Happy Hardworking Labor Day.

We hope you are enjoying a day off on this day honoring the workers of the United States. Unfortunately, many of us are not enjoying today as a holiday, and most of us are working harder than ever. Here are some statistics, so that when you are feeling overworked, you can at least take comfort that you are not alone.

NLRB ruling in favor of McDonald’s Workers

“On July 29, 2014 the NLRB ruled that McDonald’s, the world’s largest fast food corporation, which in 2012 earned $27.5 billion and banked $5.5 billion in profits, can be held jointly responsible for unfair labor practices and wage violations made by its franchise operators.”

Demonstrators rally for better wages outside a McDonald's restaurant in New York, as part of a national protest. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Demonstrators rally for better wages outside a McDonald’s restaurant in New York, as part of a national protest. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

McDonald’s fast food workers first dared to strike in November 2012, asking for higher wages. “But when the stores retaliated by firing workers, cutting their hours, arranging inconvenient schedules or otherwise punishing them, the workers took their cases to the NLRB.” The NLRB has ruled that McDonald’s the company, not the franchises which account for 90 percent of its 14,000 stores in the U.S., is responsible as the parent corporation and as a joint employer.

“Unions immediately applauded the ruling, seeing an opening to help them organize workers at all fast food and retail franchises and in many job categories — like janitors, warehouse truck drivers, airport workers and those at dry cleaners and car dealerships — that rely on subcontractors and temp agencies. The ruling is a boon to the Service Employees union, which has worked tirelessly for several years to organize the 4 million fast food workers in this country.”

Read more of this story by Workers World here

Retail Workers Bill of Rights

San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar introduced the first half of a “Retail Workers Bill of Rights,” which would require formula retail companies—which include stores such as Target, Lowe’s, The Gap, McDonald’s and Starbucks—to offer more hours of work to current employees before hiring additional workers. Other issues addressed will include promoting full-time work and access to hours, discouraging abusive on-call scheduling practices, encouraging fair, predictable schedules, and encouraging worker retention and job security, even when companies are bought or sold (Retail Workers Rights).

“The lack of sufficient hours doesn’t just force individuals to struggle to pay their bills; the unpredictability of work schedules makes it difficult to plan the rest of one’s life. For workers with family caretaking responsibilities or health concerns, this can make scheduling childcare or medical appointments almost impossible. It also creates difficulties for people trying to work more than one job or attend classes,” reports Julia Wong


“With its goals of promoting steady working conditions, the proposed ordinance is similar to the Schedules That Work Act introduced to Congress by Representatives George Miller (D-Calif.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), and Senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) Like the ordinance in San Francisco, the bill would require guaranteed pay for cancelled, shortened, or on-call shifts for employees; it would also compensate them for “split shifts.” The act is broader in scope than San Francisco’s: Beyond “formula retail” stores, its aforementioned protections would extend to everyone in the retail, janitorial, and food service sectors.” 

Making workers’ rights a civil right

The Hill reports that “leading civil rights figures in Congress are taking steps to outlaw a relatively new form of discrimination: against workers of all races who try to form a union… Discriminating against those trying to organize can be an extremely effective employer tactic, as the union ringleaders are jettisoned from the workplace and most other employees get the message and become paralyzed with fear.”

Getty Images, Union Protest

Getty Images, Union Protest

“Harvard labor economist Richard Freeman completed a large study in 2007 that found if workers were provided the union representation they desired, the overall unionization rate would have been 58 percent, whereas the actual rate was 12 percent. Another study that same year found almost 1 in 5 union activists could expect to be fired as a result of their organizing activity. Many have linked employers’ ability to discriminate against union activity to the significant gap between employee desire for unionization and declining rates of union density. This type of discrimination has increased significantly in the decades since passage of the Civil Rights Act, even as outright discrimination based on race and national origin has declined.”

Read more here


Obama Executive Order on Federal Contracts

“A new executive order from President Obama will make it harder for companies to win federal contracts if they violate their workers’ rights and withhold their wages, the White House announced Thursday. Under the new rules, companies that apply for federal contracts larger than half a million dollars will have to disclose any major labor law violations they or their subcontractors have committed in the previous three years. Agencies will prioritize companies with clean records over those that abuse their workers’ rights when weighing contract bids.”

The downstairs food court at Washington, D.C.’s Union Station is staffed by low-wage workers paid with federal dollars. Credit: Flickr User Guvnah

The downstairs food court at Washington, D.C.’s Union Station is staffed by low-wage workers paid with federal dollars. Credit: Flickr User Guvnah

“The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order will not kick in until 2016 and its provisions will only be applicable to new contracts, according to the White House fact sheet. But because the new scrutiny of labor law violations will apply to company performance over three years, the new rules serve to put contractors on notice that their treatment of workers today will affect their odds of winning their next contract.”

Read more here.

Quick Guide to Inequality

You may have heard of the recent book by French economist Thomas Piketty, Capital in the 21st Century. It’s on the New York Times bestseller list, but, at 600+ pages may be being used more as a doorstop than being read.
Times‘ columnist Nicholas Kristof has taken on the task of distilling Piketty’s findings into an “Idiots’ Guide to Inequality” here.

Executive Order Grants Equal Rights to LGBT Workers

On July 21, 2014, President Barack Obama signed an order banning federal government contractors from discriminating against gay and transgender workers.  The President issued the order after legislation to protect all employees, not just those who work under federal contracts, failed to pass. 

“Eighteen states have already banned workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as have more than 200 cities and other local governments.”

Read more here: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-28414186

President Obama also called on Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which passed the Democratic-controlled Senate last year but has since languished in the Republican-led House of Representatives.

A Push to Give Steadier Shifts to Part-Timers

There is a movement to require predictability in the shift scheduling of part time workers. “The actions reflect a growing national movement — fueled by women’s and labor groups — to curb practices that affect millions of families, like assigning just one or two days of work a week or requiring employees to work unpredictable hours that wreak havoc with everyday routines like college and child care.”

Predictability, with some flexibility, in work schedules, would benefit all part-time workers, but especially women, who are most responsible for child-care. The benefits to workers will also help employers retain responsible workers.