I dislike Walmart and what it's doing to its' employees (and ultimately to America), but they're not alone in this scheduling crap.  It's all part of some brilliant workforce genius's idea of managing employees.  Complete control over them.  You play their game and be available 24/7 or you find your shifts mysteriously (nothing mysterious about it at all, actually) evaporating.  Who the hell can live on $8.00/hour with a schedule of 12 or less hours a week?  
    Try complaining.  
    Less hours.  
    They know if you go, there are lots of others to replace you.

    I think, therefore I am........................... Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose....AKA Engine Nighthawk - don't even ask!

    by Lilyvt on Sat Jun 07, 2014 at 11:52:43 AM PDT

    •  It's definitely not just Walmart... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BeninSC, Lilyvt

      I've been reluctantly working in retail for the last four years and I can tell you that a lack of an open schedule certainly has detrimental consequences.  From the beginning, it can determine if you can even get the job.  If you're "lucky" enough to get the job, then keeping an open schedule is the only way to get hours.  Of course, very few places in retail actually schedule more than a week in advance, so doing anything slightly spontaneous is out of the question.  Especially since almost every week is scheduled differently.  Unfortunately, scheduling is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the many Hells of working in a modern retail job.  

      "Let's Go Exploring!" - Calvin

      by TheAlBundyEffct on Sat Jun 07, 2014 at 05:34:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Scheduling in retail has a terrible effect (0+ / 0-)

        on the workers, that is clear.

        Best to you, TheAlBundyEffct.

        Welcome to Daily Kos. If you have any questions about how to participate here, you can learn more at the Community Guidelines, the Knowledge Base, and the Site Resource Diaries. Diaries labeled "Open Thread" are also great places to ask. We look forward to your contributions.
        ~~ from the DK Partners & Mentors Team.

        "The opposite of war isn't peace, it's CREATION." _ Jonathan Larson, RENT -9.62, -9.13

        by BeninSC on Sat Jun 07, 2014 at 06:54:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Absolutely.... (0+ / 0-)

        I've worked in retail (not presently, but the same schedule BS still applies) and the complete disregard for the employee is astounding.  More work for lots less money and faster, faster, more, faster.  And whatever you do is just not good enough.
        Mention anything about having something to take care of (like an appointment with a dr or god forbid you have a sick kid home from school) and could you please adjust the schedule and the answer is either....
        a) no,
        b) you're not a team player (ie. no),
        c) we hired you to do a job and you're expected to be here (ie, don't even think about it, the answer is no),
        d) you're not flexible (ie. a very inflexible no).
        There must be a special hall in hell for middle management who spew these pearls of excrement to captive employees.
        And the saddest part is these supervisors/managers simply don't get that they won't go any farther than where they are, and they'll be dumped when the 'big bosses' see fit to give 'em the boot.

        I think, therefore I am........................... Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose....AKA Engine Nighthawk - don't even ask!

        by Lilyvt on Sat Jun 07, 2014 at 07:27:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Boycott Walmart! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Laurel in CA, Siris, Words In Action

    Insidious, anti-worker, and terrible practices all meant to enhance profits of the owners and avoid providing healthcare (for political reasons in my opinion).

    Boycott Walmart!

  •  fyi - labor news from Baltimore.... (0+ / 0-)

    WYPR staff decides to form union

    By Liz Bowie, The Baltimore Sun

    A majority of the editorial staff at WYPR has asked management of the NPR affiliate in Baltimore to recognize their representation by SAG-AFTRA, a national union of public-media professionals.

    The staff, which includes producers, reporters and on-air hosts, took the first steps on June 3 to form a union, according to a statement issued by SAG-AFTRA Friday afternoon. Leslie Simmons at the national SAG-AFTRA office declined to answer questions that went beyond the statement.

    Attempts to reach WYPR management were unsuccessful. The WYPR newsroom personnel filed a petition on Friday with the National Labor Relations Board, but management can voluntarily recognize the union and begin to negotiate a contract.

    "The editorial staff at WYPR is deeply committed to the work that we do," the staff said in a statement. "We want to see the station improve and better serve listeners across the state. We believe that a unionized editorial staff, working with station management and its board is the best way to do that."

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