News & Commentary

January 8, 2019

As the partial federal government shutdown continues, at least 48 members of the U.S. House and Senate are refusing or donating their pay as long as the government remains shuttered, the Washington Post reported Monday. The lawmakers refusing to accept pay are split about equally between parties. While the decision to withhold pay as a gesture of solidarity with federal workers is in line with previous shutdowns, the number of lawmakers who have opted to refuse their paychecks appears to be lower than during the last extended shutdown in October 2013, during which as many as 248 members of Congress made public statements declining their pay. Although lawmakers can request that their pay be withheld, rather than withholding pay altogether, administrators are holding pay in escrow and leaving members of Congress to decide how to use the proceeds after the shutdown ends.

McDonald’s employees in St. Petersburg, Florida, plan to strike Tuesday to demand store security protocols and protection from violence for workers, particularly women of color. Last week, a viral video taken inside a St. Petersburg McDonald’s showed a 40-year-old man grab a young, black, female cashier by the collar and yank her across the counter. Workers planning to participate in the strike noted that lewd comments, harassment and abuse are a reality fast-food and other retail workers endure every day to provide for their families. “We’re subjected to all types of behavior that has no place at work — from physical attacks and armed robberies, to sexual harassment, to racial discrimination,” said Gail Rogers, a Tampa Bay McDonald’s employee who plans to strike. In Florida, an at-will employment state, employees may be fired with little or no cause, even for defending themselves from abusive or belligerent customers. A 2016 survey by Hart Research Associates found that 40 percent of women working in the fast-food industry experienced sexual harassment at work.

In India, nearly 150 million employees across banks, public transport, factories, and government companies began a 48-hour general strike Tuesday to protest the labor policies of prime minister Narendra Modi. The strike has been called by 10 trade unions across the country against what they describe as the anti-worker and anti-trade union policies of the Modi government. The 10 unions that jointly called for the strike have the support of most major independent federations of state employees, banking, insurance, telecom and other service sectors in the country. Left-leaning farmers’ organizations protesting India’s agrarian crisis are also joining the strike.

Two lawmakers from Amazon’s hometown of Seattle addressed a summit of activist groups in New York City fighting Amazon’s plans for a new headquarters in Queens. The lawmakers, both members of Seattle’s city council, warned New Yorkers of Amazon’s role in driving up housing costs in Seattle and pushing working families out of the city, and in the company’s resistance in addressing the city’s homelessness crisis.  The event took place at the offices of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which is attempting to organize workers at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island. The council members urged city officials to demand concessions such as heightened labor standards before the company gains a stronger foothold in New York, and noted that New York could expect many of the well-paying jobs to go not to existing city residents, but to people who will move there. In May, Seattle passed a $275-per-employee “head tax” on large employers like Amazon to help pay for homeless services and public housing, only to repeal the tax amid pressure from Amazon.

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