Today’s News & Commentary — March 12, 2019
Hundreds of Texas public school teachers, support staff, and their unions rallied outside the state capitol in Austin yesterday, calling for more state education funding as the legislature debates issues including teacher pay.“Education funding is an emergency in Texas,” Noel Candelaria, president of the Texas State Teachers Association, said, and school finance reform is a priority for the 2019 legislative session. While teachers are asking for increased pay, they are also advocating for pay raises for other school employees such as bus drivers, custodians, and cafeteria workers, many of whom rely on food banks for meals when school is out of session for the summer. Salaries for Texas teachers start at $28,000, and the average teacher pay in Texas last school year was $53,000, which according to the National Education Association is $7,300 lower than the national average, .
Thanks in large part to teachers across the United States, strikes have made a resurgence in the past year, with more U.S. workers striking in 2018 than at any time in over 30 years. In the New York Times, Moshe Marvit and Andrew Stettner of the Century Foundation commented on last week’s United Electrical Workers strike at the Wabtec Corporation factory in Pennsylvania, which was the largest manufacturing strike of the Trump presidency so far. Wabtec is proposing that its workers accept wage cuts that total nearly $16 million, while simultaneously offering its CEO a $16 million bonus on top of the $60 million in salary its top executives already receive. The authors argue that by lowering future workers’ pay, companies like Wabtec will not be able to find the skilled workers they need and therefore “may halt a broader manufacturing resurgence,” a key promise of Trump’s 2016 campaign.
The Daily Beast investigated the epidemic of emergency calls made from inside Amazon’s warehouses. In a five-year period from 2013 to 2018, 911 call logs and ambulance and police reports show that emergency services were summoned to Amazon warehouses at least 189 times for workers’ suicide attempts, suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and other mental health crises. Amazon has faced a barrage of criticism about working conditions at its warehouses, from grueling standards to inadequate bathroom breaks to low pay, and this investigation provides new evidence that these issues may be pushing workers to their brink.
Uber agreed to pay around $2.6 million to the Netherlands to settle charges that it violated local taxi and transport laws when it rolled out its peer-to-peer ride-hailing service, UberPop, in 2014. The Dutch Public Prosecution Service fined four Uber companies in addition to reclaiming €309,409 in “criminally earned capital” via Uber’s 20% commission on rides. Since 2015, Uber said it has only allowed professional and certified drivers on its app in the Netherlands, in line with Dutch policy.
Yesterday, the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department released a set of principles for managing the looming rise of autonomous vehicles, which will likely put many of its members out of work in the near future. The document cites a recent study that estimates between 39 and 73 million American jobs stand to be automated over the next 30 years, including between 700,000 and 1.7 million workers in the commercial driving sector alone. The principles outline a basic safety net for technological unemployment in service of the ultimate goal of “ensuring that we use technology to enhance safety, security, service and efficiency,” and not as “a strategy to crush wages and jettison millions of middle class jobs.”
The most recent episode of the AFL-CIO’s State of the Unions podcast featured a conversation with Teen Vogue labor columnist Kim Kelly. Kelly, who has written about everything from garment workers to prison labor to general strikes for the online-only publication, talked about her experience forming a union as a young writer at Vice.