Millennials in the US see themselves as less middle class and more working class than any other generation since records began three decades ago, the Guardian and Ipsos Mori have found.
Analysing social survey data spanning 34 years reveals that only about a third of adults aged 18-35 think they are part of the US middle class. Meanwhile 56.5% of this age group describe themselves as working class. …
The last time almost as many people from any other generation described themselves as working class was in 1982, when 56.1% of baby boomers chose this label. That year, the oldest boomers were in their late 30s, Ronald Reagan was in his second year of office, and Time magazine celebrated the advent of the personal computer. …
The self-reported data in class perceptions among the youngest in the US align with economic data … which shows that despite 30 years of average GDP growth, younger US workers are much worse off in real terms than their parents.
Politico Morning Shift: “AFL-CIO Surveys Working Women”
Equal pay for equal work is a top priority for working women, according to a new AFL-CIO survey. Respondents included union and non-union members. The survey found that 46 percent of union members and 48 percent of non-union members saw equal pay as a priority among a list of 21 issues.
Affordable health care, guaranteed health care for all, affordable higher education, and raising the minimum wage followed. Among the survey respondents, 59 percent identified as the primary breadwinner in the family. Health care costs, low wages and the cost of higher education and student loan debt topped the list among the barriers to economic stability.
SF Chronicle: “Unions and tech: A most unlikely political alliance forms” (requires subscription)
To many in the tech industry, unions represent everything they aim to disrupt: calcified, seniority-driven institutions that are slow to innovate.
To many in labor, tech firms are modern-day robber barons, seeking to skirt workplace protections by abdicating responsibility for any workers they haven’t already outsourced or automated.
Yet an unlikely alliance is being seeded in Silicon Valley, as unions and some tech firms are realizing they need each other — politically.
Apple may be the most successful corporation of all time. It recently reported a quarterly profit of $18 billion, the largest in history. Its record for technological innovation is unchallenged. It is the most admired brand in the world, according to the 2015 Interbrand Best Global Brands report. And its recent market-capital valuation at $765 billion (before dropping a bit) is the highest ever for any US company. …
But two other factors have contributed mightily to Apple’s success: the unconscionable exploitation of the people who manufacture its products, and the company’s refusal to contribute even a fraction of its fair share in taxes.
Huffington Post: “Tech Companies Have A Labor Problem, But Democrats Still Love Them”
It is an industry known as an overwhelmingly white, male bastion — one that has been slow to hire African-Americans, Hispanics and women. It is also an industry that has pushed policies in Washington that some major labor leaders have warned will stifle job growth. And it is an industry that has been accused of labor practices that undercut workers.
In short, Silicon Valley, long celebrated as forward-thinking, is increasingly seen – particularly by bedrock Democratic constituencies – as turning back the clock on some issues. …
The ties between top Democrats and the high-tech industry are unmistakable, with the industry pumping millions of dollars into the campaign coffers of Democrats, at the same time that a revolving door brings major industry players into key positions within the Obama administration — and vice versa.
Larry Cohen, the former president of the Communications Workers of America, sharply questioned whether some Democrats are losing their way ideologically as they attempt to foster a close relationship with an industry that has in ways undermined core Democratic constituencies like labor.
A members-only union is by definition less powerful than a full-fledged union: It represents a minority of workers on a voluntary basis, “rather than including all workers in the bargaining unit,” and “does not have to provide non-member employees with any services.” It cannot collect mandatory fees nor compel an employer to negotiate a workplace-wide contract. It can, however, unite workers to take collective action, with surprising flexibility that may sometimes outweigh the constraints.
A democratically-elected works council member from each European country where the company is active will represent colleagues in meetings with central management, monitor company compliance with local laws and exercise the right of employees to be consulted and informed about transnational issues that affect the employer and consequently, the workforce.
Termination, data protection, working conditions, hours and leave are all HR issues that require a dialogue with the works council.
Politico Morning Shift: “Labor Goes Online”
At a White House worker summit earlier this month President Barack Obama urged union officials and other worker advocates to “think creatively” about how they might use mobile apps and the Internet. “Technology actually can help,” Obama said, “in the same ways that in the past sometimes it’s hindered.”
The president made specific mention of Coworker.org, a website that allows workers to start petitions and campaigns around workplace issues. Other platforms include Wearedynamo.org, a crowd-sourced website for workplace complaints, and Contratados.org, a Spanish-language platform that allows migrant workers to rate their experiences with recruiters and employers.
The decline in traditional union representation is one factor driving growth in these organizing apps; another is the so-called “fissured workplace” in which employers substitute subcontracting and franchising for direct employment. “I think we can all agree … that the current structure of labor law and advocacy is too limited for the ways in which people are actually getting work,” Michelle Miller, co-founder of coworker.org, said.
Carmen Rojas, CEO of The Workers Lab, a startup that invests in new organizing models for low-wage workers, said she has seen a spike in the last five years in the use of social media and social media platforms as a way to organize workers.
More Apps for the Workplace
Huffington Post: “Huffington Post Employees In Talks To Unionize”
Employees at the Huffington Post have formed a committee to unionize, making that staff the latest group of digital media workers to try to organize… . After some competition between the NewsGuild and the Writers Guild of America (East), HuffPost employees signed on with the WGAE… . The WGAE has unionized workers at Gawker, Vice, Salon and ThinkProgress, while the NewsGuild has taken on the Guardian US and Al Jazeera America, the latter of which is currently running an election administered by the National Labor relations Board after Al Jazeera did not recognize the union voluntarily.
Seattle Times: “Bid to unionize Uber, Lyft advances”
Seattle City Council members voted 7-0 in a committee Friday to move ahead with a bill that would help independent-contractor drivers for companies like Uber to unionize.
The proposed legislation, approved by the council’s finance committee, would require taxi companies, for-hire vehicle companies and app-based dispatch companies such as Uber and Lyft to enter collective bargaining with organizations representing drivers.
The failure of this weekend’s nationwide protest planned by Uber drivers illustrates how hard it is for ride-hailing drivers to collectively organize and bargain for their rights. Drivers used social media — primarily Facebook and Twitter — to spread word of the job action, which sought to pressure Uber to add a tipping option and raise the minimum fare, among other demands.
But there’s no central place for the independent contractors who work for the ride-hailing service to communicate. ‘You guys didn’t plan this strike very well,’ said one driver on an Uber driver Facebook page. “I heard about it on the radio while … on the road today in San Francisco and there was a lot of other Uber drivers working.”
The Detroit News: “UAW, Fiat Chrysler deal addresses 2-tier pay”
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and the United Auto Workers announced a tentative agreement Tuesday night that addresses the critical issues of a two-tier pay structure and health care costs.
UAW President Dennis Williams said the proposed deal is “balanced” and keeps both sides competitive. At a joint press conference, he and Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne strongly suggested the deal includes a health care co-op — a concept floated by the UAW during negotiations. He said it also addresses the union’s two-tier pay system that members say has divided factory floors, and it rewards workers for sacrifices made in recent years — the union’s main goals heading into negotiations.
Thirty-one-year-old Jennifer Sanders is proud to be a fifth-generation member of the United Auto Workers, but like many millennials, she is frustrated that hers is the first generation to take some major steps backward on pay and benefits compared with those who went before. …
Thousands of second-tier workers at GM, Ford and Chrysler are stewing about their lower pay, with many pressing to have the bottom tier eliminated in this year’s negotiations with the Detroit automakers. The UAW agreed to create the lower tier in the 2007 contract talks when the automakers were struggling and pushing hard to cut costs. …
“I understand why the two-tier system was set up,” said Sanders, the divorced mother of a seven-year-old girl. “It was necessary back then, but I very much feel that it’s not a necessity anymore. The auto industry has bounced back. They’re making good money.”
The “sharing” or “gig” economy — think Airbnb, Uber, and Taskrabbit — has made massive fortunes reducing labor to disassembled microtasks; unfortunately, it’s shrunk workers’ rights too. But as our jobs are redefined by labor-brokering platforms, some advocates are trying to redefine labor rights for a digital economy. …
That’s why the National Employment Law Project (NELP) has come up with a new policy blueprint, focused on regulating the so-called “on-demand economy” of tech-driven gig employment, to put forward concrete policy models that can help restructure the “1099” contractor relationship to offer workers greater protection. …
Many gig workers aren’t really thinking about retirement yet; they’re struggling to get paid today. …
NELP says establishing an avenue for contractors to organize and collectively bargain on labor conditions might empower workers to respond directly to ever-changing market and labor conditions. This provides a platform for labor action that doesn’t rely on bureaucracy to catch up with Uber and Lyft, and it may hit the industry in its Achilles’ heel: publicity.
Capital & Main: “Uber and Airbnb: A ‘Sharing’ Economy for Whom?”
In the age of rampant income inequality, the overhyped promises of the sharing economy are running headlong into a growing desire by Americans for a caring economy.
The Nation: “The Unionization of Digital Media”
A recent string of campaigns show that while unions at “legacy” newspapers are eroding, organizing still has a place in the digital space. …
Altogether, these staffs are small … . But the efforts are notable in what they suggest about the future of digital labor, and also in how they’ve engaged the public. … Still, beyond statistics, in terms of both influencing the media workplace and being a labor news story in itself, unionization is amplifying labor’s voice on emergent platforms. …
So despite the tech evangelism, new media suffer from some very old challenges. And, industry trend pieces notwithstanding, media unionization 3.0 is also a rebranding of an old story. There is a long legacy of media-industry organizing stretching back to the Great Depression … . Back then, media workers linked their cultural labor to systemic labor struggles, and, in word and deed told the stories that inked the Popular Front’s legacy in the public imagination.
HuffPost Media: “Al Jazeera America Digital Journalists Move To Unionize”
Digital journalists at Al Jazeera America have moved toward unionizing, joining a growing number of digital newsrooms that have organized in recent months.
In a mission statement released Thursday, employees said they “want to work with Al Jazeera management in a spirit of honesty, integrity and transparency — both to produce the news and to improve the workplace in which we produce it.” …
Since June, Gawker, Salon, Guardian US and writers at Vice Media have all organized. Al Jazeera America, like Guardian US, is represented by NewsGuild-CWA. The other three are working with Writers Guild of America East. Both unions are actively trying to organize other media companies.
While the rest of the on-demand economy struggles to come to terms with the fallout from start-ups’ reliance on classifying employees as independent contractors, Google Express — which does not use independent contractors but instead subcontracts its workforce through a staffing agency — is facing labor troubles of its own. And the battle is heating up.”
BuzzFeed’s founder and CEO Jonah Peretti has told staff that he doesn’t think unionization is “the right idea” for BuzzFeed.
“I think unions have had a positive impact on a lot of places, like if you’re working on an assembly line,” Peretti said at a company meeting. In such cases, “if you’re negotiating with management it can make a huge difference, particularly when labor is more replaceable.”
Northwestern University football players cannot form a union, the National Labor Relations Board ruled, overturning a March 2014 decision and ending the players’ bid to change the college sports landscape. Among the board’s findings in a unanimous 16-page opinion was that certifying the players’ petition “would not promote uniformity and stability in labor relations,” and that allowing Northwestern players to bargain with a single employer over policies that apply throughout the National Collegiate Athletic Association would potentially upset the balance of competition.
Politico Morning Shift: “Steelworkers Vow to Fight On After Northwestern Decision”
Despite a major blow Monday at the NLRB, the United Steelworkers says it’s not giving up its fight to unionize college athletes. “I expect these athletes to come out swinging,” Steelworkers Political Director Tim Waters told Morning Shift. “They’re not going to take this lying down, that’s for sure. Anybody who’d think that this is the end of this quest to try to get athletes some protections for health and safety and concussions and long term injuries and stuff like that, if they think this is the end, they’re sorely mistaken.”
What’s the next move for the union? Waters wouldn’t say since his lawyers are still reviewing the decision. But labor leader Ramogi Huma, who helped organize Northwestern players, told Ben Strauss of the New York Times that organizing was still an option. “He added that there were other avenues available to those hoping to influence policy,” Strauss wrote, “from lobbying legislators in Washington and around the country, to lawsuits, to taking their message directly to the public.”
Huffington Post: “Guardian US Votes Unanimously To Unionize”
The staff of the Guardian US voted unanimously Wednesday to unionize under the News Media Guild, an action that comes amid a spate of labor organizing in newsrooms.
“The Guardian has a long tradition of supporting union effort,” a spokeswoman for the Guardian US chapter of the News Media Guild said in an email to The Huffington Post. “The move by Guardian US editorial staff to seek collective representation is consistent with the strong history of working in strong partnership with unions in the UK and Australia.” …
Guardian US led the news organization’s reporting in 2013 on disclosures from National Security Administration whistleblower Edward Snowden, winning a Pulitzer Prize in Public Service the following year. …
The Guardian US’s move Wednesday comes as unionizing is increasingly discussed in newsrooms, especially as digital news sites without a legacy of collective bargaining have organized. Gawker voted to unionize in June and Salon announced plans to do so earlier this month.
On Tuesday, Mike Elk, a labor reporter at Politico who is trying to organize his own newsroom, broached the topic with Vermont senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
KQED: “Growing Labor Movement Shakes Up Silicon Valley” (Part 1)
Called Silicon Valley Rising, this coalition of labor unions, faith leaders and community-based organizations is orchestrating a campaign to raise families out of poverty by pushing for a livable wage, affordable housing and corporate responsibility. They are now highlighting the plight of service workers, the majority of which are immigrants.
KQED: “Silicon Valley Firms Beginning to Make Labor Concessions” (Part 2)
Corporations won’t talk about their wage policies and the current labor campaign in Silicon Valley. But observers say that Silicon Valley companies know they can’t ignore the organizing activity and public opinion.
Jesus Solorio’s stubbornness serves him well. Instead of winding up a victim of the surging income inequality in Silicon Valley, he has become a tireless labor activist, refusing to let go of the American Dream.
“I like being a champion of raising the minimum wage,” said Solorio in Spanish. “I like being around other people, helping them so they can have better salaries and live a better life.”