1. Dexter Wray, Alaska: Dexter worked as a maintenance engineer at a Sheraton in Anchorage. His manager pressured him and several of his co-workers to decertify their union and told them to lie to the NLRB. When they told the truth, Dexter and two of his co-workers were fired. The NLRB ruled that the firings and coercion were illegal, but the hotel has refused to rehire them. Dexter didn't work for six months and incurred a large medical debt when he lost his health insurance.The NLRB is currently operating, but with many cases held up by an appeals court decision overturning the president's recess appointments to the board. If the Senate does not confirm nominees, the NLRB will cease to have the quorum that allows it to function at all in August, and workers will be without even the weak protections a fully functioning NLRB offers.
2. Michelle Baricko, Connecticut: Michelle is a certified nursing assistant at West River Health Care. She and her co-workers were locked out for months during contract negotiations. The hospital's owner, HealthBridge/CareOne, declared that negotiations were permanently stalled and implemented its own contract, which the employees did not agree to. The NLRB obtained a court injunction for the company to stop its unfair labor practices, but HealthBridge declared bankruptcy and was able to escape its obligations to the employees. The Board and the employees' union have appealed the decision. Michelle was forced to sell her home and still struggles to provide for her three sons.
3. Kathleen Von Eitzen, Michigan: Kathleen is a baker at Panera Bread who organized 17 of her coworkers to form a union. The company fought back, firing one employee and cutting Kathleen's pay, giving her a negative evaluation because of her organizing. The NLRB found that Panera violated the workers' rights and ordered the company to pay back and compensate employees for cutting their hours. Panera appealed and the case is now stalled in federal court. Kathleen's husband has had two heart attacks and can't work full time. They can't afford insurance because of her low pay and their home is now in foreclosure.
Continue reading below the fold for more of the week's news in work and education.
A fair day's wage
- Nurses—and a city council member—brave arrest to stop hospital closing.
- Dave Jamieson looks at the question marks raised by Walmart's claims about its pay rates and threats to withdraw from Washington, D.C., over a large retailer living wage bill:
According to Walmart, full-time store workers now earn $12.78 per hour on average, or 28 cents higher than the proposed D.C. mandate. That's an average wage -- quite different from a starting wage. But considering the Walmart footprint leans heavily suburban and rural, a $12.50 starting wage in one of the most expensive cities in the country wouldn't seem too out of whack with Walmart's self-reported wage data.Tell Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray to sign the Large Retailer Accountability Act and give big box workers a living wage.
So what gives?
Walmart's $12.78 figure probably presents a misleading picture of what store workers actually make. As the company itself notes, the $12.78 calculation excludes part-time workers, and it includes department managers who are paid hourly and probably earn a good deal more than cashiers, stockers and sales associates.
It's hard to know how much this skews things, because Walmart doesn't disclose how much of its workforce is part-time or how much those workers actually earn.
- Somewhat counterintuitive, but good on them:
Leaders of the union representing 17,000 nonsupervisory Border Patrol officers say they have serious concerns about how the Border Patrol can grow from 21,394 agents to 40,000 in only 10 years, as the [Senate immigration] bill requires, without sacrificing quality or efficiency.
- What this stay-at-home dad says:
Yes, taking care of kids is difficult and it is underappreciated work, especially if you’re also nurturing a career. But it’s not heroic. Because, if it’s heroic to forgo working so that you can take care of kids, then what if you have to work to provide for those kids? Is my wife un-heroic—maybe even a coward—for passing the kids to me so that she can return to work full time? What about me? Was I lacking in heroism before, when I was working long hours and she was with the kids?
I’d like to humbly suggest that I’m not a bad or good person based on my position with regard to this particular question. I don’t feel guilty or proud of how much time I spend with my kids now, and I didn’t feel guilty or proud when Jen was on maternity leave. I wish that Jen also didn’t feel guilty or proud about this issue, but I know that as a woman she is inundated with judgments.
I get judgment, too, I suppose: I’m accosted by strangers who want to praise me because I’m with my kids at noon on Tuesday. But when I was working around the clock and Jen was with the kids, people applauded my ambition. I’m a hero either way, which is nice for me.
- Michael Grabell's outstanding article about the temp industry won a Sidney award, and Lindsay Beyerstein interviews the author/winner.
- The Metropolitan Transportation Authority claims it decided to use Chinese steel in rehabilitating the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge after spending a bunch of money looking for steel sources in the U.S., but according to United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard:
With precious little effort, the United Steelworkers found two American bridge fabricators that said they could meet MTA’s requirements for specialized orthotropic steel decking for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Both are located in eastern Pennsylvania within 100 miles of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge site.
One was cleared by a bonding company, lined up financing and prepared to meet the MTA’s construction schedule.Also in eastern Pennsylvania, Lehigh University’s Advanced Technology for Large Structural Systems Center tested full-scale prototypes of the orthotropic steel panels for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
Both American bridge fabricators were prepared to use American-made steel, which would employ Americans in good, family-supporting jobs in mills that are required to control emissions and that wouldn’t have contributed to pollution by hauling steel halfway around the world.
- The title of this post is everything you think you know about low-wage workers is wrong. If you're a semi-regular Daily Kos Labor reader, I hope to gawd this is not the case, because most of the myths it busts have been discussed at some length here. But it is still a very useful post.
- Poverty maps from 1980 look very different from those today, and that has policy implications.
- Remember the Pennsylvania McDonald's that was making workers take their pay in fee-laden debit cards? Yeah, probably because there are people now who know about that besides the workers suffering from it, the franchise has quit forcing the debit cards on workers.
- Corey Robin reviews what we know about CUNY's Petraeus cover-up.
- Incredibly good news: Teach for America teachers and alums are organizing against TFA's way of doing business.
- How charter entrepreneurs make millions with taxpayer dollars.