News & Commentary

April 1, 2015

Time reports that Fight for Fifteen, a campaign to increase the hourly wages of fast food workers to $15 per hour, is planning a major one-day strike on Tax Day, April 15. Workers will walk off the job at fast food restaurants in more than 200 cities across the U.S. to demand higher pay and rallies will be held in as many as 40, including Brazil and Japan, other countries on the same day. Over 170 universities plan to attend and host rallies supporting the campaign. The fast food workers and students will be joined at rallies and walkouts by home health aides, childcare workers, retail employees, airport baggage handlers, and non-tenured university professors, who have pledged to show solidarity with the Fight for Fifteen campaign.

The Department of Justice released a press release yesterday announcing the filing of a lawsuit against Southeastern Oklahoma State University for discrimination on the basis of gender identity. According to the press release, the university denied a professor’s application for tenure after she began presenting as a woman, whereas she had previously presented as a man. Tudor and the Department also accuse the university of wrongful termination in retaliation for Tudor’s filing of a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which has partnered with the Department to bring the suit. According to the complaint, Jane McMillan, director of the university’s counseling center, had warned Tudor that some people, including her brother, the Vice President of Academic Affairs at the university, considered trans people a “grave offense” to his religious beliefs.

On Tuesday, the Department of Labor announced that nearly 100 hotel workers in Michigan will get a total of $50,000 in back wages and damages for labor violations by their employers. An investigation previously found that 96 housekeepers and maintenance employees were not being paid fully for work performed before and after their shifts ended at hotels owned by A&M Hospitality and Management Inc., Grand Hospitality Management Inc., and a few private owners. Karen Chaikin, regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in Chicago commented, “These entry-level workers, often with limited English proficiency, are particularly vulnerable to unfair labor practices. The Wage and Hour Division will use every tool we have to ensure workers receive the wages they earned and to level the playing field for employers.”

NPR reports that a group of workers at Windsor Castle, one of the residences of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, is considering withdrawing some services to tourists in a dispute over low pay. According to the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which has 120 members out of Windsor’s 200 staff, the strike would be the first action to directly affect the Royal Household, the services supporting the monarchy. PCS reports that the staff at Windsor are paid low wages—less than the widely recognized living wage of 7.85 pounds per hour—and are expected to carry out extra unpaid duties, including providing tours of the castle for which visitors are charged, acting as interpreters and providing first aid. The union says that it has proposed a non-strike action that would involve the withdrawal of goodwill, such as giving tours of the castle to paying visitors.

On Tuesday night, Argentina’s public transport networks came to a stop as workers went on a one-day strike to demand changes to income-tax rates. The transport unions spearheading the strike are demanding that Argentina’s leftist government raise the minimum threshold on paying income tax. The unions have argued that more workers will have to pay the income tax if salary hikes designed to keep place with inflation are awarded without changes to the threshold. While the government reports that inflation was 24% in 2014, private economists estimate that it was roughly 35%.

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