Workers Got Fed Up. Bosses Got Scared

A few weeks after the end of World War II, New York City came to a standstill. Thousands of elevators hung without operators, doors stood without doormen, and buildings languished without repairmen. Business districts closed down; the Garment District emptied out. Almost all deliveries other than the mail stopped coming into Manhattan. America’s commercial center was shuttered. “Make yourselves comfortable,” one union officer publicly warned. It wasn’t a government shutdown; it was a strike—one that started with the elevator operators, doormen, and maintenance workers, and spread to other unionists across the city. (“Fur workers do not want any scabs to run elevators in fur buildings,” declared one sympathy striker.)

While their collective action was monumental, it was also somewhat routine. After the war, these kinds of strikes were de rigueur: In 1946, 4.6 million people—nearly 10 percent of the American workforce—took to the picket line. General strikes rocked entire communities across the country, from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to Oakland, California, to Rochester, New York. “It was after the war and I think we needed to get our share,” one Oakland striker later explained. “Industry had sure made theirs during the war.”

Many of the country’s major waves of strikes have occurred like this, as postscripts to shattering events of the 20th century—in 1919, 1934, 1946. Each catastrophe redefined our

— source | Jacob Rosenberg | Jan+Feb 2022

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Six workers died at Amazon gulag

At least six people died after part of an Amazon warehouse collapsed in Edwardsville when a tornado rolled through Friday night, Edwardsville Fire Department said Saturday. The death toll rose to six Saturday afternoon, announced in a press conference at the Edwardsville Public Safety Building. Forty-five other people made it out safely from the warehouse, Edwardsville Fire Chief James Whiteford said Saturday. 150 yards of the Amazon building collapsed, Whiteford said Saturday. The walls on both sides of the building collapsed inward, causing the roof to fall. The 11-inch-thick, 40-feet-tall walls could not sustain the tornado that hit the building Friday night. The National Weather Service

Amazon workers are not part of a union, but Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union President Stuart Appelbaum released a statement blasting Amazon for what he said was putting people’s lives in danger.

“Time and time again Amazon puts its bottom line above the lives of its employees,” Appelbaum said in the statement. “Requiring workers to work through such a major tornado warning event as this was inexcusable.

“Amazon cannot continue to be let off the hook for putting hard working people’s lives at risk. Our union will not back down until Amazon is held accountable for these and so many more dangerous labor practices.”

— source | Dec 17, 2021

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Garment Workers Organize to End Wage Theft

Daisy Gonzalez’s mother emigrated to California from Guatemala in the ’80s and landed a job as a garment worker. “My mother was a trimmer and an ironer. I learned how difficult this work was for her body from her experience,” Gonzalez says. Beyond the difficult conditions, the pay was equally abysmal. She recounts her mother once working for a week, and the employer paying her just $30. Her mother’s struggles opened Gonzalez’s eyes to the trenchant problem of “wage theft,” a phenomenon she says is built into the very fabric of the garment industry and its global supply chain.

“Fashion is built on colonial and racist structures,” says Ayesha Barenblat, founder and CEO of Remake, a community of women’s rights, ethical fashion, and environmental advocates on a mission to shift the industry’s deleterious practices that harm workers and the planet. For Barenblat, the long legacy of abuse by brands is inherently a feminist issue whose solutions must center justice. “If you care about women’s rights and environmental justice, then you must care about how the fashion industry operates,” she says.

In 2013, the collapse of the Rana Plaza building on the outskirts of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, captured global headlines. The eight-story building housed shops and

— source | Rucha Chitnis | Dec 28, 2021

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Striking Kellogg’s Workers Get Raises, Improved Benefits

In a major victory for labor rights, workers at Kellogg’s cereal plants have ended their nearly three-month strike after approving a new contract that provides across-the-board wage increases and enhanced benefits for all. Some 1,400 Kellogg’s workers in Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Tennessee have been on strike since October.

One of the most contested issues has been a permanent two-tier system, where workers at Kellogg’s hired after 2015 were paid less than longer-tenured workers. The new five-year agreement with Kellogg’s doesn’t include the two-tier system, gives workers a clear path to full-time employment and provides a significant increase in the pension multiplier.

What we we won was fighting against the alternative work schedule, what the company wanted to introduce. And they wanted to introduce a permanent two-tier wage system. So, we were able to get those things taken off the table, along with some different additional things, like an increase to our cost-of-living allowances for everyone and also for our pension plan. We got a significant increase to our pension plan. So, there was a lot of good things. We didn’t have any takeaways and no concessions, so I would say that, in essence, that we did win.

— source | Dec 23, 2021

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Striking Kellogg’s Workers Urge Boycott of Company’s Products

1,400 Kellogg’s workers who’ve remained on strike for over two months, demanding fair wages and better working conditions. Last week, Kellogg’s said it would start replacing striking workers with permanent hires, after a tentative five-year agreement with the company was rejected by an overwhelming majority of Kellogg’s cereal plant workers. The deal would have provided 3% raises.

Kellogg’s announcement drew backlash from across the country, with many demanding a boycott of Kellogg’s products in solidarity with striking workers.

Workers at plants in Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee have been on strike since October. They make all of the company’s most popular brands of cereal, including Froot Loops and Frosted Flakes.

we’ve been working seven days, seven days a week, 12, 16 hours a day. And we’re asking the company, you know, if you’re going to work us the same, then you need to pay us the same. And we’re trying to get some relief on that, as far as different things inside our language that allow people to be off, like FMLA and stuff like that, where they’re not trying to circumvent FMLA and making you use up all your vacation and saying that you can’t be off with your family, you can’t take care of a loved one or yourself. So, there’s a lot of different things on the table that we’re trying to fight for as our working conditions. And also we’re fighting, you know, to keep jobs in America. We have job security.

— source | Dec 14, 2021

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Starbucks Workers in Buffalo building a Union

historic workers’ victory at the Elmwood Starbucks store in Buffalo, New York, where workers successfully voted to unionize last week, making them the first to do so among Starbucks’ 9,000 locations in the United States.

Workers cheered as the results of their vote were announced. Nineteen workers voted in favor, eight against, forming the union. A union vote failed at a second Buffalo Starbucks location, and a third election at the Buffalo airport Starbucks has not yet been confirmed after nearly half the “yes” votes were challenged. The National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB, will now review those votes. The victory in Buffalo came despite Starbucks’ union-busting efforts and could trigger similar drives at more of its stores across the country. Already, on Monday, workers at two Massachusetts Starbucks, in Boston and Brookline, filed paperwork with the NLRB petitioning to unionize.

And I think, like you’re saying, it’s important we won our union, thank goodness. And the Genesee store, which was actually packed with people who don’t even vote at that store, to try to inflate the voter list, we’re confident that they’re going to also be the other of the first unionized Starbucks. But it shouldn’t have had — we shouldn’t have had to go through all of the union busting that we’ve gone through in the past four months.

Starbucks sent in a SWAT team, they called

— source | Dec 14, 2021

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Amazon fires employees who spoke out about coronavirus and climate change

Amazon is trying to establish itself as the most essential of essential businesses during the coronavirus outbreak. But the tech giant is struggling to keep a lid on internal turmoil, both at its warehouses, where workers say they’re not being adequately protected from COVID-19, and at its corporate offices, where a showdown between tech employees and management over the company’s climate policies reached a tipping point last week.

Last Friday afternoon, Amazon fired two of its tech employees after they publicly criticized its coronavirus policies. Those employees, Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, both user experience designers with 21 years of service at the company between them, were among the leaders of an internal worker group formed in December 2018 with the aim of pressuring Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to commit to more ambitious climate targets. The group, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ), has recently widened its focus to embrace the struggles of frontline Amazon employees at fulfillment centers across the country.

— source | Apr 14, 2020

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