Labor Notes #374, May 2010

For decades, employers have brought in work-restructuring programs that result in understaffing, work overload, long hours, job combinations—and increased stress, repetitive strain, and other injuries. But instead of rethinking their work restructuring, employers came up with a different plan: hide the injuries. Enter “behavior-based safety.”

Taking a page from manufacturing, retailers are driving their vast network of warehouses and distribution centers to get “lean.” Deploying a combination of technology and ratcheting production standards, U.S. retailers are making warehouse jobs stressful and less safe.

Teachers picketed outside every Oakland district school, turning away many scabs and shutting down classes. Seeing students and parents lined up behind educators, district officials backed away from their attempt to impose harsh contract terms.

As technicians at cable giant Comcast celebrated a rare organizing victory in New Jersey last month, fellow techs in Ohio and New York reported a more familiar result: two more campaigns done in by Comcast’s anti-union machine.

When a private equity firm took over GE’s Advanced Materials plant around Albany, New York, they played nice for a little while before slashing wages in half. The IUE-CWA local there has mobilized to fight, and is testing out a work-to-rule.

The explosion that ripped through a West Virginia coal field was a haunting reminder of just how little things have changed, and not just in the mining industry. “Never again” means putting a leash on CEOs like Don Blankenship.

Immigrant workers are fighting deportation after ICE officials raided their vans en route to work at Massachusetts' Gillette Stadium. “They told us they were just looking for people with criminal backgrounds,” an organizer said. “Now they’re criminalizing them all.”

When the labor movement rises up again as a powerful force in the U.S., it won’t be as a result of legislation or of cutting deals with employers. It will be because workers have taken back their most powerful weapon—an effective strike.

Members of UNITE HERE, the hospitality workers union, protested at the Austin, Texas, Department of Health April 12 in a campaign to reinstate four of their leaders fired by a food concessions company at the Austin airport. They need your help.

Before Detroiters voted last fall on a half-billion-dollar bond to renovate and build new schools, the state-appointed schools manager launched a campaign to keep kids in public schools. Now he's planning to put kids out, and sell the district to privateers.


Subscribe to Labor Notes #374, May 2010