News & Commentary

July 24, 2015

In the wake of yesterday’s major victor for Fight for $15, retail labor activists are making new plans to demand their own wage hike. Forbes reports that Stuart Appelbaum, head of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union remarked, “In our negotiations going forward, we are going to argue that $15 is the standard.” Although a number of large retailers have recently raised the minimum hourly wage in their stores, including Gap, Ikea, and Walmart, even with these wage hikes, workers are making just $9 or $10 per hour at these stores.

In other minimum wage news, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Keith Ellison, and Rep. Raul Grijalva introduced a $15 minimum wage bill on Wednesday, as hundreds of federal contract workers went on strike to protest job conditions, the Huffington Post reports. In introducing the bill, Sanders argued that the U.S. government is the nation’s largest low-wage employer. Supporting Sanders’ position, one federally contracted cashier at the U.S. Capitol pointed out at a recent rally, “KFC actually pays me more than Uncle Sam,” who pays her just $10.59 per hour, forcing her to work longer hours just to stay afloat. Likewise, Charles Gladden, a Senate contract worker, was until recently homeless, until a crowdfunding campaign raised enough money for him to live in an apartment. According to Gladden, “Workers shouldn’t have to rely on charities in order to survive.”

Democratic lawmakers unveiled a bill on Thursday that would outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. According to Vox News, the bill is the “most expansive LGBTQ civil rights bill ever,” protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace, housing, public accommodations, education, and various other settings. For instance, the law would prevent protected individuals from being fired, evicted, or denied service because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Although the bill will likely face fierce opposition, if passed, it would radically affect the experiences of its protected classes, as protections of the kind afforded by the bill are offered in less than half of the states in the U.S.

Legislation that would strip the federal government of jurisdiction of labor issues on tribal reservations was approved by the House Education and Workforce Committee on Wednesday. The Committee, chaired by Rep. John Kline, wrote in a press release that the legislation allows Tribal leaders to set labor policies they determine are best for their workplaces. While leaders of Connecticut’s Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and Oklahoma’s Chickasaw Nation and a staff attorney with the Native American Rights Fund have all expressed support for the proposed legislation, House Democrats have called the legislation a Republican effort to curtail the authority of the National Labor Relations Board. As Rep Mark Pocan (D-Wis) remarked, “It appears to me that this has a lot more to do [with] the NLRB than it does about sovereignty.”

More than 1,000 workers employed at John F. Kennedy International and La Guardia Airports in New York called off a planned job action, that was intended to demand, among other things, wage increases to $15 per hour and the right to organize, union officials reported on Wednesday. According to the Wall Street Journal, the SEIU-backed walk out of employees of Aviation Safeguards, a subcontractor to Delta Airlines and other major airlines, was supposed to last 24 hours, starting Wednesday at 10:00 pm. Union officials commented that that workers had reached an agreement with the parent company—Command Security Corporation—which had agreed to recognize Local 32BJ as its employees’ union.

On Tuesday, Dane Atkinson, a CEO of a small tech start up, SumAll, wrote a column on TechCrunch entitled, “Executives and Managers Should All be Elected,” noting that since SumAll’s founding, individual groups of employees vote each quarter on who should lead their team. According to Atkinson, when he founded his company, he wanted to design it so it was not “an evil, miserable environment.” The results, at least according to Atkinson, have been positive, allowing employees and managers to switch roles regularly and eliminating “petty politics.”

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