News & Commentary

December 2, 2013

In one of seven articles written by Salon’s Josh Eidelson on this year’s Black Friday strikes at Walmart, Eidelson reports that tens of thousands of people protested Walmart’s labor practices last Friday at more than 1500 separate protest sites. While last year’s Black Friday protests primarily utilized worker strikes, this year’s protests centered on acts of civil disobedience. According to organizers, 111 current and former workers and their supporters were arrested on Friday for taking part in one of eight acts of civil disobedience. Walmart denies that there was wide-spread worker involvement in the actions.

Fast food workers are planning a series of one-day strikes in 100 cities this Thursday, the New York Times reports. The strikes follow on the footsteps of one-day strikes in 50 cities in August and at more than 20 restaurants in New York City last November. The workers are seeking a raise to $15 an hour, as well as the opportunity to unionize without fear of intimidation or retaliation.

The Wall Street Journal reports that SEIU, the nation’s largest representative of health care workers, is planning to introduce ballot initiatives in California and Oregon to cap compensation to hospital executives and limit how much hospitals can charge consumers. SEIU has said, however, that it would be willing to drop the ballot initiatives if hospitals work with the union. The type of agreement SEIU is seeking with the hospitals is the very kind that is at issue in Mulhall, a case currently pending before the Supreme Court which On Labor has been following closely.

In international news, H&M, a Swedish retailer popular in the United States, has promised to take steps to increase wages of workers who produce its clothing, the New York Times editorial board writes. The retailer has said that it will pay higher wholesale prices for clothing so that factory owners can pay workers higher wages. H&M intends to initiate this plan at a few factories in Bangladesh and Cambodia, but it hopes to expand to 750 factories supplying 60% of H&M’s products by 2018.

The Washington Post reports that seven workers were killed in a fire in a Chinese-run factory in Prato, Italy on Sunday. Eleven workers were asleep in an illegal dormitory in the factory when the fire began. Only four were able to escape the building. Italian officials note that Prato has become a center for Chinese-run factories which employ around 30,000 Chinese workers, many of whom are not “declared” to authorities.

Conditions for migrant workers engaged in improving Qatar’s infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup remain dismal, in spite of growing international criticism, The Guardian reports. Members of an International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) delegation sent to Qatar announced that they had found “no improvement in living and working conditions” for migrant workers. ITUC forecasts that if conditions remain as they are, up to 4,000 migrant workers could lose their lives before the 2022 World Cup begins. Amnesty International and FIFA have also condemned the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar.

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