Good News for those Who Work for a Living

Two bits of good news for the laboring classes today:

The shell game in which employers push off responsibilities for workers onto subcontractors or franchisees may be over

The general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board ruled on Tuesday that McDonald’s could be held jointly liable for labor and wage violations by its franchise operators — a decision that, if upheld, would disrupt longtime practices in the fast-food industry and ease the way for unionizing nationwide.

The ruling comes after the labor board’s legal team investigated myriad complaints that fast-food workers brought in the last 20 months, accusing McDonald’s and its franchisees of unfair labor practices.

Richard F. Griffin Jr., the labor board’s general counsel, said he found merit in 43 of the 181 claims, accusing McDonald’s restaurants of illegally firing, threatening or otherwise penalizing workers for their pro-labor activities.

In those cases, Mr. Griffin said he would include McDonald’s as a joint employer, a classification that could hold the company responsible for actions taken at thousands of its restaurants.  NY Times: Greenhouse

The awarding of government contracts to those who can’t get their houses in order may be coming to an end.

President Obama is expected to sign an executive order on Thursday that could make it harder for companies that violate wage, labor and anti-discrimination laws to win federal contracts, administration officials said on Wednesday.

Under the order, Mr. Obama will require federal contractors to disclose any labor violations that their companies committed over the previous three years, with government procurement officials then being advised to steer clear of those with repeated and egregious violations.

“The president’s view is that taxpayer dollars should not reward corporations that break the law,” …

NY Times: Shear and Greenhouse

 

American “Squeeze the Workers” Spreads to Europe

This cannot be good news, at any level…

In 2008, 1.9 million Portuguese workers in the private sector were covered by collective bargaining agreements. Last year, the number was down to 300,000.

Spain has eased restrictions on collective layoffs and unfair dismissal, and softened limits on extending temporary work, allowing workers to be kept on fixed-term contracts for up to four years. Ireland and Portugal have frozen the minimum wage, while Greece has cut it by nearly a fourth. This is what is known in Europe as “internal devaluation.”

Spain Unemployment

While most of the debate over Europe’s response to the financial crisis has focused on the budget austerity enveloping the Continent, the comparatively unheralded erosion of worker protection is likely to have at least as big and lasting an impact on Europe’s social contract.

“It has a disastrous effect on social cohesion and a tremendous effect on inequality,” argued Jean-Paul Fitoussi, an economics professor at the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris. “Well-being has fallen all across Europe. One symptom is the rise of extremist political parties.”

UPDATE:

On Monday, Ikea started taking applications for 400 jobs at the new megastore  near Valencia store, due to open next summer.

The company wasn’t prepared for what came next.

Within 48 hours, more than 20,000 people had applied online for those 400 jobs. The volume crashed Ikea’s computer servers in Spain.

“We had an avalanche of applicants!” Ikea spokesman Rodrigo Sanchez told NPR in a phone interview. “With that quantity, our servers just didn’t have the capacity. They collapsed. After 48 hours, we had to temporarily close the job application process. We’re working on a solution, to reopen the as soon as possible.”

That initial volume alone gives applicants a 1-in-50 chance of landing the job — three times more difficult than getting into Harvard last year.

And to complement  Porter’s reporting, Jared Bernstein helps out on the minimum wage policy debate.

I can’t open the paper these days without stumbling onto something about the minimum wage, which I take to be a good thing as it’s a simple, popular way to help address the problem of very low-wage work in America.  It’s not a complete solution; it’s not the only solution — it is, in fact, a relatively small-bore policy that sets an important labor standard: the government will compensate for the severe lack of bargaining clout among our lowest-wage workers by setting a floor below which we won’t allow their wages to fall.

Domestic Workers Get Some Wage Help

“California’s in-home domestic workers will be entitled to overtime pay for working more than nine hours in a day, or 45 hours in a week, under a law signed Thursday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The measure, AB241 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, covers as many as 200,000 nannies, cooks, housekeepers and other domestic workers employed by household residents or agencies. It takes effect in January.

“Domestic workers are primarily women of color, many of them immigrants, and their work has not been respected in the past,” said Ammiano, who attended a private signing ceremony with the governor, along with domestic workers and employers.

SFGate:Egelko

Good for Ammiano!  Great for the workers, though one wonders why it came to this at all.  Why would those who can afford domestic workers have to be lawed into paying more for work above and beyond? Wouldn’t ALL of them expect overtime or bonuses for more than standard work? And, why haven’t domestic workers been covered under existing labor law?  Who carved out the exceptions, at whose behest and for whose benefits?  [Oh never mind. It is rhetorical.]

And good for Egelko at the Chron for picking this out as important.

Walmart Strong Advocate for Cutting Fire Prevention Upgrades in Bangladesh

“…two officials who attended a meeting held in Bangladesh in 2011 to discuss factory safety in the garment industry said on Wednesday that the Walmart official there played the lead role in blocking an effort to have global retailers pay more for apparel to help Bangladesh factories improve their electrical and fire safety.

Ineke Zeldenrust, international coordinator for the Clean Clothes Campaign, an anti-sweatshop group based in Amsterdam, said Walmart was the company that “most strongly advocated this position.

“… According to the minutes of the meeting, which were made available to The Times, Sridevi Kalavakolanu, a Walmart director of ethical (sic!) sourcing, along with an official from another major apparel retailer, noted that the proposed improvements in electrical and fire safety would involve as many as 4,500 factories and would be “in most cases” a “very extensive and costly modification.

NY Times

I wonder if Walmart Ethical sourcing is paying for the funerals? Still too costly?

Burials on Nov. 27 for some of the 112 victims of the garment factory fire in Bangladesh

Wisconsin Governor Recall Drive Heats Up

“Thousands of volunteers have raced to collect signatures near busy intersections and malls all over Wisconsin, at makeshift “drive-through” operations in parking lots, during Green Bay Packers viewing parties and New Year’s Eve pub crawls, and even at a fold-up table inside Milwaukee’s airport just off Concourse C.

“By a state deadline on Tuesday, these volunteers, many of them Democrats and union supporters, say they will submit at least 720,000 names on petitions to recall Gov. Scott Walker, the Republican who curtailed collective bargaining rights for public workers, leading to a face-off in this state.

 

Monica Davey: NY Times

Right to Freeload Legislation Readied in Indiana

From the headline you’ll know where I stand on so called Right to Work legislation.  The bosses have the right to organize; the workers have none.  Or, more cleverly, as Ron Paul has it, workers have the right to organize but none to ensure that those who benefit from their work, pay their share.  And those who fawn at the feet of business are out to load even more gold on their boat.

 

Nearly a year after legislatures in Wisconsin and several other Republican-dominated states curbed the power of public sector unions, lawmakers are now turning their sights toward private sector unions, setting up what is sure to be another political storm.

The thunderclouds are gathering first here in Indiana. The leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature say that when the legislative session opens on Wednesday, their No. 1 priority will be to push through a business-friendly piece of legislation known as a right-to-work law.

… Right-to-work laws prohibit union contracts at private sector workplaces from requiring employees to pay any dues or other fees to the union. In states without such laws, workers at unionized workplaces generally have to pay such dues or fees.

Many right-to-work supporters say it is morally wrong to force unwilling workers to contribute to unions, while opponents argue that it is wrong to allow “free riders” not to support the unions that represent them in negotiations and arbitrations.

Right to Freeload