Archive | November, 2012

New York fast food workers take action organise

30 Nov

In Drive to Unionize, Fast-Food Workers Walk Off the Job


Fast-food workers at several restaurants in New York walked off the job on Thursday, firing the first salvo in what workplace experts say is the biggest effort to unionize fast-food workers ever undertaken in the United States.

The campaign — backed by community and civil rights groups, religious leaders and a labor union — has engaged 40 full-time organizers in recent months to enlist workers at McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Domino’s, Taco Bell and other fast-food restaurants across the city.

Leaders of the effort said that workers were walking off the job to protest what they said were low wages and retaliation against several workers who have backed the unionization campaign. They said it would be the first multi-restaurant strike by fast-food workers in American history, although it was unclear how many workers would walk off the job.

The first walkout took place at 6:30 a.m. at a McDonald’s at Madison Avenue and 40th Street, where several dozen striking workers and supporters chanted: “Hey, hey, what do you say? We demand fair pay.” An organizer of the unionizing campaign said that 14 of the 17 employees scheduled to work the morning shift had gone on strike.

Raymond Lopez, 21, an aspiring actor who has worked at the McDonald’s for more than two years, showed up on his day off to protest. “In this job having a union would really be a dream come true,” said Mr. Lopez, who added that he makes $8.75 an hour. He said that he, and fellow fast-food workers, were under-compensated. “We don’t get paid for what we do,” he said. “It really is living in poverty.”

Over the decades there have been occasional efforts to unionize a fast-food restaurant here or there, but labor experts say there has never before been an effort to unionize dozens of such restaurants. The new campaign aims in part to raise low-end wages and reduce income inequality, and is also an uphill battle to win union recognition.

Ruth Milkman, a sociology professor at the City University of New York, said there had been so few efforts to unionize fast-food workers because it was such a daunting challenge.

“These jobs have extremely high turnover, so by the time you get around to organizing folks, they’re not on the job anymore,” she said. Nonetheless, she said the new effort might gain traction because it is taking place in New York, a city with deep union roots where many workers are sympathetic to unions.

Christine C. Quinn, the speaker of the New York City Council who has struggled with various measures intended to improve wages and working conditions in the city, expressed support for fast-food workers.

“I support fast food restaurant workers’ rights to organize and fight for decent wages,’’ Ms. Quinn wrote in a Twitter message on Thursday morning.

Jonathan Westin, organizing director at New York Communities for Change, a community group that is playing a central role in the effort, said hundreds of workers had already voiced support for the campaign, called Fast Food Forward.

“The fast-food industry employs tens of thousands of workers in New York and pays them poverty wages,” Mr. Westin said. “A lot of them can’t afford to get by. A lot have to rely on public assistance, and taxpayers are often footing the bill because these companies are not paying a living wage.” The minimum wage in New York State is $7.25 an hour.

Mr. Westin said the campaign was using techniques that differed from those in most unionization drives, and was still developing overall strategy. He declined to say whether it would pursue unionization through elections or by getting workers to sign a majority of cards backing a union.

McDonald’s issued a statement about the incipient unionization push. “McDonald’s values our employees and has consistently remained committed to them, so in turn they can provide quality service to our customers,” the company said.

It added that the company had an “an open dialogue with our employees” and always encouraged them to express any concerns “so we can continue to be an even better employer.” McDonald’s noted that most of its restaurants were owned and operated by franchisees “who offer pay and benefits competitive within the” industry.

But workers demonstrating outside the McDonald’s on Madison Avenue said their employer paid them wages that made it difficult to pay for basics.

“We can’t pay rent, pay bills,’’ said Hector Henningham, 40, an employee who said he has worked for McDonald’s for eight years and made $8 an hour. “We need change.’’

One customer drinking coffee inside the McDonald’s said she supported the organizing effort. “If anybody deserves to unionize, it’s fast food workers,” said the customer, Jocelyn Horner, 35, a graduate student.

Even with a union, it might be hard to obtain wages of $15 an hour, and many employers say they would most likely employ fewer workers if they had to pay that much.

Linda Archer earns $8 an hour after three years as a cashier at the McDonald’s on 42nd Street in Times Square. “I feel I deserve $15,” she said.

Mr. Westin’s group, New York Communities for Change, has played a major role in the recent uptick in unionizing low-wage workers in New York, many of whom are immigrants. In the past year, his group, working closely with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and other organizations, has helped win unionization votes at four carwashes and six supermarkets in New York.

The sponsors of the fast-food campaign also include, the Black Institute and the Service Employees International Union, a powerful union that is playing a quiet but important role behind the scenes.

Several religious leaders are backing the effort. “I’ve become involved because it is primarily a matter of justice,” said the Rev. Michael Walrond of the First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem. “We seek to protect those who are the most vulnerable in our culture, and some of the most vulnerable people in the city are fast-food workers who work for poverty wages.”

According to the State Labor Department, median pay for fast-food workers in the city is around $9 an hour — or about $18,500 a year for a full-time worker.

After three years of working at a McDonald’s restaurant on 51st Street and Broadway, Alterique Hall earns $8 an hour — and is yearning for something better.

So when he heard about the unionization campaign, Mr. Hall, 23, was quick to sign on.

“It’s time for a change,” he said, “It’s time to put on the gloves.”

Linda Archer, a cashier at the McDonald’s on 42nd Street just west of Times Square, said she wished she earned that much. She earns $8 an hour after three years there and averages 24 hours a week, she said, meaning her pay totals about $10,000 a year.

“I feel I deserve $15 an hour,” said Ms. Archer, 59. “I work very hard.” She said she hoped a union would deliver affordable health insurance and paid sick days.

“My hope is we can all come together in a union without being intimidated,” she said.

TCB Management, the franchisee that operates Mr. Hall’s McDonald’s, and Lewis Foods, which runs Ms. Archer’s, did not respond to inquiries.

Tim McIntyre, a Domino’s Pizza spokesman, said the few efforts to unionize its stores and drivers had fallen flat.

“It’s a fairly high-turnover position, so there’s never been a successful union effort,” he said. “People who are doing this part time, seasonally or as they work their way through college don’t find much interest in membership.”

Richard W. Hurd, a labor relations professor at Cornell, said the organizations backing the fast-food campaign seemed intent on finding pressure points to push the restaurants to improve wages and benefits.

“But it’s going to be a lot harder for them to win union recognition,” he said. “It will be harder to unionize them than carwash workers because the parent companies will fight hard against it, because they worry if you unionize fast-food outlets in New York, that’s going to have a lot of ramifications elsewhere.”

Nate Schweber contributed reporting.

WORKERS NEWS (29/11/12)

29 Nov

Same Work Same Pay – no youth rates campaign

Migrant chef paid boss $13k to keep job

Protest over KiwiRail factory cuts

Work Pressure and Long Hours Undermine Safety at Work

Change to minimum wage settings

Talkback host cleared of inciting violence

Union challenges non-payment of travel time for home workers

Winz centre wrong on redundancy

LIVING WAGE: The Auckland City Council is consulting on its social development strategy called ‘Thriving Communities: Auckland Council’s role in supporting communities to flourish’. Read more here:

Jobs to go at KiwiRail after partial sale

Ferry workers plan to strike

Industrial action at Statistics NZ

Warner Bros control over Government revealed

CTU: Hillside jobs could have been saved

Bus drivers vote to ratify collective agreement

PSA: The government doesn’t value women in the public service

Sealord fined over $60,000 after man injured on vessel

Wage increases slowing

Time for an inquiry into health and safety in the Forestry Industry


Pike River directors’ comments ‘disgraceful’ – union

What did you do wrong? Well, since you asked

Opinion: Corporate, Government and departmental manslaughter

CTU: We remember and honour the Pike River Miners

How modern unionism failed the Pike River miners

Labour shares Pike River guilt

NZ’s safety record slammed

Pike River a show of profits before safety


Kiwi actors suffer after Hobbit dispute – union

Hobbit land far from reality

Hobbit tax rebate swells to $67.1m

Peter Jackson tries to re-edit history of The Hobbit

Lest We Forget: The Real Hobbit Story

New US book: the New Zealand Hobbit Crisis


Gordon Campbell: Jobless figures make grim reading

Duncan Garner: Opinion: Is our economy collapsing?

Monthly Economic Review

Thailand’s quest to join the TPPA will strengthen opposition

TPPWatch Bulletin #22 19 November 2012

TPPWatch Bulletin #23 27 November 2012

Unemployment benefits the wealthy

NZ judged best country in world to do business

NZ Being Caught In New Cold War – US/China Trade Deals

Thailand’s quest to join the TPPA will strengthen opposition

Plight of jobless makes us all poorer By Bryan Gould

175000 unemployed deserve support

New Zealand Green Party Co-leader slams TPPA on national TV

Change to minimum wage settings

25 Nov

The Government is being accused of silencing the voice of low-paid workers through plans to streamline the way the minimum wage is assessed and set every year.

The Government considers public submissions when it reviews the minimum wage every December.

It also takes into account more than 20 factors including: unemployment, productivity, inflation and the principles of fairness, protection, income distribution and work incentives. The impact on new migrants, women, Maori, Pacific people, the disabled and part-time workers is also considered.

It is understood the Government wants to reduce that to four factors: inflation, wage growth based on the median wage, employment and the impact on jobs, and ”other factors” which could include changing conditions.

It also wants to only consider public submissions every four years but will consult Business New Zealand and the Council of Trade Unions annually.

The current review process costs about $100,000 and the changes, which are expected to be considered by Cabinet before the end of the year, would save about $60,000.

Labour’s industrial relations spokeswoman Darien Fenton said principles like fairness should not be stripped from the review.

”It offers protection for workers who have little or no bargaining power.”

Labour was concerned minimum wage increases would become inflation indexed which would lead to ”tiny” rises in some years.

The $13.50 minimum wage was already less than half the $27 medium wage for men.

Reducing submissions to every four years was ”cutting out the voices of people who want to have a say in this”.

Unite Union national director Mike Treen said low-paid workers were already marginalised.

”We are constantly coming across illegal work practises even with the minimum wage as it is. This is the most vulnerable workers in the country and their voices are vital.”

Unite made submissions every year and felt it was an important process.

”It’s a relatively minimal process they go through now. They are written submissions, there are not big hearings on this.”

Treen said the Government was narrowing down the criteria to increase the weight of the argument against raising the minimum wage each year.

”The argument in the previous National government in the 1990s was that lowering the minimum wage increases job opportunities and you see that idea creeping back with the introduction of youth rates.”

The changes won’t come into effect for this year’s review.

3 days until the Sign-a-thon to Keep our Assets (24 and 25 November)

21 Nov

Thanks to all those unions who have responded to requests to provide people to help over the weekend. We are determined to play our part, along with Labour, Greens, Grey Power, NZ First and Student Associations. This means we do need to know what specific union resources are being involved in the raft of weekend activities.

This is why Georgie McLeod, Carol Beaumont and Matthew Fitzsimmons have been ringing you. If you haven’t yet spoken to them please call Carol Beaumont on 0272757374.

There are a huge range of activities all around NZ. We need union people with cars and people – delegates, family, friends to link up with activities that suit them – timewise or location wise – over the weekend. All of the activities are listed on

It is important to actually sign up on that website so the organising committee knows where we have (and haven’t) got people. Even if you can’t do the full length of time associated with each event please still sign up.

If you, or someone in your organisation is organising an event, please ensure that they bring enough petition forms (PDF attached), plenty of pens and clipboards (old coreflutes make a pretty good clipboard if you’re short).We can help with the resources like petitions etc, just give one of us a call. Organising a collection point does require a greater level of commitment from the union volunteer, but is invaluable to the cause and the success of the day.

If you have other events or locations that are not already on the list, and people who can organise a group of friends/colleagues to collect for a couple of hours on Saturday or Sunday, please let Carol know. Alternatively, there are still some sites without coordinators, so let us know if you have a volunteer!

This weekend is important and we hope that it will take us over the 80,000 signatures required to ensure a citizens initiated referendum on keeping our assets is held. I know that it is a busy time of the year and that people are tired but individuals giving a couple of hours can really make a difference.

Many of you have continued to collect petitions at workplaces and union events. Please ensure you forward these promptly to either Georgie at PO Box 6645, Wellington 6141, or to the PO Box address on the petition forms – we need to get all the forms in as soon as possible so we have an accurate picture of the numbers.

If you have any questions please contact Carol Beaumont 027 275 7374 or Georgie McLeod 027 501 6880.


Peter Conway


New Zealand Council of Trade Unions – Te Kauae Kaimahi

P O Box 6645


+64 4 8023816

mobile 0274 939 748



Jobless figures make grim reading

18 Nov


OPINION: If the Government could take anything positive from last week’s unemployment figures, it would be to thank its lucky stars that those jobless numbers are being racked up in the year after the last election, and not in the year before the next one.

At 7.3 per cent, the unemployment rate has hit levels not seen since the end of the 20th century. The numbers of jobless – ie, the unemployed plus those who have basically given up actively looking for work – stands at nearly 300,000.

That’s before you start counting the under-employed, where the figure now stands at close to 400,000, an increase of 150,000 since the Key Government took office in 2008.

And all this is before the upcoming welfare reforms push more people out on to the jobs market in search of non-existent jobs.

In response last week, Prime Minister John Key suggested the statistics must be wrong, since they didn’t coincide with his "anecdotal evidence”.

Four years after the global financial crisis, international events can hardly be blamed, either.

In Australia, unemployment is holding steady at only 5.4 per cent. If Australia wasn’t there to siphon off so many of our job seekers, the jobless numbers here would be astronomical.

Our jobs crisis, however, is unlikely to change overnight the perception that National is a better manager of the economy.

An underlying faith exists that the political party seen as being closer to Big Commerce will be more willing and better able to manage the economy for the public good.

Similar perceptions exist in the United States. Until polling day in an election supposedly fought on the state of the economy, voters kept telling pollsters that the Republicans were more competent at managing the economy, but they then voted for Barack Obama by a reasonably comfortable margin.

Economic faith seems to have got disconnected from political action.

Generally speaking, one has to ask on what rational basis do voters – here, in the United States and in Britain – form the belief that the centre-right has a better grasp of the issues of economic management?

One reason, of course, is that the centre right tends to have had more business experience.

Yet in the case of New Zealand, John Key’s experience with Merrill Lynch, Steven Joyce’s experience in the radio industry and Bill English’s farming background do not entail much hands-on knowledge of job creation.

If anything – and as with Republican hopeful Mitt Romney – their cumulative business experience has had more to do with cutting labour costs and job numbers, and with tightening the economy, than with expanding it.

The minister in the firing line is the Government’s so-called jobs czar, Joyce, whose new mega-ministry was meant to co-ordinate the skills training, education and planning needed to enable job creation within a modern economy.

There have been few signs of progress.

Joyce tends to blame the Opposition for opposing mining and oil exploration – as if this was the reason for the jobs vanishing from manufacturing, and for the problems facing exporters.

National should be feeling concerned that like Romney, it risks being seen as focused on the needs of top income earners, and out of touch with working families.

Faith can be a fine thing – but faith without good works, as the Good Book says, is nothing.

Matt McCarten: Far more to Shearer than media-pleasing glibness

18 Nov
By Matt McCarten Email Matt
5:30 AM Sunday Nov 18, 2012At times David Cunliffe comes across in the media as calculating. Photo / NZ Listener
At times David Cunliffe comes across in the media as calculating. Photo / NZ Listener

I don’t think there’s anyone in New Zealand who believes David Shearer has the speechifying eloquence of David Lange or the intimate television connection of Prime Minister John Key.

It’s a sad commentary on modern politics that these two skills are the basic prerequisites of any successful political leader. We live in a media world where fakery, shallow quips and acting skills are expected of any aspirant to high office.

Shearer, a man with a serious job doing real work before becoming a politician, has been a bit slow to catch on.

His international experience negotiating with murdering sociopathic warlords or leading disparate groups to reach outcomes that saved lives are not the sort of skills that the chattering elements of our political classes respect.

His detractors leading up to this weekend’s Labour Party conference seem to home in on his lack of ability to master sound bites and speaking without pauses.

For that crime, a vocal firing squad demands he be replaced by the earlier defeated nominee David Cunliffe.

I’d be more sympathetic if the tension was about policy differences. But it’s not.

All the future leadership contenders are singing from the same policy hymn book. The criticism boils down to style and presentation. There’s no doubt Cunliffe is a gifted performer. What is discomforting is his every nuance and action seems calculated.

With Shearer you can sense his real character. With Cunliffe, I can’t escape the feeling that he has the same phoniness as the Republican US presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

You couldn’t find a better example than Guyon Espiner’s superb piece in the NZ Listener. Presumably, it was timed to remind the Labour Party faithful a few days before their conference that Cunliffe is still a viable alternative for those with buyers’ remorse on Shearer.

The original Ponsonby cafe interview venue was changed because the subject didn’t want his potential blue collar supporters to think he was some latte-sipping w***** swanning around Auckland’s liberal ghetto. The fact he lives a stone’s throw from Ponsonby Rd (miles away from his New Lynn electorate) reveals more.

Cunliffe’s angst with his interviewer about where he should be photographed was plain narcissism. Not at the beach as he could be lampooned as if his career were drowning; not on a lawn or he could described as a snake in the grass.

A satire scriptwriter high on cocaine couldn’t make this stuff up.

The point I’m making is that obsessing about managing superficiality in the media shouldn’t be prioritised over character.

That said, Shearer’s public presentation weakness is real. He hasn’t understood the importance and urgency of overcoming this problem. After this week we can safely conclude he has got it now.

But let’s be fair, this guy has been in the leadership for nine months. Everyone waxes over the formidable presence of Clark. Have they forgotten Clark’s early years as party leader? Remember when she was 2 per cent in preferred leader stakes? It took years for her to get out of single figure poll support. She had to get a new hairstyle, a new voice and a new wardrobe and lead the party for six years before victory.

What you want from a leader is political success. For that you need only look at the recent polls. Under Shearer’s leadership the gap between Labour and National has halved from 20 points to 10. In the past three polls Labour, the Greens and NZ First have together outpolled National and her allies. Shearer’s personal ratings surpass anything Goff got or Clark reached in her early years.

Shearer’s success is remarkable given he is up against our most popular prime minister in living memory. I would have thought a standing ovation was in order.

Provided Shearer takes some serious time out over the summer to work on his media and presentation skills, and assuming in the new year he shows courage by promoting talent over non-performers onto his front bench, his party will coast to victory at the next election. A bit of unity and patience wouldn’t be a bad thing.

By Matt McCarten Email Matt

Ports of Auckland workers remain united

12 Nov

Maritime Union of New Zealand members at Ports of Auckland have backed their Union with a vote of confidence.

A full meeting of Maritime Union members at the Ports of Auckland was held this morning Monday 12 November 7-9am at Auckland’s Maritime Club.

Maritime Union of New Zealand National President Garry Parsloe says members voted with overwhelming support to back the Union to achieve a settlement of the ongoing dispute.

The members have reluctantly accepted concessions the Union has made in the facilitation to try and get progress, he says.

"However, Ports of Auckland workers are shocked their employer continues to want to destroy basic terms and conditions that provide for some balance in this 24/7 industry and which threaten the health and safety of the workforce."

MUNZ National President Gary Parsloe

Mr Parsloe says union members will not agree to unfair rostering which would undermine family life, with no certainty of start times, the ability for casuals to be used for any duties thereby removing a career path for workers at the port, and the loss of the limited right of one guaranteed weekend off in every three.

He says workers will not sign a POAL contract that continues to contain a contracting out provision after what they have been through.

"Our members will fight these changes however they can."

Mr Parsloe says any decision to take industrial action would be very seriously considered as we are aware of the costs to our members and disruption to the city.

"We cannot however stand by and let POAL progress this attack on our members and their families."

Ports of Auckland workers at the meeting called on the Mayor of Auckland to sack the CEO and the Board and restore a moderate management who respects its workforce, says Mr Parsloe.

"They do this in the name of their families, the city of Auckland and New Zealand workers. The mayor and council can fix this if they want to."


For more information, contact Maritime Union of New Zealand National President Garry Parsloe on 021326261

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