... 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.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.
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.
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.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.
“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?’”
- 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
- Bryce Covert continues to detail how even elite women suffer the pay gap. Currently up, Harvard graduates.
- Wall Street and the school house: The culture of smartness
- Pushback in Cambridge, Massachusetts, against PARCC Common Core testing.
- A New York state senator is pushing the state to stop using Pearson testing products, citing ongoing problems. The opposition doesn't just come from a legislator, of course. Several local teachers unions support the legislation, and at least six school districts have refused to administer field tests.
- Illinois takes a step toward ending racial disparities in school discipline, also known as the school-to-prison pipeline.
- Why does the Obama administration keep getting it wrong on education policy? Amy Dean interviews Albert Shanker Institute executive director Leo Casey, who says:
I think that once [Education Secretary Arne] Duncan was appointed, they filled all of the top policy positions at the Department of Education with folks who were very much in favor of market reform.
For them, there's just an echo effect. There's not really an appreciation of the importance of teacher voice - of actually listening to educators about what's happening in their schools. Within their political and educational view, it's kind of inconceivable that you could do things in a different way that would respect the professional knowledge and expertise of educators.