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The Cost of Lower Prices August 1, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Capitalism, Labor.
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Roger’s note: human beings are both producers and consumers.  As consumers we enjoy a good bargain.  As producers we NEED a decent job.  Collectively labor should always trump consumption, although we are seduced by lower prices to betray the solidarity essential to the human community of producers (i.e. those of us who work for a living, which is the 99 percent).  This cartoon shows us graphically how capitalist economy is destructive of the human community, in this case globally.

 

factory-deaths-675

Homeless Japanese Being ‘Recruited’ To Clean Up Fukushima Disaster December 30, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Housing/Homelessness, Japan, Labor, Nuclear weapons/power.
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Investigation reveals systematic exploitation of homeless by big business and organized crime

- Jon Queally, staff writer

Shizuya Nishiyama, a 57-year-old homeless man from Hokkaido, speaks during an interview with Reuters at Sendai Station in Sendai, northern Japan December 18, 2013. (Credit: REUTERS/Issei Kato)

Private labor contractors in Japan are “recruiting” homeless individuals throughout the country, luring them to perform clean-up work in the areas near the destroyed nuclear power plant at Fukushima for less than minimum wage.

That’s the finding of a new special Reuters investigation which says that shady business operators are employing men like Seiji Sasa to “prowl” train stations and other places throughout the country targeting “homeless men” who are “willing to accept minimum wage for one of the most undesirable jobs in the industrialized world: working on the $35 billion, taxpayer-funded effort to clean up radioactive fallout across an area of northern Japan larger than Hong Kong.”

The investigation found a shady but systematic labor scheme—much of it run by organized crime but also involving some of the nation’s top construction firms—in which day laborers are exploited by contractors receiving state funds to clean up areas near the plant.

“We’re an easy target for recruiters,” said 57-year-old Shizuya Nishiyama, a homeless man recruited at a train station in the city of Sendai. “We turn up here with all our bags, wheeling them around and we’re easy to spot. They say to us, are you looking for work? Are you hungry? And if we haven’t eaten, they offer to find us a job.”

In exchange for bringing workers to the sites, the middlemen receive a cut of their wages.

“I don’t ask questions; that’s not my job,” said Sasa, one of these so-called “middle men,” in an interview with Reuters. “I just find people and send them to work. I send them and get money in exchange. That’s it. I don’t get involved in what happens after that.”

Reviewing police records and conducting interviews with some of the people directly involved, Reuters reveals the ongoing and perilous nature of the clean-up work at Fukushima and the ways in which society’s most vulnerable are being exploited for profit in the aftermath of one of the worst nuclear disasters in history.

According to Reuters, the scheme plays out when large construction firms like Obayashi, the nation’s second biggest and major contractor at Fukushima, employs sub-contractors like Sasa:

Seiji Sasa, 67, a broad-shouldered former wrestling promoter, was photographed by undercover police recruiting homeless men at the Sendai train station to work in the nuclear cleanup. The workers were then handed off through a chain of companies reporting up to Obayashi, as part of a $1.4 million contract to decontaminate roads in Fukushima, police say. [...]

Only a third of the money allocated for wages by Obayashi’s top contractor made it to the workers Sasa had found. The rest was skimmed by middlemen, police say. After deductions for food and lodging, that left workers with an hourly rate of about $6, just below the minimum wage equal to about $6.50 per hour in Fukushima, according to wage data provided by police. Some of the homeless men ended up in debt after fees for food and housing were deducted, police say.

Read the complete investigation here.

Qatar’s World Cup Spectacle Brought to You by Slavery November 23, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Labor, Qatar, Sports.
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The big controversies surrounding Qatar as the site of the 2022 World Cup have been the shady bidding process and fears that the desert heat will ruin the soccer games. But in the past few days, the spotlight has finally begun to move to longstanding concerns over the treatment of the migrant workers who will be building the physical infrastructure for the sporting bonanza.

Migrants laboring in Qatar. Most are underpaid and face torture or abuse. (Photo by WBUR/ Flickr)

Throughout the summer, according to an investigation by Amnesty International [PDF] released this week, the future site of the sporting spectacle became a death trap for the Asian workers brought in by Qatar and its booming construction industry to work on the building sites of the planned World Cup facilities, including commercial areas and transportation infrastructure.

Amnesty found that the workers were encamped in sweltering heat, fell from precarious heights and suffered heart failure under the strenuous labor conditions. One Nepalese official described the entire system of indenture as an “open prison,” according to Der Spiegel. In light of dozens of reported deaths, union activists predict that up to 4,000 may die on the sites between now and the 2022 games.

Through interviews with the World Cup construction workers, the Amnesty investigators gathered horrific stories of an array of abuses, including “not being paid for six or nine months; not being able to get out of the country; not having enough—or any—food; and being housed in very poor accommodation with poor sanitation, or no electricity.”

Workers testified that migrants were frequently forced to work for poverty-level wages or sometimes none at all. Often, they said, employers confiscated their identification documents, effectively holding them hostage out of fear of being detained for lacking papers.

Unfortunately, while horrific, these stories are far from unique in Qatar. More than 90 percent of the labor that fuels the country’s oil-slicked economy is imported, typically brought in by recruiters from South Asian countries. Not only are these migrant workers non-citizens; in the eyes of their employers, they are barely human. They live in barbaric, squalid dormitories, their movement restricted, invisible under Qatari law and cut off from their home communities.

Under the transnational migrant “sponsorship” system, according to Amnesty, workers were drawn into the labor trade by recruiting agents who falsely advertised decent, high-paying work abroad–sometimes taking on heavy debt to secure a job. The byzantine residence permit system further disenfranchises workers. When employers illegally fail to arrange permits for workers, as was frequently the case in the shadowy migrant labor market, they generally cannot return home without paying extremely heavy fines. The restrictions on migrant workers’ movement mean that “rather than protecting the rights of migrant workers, the government is adding to their exploitation,” Amnesty contends.

Underlying the whole system are fundamentally weak protections for labor organizing on the part of Qataris and migrants alike, as well as prohibitions on migrants forming trade unions. The lack of organization among workers means many migrants remain in the dark about their labor rights. One Nepalese worker explained to Amnesty, “There are many workers who keep working like donkeys, without asking a question. They don’t understand what is legally our entitlements, what our rights are.”

Some have tried to challenge employers. According to the report, the Labour Ministry and the courts have each received thousands of worker complaints, many related to basic wage and hour and other labor issues. But due to fear of retaliation and the difficulty non-Qataris face in navigating the justice system, most aggrieved workers, according to investigators, probably do not go through with the complaint process in the first place.

One worker with the U.S.-based electro-mechanical engineering contractor Krantz Engineering wrote in a desperate letter to Amnesty in April 2013 about his lack of legal recourse for his abuse:

I am writing this email after lots of pain and struggle … I have complained in several places like Labour court, Indian Embassy, High court, CID and National Human Rights Council Qatar but no any positive response from anyone of them … I don’t have money to eat food from last five days as I didn’t get salary from last nine months.

Not all of the employers using this labor are Qatar-based—the report linked multinationals such as Hyundai Engineering and Construction and OHL Construction to the subcontractors building the World Cup-related facilities. In the case of Krantz, Amnesty discovered that one of the company’s subcontractors was receiving technical training from a company called TEEX, which is affiliated with Texas A&M University. When questioned by Amnesty about the treatment of migrants, Texas A&M argued the firm “does not have any role in the management and supervision of the labor force at the facility.”

Amid international criticism from Amnesty and other organizations like the UN, Qatar’s 2022 Supreme Committee, a managing body for the preparation for the games, has vowed to address the reported abuses, and FIFA has issued similar comments. In a formal response to the Guardian published in September, the committee cited numerous labor protections available to migrants, including restrictions on passport confiscation.

But Sharran Burrow of the International Trade Union Confederation tells Working In These Times via email she is unconvinced by Qatar’s promises. “Qatar continues to announce that it will reform the visa sponsorship system, yet nothing changes,” she says. In the wake of mounting criticism over the human rights issues surrounding the event, she adds, “Unless Qatar reforms its ways, FIFA should re-run the vote for the 2022 World Cup.”

There is also a question of who is directly responsible for regulating labor issues. Amnesty’s report focused on infrastructure construction related to the World Cup but not just the stadium itself—including transportation and supporting commercial facilities. In any case, the primarily responsibility, argue human rights advocates, lies with Qatar to reform its overall labor laws and to tighten oversight of private sector labor practices, particularly for international-sporting projects aimed at creating a global commercial spectacle.

This is not the first time FIFA has come under political pressure; earlier this year, populist protests erupted over the lavish costs of the preparations for the 2014 Brazil World Cup. Though FIFA generally urges host countries to comply with international human rights, the World Cup is notorious for inducing local labor violations. For example, labor activists have condemned FIFA for not taking strong enough action against Russia’s temporary suspension of key labor protections for the migrant workers at the building sites for the 2018 World Cup.

The human rights crises haunting World Cup stadiums reveal global sport’s economic realities: the commercial spectacle that brings the world together is built on vast inequalities.

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Michelle Chen

Michelle Chen is a contributing editor at In These Times. She is a regular contributor to the labor rights blog Working In These Times, Colorlines.com, and Pacifica’s WBAI. Her work has also appeared in Common Dreams, Alternet, Ms. Magazine, Newsday, and her old zine, cain.

Colombia Nationwide Strike Against ‘Free Trade,’ Privatization, Poverty August 25, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Colombia, Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Imperialism, Labor, Latin America.
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Roger’s note: I am publishing this articles so that readers in the United States might know what’s going on in their 51st state.

Ignored by English-language media, rural uprisings spread across industries as hundreds of thousands protest US-backed govt

 

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Protests in Sincelejo (Photo: Marcha Patriotica)

A nationwide strike in Colombia—which started as a rural peasant uprising and spread to miners, teachers, medical professionals, truckers, and students—reached its 7th day Sunday as at least 200,000 people blocked roads and launched protests against a U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement and devastating policies of poverty and privatization pushed by US-backed right-wing President Juan Manuel Santos.

“[The strike is a condemnation] of the situation in which the Santos administration has put the country, as a consequence of its terrible, anti-union and dissatisfactory policies,” declared the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT), the country’s largest union, in a statement.

The protests and strikes, largely ignored in the English-language media, have been met with heavy crackdown from Colombia’s feared police, with human rights organization Bayaca reporting shootings, torture, sexual assault, severe tear-gassing, arbitrary arrests, and other abuses on the part of state agents. Colombia’s Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon recently claimed that the striking workers are being controlled by the “terrorist” Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), in a country known for using unverified claims of FARC connections as an excuse to launch severe violence against social movements.

“Violent clashes continue in rural areas where farmers and truck drivers have been setting up roadblocks since Monday, and the Santos administration has deployed 16,000 additional military personnel to ‘control the situation,'” Neil Martin of the Colombia-based labor solidarity organization Paso International told Common Dreams Sunday. “There have not been deaths reported in relation to this violence, but human rights organizations and YouTube videos have documented military personnel beating protestors, stealing supplies, carrying out vandalism unwarranted arrests, and generally inciting violence.”

Protesters are levying a broad range of concerns about public policies that devastate Colombia’s workers, indigenous, and Afro-Colombian communities. The US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement has forced small farmers to compete with subsidized US products, made them more vulnerable to market fluctuations, and eroded their protections and social safety nets through the implementation of neoliberal policies domestically. Farmers are demanding more protections and services in a country beset with severe rural poverty.

Meanwhile, the Colombian government is handing out sweetheart deals to international mining companies while creating bans and roadblocks for Colombian miners. Likewise, the government is giving multinational food corporations access to land earmarked for poor Colombians. Healthcare workers are fighting a broad range of reforms aimed at gutting and privatizing Colombia’s healthcare system. Truckers are demanding an end to low wages and high gas prices.

“This is the third or fourth large-scale non-military rural uprising this year,” Martin told Common Dreams.

Colombian workers organizing to improve their lives are met with an onslaught of state violence: Colombia is the deadliest country in the world for union activists, according to the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center, and 37 activists were murdered in Colombia in the 1st half of 2013 alone, leading news weekly Semana reports.

Santos, who says he refuses to negotiate while the strikes are taking place, has so far been unsuccessful in his efforts to quell the swelling protests that are paralyzing much of the country, particularly in rural areas.

“[W]e just want solutions to our problems,” Javier Correa Velez, the head of a coffee-growers association called Dignidad Cafetera, told the Miami Herald. “The strike is simply a symptom of an illness that the entire agriculture sector is suffering from.”

(Photo: Twitter/@zonacero)

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Fast Feud Nation August 14, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Food, Humor, Labor.
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It seems like everybody’s talking about the low wage worker strikes that just swept the country, and we need to make sure that they keep talking.

After hundreds of fast food and retail workers in 7 cities walked off the job demanding decent wages, more and more people are finally waking up to the fact that the millions of workers making minimum wage are scrambling to survive while profits and executive pay skyrocket. Even the mainstream media is starting to discuss how badly big, profitable fast food chains like McDonald’s are exploiting their workers — but as usual, no one is doing it as well as The Daily Show. This hilarious clip from the week of the strikes captures why this burgeoning movement is so important — and it’s a perfect introduction for people who haven’t paid attention to the strikes yet.

Thanks for all you do,
Rob, Kaytee, and the team at SumOfUs

 

Gap and Walmart Dishonesty June 4, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Asia, Bangladesh, Human Rights, Labor.
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Last week, Gap made a big announcement. After weeks of pressure by people across the globe to sign the binding Bangladesh Safety Accord and end death traps in its factories, Gap put out a press release about its big new plan: partnering with Walmart on a fake “safety plan” that is not accountable to anyone.

Gap thinks it can fool us with a cheap PR stunt. It’s wrong.

Help us undermine Gap’s PR stunt by spreading the word about Gap and Walmart’s deadly “plan” and sharing this image on Facebook or forwarding this email to your friends.

Click here to share this image and help spread the word about Gap and Walmart’s dishonesty:

http://act.sumofus.org/go/1818?t=2&akid=1772.1024433.pqh3GU

 

Gap and Walmart are strange bedfellows. Walmart has a long record of unethical behavior, from brutally exploiting workers to discriminating against women to bribing Mexican officials, and it’s one of the most hated corporations in the world. Until recently, Gap was seen as a fairly responsible company.

Our sources tell us that Gap’s senior executives get really upset when they hear their company’s name mentioned in the same breath as Walmart. It means the brand they’ve tried to create for years is crumbling. But if they’re going to get in bed with Walmart to avoid taking responsibility for workers’ safety, they’re going to have to deal with the consequences. If Gap doesn’t like it, it can join the Bangladesh Safety Accord like dozens of brands already have.

Thanks for keeping the pressure on Gap to actually protect its workers from death traps,
Marguerite, Rob, Kaytee, and the rest of The Sum Of Us

 

P.S. We’ve created a new tumblr to spread the word about Gap and Walmart’s blossoming friendship: gapheartswalmart.tumblr.com. If you want to make your own submission (and make Gap’s bosses angry), just go here or here and email a link to reportback@sumofus.org. We’ll take the best submissions and put them on the tumblr.

Care about Your Food? Then Care about Your Farmworkers Too January 31, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Agriculture, Food, Human Rights, Labor.
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Published on Thursday, January 31, 2013 by YES! Magazine

It’s organic. It’s local. But did the workers who picked it have health insurance?

 

by Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern

These days, most people involved in buying and advocating for local and organic food say they want to support their farmers. They imagine (Photo: MRader)

the people that grow their vegetables as sweating in the fields, cheerfully smiling as they pull carrots from their own land, which they till until the sun goes down.

The image of the independent and industrious farmer is upheld in places where “alternative” or sustainable food is sold and promoted, such as farmers markets and food stores, which often encourage consumers to “get to know their farmer.” Grocery stores that carry natural, local, and organic foods, such as Whole Foods and food purchasing cooperatives, commonly post large, glossy photographs of local growers.

But who, exactly, is a farmer? Is it the person who owns a farm? The person who sells food at a farmers’ market? Or could a farmer be the immigrant who follows the work from place to place and picks the fruit of the season?

Almost all farms, even small and organic ones, require hired help. In most cases, that consists of immigrant farmworkers who are paid less than a living wage.

People need to ask not only, where does my food come from, but also, who performs the labor to grow this food? For a food system to be truly sustainable, we must prioritize the well-being of workers as well as consumers.

For a food system to be truly sustainable, we must prioritize the well-being of workers as well as consumers.

Who’s behind your food?

Farm labor is one of only a few occupations exempt from most federal and state minimum wages and work-hour limitations. Of the farmworkers who responded to the most recent National Agricultural Workers’ Survey (NAWS), about one-third earned less than $7.25 an hour and only a quarter reported working more than nine months per calendar year. The California Institute for Rural Studies found that one-fourth of farmworkers live below the federal poverty line, and 55 percent are food insecure on average. (An individual or family is considered food insecure when members of a household lack access to enough food for an active, healthy life at all times, according to the USDA.)

In reality, however, farmworker conditions are even worse than those numbers suggest. Much of the research concerning farm labor is based on information gained from formal systems of employment, such as labor contractors. That leaves the majority of farm laborers who work informally, such as daily workers, unaccounted for.

Are conditions better on organic farms? Not as much as you’d think. Entry-level workers on organic farms in California make only 29 cents an hour more than their counterparts on non-organic farms do. That’s still less than a living wage.

And those workers on organic farms are actually less likely to have paid time off, health insurance for themselves and their families, and retirement or pension funds. Certified organic farmers have proven resistant to including labor standards in organic certification, according to a study published in 2006 in the journal Agriculture and Human Values.

Looking beyond the city

Some in the sustainable food movement work with the goal of directly addressing human rights issues in the food system. These groups and individuals make up what many call the “food justice movement.” Yet even in these circles, some organizations seem to have trouble focusing on the rights of farmworkers.

The Student/Farmworker Alliance has worked to bring farmworker injustice into the picture on college campuses.

Why are these workers so hard to see? Maybe it’s because most of our organizations are located in cities and staffed by young people attracted by urban life. Consider a group like Planting Justice, an organization in Oakland, Calif., which describes its work as “democratizing access to affordable, nutritious food.” It does this by “empowering disenfranchised urban residents with the skills, resources, and inspiration to maximize food production, economic opportunities, and environmental sustainability in our neighborhoods.”

Groups such as Planting Justice often work on initiatives to encourage and popularize urban gardening and to increase the availability of fresh food in poor urban neighborhoods. Although these are important efforts to improve the health of often underserved urban residents, they tend to limit the conversation to the urban core. Issues that affect rural places—including the plight of farmworkers—are left out of the discussion.

If the growing food justice movement is to truly confront injustice in the food system, it must address the rural poor as well as the urban poor. The fact that the workers who actually grow and harvest the food we’re talking about are also poor provides a natural opportunity for solidarity and makes this even more important to the movement.

Good news and next steps

Some in the food justice community are starting to work more broadly on issues of farm and food system labor, coordinating with farm, food processing, and restaurant worker unions. These new coalitions include The Food Chain Workers Alliance, The U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance, The Rural Coalition, and the Student/Farmworker Alliance.

Working together, many groups are finding more power to motivate policy change and raise working standards, increasing the visibility of food worker issues in the mainstream food movement.

The Student/Farmworker Alliance, for example, has played a major role in the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Campaign for Fair Food, bringing farmworker injustice into the picture on college campuses. In addition, The Food Chain Workers Alliance is working directly with rural as well as urban food justice groups, bringing labor issues into the conversations of foodies who may previously have thought only about whether their carrots were local and not about whether the people who picked them had health insurance.

By working in coalition, people who are used to advocating for healthier food in urban centers are beginning to learn from rural activists, as well as the other way around. If we are to truly see the creation of a more just food system, then organizations, individuals, and communities that claim sustainable and food justice ideals must start to expand their vision for a food system that is just in both environmental and social terms. That may mean pushing for revised agricultural trade and immigration policy, including stricter labor regulations and higher minimum wages.

Both sustainable food proponents and food justice organizers have shown interest in addressing labor-related injustice. But to truly make that change, those that care about our food system must broaden their views of food sustainability to include the rights and health of all producers and consumers of food.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern has spent many years working on farms and with agriculture and food organizations in Guatemala, New York State, and California. She holds a doctorate in geography from the University of California, Berkeley, and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Goucher College in Maryland.

Inside the Invisible World of Domestic Work: An Interview with Ai-jen Poo December 7, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Labor, Women.
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What we found is that the people, mostly women, who we count on to take care of the most precious elements of our lives — our homes and our families — do not earn enough to take care of their own families or themselves.

November 30, 2012
by Lauren Feeney

Ai-jen Poo

Domestic workers — the nannies, housekeepers, and home health aides who care for our young children and elderly parents — have traditionally been excluded from the most basic protections, like minimum wage. Their jobs are inherently insecure, ending abruptly when the child goes off to school or the patient passes on, yet few collect Social Security or are eligible for unemployment benefits. Working behind closed doors in private homes, they are vulnerable to abuse and unable to organize.

Enter Ai-jen Poo. The community organizer has been advocating for domestic workers’ rights for over a decade, and in 2010, led the campaign for the nation’s first Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which theoretically guarantees overtime pay, paid vacation, and basic human and civil rights protections for over 200,000 workers in the state of New York. Now she’s working to bring the same rights to domestic workers nationwide.

This week, Poo’s organization, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, together with the University of Illinois at Chicago and the DataCenter, released the first-ever national survey of domestic workers, Home Economics: The Invisible and Unregulated World of Domestic Work.  Poo sees it as a call-to-action for the nation to tackle the problems of this unregulated sphere, problems that in a Venn diagram would overlap with race, immigration, gender, and the modern, middle-class dual-income family.

Lauren Feeney: What are some of the most important findings in your report?

Ai-jen Poo: The fact that the report exists at all is important because for so long there hasn’t been any real data on domestic work, and that’s contributed to the invisibility of these workers and the Wild West nature of this industry. Now we have data from surveys of 2,086 domestic workers in 14 different cities from 71 different countries of origin.

What we found is that the people, mostly women, who we count on to take care of the most precious elements of our lives — our homes and our families — do not earn enough to take care of their own families or themselves. Twenty-three percent of domestic workers earn below minimum wage. That’s not counting live-in domestic workers. Among live-ins, sixty-one percent earn below minimum wage. And I think all of us know that even minimum wage is impossible to survive on.

Feeney: How is it that in 21st century America — after all the successes of the labor movement, the women’s movement, the civil rights movement — there is still this segment of the population that lacks even the most basic protections under the law? Why were these people left behind?

Poo: One reason is the legacy of racism in this country. In the 1930s, Southern members of Congress refused to support the labor laws within the New Deal if farm workers and domestic workers, who were largely African-American at the time, were included under those protections — protections like the Fair Labor Standards Act and the National Labor Relations Act.

The people who have done this work have historically been poor, working poor women — immigrant women, African-American women, white poor and working class women — socially disadvantaged people. Then there’s the fact that this work has been seen as women’s work and has never really been valued or recognized as real work — it’s a battle to even get recognition as work and as workers versus just help or companionship.

All of those factors connected have meant that this work is done in the shadows. Now, with the need for this work just growing exponentially and becoming so much a part of the lifeblood of this country and the economy, we have an opportunity to really turn the tide on that.

Feeney: What makes domestic work so important to the economy?

Poo: The economist Jared Bernstein calls it a “critical input.” We call it the work that makes all other work possible. It’s this invisible layer of work — raising families and taking care of homes — that allows other people to go into their public lives and work, achieve, build.

Feeney: You call for a living wage, paid sick days, paid vacation and health insurance for domestic workers, and I don’t think anyone would argue that these women don’t deserve these basic protections. And of course, it’s easy to point a finger at wealthy executives and politicians who don’t treat their nannies well. But what about middle-class working women with limited options for child and elder care who really can’t afford any more than they’re already paying?

Poo: We need to take a holistic approach that’s not just about workers’ rights but about a whole set of policies that will make it more possible for all of us to take care of the people that we love. So we also promote tax credits and paid family leave policies and all kinds of workplace flexibility policies for working parents.

We’re living in a 21st century economy where the majority of paid workers are women, yet they’re still responsible for the vast majority of caregiving responsibilities. Our society, in the rules and structures that currently exist, has not accounted for that whole arena of work. And the manifestation of that is the low wages and invisibility and abuse of domestic workers. But really every single family is impacted by the fact that we haven’t adequately accounted for the work that goes into caring for families. Families need help, they need childcare, they need eldercare, and they don’t always have the resources to afford it. Why don’t we have universal childcare?  Why don’t we have workplace flexibility policies that account for the fact that people get sick and family members have to take care of them? It just seems very basic and it can absolutely be done. We really need to rethink the whole way we account for work and structure the economy in a way that works for everyone.

Feeney: In the meantime, what would you suggest concerned employers do to make sure that they’re treating their caregivers fairly, and what can domestic workers and their allies do to get involved in your campaign?

Poo: If you’re an employer, I would really encourage you to go to the Hand-in-Hand Domestic Employers Association website and sign up for their list. And for domestic workers, I would say join one of our affiliate organizations or the national alliance. We’re doing work in twenty-four cities in fourteen states and the District of Columbia, so we have affiliates all over the place, and if people want to form an organization in their town, we’ll support it. We’ve got big campaigns moving forward in California, Massachusetts and Illinois in 2013, so people can get involved in changing the policies and laws that will affect their lives in the future. That’s a call for employers too — we need employers to support our standards and guidelines, and their voices will be really important in that cause. Finally, there’s a measure that’s waiting in the wings at the Department of Labor that would bring 1.8 million home care workers under federal minimum wage and overtime protection, and we need people to write letters to their local Congress members and to the president himself saying that they want to see homecare workers included under basic protections. We’ve got to take care of our caregivers.

Walmart Relentless as Thousands Set to Lose Out in New Health Care Policy December 2, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Labor.
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Published on Saturday, December 1, 2012 by Common Dreams

Box store implicated in federal wage-theft lawsuit

  – Common Dreams staff

Walmart will continue to disappoint workers and labor rights activists in the coming months as it continues to ignore the current widespread workers’ strike and protest movement against its labor policies and implements a new health insurance program that will deny healthcare coverage to employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week, according to a copy of the company’s policy obtained by The Huffington Post.

Photo via Facebook / Overpass Light Brigade.

Walmart is known for employing many of its workers part time and less than 30 hours per week, meaning a large majority of its employees is set to lose insurance through their employer.

In response to the Huffington Post, Walmart declined to disclose how many of its roughly 1.4 million U.S. workers will lose their insurance under the new policy, which is set to begin in January. Company spokesman David Tovar told Huffington that Walmart had “made a business decision” not to respond to questions from the paper.

“For Walmart employees, the new system raises the risk that they could lose their health coverage in large part because they have little control over their schedules. Walmart uses an advanced scheduling system to constantly alter workers’ shifts according to store traffic and sales figures,” the Huffington Post reports.

The discovery comes shortly after thousands of Walmart workers across the country walked off the job over the course of the week leading up to the national shopping day Black Friday. Workers continue to organize and speak out against the company’s attempts to silence employees’ complaints regarding the “company’s manipulation of hours and benefits, efforts to try to keep people from working full-time and their discrimination against women and people of color.”

In other Walmart labor news, Walmart warehouse workers in Southern California filed a petition in court this week in a bid to sue Walmart in a federal wage-theft lawsuit.

Walmart’s warehouses in California and Illinois have accused their employer of labor violations in the past; however, Friday’s filing was the first time Walmart has been directly implicated in the claims of abuse, rather than the company’s warehouse subcontractors, the Huffington Post reports.

“Walmart’s name does not appear on any of these workers paychecks, and the Walmart logo does not appear on the t-shirts they’re required to wear,” Michael Rubin, the workers’ lawyer, said on Friday. “But it has become increasingly clear that the ultimate liability for these workplace violations rests squarely on the shoulders of Walmart.”

 

Comments

  • oldblue63

    A) Why does anyone shop at Walmart?  We shoppers  could bring them around in a few weeks if we all just QUIT shopping there. They need our business …we are in the driver’s seat if we use our power. B) This is a perfect example of why health care should not be provided through employers. Part-time employment is extremely common and it makes the employee constantly up in the air about health care benefits…and many employers do not begin coverage until 3-6 months of employment anyway, so people are going without insurance for long periods.  We are all FULL-TIME citizens and that is where we should be getting our health care benefits.

  • gardenernorcal

    We weren’t offered national health care.

    Many people are forced to shop Walmart because when they move in many local shops close up.  Before Walmart moved into my town we had a Wards, Penneys, KMart and Sears store and assorted small shops like dime stores.  Today we have Walmart  a couple high end furniture stores, 1$ Store, a Staples and a Home Depot.

  • BuddhaNature

    Your story is very similar to our town with one exception. Our town refused a Wal-Mart, so they built in everytown around us and sucked the business away. We  too had a JC Penneys, and Sears. And they try and tell you that capitalism is about competition? I won’t shop in there. They keep their wages down to assure themsleves of a customer base.. Henry Ford paid his workers the then good wage of $5.00 dollars a day so that could afford to buy the car they were producing, Wal- Mart on the otherhand, under pays their workers to  assure they can’t afford to shop anyplace else.

  • natureschild3

     

    “Henry Ford paid his workers the then good wage of $5.00 dollars a day so that could afford to buy the car”

    yes! he expressed the opinion that assembly line workers should earn enough to buy an auto. also he insisted the employees show up in a christian church…and never, ever drink a beer or any alcohol–even at home.

    then one day ford had a great business idea–“I can grow my own tires in honduras!” there, too, henry made sure the brown people of honduras appeared his his church, but adequate pay? “naw. we don’t need a bunch o’ darkies driving cars!” if you can, watch or read transcript here:

    “Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City”

     

    http://www.democracynow.org/20…

     

  • Amurkan

    Henry Ford was obliged to pay his workers $5 hr because they quit in droves when they realized that they would be demeaned by his new assembly line. He didn’t do this from the kindness of his heart. No one seems to know this.

  • natureschild3

    yes! and doesn’t that $5 an hour allowing his faithful to buy a model t speak volumes about the ongoing devaluation of the paper dollar?

    “you load 16 tons of #9 coal and what do you get? “anothe day older and deeper in debt. “lord, don’tcha call me ’cause i can’t go…

    “i owe my so-o-oul. . . to the company store!”

     

  • gardenernorcal

    Yeah Ford was not quite the big stalwart supporter of labor as he’s painted today.

     

    But for years Ford also resorted to legal as well as thug tactics to prevent workers in Ford plants from unionizing. 

    In December 1937, the company was found in violation of the Wagner Act and was ordered to cease interfering with workers’ efforts to unionize. In 1941, when wages at Ford were in fact lower than the average wage for the industry, Henry Ford continued to insist that “we do not intend to submit to any union.”

     

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09…

  • Yunzer

    That’s what you get for living in Kalifornia.  Even the pre-Wal-Mart stores you listed are big-box chains!  Is there ANY part of you state that isn’t totally dominated by big chain-crap?  The Summer of Love ended 43 years ago, and the last Doobie Brothers hit was 35 years ago.  You should consider moving back here to the unfashionable mid-atlantic/northeast.

  • gardenernorcal

    But consider this pre Walmart my community of approximately 500,000 supported 4 large chain stores, whose employees were organized and received full benefits including health care and retirement.  People had choices.  I know I shopped Penneys for clothes, Wards for furniture, Sears for tools and KMart for miscellaneous little stuff.  Today I have basically one choice Walmart and they say they can’t pay their employees a living wage or provide them with health care and other benefits.  Why is that?  They are one of the largest and most profitable US corporations.

    And I was born in California. It’s my home. I wouldn’t be moving back to anywhere.

  • nveric

    You being Snobbish? Don’t you know the oceans are rising?

  • Lorenzo LaRue

    ….And your only entry here is smart ass?  Don’t you know that everyone doesn’t live on the beach?

  • Yunzer

    Fortunately all Wal-Marts are out in the public transit-hostile suburban sprawl-land and require a car, or incredibly crappy bus service to get there.  I’ve sworn off all car use except for the occasional long-haul intercity, hiking or hang gliding trip.

    The only reason I would set foot in a Wal-Mart of Sam’s Club would be to burn one to the ground.  Don’t worry, I’d give plenty of warning to evacuate first.

  • Dem. Socialism

    “Too Big To Care”…”Too Immoral To Share”.

    (Wal-Mart’s new slogan.)

  • N30rebel

    Perhaps better?: “Too Big To Care”…”Too Immoral To Shame.”

  • Matthew Grebenc

    Too immortal to care.

  • gardenernorcal

     

    “But it has become increasingly clear that the ultimate liability for these workplace violations rests squarely on the shoulders of Walmart.”

     

    No actually the responsibility lies with all of us that worry more about the DOW every morning than we do the moral and humane treatment of every worker on this planet.  When Reagan fired those air traffic controllers it wasn’t victory for anyone but big finance and Wall St..

    I remember a time when the financial news was the last thing reported on and only given a few moments at that.  We also didn’t have our TV waves saturated with ads by big pharma or attorneys.  And is it just me or am I seeing more and more alcohol ads as well?  Weren’t they outlawed?  How is it some companies are allowed to campaign but Spuds Mckensey was torpedoed into oblivion.

  • 69Tuscany

    The US and New Zealand are the only countries in the world who allow pharmaceutical advertising.

  • adiantum

    I think NZ recently disallowed it.

  • Dem. Socialism

    Also, gardenernorcal, have you noticed the amount of smoking done in movies lately? Rather blatant.

  • Amurkan

    The excuse given for smoking actors is the ‘in character’ thing. It’s baloney. The studios are complicit in the death later by millions of kids who start smoking because their film heroes do it.  Disgusting and criminal.

  • Richard_William_Posner

    Let’s not overlook the amount of advertising being done by the military. It’s sickening.

    There’s also more than one show that is being used as a propaganda tool to reinforce acceptance of the phony war on terror.

    Additionally, the existence of chemtrails is being normalised through increasing visibility in programming and ads. Pay attention to scenes with nice blue skies in them.

  • gardenernorcal

    There’s a lot of infuriating advertising I didn’t mention like BP’s telling how their actions have improved life on the Gulf.

  • Richard_William_Posner

    Not being critical gardener, just reinforcing your observations.

    The Bernaysian ministries of propaganda, both commercial and political (is there really any difference?) are manufacturing every aspect of our reality.

  • gardenernorcal

    I didn’t take it as a criticism.  I find the additions to my list kind of interesting.

  • Richard_William_Posner

    I’m glad. Wasn’t really sure. And by the way, yes, I find those BP ads really outrageous and infuriating.

  • Holygeezer

    The whole stock market thing is pretty criminal. If one is honest and thinks about it at all, there is no way you can “earn” money by doing nothing, unless you are in effect stealing it from others somehow. The others in this case being workers. Some may say this is too simplistic of a view, but in essence, earning money from investments is glorified stealing.

  • nveric

    The 1970s changed reason into insanity.

    Reagan was the tipper, not the gipper.

  • gardenernorcal

     

    Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, plans to begin denying health insurance to newly hired employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week, according to a copy of the company’s policy obtained by The Huffington Post.Under the policy, slated to take effect in January, Walmart also reserves the right to eliminate health care coverage for certain workers if their average workweek dips below 30 hours — something that happens with regularity and at the direction of company managers 

    Labor and health care experts portrayed Walmart’s decision to exclude workers from its medical plans as an attempt to limit costs while taking advantage of the national health care reform known as Obamacare. Among the key features of Obamacare is an expansion of Medicaid, the taxpayer-financed health insurance program for poor people. Many of the Walmart workers who might be dropped from the company’s health care plans earn so little that they would qualify for the expanded Medicaid program, these experts said.

     

    How convenient the US’s largest employer can now foist off their overhead on the US taxpayer while receiving tax breaks and subsidies.

    Interesting chart on this site:

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/…

  • Doug_Terpstra

    Yep, this was a predictable outcome of Obamacare, better known as “The Death Panel Profiteers Bailout Act.”  WalMart employees (or rather, taxpayers) will now be forced to buy a defective-by-design product from protection racket extortionists that some call insurance companies.  The full damage of this monstronsity won’t be understood until well after 2014, when its more onerous dictates are implemented.

    Thanks, Obama.

  • gardenernorcal

    Not just that.  Taxpayers will be subsidizing Walmart labor by providing them with medicaid, food stamps etc..  With their profits you’d think they could afford to pay  their employees a living wage.

  • Doug_Terpstra

    Good point.  The next logical step will be to lower corporate taxes even further and then repeal the Emancipation Proclamation.

  • Mike_Strong

    Yup! Repealing the Emancipation Proclamation is definitely on the agenda. Just slightly different job descriptions and this time with a paycheck. Sort of an upgrade on sharecropping.

  • natureschild3

    don’t just thank obama. top honors should go to lloyd blankfein, ceo of goldman sachs. lloyd is the real man behind the curtain pulling all sorts of political strings!

  • Donna M Crane

    Since my 41 year old son is already on ObamaCare for his pre-exisiting condition, I can assure you it is in no way defective, and is affordable.  He is able to pay his monthly fee of $188 and co-pays even though he is only working about 30 hours a week currently. The excellent RX Plan that is included (unlike Medicare) allows him to get his medications at an affordable price  that keeps him out of the hospital and able to work. In fact, as far as I can see, it works just like, and just as well as, my Medicare which I love.  And in point of fact, we are already paying for all Walmart’s employees, even the full time ones who still qualify for food stamps and Medicaid.  Most WalMart employees already don’t have health insurance thru the company.  In fact pretty much only the top levels have it. ObamaCares is already benefiting many people like my son and here in AZ we are using the Federal Government Set Up Exchange, since AZ isn’t going to set up its own Exchange…I consider this a benefit for us as I’m sure AZ wouldn’t do as well.  Before you start kicking around ObamaCare, you should talk to some people who are on it.

  • Inspector47

    Thank you! As far as Walmart being thieves they are the free market, capitalism at it’s best! The republicans are crying about the four people who were killed overseas, four thousand Americans die monthly due to the lack of health care. My daughter wreaked on her bike, she is a college student, at 23, she was able to be on our health ins for her injuries thanks to Obama care.

  • Doug_Terpstra

    Thanks.  I’m glad it’s working for you, at least for now. Most of the perceived good provisions of the 2,000-page bill were implemented upfront, pre-election, by design.  2014 is when the kickers come, too late, by design.

    [Adding: Walmart is the post-election coalmine canary.  Dropping employeer-provided healthcare will become a corporate rush by 2014.  Obamacare did nothing to cap runaway drug and sickcare costs.  Enjoy the good times.]

  • Inspector47

    Like the 80/20 law that forces insurance companies to spend 80 percent of premimuns on the policy holder or return it?

  • Doug_Terpstra

    Not quite. The rebate does not apply to individual policy holders as you imply, but to collective policy holders within a state. IOW, you don’t get a refund as an individual customer if you’re healthy and the company spends little or no money on you.  This is why Obama’s Death-Panel Profiteers Bailout Act is more than 2,000 pages of lobbyese.  It’s designed to confuse most people while enriching the investor class that Obama really works for.

    The theoretical rebate would be a share of whatever amount your insurer spends on health care that is less than 80% of aggregate premiums paid in by all of its customers in that state, and you can imagine how corporate attorneys will game that one).

    So, if your employer (like Walmart) drops you—as many or most will do in the next year or two—forcing you (or taxpayers for you) to pay thousands in out-of-pocket in premiums (no choice under the mandate), you might get a $158 rebate at the end of the year like the lucky lottery winners of North Carolina ($7 in Utah).  Partly, this depends on how successful the death-panel gatekeepers are at rationing care or denying claims in a particular state.

    http://www.examiner.com/articl…

    See also: Welcome to the Future of Your Health Insurance. It Sucks.

    http://www.nakedcapitalism.com…

  • Inspector47

    Death panels in the affordable care act, Sarah Palin won lie of the year with that one.

  • Doug_Terpstra

    Thank you.  Apparently, my use of the term for private versus public was unclear. Palin’s use of the term for her GOP handlers referred to government “death panels”, to scare people away from universal coverage by single-payer (for the same people waving signs reading “keep your government hands off my Medicare”).    My use of the term refers to the private profiteers (insurance racketeers), whose gatekeepers are a far worse form of “death panel” — denying claims and rationing care for profit only.

    The denial of coverage by for-profit gatekeepers is routine and far worse here than what occurs in civilized countries with single-payer universal coverage like Sweden, Canada and the UK.  And Obamacare rejected single-payer and any public option thus institutionalizing profiteering by private racketeers with a captive market — with almost no limits on escalating costs, including prescription drugs that are explicitly protected from market competition (free trade is remarkably selective).  It is the worst form of crony capitalism endorsed by the conservative Supine Court.

  • wildcarrots

    Well said.

  • wildcarrots

    I’m really glad it is working for your son, no doubt it will work better than standard insurance for some groups.  Just remember that the system you are comparing it with really sucks. If you really think it is good try comparing it to one of the other systems in the world that deliver better care at half the cost.

  • Kenneth C. Fingeret

    Hello gardenernorcal,

    Walfart has been doing this for decades.  As I understand it part of the paperwork when you are hired is getting government assistance due to your lack of a living wage salary that does not include much if anything in the way of benefits. This makes you eligible for different programs such as Medicade, AFDC, etc.  A special Walfart tax of 500% of all government payments that are made to Walfart employees due to lack of salary and benefits given to their employees. should be the minimum required for Walfart to pay.  I call them Walfart because they leave a bad odor wherever they are located!

  • nveric

    Blood sucking death mongers run Walmart, their oozing puss filled sores covering their faces, acidic drool plops from their crusted puffy lips burning holes to the center of the Earth, necks as short as their ‘other’ parts and as wide as their hips, and below are stubby trunk-like legs incapable of independent motion.

    You see, there’s no body and no heart for these Borg-like little people spawned from Sam Walton and an unknown surrogate, most likely an alien life-form kept in an undisclosed location in Nevada.

  • wildcarrots

    The U.S. is going to be a very unhealthy place to live and shop when you consider the number of people that do not have access to healthcare.  Disease does not respect ideological boundaries. .

  • Gubdeb

    Look around. It already is.

  • Poet

    I don’t know who designed the portable lit sign, but it gives the graffiti of protest an entirely new frontier (drive through territory after or just before dark) and flexibility (how difficult would it be to change the message to “Tax the Wealthy for a Change”, or “Shrink the Pentagon Not Social Security”?).

     

    It can be easily moved and, depending on the time, and location reach many people with a simple message they cannot avoid.  Flash mobs just got an entirely new twist unique to the US motoring culture!

     

  • 69Tuscany

    Great idea.

  • d9rich

    It’s been done with hand-made signs for over a decade or more.

  • Poet

    If by “hand made signs” you mean electrically lit like the one in the picture, then great–I have never seen any such example before the above photo.

     

    What I meant to convey was that most “hand made signs” are invisible after dark to all but the cars slowing to a stop at a traffic light.

     

    That one in the picture cannot be missed by passing motorists on their way to nowhere and as such expands both the potential audience and time of exposure to whatever message an activist wishes to present.

     

     

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