Today’s News & Commentary — August 8, 2019


Published August 8th, 2019 - 08.08.192


A Walmart corporate employee called for a worker walkout in protest of the retailer’s position regarding the sale of guns.  Earlier this week, Thomas Marshall, a 23-year-old employee of Walmart’s e-commerce workforce, urged Walmart employees to call in sick on Tuesday, August 6 and to leave work at 3 pm yesterday in order to pressure the company to cease the sale of deadly weapons.  Walmart is currently the largest retailer of firearms and ammunition in the United States.  A spokesman indicated that the company has no plans of altering its policy regarding gun sales.  The spokesman also confirmed that Walmart, which is also the country’s largest private employer, had blocked Marshall from accessing his work email and Slack account, and that Marshall’s return to work would be contingent on a review.  As of Wednesday night, it was unclear how many Walmart employees participated in the protest.  The employees’ attempt to use coordinated worker action to protest corporate policy echoes June’s Wayfair walkout, in which workers withheld their labor in order to protest the furniture company’s involvement in furnishing child internment camps.

A federal jury in Boston has convicted two City Hall officials of extorting festival organizers to employ union labor.  Kenneth Brissette, Boston’s Director of Tourism, and Timothy Sullivan, Chief of Intergovernmental Affairs, were accused of illegally pressuring the organizers of the 2014 Boston Calling festival into contracting with IATSE Local 11, which represents stagehands in the Boston area.  The jury found that Brissette and Sullivan used the threat of economic harm to coerce festival organizers into hiring union labor by implying that the city would revoke necessary permits and licenses if the festival did not hire nine IATSE technicians.  Defendants claimed that they requested that the festival organizers, Crash Line Productions, use union labor and warned that failure to comply might result in the festival being marred by a picket and a visit from Scabby the Rat.  According to the prosecution, Brissette and Sullivan pressured Crash Line “to curry favor with a union that helped elect their pro-union boss,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.  District Judge Leo T. Sorokin dismissed this case last year on the grounds that the city officials did not personally benefit from the alleged distortion; that decision was reversed and remanded by the First Circuit earlier this year.

Amazon has announced that self-driving robots will begin making deliveries in Irvine, California.  The retailer has said that the robots, which are programmed to avoid pedestrians and trash cans, will be accompanied by a human worker “at first.”  Unlike some of Amazon’s human employees, the robots are expected to work only Monday through Friday during daylight hours.

On Monday, the Federal Reserve announced that it will create a real-time payments system that would reduce the time it takes for workers’ paychecks to clear.  The announcement comes shortly after Democratic senators introduced legislation that would require the Fed to create a public utility to allow workers to access their pay in real time.  The proposed service, called FedNow, has received support from small banks and advocates for low-wage workers, who are disproportionately affected by pay delays.  The Fed expects to introduce the service by 2024.

Morton Bahr, former President of the Communications Workers of America, has died.  He was 93 years old.  Bahr began his career as a telegraph operator with Mackay Radio, where he organized an independent union that later affiliated with CWA.  In his twenty years as CWA President, Bahr navigated the union through the breakup of AT&T’s telephone monopoly and oversaw the union’s expansion to include workers from the technology, media, airline, and electronics industries.  Following his official retirement in 2005, Bahr continued to serve as a volunteer union organizer in the communications industry.  A scholarship has been established in his name to help union members and other adult learners to pursue undergraduate degrees while working full-time.

 

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