N.L.R.B. Ruling Holds McDonald’s, Not Just Franchisees, Liable for Worker Treatment

July 29, 2014 By: seeta Category: Civil Rights, Workers' Rights

From NYT:

The general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board ruled on Tuesday that McDonald’s is jointly responsible for workers at its franchisees’ restaurants, a decision that if upheld would disrupt longtime practices in the fast-food industry and ease the way for unionizing nationwide.

Richard F. Griffin Jr., the labor board’s general counsel, said that of the 181 unfair labor practice complaints filed against McDonald’s and its franchisees over the last 20 months, he found that 43 had merit on such grounds as illegally firing or threatening workers for pro-union activities.

In those cases, Mr. Griffin said he would include McDonald’s as a joint employer, a classification that could hold the fast-food company responsible for actions taken at thousands of its restaurants. Roughly 90 percent of the chain’s restaurants in the United States are franchise operations.

McDonald’s said it would contest the decision, warning that the ruling would affect not only the fast-food industry but businesses like dry cleaners and car dealerships.

“McDonald’s can try to hide behind its franchisees, but today’s determination by the N.L.R.B. shows there’s no two ways about it: The Golden Arches is an employer, plain and simple,” said Micah Wissinger, a lawyer in New York who filed some of the cases against McDonald’s. “The reality is that McDonald’s requires franchisees to adhere to such regimented rules and regulations that there’s no doubt who’s really in charge.”

The next stages for the cases could involve Mr. Griffin’s trying to seek a settlement. But the cases more likely will be argued before an administrative law judge.

NYC, Largest City in Nation to Ensure Paid Sick Leave

April 06, 2014 By: seeta Category: Workers' Rights

New Law Effective April 1

From NYT:

The law went into effect on April 1. And despite the naysayers and the critics, the skies didn’t fall. Instead, without hoopla or hullabaloo, the city quietly became the largest in the nation to ensure that the vast majority of workers wouldn’t lose their jobs or a portion of their paychecks if they or their close relatives got sick.

For Mayor Bill de Blasio, who significantly expanded the law’s reach when he took office in January, it is a notable and welcome victory. He has been battered and bruised as his efforts to raise the city’s minimum wage and to tax the wealthy to pay for universal prekindergarten foundered in Albany.

But with the paid sick leave law, the mayor has clearly succeeded in making good on his promise “to lift up working families and raise the wage and benefit floor for all New Yorkers.”

As a result of the new law, about 1.2 million workers will have paid sick leave for the first time, according to Nancy Rankin, vice president for policy research at the Community Service Society of New York, a group that works on behalf of low-income New Yorkers. That’s about 240,000 more people than would have received the benefit if the mayor hadn’t expanded the scope of the policy.

Under the new law, companies with five or more employees will have to provide up to five paid days off to workers if they, or their close relatives, fall ill. (Employees accrue leave based on their hours worked.) A weaker version of the law, which passed last year, would have affected businesses with 15 or more workers and did not include the manufacturing sector.

In corporate conference rooms, such changes might be greeted with a yawn. After all, we professionals typically take paid sick leave for granted. But in today’s economy, where the fastest growing sectors are creating low-wage jobs, this change could not be more critical.

Securing Wages Earned Against Theft

February 26, 2014 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Economic Development, What People are Doing to Change the World, Workers' Rights

From NY Labor and Employer Lawyer Shirley Lin:

The article describes the key provisions of New York Assembly Bill 8045 (2013), legislation drafted by AALDEF, Chinese Staff & Workers’ Association, NMASS, Legal Aid, and UJC.

The anti-wage-theft proposal was designed based upon challenges advocates faced collecting from small businesses in particular. The bill:

  1. expands New York’s mechanic’s lien law to provide a “wage lien” for workers from any industry upon employer’s personal and real property;
  2. creates a new, more easily-attainable ground for attaching defendant employers’ assets pre-judgment in New York’s civil procedure law, in wage cases — a standard virtually identical to Connecticut’s more relaxed pre-judgment attachment standard;
  3. amends the Business Corporations Law to facilitate holding major corporate shareholders liable for unpaid wages; and
  4. creates a remedy similar to BCL Sec. 630 as applied to LLCs to hold members accountable for wage claims.

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(h/t: Shirley Lin)

What Really Happens When You Raise The Minimum Wage

February 18, 2014 By: seeta Category: 2014 Mid-term Elections, 2016 Election, Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Economic Terrorism, Workers' Rights

From ThinkProgress:

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a new report on Tuesday on the impacts of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and $9 an hour. It found that a $10.10 minimum wage, implemented by 2016, would mean higher earnings for 16.5 million workers, resulting in $31 billion more in higher earnings. It would also lift nearly 1 million people out of poverty.

But it also found that an increase would reduce jobs slightly. “Once fully implemented in the second half of 2016, the $10.10 option would reduce total employment by about 500,000 workers, or 0.3 percent,” it projects. That figure takes into account what it says would be a decrease in jobs for low-wage workers as well as an increase of “a few tens of thousands of jobs” for others thanks to higher demand. “Once the increases and decreases in income for all workers are taken into account, overall real income would rise by $2 billion,” it says. The vast majority of people impacted, over 95 percent, will be impacted positively.

It attributes the job losses to employers increasing prices to deal with the higher wage, which would lower demand and therefore their need for more workers, as well as to some employers substituting machines or technology for workers due to the higher cost of wages.

But businesses may respond to a higher minimum wage in other ways. In a paper for the Center for Economic and Policy Research, John Schmitt argues that they can benefit from improved efficiency and lower turnover. A higher wage may lead employers to push employees to work harder, which can be preferable to cutting hours or workers. In fact, the majority of fast food restaurants in Georgia and Alabama said they would respond to a minimum wage increase with higher performance standards. A higher wage can also make it easier to recruit and retain workers, which can improve the bottom line. Dealing with turnover can be costly: replacing someone can cost as much as 20 percent of her salary.

The Anti-Minimum-Wage Group Funding Those Minimum-Wage Studies

February 11, 2014 By: seeta Category: 2014 Mid-term Elections, 2016 Election, Anti-Racism, Economic Terrorism, Poverty, Workers' Rights

Michael Saltsman, the Employment Policies Institute’s research director, late last month.
Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times

From The NYT:

The Employment Policies Institute, founded two decades ago, is led by the advertising and public relations executive Richard B. Berman, who has made millions of dollars in Washington by taking up the causes of corporate America. He has repeatedly created official-sounding nonprofit groups like the Center for Consumer Freedom that have challenged limits like the ban on indoor smoking and the push to restrict calorie counts in fast foods.

In recent months, Mr. Berman’s firm has taken out full-page advertisements in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal andplastered a Metro station near the Capitol with advertisements, including one featuring a giant photograph of Representative Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat who is a proponent of the minimum wage increase, that read, “Teens Who Can’t Find a Job Should Blame Her.”

These messages, also promoted on websites operated by Mr. Berman’s firm, including, instruct anyone skeptical about the arguments to consult the reports prepared by the Employment Policies Institute, most often described only as a “nonprofit research organization.”

But the dividing line between the institute and Mr. Berman’s firm was difficult to discern during two visits last week to the eighth-floor office at 1090 Vermont Avenue, a building near the White House that is the headquarters for both.

The sign at the entrance is for Berman and Company, as the Employment Policies Institute has no employees of its own. Mr. Berman’s for-profit advertising firm, instead, “bills” the nonprofit institute for the services his employees provide to the institute. This arrangement effectively means that the nonprofit is a moneymaking venture for Mr. Berman, whose advertising firm was paid $1.1 million by the institute in 2012, according to its tax returns, or 44 percent of its total budget, with most of the rest of the money used to buy advertisements.

My week as an Amazon insider

December 02, 2013 By: seeta Category: Civil Rights, Workers' Rights

It is the world’s biggest online business. But with questions being asked about its treatment of employees, what is it like to work at Amazon? Carole Cadwalladr lands a job in one of its giant warehouses and discovers the human cost of our lust for consumer goods.

From The Guardian:

For a week, I was an Amazon elf: a temporary worker who got a job through a Swansea employment agency – though it turned out I wasn’t the only journalist who happened upon this idea. Last Monday, BBC’s Panorama aired a programme that featured secret filming from inside the same warehouse. I wonder for a moment if we have committed the ultimate media absurdity and the show’s undercover reporter, Adam Littler, has secretly filmed me while I was secretly interviewing him. He didn’t, but it’s not a coincidence that the heat is on the world’s most successful online business. Because Amazon is the future of shopping; being an Amazon “associate” in an Amazon “fulfilment centre” – take that for doublespeak, Mr Orwell – is the future of work; and Amazon’s payment of minimal tax in any jurisdiction is the future of global business. A future in which multinational corporations wield more power than governments.

But then who hasn’t absent-mindedly clicked at something in an idle moment at work, or while watching telly in your pyjamas, and, in what’s a small miracle of modern life, received a familiar brown cardboard package dropping on to your doormat a day later. Amazon is successful for a reason. It is brilliant at what it does. “It solved these huge challenges,” says Brad Stone. “It mastered the chaos of storing tens of millions of products and figuring out how to get them to people, on time, without fail, and no one else has come even close.” We didn’t just pick and pack more than 155,000 items on my first day. We picked and packed the right items and sent them to the right customers. “We didn’t miss a single order,” our section manager tells us with proper pride.

At the end of my first day, I log into my Amazon account. I’d left my mum’s house outside Cardiff at 6.45am and got in at 7.30pm and I want some Compeed blister plasters for my toes and I can’t do it before work and I can’t do it after work. My finger hovers over the “add to basket” option but, instead, I look at my Amazon history. I made my first purchase, The Rough Guide to Italy, in February 2000 and remember that I’d bought it for an article I wrote on booking a holiday on the internet. It’s so quaint reading it now. It’s from the age before broadband (I itemise my phone bill for the day and it cost me £25.10), when Google was in its infancy. It’s littered with the names of defunct websites (remember Sir Bob Geldof’s, anyone?). It was a frustrating task and of pretty much everything I ordered, only the book turned up on time, as requested.

But then it’s a phenomenal operation. And to work in – and I find it hard to type these words without suffering irony seizure – a “fulfilment centre” is to be a tiny cog in a massive global distribution machine. It’s an industrialised process, on a truly massive scale, made possible by new technology. The place might look like it’s been stocked at 2am by a drunk shelf-filler: a typical shelf might have a set of razor blades, a packet of condoms and a My Little Pony DVD. And yet everything is systemised, because it has to be. It’s what makes it all the more unlikely that at the heart of the operation, shuffling items from stowing to picking to packing to shipping, are those flesh-shaped, not-always-reliable, prone-to-malfunctioning things we know as people.

It’s here, where actual people rub up against the business demands of one of the most sophisticated technology companies on the planet, that things get messy. It’s a system that includes unsystemisable things like hopes and fears and plans for the future and children and lives. And in places of high unemployment and low economic opportunities, places where Amazon deliberately sites its distribution centres – it received £8.8m in grants from the Welsh government for bringing the warehouse here – despair leaks around the edges. At the interview – a form-filling, drug- and alcohol-testing, general-checking-you-can-read session at a local employment agency – we’re shown a video. The process is explained and a selection of people are interviewed. “Like you, I started as an agency worker over Christmas,” says one man in it. “But I quickly got a permanent job and then promoted and now, two years later, I’m an area manager.”

80 Percent of Americans Support Raising the Minimum Wage

August 03, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Economic Development, Intersectionality, Poverty, Workers' Rights

From HuffPo:

The vast majority of Americans support increasing the national minimum wage, according to a recent poll commissioned by the National Employment Law Project Action Fund, a non-profit group that supports increasing the minimum wage.

The poll, which was conducted by the public opinion research firm Hart Research Associates, found 80 percent of the respondents agree that the minimum wage should be raised to $10.10 an hour and increased periodically to account for rising costs.

Support for the measure among registered Democrats was especially high, with 92 percent in favor of the proposal. Among Republicans, 62 percent supported the wage increase. About three quarters of the respondents said that raising the minimum wage should be a top Congressional priority.

A recent study from Restaurant Opportunities Centers United found that raising the minimum wage would have significant economic benefits. The report estimates that 58 percent Americans living below the poverty line would no longer struggle with hunger if the minimum wage were raised to $10.10 an hour.

The NELP poll was released as the minimum wage debate plays out on the national stage and in cities around the country. President Obama has called on Congress to increase the minimum wage to $9 an hour, a proposal Republican lawmakers oppose.

Fast Food Strike: Detroit, St. Louis, New York, Chicago And 3 Other Cities Striking Monday For Increased Pay

July 29, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Intersectionality, Workers' Rights

On Monday, workers from major fast-food chains such as KFC, Wendy’s, Burger King and McDonald’s in seven cities — Detroit, New York City, Milwaukee, Chicago, St. Louis, Flint, Mich., and Kansas City, Mo. — will be staging a strike in a movement for higher wages. Reuters.

From IBT:

On Monday, workers from major chains including KFC, Wendy’s, Burger King and McDonald’s in seven cities will be staging a strike in a protest for better wages. The workers are hoping the protests — which will occur in Detroit, New York, Milwaukee, Chicago, St. Louis, Flint, Mich., and Kansas City, Mo. — will prompt employers of popular fast-food chains to raise pay to a “living wage” of $15 an hour.

KMBZ in Kansas City reported that the protests, part of an ongoing movement dubbed “Fast Food Forward,” will begin on Monday and are expected to continue through Thursday. The protesters in the seven cities are calling for the hourly-rate hike as well as the right to form a union without retaliation and an end to unfair labor practices.

The New York Daily News reported that strikes in Brooklyn [began] as early as Friday, involving workers from Papa John’s and Domino’s as well as other chains. The action will mark the third such strike in a year, following similar protests in April (in Detroit, New York, Milwaukee, Chicago and St. Louis) and last November.

According to the Washington Post, the strikes in these seven cities extend beyond the fast food business, with employees at other low-wage stores including Dollar Tree, Macy’s and Victoria’s Secret slated to join the protests.

The protesters have been backed by support from communities as well as labor groups such as the Service Employees International Union. “SEIU members, like all service-sector workers, are worse off when large fast-food and retail companies are able to hold down wages and push down benefit standards for working people,” SEIU president Mary Kay Henry told the Washington Post.