Today’s News & Commentary — October 31, 2018
In the footsteps of their public school counterparts, Chicago’s charter-school teachers may be the first ever to strike. On Tuesday, teachers at 15 charter schools voted overwhelmingly (98%) to authorize a strike; this coming Friday, teachers at another 4 schools will do the same; others are in active negotiations and may see similar union votes. These educators are newly represented by Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU), which represents the public school teachers. CTU is unifying contract proposals across charter networks, seeking to solidify charter bargaining power. Acero network’s 500 teachers, who voted to authorize a strike in advance of Friday’s start to negotiations, are seeking a 5% average salary raise to $67,937. CTU maintains – and Acero disputes – that charter educators are earning 30% less than the city’s public school educators. As In These Times reports, chief among concerns with charter school management are those that are also at the center of charter debates more broadly, including the lack of transparency and accountability in how private operators consume and deploy public resources.
The Baltimore Sun reports that U.S. District Judge Ellen Lipton Hollander granted a temporary restraining order (TRO) to the Steamship Trade Association of Baltimore against International Longshoreman Association (ILA) Local 333; effectively, Judge Hollander ordered the union workers to work, and to refrain from any illegal strike activity. As is necessary for the grant of a TRO, Judge Hollander found that “irreparable harm” would result absent temporarily restraining the union from a work stoppage, and cited the considerable cost to the Port of Baltimore’s business incurred in an alleged stoppage on Monday. Port management claims that workers walked off the job, resulting in the container terminal’s shutdown; Local 333 President Scott Cowan denies any orchestrated strike or stoppage. The TRO will remain in place until November 12. Per the TRO and consistent with the collective bargaining agreement, the local and Port management must arbitrate any disputes.
Michigan Radio has a detailed story this week on one out-of-work longshoreman. In Toledo on Lake Erie, ILA member Terrance Clemons has been daily protesting his former employer, Midwest Terminals, and raising claims of discrimination. Clemons was fired in 2017 from his 13-year job at the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, an international cargo dock that Midwest Terminals leases and operates. Midwest Terminals has been in a decades-long dispute with the historically black Local 1982 of the ILA. Last spring, the U.S. Coast Guard honored Clemons’ and fellow union members’ “informational picket” line, one half mile from the port. In result, international shipping in and out of the terminal was halted for months. Intensive lobbying from affected businesses eventually lead to legislative intervention in admiralty policy procedures. The Coast Guard shifted its course in mid-September.
The Marriott strike continues at twenty three hotels in multiple cities. Management regrets that labor resorted to striking – stating that it would be better to address all concerns and interests “in good faith” only at the bargaining table – and union representatives repeat that “[t]here is no end date.” Anand Singh of Unite Here Local 2 (San Francisco) maintains that “[i]t’s an indefinite strike until we achieve our demands.” Some of the affected hotels have been issuing letters of apology to clients who must retrieve bath soap on their own from supplies, and who are experiencing considerable delays and disruptions in hospitality services.
Apple is investigating complaints that one of its Taiwanese suppliers, Quanta Computer, has been illegally relying on teen labor to fill night shifts and overtime needs. According to a Hong Kong-based human rights NGO Sacom, more than two dozen high school students have been compelled to work 8 pm to 8 am shifts six days a week. The students report that teachers sent them to the factory to “intern” and that teachers threatened that failure to complete the internship would result in failure to graduate. These night shifts and overtime hours violate Chinese law defining standards for internships. As Christina Comben writes at Moneymakers.com, Apple CEO Tim Cook’s commitment to protect user data has not been paired with an equally vocal – or demonstrable – commitment to protect vulnerable workers in the Apple supply chain. According to the Financial Times, across China forced student labor is widespread; vocational schools, seeking to attract industry, partner with manufacturers, who strive – and struggle – to maintain low costs while wages rise nationally.
On election day, some voters will have the chance to bypass state legislatures and determine directly whether to raise the minimum wage raise. Proposition B in Missouri would boost the minimum from $7.85 an hour to $12 an hour by 2023. Issue 5 in Arkansas would boost the minimum from $8.50 an hour $11 an hour by 2021. According to the Huffington Post, advocacy organization the Fairness Project is “confident” the referenda will pass in both red states, as similar measures did in 2006 (MO) and 2014 (AR). Federal inaction on the issue – i.e., Congressional failure to raise the federal minimum above $7.25, set in 2007 – has prompted state initiatives.
In Missouri, due to a 2017 preemption law, a statewide referendum is necessary for any raise, which must be the floor for localities. A battle over preemption is playing out in Florida. The state of Florida is fighting against a 2016 Miami Beach ordinance that raises the city’s minimum gradually to $13.21 an hour by 2021. Florida argues that the a locally-set wage is preempted by a lower state wage, per a 2004 constitutional amendment. The Miami Herald reports that the Attorney General filed briefs to the Florida Supreme Court this week.