News & Commentary

November 19, 2013

Walmart is facing challenges on multiple fronts today, Salon reports. Most notably, the National Labor Relations Board has stated that it is ready to issue a complaint against the retail giant for threats and retaliation against striking workers during last year’s Black Friday strikes. The Board is waiting to issue the complaint in order to give the parties an opportunity to settle. Walmart is also facing strikes by employees in Ohio and workers who transport Walmart’s products in California; criticism over an Ohio store’s request that workers donate canned goods to one another for Thanksgiving; and complaints before the California Department of Occupational Safety and Health against two Walmart-contracted warehouses.

Hundreds of non-union Port of Los Angeles truck drivers will begin a one-day strike today, according to Salon. The drivers, who transport products for Walmart, Costco, Sketchers, and Forever 21, among other companies, claim their employers have illegally retaliated against workers for organizing and whistle-blowing, and have misclassified drivers as independent contractors (thus excluding them from many labor and employment law protections).

The Associated Press reports that activists are launching a campaign to raise the minimum wage in Washington, D.C. to $12.50 an hour, which, if achieved, would be the highest minimum wage in the country. The D.C. Council, meanwhile, is considering a slightly more modest increase to $11.50 an hour over three years. The current minimum wage in the District of Columbia is $8.25 an hour.

Dozens of protestors in California are fasting this week to pressure their Congressmen to support immigration reform, the LA Times reports. The protestors, who are targeting Republican Congressmen in four districts, will stage demonstrations in Bakersfield, San Bernardino, Modesto, and Brea.

In international news, the New York Times reports that European retailers have expressed concern that American retailers will free ride off the Europeans’ efforts to improve factory safety in Bangladesh. While the European contingent, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, has made a binding commitment to help finance fire safety and other upgrades in the garment factories utilized by its member retailers, the American contingent, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, has declined to make such a binding commitment. But, the Alliance has pledged to loan money to the factories to make needed upgrades. The American group has also been criticized for failing to obtain worker input on its proposals. While the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh counts two major unions as members, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety has no union members.

In a related story, the Associated Press reports that thousands of garment workers are demonstrating in Bangladesh to protest the deaths of two workers killed by police during demonstrations for higher wages. Police have fired rubber bullets and tear gas into the crowd, wounding at least 30 people.

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