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From the good people at UE local 150, N.C. Public Service Workers Union:

UE 150 protestA new report released by UE local 150, N.C. Public Service Workers Union highlights the need for ‘Safety, Rights and Raises’ for state DHHS employees.  The report details new information about horrible understaffing, vacant positions not being filled,  alarming turnover rates, along with Department of Labor wage data showing how far behind state employees are with their salaries.

DHHS employees, all members of UE local 150, N.C. Public Service Workers Union from Cherry Hospital, Caswell Developmental Center, Central Regional Hospital and Murdoch Center but representing workers in all state operated facilities, met with DHHS Sec. Wos and her administration yesterday.

‘We are glad that Sec. Wos is committed to continue to dialogue with workers, ‘ stated Regina Washington, developmental technician from Caswell Center. ‘However we are upset by her insistence that certain upper classes of workers deserve raises compared to direct care staff, who are the lowest paid and who receive the bulk of the injuries and stress. ‘ Read More

TeachersWhen politicians talk about “running government like a business,” for many of us (even skeptics) it conjures up vague images  of hard-nosed accountants demanding results and issuing edicts to do away with no bid contracts and wasteful outlays for  travel and fancy meals. A new report from the top-flight journalists at Pro Publica, however, paints a much clearer portrait of what the future actually holds in the regard: temp workers — lots and lots of temp workers.

This is from the report, “A Modern Day ‘Harvest of Shame‘”:

“Half a century ago, the legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow came to this pancake-flat town in central New Jersey to document the plight of migrant farmworkers for a television special called “Harvest of Shame.”

Today, many of Cranbury’s potato fields have been built up with giant warehouses that form a distribution hub off Exit 8A of the Jersey Turnpike.

But amid this 21st century system of commerce, an old way of labor persists. Temporary workers make a daily migration on buses to this area, just as farmworkers did for every harvest in the 1960s. Temp workers today face many similar conditions in how they get hired, how they live and what they can afford to eat. Adjusted for inflation, many of today’s temp workers earn roughly the same amount as those farmworkers did 50 years ago.

Across the country, farms full of migrant workers have been replaced with warehouses full of temp workers, as American consumers depend more on foreign products, online shopping and just-in-time delivery. It is a story that begins at the ports of Los Angeles and Newark, N.J., follows the railroads to Chicago and ends at your neighborhood box store, or your doorstep.

The temp industry now employs 2.8 million workers – the highest number and highest proportion of the American workforce in history. As the economy continues to recover from the Great Recession, temp work has grown nine times faster than private-sector employment as a whole. Overall, nearly one-sixth of the total job growth since the recession ended has been in the temp sector.”

And, of course, if  a phenomenon like this is good enough for the “free market,” it’s gotta’ be a “must” for the brave new world of conservative-run government like the one North Carolinians are currently enduring. Any more questions about why state leaders are so anxious to, effectively, turn thousands upon thousands of public school teachers into temps?  That’s right: they want to “run government like a business.”

“Harvest of Dignity,” a 30-minute documentary that chronicles the lives of modern farm workers in North Carolina, won a regional Emmy over the weekend in the topical documentary category.

The film updates Edward R. Murrow’s 1960 report, “Harvest of Shame”, and shows that unfortunately, not much has changed about how our country treats the people who work so hard to deliver the bounty of our farms to our grocery stores and our tables.

Donna Campbell of Minnow Media in Carrboro, worked closely with the Farmworker Advocacy Network to make the film. Upon accepting the award in Nashville Saturday, Campbell said she did so on behalf of North Carolina’s farm workers.

“Those of us who haven’t spent 16 hours in a sweet potato field really have no idea what hard work is,” she said (you can watch the awards speech around 01:14 of the Emmy broadcast.

At least 150,000 farm workers and their families are in North Carolina for each growing season, according to the North Carolina Farmworker Institute.  often making less than $11,000 a year. Wage and safety violations are unfortunately all too common, with workers still facing difficulties like pesticide exposure, unacceptable living conditions and rampant wage theft.

The thought-provoking movie is worth watching with a book club or group of friends or neighbors, sure to raise awareness and generate discussion. Watch the movie and download discussion materials here: http://pic.tv/harvest/.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear argument today in a case that has some labor activists fearful that decades-long protection under the law may come to an end at the hands of the conservative court.

The case, Harris v. Quinn, brought by home healthcare aids who do not want to join a union and do not want to pay any amount for the union’s contract negotiation efforts, involves the issue of “fair share” fees.

As explained by Lyle Denniston in this detailed analysis of the case:

When a union is named as the bargaining agent for a group of workers, it is under a legal duty to represent all the workers, including those who refuse to join.  Under what is called the “agency shop” theory, all workers are not required to join the union, but they are required to pay through their dues a “fair share” of the union’s costs in representing them in bargaining over benefits and working conditions.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, on appeal from the Seventh Circuit, over objections from unions and from state and federal government officials — raising the specter that the high court might be veering towards upsetting established labor law.

As NPR’s Nina Totenberg notes here:

In the end, what makes this case remarkable is that the Supreme Court for decades has allowed public employee unions, and has allowed them to require mandatory fair share fees for non-members as long as those who do not join the union are not forced to pay for union political activities.

But the current conservative court has not been enamored with labor unions, hinting just two years ago that it might be time to revisit its decades of doctrine on this issue.

“If they say you can’t have an exclusive representative union, that would be a stake in the heart of not just unions in the public sector but all unions,” Smith says.

And if the court were to say unions could not have a mandatory fair share contribution to a recognized union, “you’d have a serious free rider problem,” he says, because people “would have no incentive to pay their share of the costs if they can free ride on everybody else.”

The bottom line, Smith says, is that an adverse ruling “would substantially weaken unions.”

As noted in board’s press release today:

The consolidated complaint involves more than 60 employees, 19 of whom were discharged allegedly as a result of their participation in activities protected by the National Labor Relations Act.  The Office of the General Counsel alleges that Walmart violated the Act when:

  • During two national television news broadcasts and in statements to employees at Walmart stores in California and Texas, Walmart unlawfully threatened employees with reprisal if they engaged in strikes and protests.
  • At stores in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Washington, Walmart unlawfully threatened, disciplined, and/or terminated employees for having engaged in legally protected strikes and protests.
  • At stores in California, Florida, Missouri and Texas, Walmart unlawfully threatened, surveilled, disciplined, and/or terminated employees in anticipation of or in response to employees’ other protected concerted activities.

More to follow.