News & Commentary

November 17, 2015

An article on Bloomberg View reported that the retail industry might be shifting its labor outlook, viewing its workforce as more than a cost on a ledger.  After decades spent trying to optimize labor costs through technological innovation and demand-driven scheduling for workers,  industry actors have started to realize the havoc these practices have had on workers’ lives.  The article suggested that this shift stems not from concern about the workers themselves so much as a realization that an overstressed workforce has negative effects on the companies’ bottom lines .  Charles DeWitt, the vice president of a workforce-management software company, exhibited this outlook, saying, “I’m more of a math guy, an optimization guy. This [quality-of-life issue] is a parameter to be optimized.”

While Friedrichs threatens to handicap teachers unions’ ability to collect fees, the union for Los Angeles teachers has pushed forward with plans to organize educators in the city’s largest charter school network, according to the Wall Street Journal.  Last month, a California court granted a temporary restraining order enjoining the charter school network from interfering with organizers or threatening its teachers and requiring the network to grant the union access to teachers for communicative purposes.  Although anti-union advocates argued that charter school teachers don’t want to organize because unions compromise teacher autonomy, Alisha Merck, a charter school teacher, countered that a union would increase the teachers’ power in the workplace since a collective bargaining agreement would provide more voice to teachers than they currently have under their one-year contracts.  “We’re constantly under the threat of not being invited back, and it’s very hard to speak out and say ‘no,’ even if they’re bad decisions,” she said.

The Christian Science Monitor published a long piece on the exploitation of farmworkers.  The article focused on advances made in improving the conditions of workers in Immokalee, Florida, by pressuring corporations in the supply chain such as Yum! Foods and Walmart.  The next stage in the fight focuses on expanding the campaign to other states and appealing to consumers using a “fair food” produce label.

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