Saturday, December 06, 2014

184.2 - Good News: More local governments recognize workers' rights

Good News: More local governments recognize workers' rights

On another front, more and more states and cities are picking up where the federal government has failed to act and are recognizing the need for greater protection and respect for the needs of workers, particularly low-wage workers. The bad news is that this is necessary at all, that we are more and more becoming a low-wage, part-time nation, but the good news here is that, again, more states and municipalities are recognizing their responsibility to do something in response.

On November 25, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed the Retail Workers Bill of Rights, the country’s first-ever legislation aimed at improving life for retail employees.

Retail chains that have 11 or more locations across the country and employ 20 or more people in San Francisco will now have to provide their workers at least two weeks’ advance notice of their schedules. Failure to do so will mean having to give those workers additional “predictability pay.” Disrupted lives due to shifting schedules posted on short notice have become a major complaint among particularly (but not exclusively) part-time workers, some of who won't even know if they will work a shift until they show up that day.

The San Francisco measure will also require employers to improve the treatment of part-time employees, give current workers the opportunity to take on more hours before the company hires new people, pay "on-call" people whose shifts are canceled, and give part-time employees the same starting wage as those working full time in the same position and access to the same benefits.

And a week later, on December 2, the Chicago City Council voted 44-5 to pass fast-tracked legislation to raise the minimum wage for workers in the city from the current $8.25 an hour to $13 an hour by 2019, with the first hike, to $10 an hour, to come in 2015.

Part of the reason this is happening is that, in another bit of unfortunately-necessary but still Good News, low-wage workers are getting fed up themselves, fed up enough to ignore retaliation and the prospect of getting fired, and are taking to the streets.

For one example: Friday, November 30, marked the third consecutive year of protests and strikes against Walmart. The protests, under the banner of  "$15 and full time" - that is, a $15 an hour minimum wage and full-time work for anyone who wants it - were led by OUR Walmart, a union-backed worker group, alongside community and labor groups in different cities.

Thousands of Walmart employees and labor union members protested at 1,000 Walmart stores across the country. At least 11 workers and supporters were arrested for blocking traffic outside a Walmart in Chicago.

The actions come after a week in which workers walked off the job in 10 states, employees in Los Angeles staged a fast, and workers in D.C. orchestrated a sit-in where the associates wore masking tape over their mouths to protest of Walmart “silencing of employees who complain about working conditions."

Dan Schlademan of Making Change at Walmart, a project of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union which supports the campaign, said he expects the number of strikers to be in the hundreds by the end of the day. That number is small compared to Walmart's total work force, but do not forget that just a couple of years ago, it would have been unthinkable for it to happen at all.

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