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Friday, December 8

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Labor & Worker Rights Tue Dec 22 2009

Solidarity Report: HCR & Low Wages, Restaurant Workers, & More

In the 19th Century, wealth was distributed by height.

Some dispatches from the world of work:

*At the stupendous Working blog from In These Times, a few pieces: first, Kari Lydersen profiles the on-going effort of staff at the upscale Andersonville^ Ole Ole! restaurant to organize a union:

A meeting is set for Monday Dec. 21. Oliva and Chicago organizer Veronica Avila said workers will revive their plans to protest and draw on public support if the meeting doesn't go well. But for now, they are counting the development as a victory and the first step in a fruitful relationship with the Ole Ole owner and management.

"We think it's a victory, the key thing here is that this more than anything is a victory for the workers who have through their unity and their own personal sacrifices demonstrated that the employer can't just get away with breaking the law," said Avila. He continued:

But it's not a complete victory because we don't for sure if the employer is going to want to negotiate in good faith. If she does, we're going to be partnering with her, we're going to work closely with her to make sure her business succeeds because that's in our interest as workers as well. But if she doesn't, we are definitely going to have to call for a major series of direct actions, a whole range of different tactics.

*Jonathon Tasini at Working Life discusses one of the many potential negative effects of the corporate giveway and also something having to do with health care bill in the Senate: it incentivizes employers to keep wages low:

Let me try to explain this simply: both the House and Senate stay with an employer-based model for health care (which is insane, but that's another story). The basic policy is explained by the Center for Economic and Policy Research in a terrific analysis, that has so far, as I can tell, been ignored. Companies would be required to:

either provide affordable health insurance to all of their workers or to contribute to the costs of providing publicly subsidized affordable health insurance to uninsured workers.

The problem is that the Senate bill does not require employers to contribute any money to publicly subsidized health care for any employees who are under 133 percent of the poverty line--which one in ten workers in America are under. That's 6 million families in 2008, according to the CEPR study. And it is utterly wrong to assume that we are talking about part-time workers--2.5 million of those families had one person who worked full-time.

*"Always low prices" relies on an unsustainable model that requires heavy-handed government repression of workers' rights in other counties:

Since the lawsuit however the company said it had lost confidence in Shenzhen's business environment and would rather contract out its orders than hire new workers in the city, according Ms Han, the CEO of the company's Greater China division.

She blamed legal professionals in Shenzhen for stirring up the workforce and encouraging workers to sue their employers when enterprises were fighting for their survival during the financial crisis. "Compared with workers in inland regions, workers in Shenzhen are younger and are more likely to cause trouble," she said.

This is an American enterprise, Markwins International, that is a major supplier to Guess Who.

*Back at Working, Mischa Gaus takes The Economist to task for another unserious, reductivist attack on "public employees":

For the London-based publication, the working stiff is mostly someone to ignore, unless you're invoking him to decry the moral degeneracy of latter-day protectionists--or taking a velvet-worded swipe at his union.

The latest British invasion is a brazen piece published last week welcoming public-sector employees to "the real world," where everyone earns less, pensions are nearly extinct, and every day fewer people can pull out an insurance card when they call on the doctor.

State and local government workers, we learn from The Economist, are "coddled and spoiled," basking in an alternate reality where it's reasonable to expect to live and work without being forced to draw public assistance...or to have a retirement not spent devastated by the convulsions of the stock market.

Extra points for quoting someone called "Joey Shithead."

*At Chicago union news, Katie Drews reports on the labor fight a new Gold Coast hotel had waiting for them when they opened their doors.

*From the LA Times, via the Working blog, this:

Workers... are fueling a surge of productivity in the U.S. economy. Employee output per hour jumped 8.1% in the third quarter this year, the largest gain since the third quarter of 2003.

But these bustling laborers are also a big reason why companies won't be rushing to hire new staffers any time soon. The brutal downturn has forced firms across the economy to do more with fewer hands; many have found they can manage just fine for the time being.

Many U.S. workers are being pushed to toil harder and shoulder the load once carried by colleagues who've since been laid off. That can mean long days without overtime pay or raises, less family time, and more mental and physical fatigue.

Don't like it? Walk out the door and you'll join 15 million unemployed Americans, the largest segment of whom have been idle for more than three months. Your former boss will have plenty of replacements to choose from. There are about six job seekers for every opening.

^Corrected from Lakeview.

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Parents Still Steaming, but About More Than Just Boilers

By Phil Huckelberry / 2 Comments

It's now been 11 days since the carbon monoxide leak which sent over 80 Prussing Elementary School students and staff to the hospital. While officials from Chicago Public Schools have partially answered some questions, and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool has informed that he will be visiting the school to field more questions on Nov. 16, many parents remain irate at the CPS response to date. More...


Substance, Not Style, the Source of Rahm's Woes

By Ramsin Canon / 2 Comments

It's not surprising that some of Mayor Emanuel's sympathizers and supporters are confusing people's substantive disputes with the mayor as the effect of poor marketing on his part. It's exactly this insular worldview that has gotten the mayor in hot... More...

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