Archive | January, 2013

Worker news w/e 25/1/13

25 Jan

WORKRIGHTS NZ

Do you hear the people sing? At 430pm today, the workers will rise up against Miserable bosses at an Auckland site. https://unitenews.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/do-you-hear-the-people-sing-at-430pm-today-the-workers-will-rise-up-against-miserable-bosses-at-an-auckland-site/

Forestry Death Renews Calls For Inquiry Into Industryhttp://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1301/S00024/forestry-death-renews-calls-for-inquiry-into-industry.htm

Second Forest Death this year http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1301/S00057/second-forest-death-this-year.htm

Union leader supports private equity tax clampdown http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/business/125852/union-leader-supports-private-equity-tax-clampdown

Robert reid

Julie Fairey: Pay fairly and all of society wins http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10859797

NZ workplace safety a ‘national disgrace’ – consultant http://www.nzherald.co.nz/small-business/news/article.cfm?c_id=85&objectid=10859227

Graduate earnings report confirms gender pay gap http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1301/S00076/graduate-earnings-report-confirms-gender-pay-gap.htm

Air NZ in call centre move http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10859130

Facing a future as Australia’s poor relations http://www.stuff.co.nz/taranaki-daily-news/8193631/Facing-a-future-as-Australias-poor-relations

Chef who harassed boss wins $30k http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/8190371/Chef-who-harassed-boss-wins-30k

POVERTY & WELFARE DEBATE

Auckland Action Against Poverty 2012 highlights

Feed the Kids Bill deserves Select Committee scrutiny http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1301/S00085/feed-the-kids-bill-deserves-select-committee-scrutiny.htm

Support mounting for MANA’s Feed the Kids Bill http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1301/S00078/support-mounting-for-manas-feed-the-kids-bill.htm

‘Feed the Kids Bill’ Opportunity to Improve Lives of NZ Kids http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1301/S00083/feed-the-kids-bill-opportunity-to-improve-lives-of-nz-kids.htm

Nurses support ‘Feed the Kids’ Bill http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1301/S00088/nurses-support-feed-the-kids-bill.htm

Who wouldn’t want to feed the kids? http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1301/S00089/who-wouldnt-want-to-feed-the-kids.htm

Call for all MPs to support Food in Schools Bill http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1301/S00091/call-for-all-mps-to-support-food-in-schools-bill.htm

Gordon Campbell On the crisis in affordable housing http://gordoncampbell.scoop.co.nz/2013/01/22/gordon-campbell-on-the-crisis-in-affordable-housing/

Gordon Campbell On the subsidies for The Hobbit. http://gordoncampbell.scoop.co.nz/2013/01/17/gordon-campbell-on-the-subsidies-for-the-hobbit/

When a state house was for life http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10858440

Affordable housing? It’s right under your nose, guys http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10859866

Asset sales petition gets its numbers http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/8141848/Asset-sales-petition-gets-its-numbers

STATS OF THE WEEK

The world’s 100 richest billionaires netted $240 billion in income last year, calculates the Bloomberg Billionaire Index. That would be enough, notes a just-released Oxfam International report, to end extreme global poverty four times over.

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“Billionaires warn higher taxes could prevent them from buying politicians.” Headline from the New Yorker magazine Borowitz Report, a look at the “news reshuffled,” December 9, 2012

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Video interview with Event Cinema workers

24 Jan

The Workers of Event Cinemas in Highland Park picket their cinema. Some have worked there for 16 years, yet the company only offers them 2 weeks pay redundancy.

Gallery

Photos of picket for fair redundancy – Event Cinemas, Highland Park

24 Jan

Do you hear the people sing? At 430pm today, the workers will rise up against Miserable bosses at an Auckland site.

24 Jan

Les Miserables jumps off screen and comes to real life in an Auckland cinema.

The dozen or so workers at EVENT Cinemas Highland Park theatre in Auckland have been offered only two weeks redundancy pay offered by Australian owned chain. Most of the workers have been there for 5 to 6 years, with some having given 8, 12 and 16 years service. When head office was asked by the Union Union official representing them if they could reconsider, they offered some workers complimentary movie tickets.

"The workers at the Highland Park site have decided to fight, not only for themselves, but for all workers in New Zealand to be protected by redundancy laws." said Unite Union theatres organiser Joe Carolan. The union, says its time for a minimum four weeks redundancy, and 2 weeks for every additional year worked as recognition for length of service.

Today they will raise their red flag at the Highland Park site at 430pm. Further actions at EVENT Cinemas are planned for Saturday night, and the day of closure next Wednesday. A petition in solidarity is being circulated nationally in every unionised cinema, including the Hoyts and Readings chains.

END

Unite Union Cinemas organiser Joe Carolan talks to Angus on the reasons why action is needed on the lack of any statutory entitlement to redundancy pay in NZ.http://www.95bfm.com/default,209438.sm

PART TWO http://www.95bfm.com/default,209439.sm

Joe and the cinema workers can be contacted today at 029 44 55 702.

In Walmart and Fast Food, Unions Scaling Up a Strike-First Strategy

24 Jan

January 23, 2013 / Jenny Brown

OUR Walmart members near Los Angeles were among several hundred retail workers who struck dozens of stores on Black Friday. Walmart workers are ignoring the typical path to a union. Photo: OUR Walmart.

Small but highly publicized strikes by Walmart retail and warehouse workers last fall set the labor movement abuzz and gained new respect for organizing methods once regarded skeptically.

The labor movement is all about results,” says Dan Schlademan, who directs the Making Change at Walmart project of the Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). “The results are creating the energy.”

Walmart is a particularly rich target because the company is so large that it sets wages and prices among suppliers and competitors.

What’s the strategy behind the latest surprising wave of activism?

Like most new organizing in the private sector, decades of attempts to unionize Walmart stores in the U.S. and Canada have been met with firings, outsourcing, and even closings.

So retail workers who staff the stores, warehouse workers who move Walmart’s goods, and even guest workers who peel crawfish for a supplier are ignoring the path laid out by U.S. labor law, in which workers sign a petition asking to vote on a union.

Instead, they’re exercising their rights to redress grievances together, whether a majority can be rallied to support the effort or not.

One-day strikes in dozens of stores last October and November protested illegal retaliation against those who had spoken up at their workplaces and joined the Organization United for Respect at Walmart. Several had been fired and many experienced threats and cuts in hours for their participation.

“We have a way to respond to illegal actions,” Schlademan said: “the power of the strike.”

SPREAD TO FAST FOOD

Last summer, following the OUR Walmart model, the Service Employees (SEIU) started funding an effort to organize fast food workers in New York, Chicago, and other cities.

Inspired by the Walmart warehouse and store strikes, workers launched one-day strikes in New York City a week after Black Friday. Workers marched back in with clergy, elected officials, and press, shaming managers who had hoped to retaliate, and reinstating one Wendy’s striker when her manager fired her for participating.

But the next steps are far from certain. “Are you trying to have a union like we have now? If so I would say forget it, don’t do it,” said Rick Smith, who was involved in a 2005 pilot project to organize Walmart in Florida. Instead, he advised activists to “figure it out as you go along.”

That’s pretty much the attitude of organizers who are making interesting things happen in warehouses, retail, restaurants, fast food, and along Walmart’s supply chain from the ports to the stores.

Their efforts are part “non-majority” organizing on the job site, part strategic besmirching of their employers’ brands, part community-labor coalescing—and several parts chutzpah.

BORN OF DESPERATION

“The labor movement has tried a range of strategies over the last 20 years,” said Mark Meinster, who’s organizing Walmart warehouse workers in Illinois. “Comprehensive campaigns, neutrality agreements, NLRB organizing—and while we’ve learned a lot through those strategies, none of it has reversed the decline.

“So now we’re at a point where there’s openness to new strategies. There’s an understanding that we won’t get labor law reform soon, that employers will continue to take a more aggressive stance toward workers and their unions, and so unions are looking at ways to impact those employers economically.”

Meinster also praised the skills labor has learned in its decades of operating from weakness: research, using the law, capital strategies, international work. The trick now, he said, is to combine those staff skills with building leaders in the workplaces and a willingness to use pre-majority organizing and, if workers so choose, strikes.

“I don’t know how to grasp corporate attention,” said Martha Sellers, a cashier in Paramount, California, who struck on Black Friday. “I expect we get to them through their paycheck.”

INTERESTINGLY QUIET

Despite Walmart’s fearsome reputation, the Black Friday strikes did not produce additional firings. “We’re not assuming a new reality inside the company, but it’s interestingly quiet,” said Schlademan.

The walkouts involved some 500 workers in dozens of stores. In some stores as few as two workers struck; in others half the shift walked out.

Around 13 walked out of the Walmart in Paramount. “We were all scared, but we did it,” said Sellers. Though the store is now more understaffed than ever, managers have not taken action against the strikers, she said, and are “being very careful about what they say.”

That calm may be because the public eye is on Walmart. The actions at 1,000 stores held by community supporters, ranging from small informational pickets outside to musical flash mobs inside, gained plenty of media glare.

Walmart also wants to protect its image because it’s trying to convince city councils to let it build in urban areas that have thus far rejected the big box, markets like New York City and Seattle. Having paved rural and suburban America with its stores, Walmart is desperate to grow in cities.

Nick Allen of Warehouse Workers United believes Walmart cares about “reputational harm” that can’t be quantified, like the hit the company took when 112 apparel workers at a supplier were burned to death in Bangladesh. “When you’re the biggest employer it puts a level of scrutiny on you,” he said.

But even with Walmart on its best behavior for now, it’s unclear—even to organizers—how to take today’s retail effort to the next level. Many worker complaints, such as those about health care or pay, hit the heart of Walmart’s low-road business model and solutions can’t be extracted from local store managers.

For example, workers want regular shifts. But managers get bonuses (and preserve their jobs) by keeping labor costs down using a hated just-in-time scheduling system, said Nelson Lichtenstein, a historian who writes about Walmart.

Still, “Walmart will accommodate various kinds of pressures,” said Lichtenstein, as long as it doesn’t mean recognizing a union. The penny-pinching corporation contradicted its own forecasts and raised wages in 700 of its stores in 2006, according to recently revealed company communications. The increase was likely a result of vigorous non-majority organizing in 2005 and 2006 (see sidebar).

And on January 15 there was a sign the strikes have made top management defensive about scheduling. Walmart CEO Bill Simon announced vague intentions to change the company’s scheduling practices, which elicited a skeptical response from OUR Walmart: “We need these words to translate into real action.”

RAISING PAY

If the current effort ends up raising Walmart pay substantially, it will be good news for retail and grocery workers around the country—another reason for organizers to target the company.

Walmart employs nearly one out of every 100 U.S. workers. It also sells more groceries than any of the largest U.S. grocery chains and undermines wages for grocery and other retail workers, many of them UFCW members. Walmart’s poor standards are used to justify low pay and unpredictable schedules everywhere from big box Target to New York boutiques.

OUR Walmart’s demands include $13 an hour, and fast food workers in New York and Chicago recently united under the banner of “Fight for $15.” Politicians are limping behind. In January, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo suggested that the state’s minimum wage should increase by $1.50 to $8.75, still miserably low. Nationally, the average Walmart worker makes around $8.81.

Trying to pit workers against customers, naysayers claim that higher wages will increase Walmart’s prices. But a recent study by the think tank Demos calculated that if all big low-wage retailers raised store workers to $12.25 a hour, it would lift three quarters of a million Americans above the poverty line—and cost customers only 15 cents per shopping trip.

Meanwhile, those same customers’ own wages have been dragged down by the Walmartized economy. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the Walton family controls $100 billion, more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of Americans combined.

‘OPEN SOURCE’ ORGANIZING

Walmart has more than 4,000 stores and 1.4 million employees in the U.S., so OUR Walmart has just scratched the surface. Hoping to grow quickly, organizers describe the group as “open source,” meaning that workers can stumble upon it, talk to existing activists, and then organize themselves. The group boasts thousands of members, up from 100 in early 2011, in 43 states.

Members pay dues of $5 a month. UFCW has put in considerable resources and is “in it for the long haul,” said Schlademan.

Walmart managers are spreading the word, too. As Black Friday protests approached, workers around the country reported meetings warning them not to participate.

There is a spontaneous quality to the group. OUR Walmart’s Facebook page bustles with discussions of goings-on at the stores. Workers compare their quarterly profit-sharing bonuses (measly), tell stories about crazy managers (one in Alabama recently held a 30-minute meeting in the freezer to punish staff), compare their hours (dropping since Christmas), and write in to ask for help.

“I work at the Walmart in Moultrie, Georgia,” wrote Michael Brady on December 30. “Managers use their power to fire people just because they don’t like you… I heard about this group from a friend and we really need some help here.”

Others are frustrated at work but express skepticism about organizing. “There will never be respect for us, we just work, that’s all we do… The ones that bitch get fired, so good luck with your little deal here,” wrote Travis Ratajcyzk, an unloader in Covina, California.

OUR Walmart activists in other stores reassured him they had been active for over a year and had not been fired.

It’s possible the current composition of the National Labor Relations Board is helping forestall retaliatory firings. In 2000, Walmart faced board charges for retaliation against store employees across the country. Forty-one were fired for concerted activity between 1998 and 2003, says UFCW.

The union hoped to win a broad injunction against the company, which might have given workers nationwide breathing room to organize. But, according to Lichtenstein, Walmart made a call to the White House, and the incoming Bush administration promptly fired sympathetic NLRB General Counsel Leonard Page. The complaint went nowhere.

Under President Obama, the board and general counsel have been more sympathetic to worker organizing and have even sought injunctions against anti-union activity at other companies.

The board could be helpful if the company returns to its “fire first, deal with the legal problems later” attitude.

“We’re assuming the worst and hoping for the best,” said Schlademan of the company’s recent behavior. “Walmart is good at being patient and waiting until the spotlight is off of them.”

In preparation, the union and OUR Walmart have been trying out adopt-a-store ideas, so community members can immediately raise a fuss if workers are fired. They’ve also been developing an electronic rapid-response system and connecting with sympathetic local clergy and elected leaders. And they plan more strikes.

jenny [7]

(Additional supporting articles can be read on the Labour notes site: http://labornotes.org/2013/01/walmart-and-fast-food-unions-scaling-strike-first-strategy)

[1] http://labornotes.org/author/4084/content

[2] http://labornotes.org/user?destination=2013/01/walmart-and-fast-food-unions-scaling-strike-first-strategy

[3] http://labornotes.org/user/register?destination=2013/01/walmart-and-fast-food-unions-scaling-strike-first-strategy

[4] http://labornotes.org/sites/dc.lndev.opa.labornotes.org/files/main/articles/Our%20walmart%20black%20fri%202.jpg

[5] http://www.labornotes.org/2013/01/warehouse-strategies-squeeze-walmarts-pressure-points

[6] http://www.labornotes.org/2013/01/how-fast-food-workers-super-sized-their-pay-new-zealand

[7] mailto:jenny

Question 20: Is the productivity gap the only reason there is such a big wage gap between New Zealand and Australia?

24 Jan

Part of the reason for the wage gap between Australia and New Zealand is the fact the Australian working class and their unions have had greater success in resisting the attacks on their wages and therefore their share of national income

According to another article by Marty G on the blog “The Standard” much of the difference in wages with Australia is accounted for the larger decline in New Zealand in share of GDP going to workers (See Graph 8). In my view that is accounted for by the greater strength on unions in Australia and their ability to resist the attacks on their wages and living standards over recent decades. Marty G wrote

"30 years ago, according to John Key,” wages in Australia and New Zealand were the same. Since then New Zealand wages have stagnated and Australian wages haven grown away from us to the point where they are nearly 40% higher.

“The conventional wisdom is that this is due to faster economic growth in Australia, driven by higher labour productivity. But that’s only part of the story.

“The gap grew as Kiwi workers’ share of GDP fell, and the share going on business profits grew, much more than what happened in Australia. This is due to policy changes in the 1980s and 1990s that advantaged business and weakened workers’ bargaining power.”

Graph 8

Graph 9

(Part of a series of extracts from “Exposing Right Wing Lies” by Mike Treen, Unite National Director)

Call for solidarity to Free the Cuban Five!

23 Jan

International Youth Solidarity Meeting with the Cuban Five imprisoned in the United States to be held in Havana, Cuba, April 28th to May 2nd 2013.

16 January 2013

Dear friends,

We are calling on union and social activists to be part of the International Youth Solidarity Meeting with the Cuban Five to be held April 28-May 2, in Cuba, or to help sponsor a young person to attend.

The Cuban Five have been held in US jails for more than 14 years and a call has been issued for young people from around the world to gather in Cuba to show solidarity with them. The gathering will be an opportunity for individuals and organisations from many countries to discuss how we can strengthen the struggle for the release of the Five. Participants will also have an opportunity to take part in the May Day celebrations and to learn firsthand about the Cuban Revolution. Those wanting to stay longer can join the annual two week long Mayday solidarity brigade following the conference.

Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González are five Cuban revolutionaries who in 1998 were arrested by the U.S. government, framed up on espionage conspiracy and other charges, and railroaded to prison with sentences of up to double life plus 15 years.

In 1998 the Five had been living and working in South Florida, gathering information for the Cuban government on the operations of U.S.-based Cuban counterrevolutionary groups. With Washington’s knowledge and backing, these outfits have a long history of
carrying out deadly operations against supporters of the Cuban Revolution—inside Cuba as well as in the U.S. and elsewhere.

We invite you/your organisation to consider sending a delegate to this event, or assist in sponsoring a delegate to represent your organisation. As one of the Five, Gerardo Hernández, said it is the “jury of millions that will make our truth be known.”
Broadening participation from New Zealand will also greatly strengthen what we are able to do here to win more support for the Five.

To register or find out more contact Mike Treen on 029 525 4744; or email:mike.
The U.S. based National Committee to Free the Cuban Five has a website rich in resources at http://www.freethefive.org/ and the Cuban based International Committee to Free the Cuban Five is another place to learn about the widespread support the Five have won from around the world: http://www.thecuban5.org/

Yours in solidarity

Robert Reid
General Secretary National Director of Organising
FIRST Union
Email: robert.reid

Mike Treen

National Director
Unite Union

Email: mike

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