Leading off, something to keep in mind if you're braving the Sunday-after-Thanksgiving airport scene. Dave Jamieson reports on wage theft at O'Hare:
Burke, 30, works as a passenger attendant at the airport, escorting the elderly and disabled to and from their gates by wheelchair. Even though the airlines describe this as a free service, Burke's employer has her working partly for tips, which is why her base pay is a low $6.50 an hour, somewhat like a restaurant server's, rather than the typical Illinois minimum wage of $8.25.
But unlike diners at a restaurant, many of the passengers Burke will be escorting on their holiday travels this week won't realize she's working for tips -- and by federal law, she won't be allowed to tell them.
"We cannot say anything," Burke says. "If we do that, they can fire us."
Burke works for Illinois-based Prospect Airport Services, Inc., a company that has contracts to supply service workers at O'Hare and other airports around the country. Prospect and similar contractors often pay their workers like Burke at a reduced rate before tips, which allows them to shift a portion of the salary burden to passengers. Such a pay scheme is perfectly legal, so long as the employer makes up the difference whenever a worker comes up short of the minimum wage after tips.
As you might guess, the company does not always make up the difference. This is apparently not a one-off thing. Rather, it's a scheme companies seeking contracts for airport jobs (at least) use—submitting a sub-minimum wage bid so the official costs are low, and claiming workers will make up the difference in tips. Even if they won't. The SEIU is working on organizing the airport workers, and is helping advance their wage theft case. Naturally this leads Prospect to claim that the wage theft allegations are just a union ploy, despite the fact that similar allegations have been made against the same company in Dallas, and against another company providing the same kind of contract labor in Houston. The labor department is investigating the O'Hare case.
And more ...
- Some reminders of the awfulness for workers that was Black Friday: United Food and Commercial Workers President Joe Hansen writes that:
Scheduling issues are consistently a top concern for retail workers. Many workers want more hours and a consistent, full-time schedule they can count on to support their families. But there's a double-edged sword for workers who put in long hours and forego family time over the holiday weekend: instead of seeing a reward for their hard work and loyalty in their paychecks, many will see their hours cut back in the days following the holiday so retailers can avoid paying overtime.
And University of Missouri-Kansas City Institute for Labor Studies director Judy Ancel writes "Many families' work schedules make it impossible to have weekends or even dinner together. That's why holidays provide the only opportunity for so many extended families to see each other."
And all of this is leaving aside the ever-present threat of actual violence workers face in Black Friday stores.
Great that BART is doing this, sad that it's the first:
The Bay Area Rapid Transit district has become the nation's first transit agency to approve a "Buy America" policy, BART said.
The new Buy America Bid Preference policy, adopted unanimously by the BART board Thursday, "gives preferences to rail car manufacturers who create jobs in the U.S.A.," according to a BART news release Friday.
The especially good part is that this comes as they are doing this as they get ready to acquire a new fleet of train cars.
- AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is one of Esquire's Americans of the Year.
- Another great piece from Dave Jamieson, teeing off on the "there's no reason for janitors to be adults" part of Newt Gingrich's child labor views:
Despite its relatively modest pay, a janitor's job isn't as easy as Gingrich seems to think it is. According to the Labor Department, a janitor needs to be able to carry out a long list of duties and repairs during a typical day: Mop and polish floors, handle dangerous chemicals, even perform basic electrical and plumbing repairs. At schools, they also need to interact well with children and, at times, clean up their vomit.
A janitor's job is also more dangerous than most American occupations -- and hardly fit for children, according to the Labor Department's description of the work. Janitors, it notes, "may suffer cuts, bruises, and burns from machines, handtools, and chemicals. They spend most of their time on their feet, sometimes lifting or pushing heavy furniture or equipment. Many tasks, such as dusting or sweeping, require constant bending, stooping, and stretching."
- Even with Scott Walker as governor, Wisconsin power plants are being modernized using union labor under Project Labor Agreements.
- The New York Times did a "women are changing the face of union leadership" profile of SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, National Nurses Union President Rose Ann DeMoro, and Sandy Pope, a Teamsters local president who was challenging James Hoffa for the presidency of the union. Hoffa was reelected, though.