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Category Archives: Class Inequality

Maine, National Efforts to Roll Back Child Labor Laws

Much attention has rightly been devoted to recent orders by Governor Paul LePage to remove murals and the names of figures such as FDR Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins (the first woman to hold that position) from the Maine Department of Labor office. These represent nothing short of an attack on working-class culture and people’s historical memories, as well as just how extensive the right’s assaults on workers and their rights have become. Yet legislative efforts in Maine and around the nation extend even beyond these attacks, and now include broad efforts to roll back protections for another group of workers–children–whose history of exploitation in the US is well established, and the images of which were ironically removed from the Maine labor murals.

From Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress:

Maine State Rep. David Burns is the latest of many Republican lawmakers concerned that employers aren’t allowed to do enough to exploit child workers:

LD 1346 suggests several significant changes to Maine’s child labor law, most notably a 180-day period during which workers under age 20 would earn $5.25 an hour.

The state’s current minimum wage is $7.50 an hour.

Rep. David Burns, R-Whiting, is sponsoring the bill, which also would eliminate the maximum number of hours a minor over 16 can work during school days.

Burns’ bill is particularly insidious, because it directly encourages employers to hire children or teenagers instead of adult workers. Because workers under 20 could be paid less than adults under this GOP proposal, minimum wage workers throughout Maine would likely receive a pink slip as their twentieth birthday present so that their boss could replace them with someone younger and cheaper.

And Burns is just one of many prominent Republicans who believe that America’s robust protections against the exploitation of children are wrongheaded:

Republicans’ contempt for workers is hardly news. GOP governors throughout the country have declared war on collective bargaining, and the national minimum wage remained stagnant for nearly a decade the last time Republicans controlled Congress. Nevertheless, the GOP’s increasingly widespread assaults on child labor laws is a significant escalation from their longstanding war on adult workers.

There are no bounds to the shame of this. If anyone disagrees, please ask yourself whether or not you wish your children to work longer hours, in tougher conditions, for less than the minimum wage, and at an earlier age. Such bills would literally turn back child labor and aspects of labor law back a century.

–Jason Kozlowski

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SEIU Informational Picket Monday, April 4 and Tuesday, April 5

Courtesy of Ricky Baldwin of SEIU Local 73:

TWO PICKETS IN TWO DAYS:

SEIU Picket for A Fair Contract
Monday April 4 at 7:30AM-9AM
FAR (Florida Ave Res Hall, 1001 College Court)
(We’ll meet with the mediator one more time for Food Service, 9AM-5PM, to see what they have to offer.)

SEIU Picket for A Fair Contract
Tuesday April 5 at 7:30AM-9AM
FAR (Florida Ave Res Hall, 1001 College Court)
(We’ll meet with the mediator one more time for Building Service, 9AM, to try to work out a contract without walking out.)

Join our union sisters and brothers of SEIU Local 73 fighting for a fair contract with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

–Jason Kozlowski

 

Canadian Union Protests Occupy Ontario Legislative Assembly

Via the United Steelworkers:

Queen’s Park – Union members and their supporters are refusing to leave the legislature following the Ontario government’s defeat of legislation to ban the use of replacement workers during strikes and lockouts.

The workers and their supporters say they won’t leave until they can meet with Premier Dalton McGuinty.

“Dalton McGuinty’s failure to ensure second-reading passage of Bill 45 means lengthy labour disputes in this province are doomed to continue as companies refuse to negotiate and continue to operate by using contracted replacement workers,” says United Steelworkers’ Ontario Director Wayne Fraser, who is leading the sit-in at Queen’s Park.

Bill 45, sponsored by MPP France Gélinas (NDP Nickel Belt), would ban the growing practice of hiring replacement workers to avoid collective bargaining.

“The very nature of labour relations is altered by this well-planned and financed practice, and workers and communities suffer as a result,” said Fraser. He pointed to the year-long strike against Brazilian mining giant Vale and several multi-year disputes in Toronto, Nanticoke and Brantford, to name a few.

“McGuinty is saying to all of Ontario that workers’ right to free and fair collective bargaining is no longer valid. He has set the stage for a Wisconsin-style attack against every unionized worker in Ontario. He needs to tell us why he has chosen insecurity over community-building, and therefore what is he prepared to do to solve these terrible and unnecessary strikes and lockouts.

Fraser said McGuinty is lying when he says his government has restored balance and fairness to Ontario labour relations.

“That is an absolute load of crap,” said Fraser. “The truth is that current public policy does not protect citizens, and the state of labour relations in this province has instead forced people into bankruptcy, prompted family breakdown and worse.

“That is why we will not leave this place until there is an obvious and stated commitment to do the right thing.”

Contacts:
Wayne Fraser, USW, 416-577-4045;
Pat Van Horne, USW, 613-859-1763.

(h/t to Ricky Baldwin of SEIU Local 73 for sharing this)

–Jason Kozlowski

 

Wisconsin Protest Coverage

Here are some links to stories and footage from last Saturday’s massive rally in Madison against the draconian anti-union legislation.

John Nichols of The Nation, who has spent considerable time in his home state of Wisconsin, penned this very good piece after the rally. He’s been on this from the beginning, and has rightly received a lot of air time to discuss the mounting protests. He pegs the number of protesters at over 100,000.

There is some very good video worth watching from the World Socialist Web Site of workers on the general strike, Wisconsin protests and the growing chasm of social inequality in our country.

This is an excellent article from The Cap Times on Saturday’s protests, including some great quotes from people in the massive crowd, and a strong speech from actor Tony Shaloub (“Monk” et al.) supporting Wisconsin protesters. Good stuff.

Meanwhile, Madison has rightly received the lion’s share of headlines and attention for the outpouring of organic activism, but Milwaukee and especially the students, teachers, and workers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, had a large protest yesterday. FightBack!news is an excellent site with regular updates from around the country on labor, workers, and resistance.

While Eric Kleefeld at TPMDC is right to be wary of who comprises the signatures thus far, there is no question that the recall effort in Wisconsin against the eight eligible Republican state senators is proceeding quickly. Democrats claim to have already amassed 45% of the signatures necessary for a recall.

Please be sure to say some prayers and send what assistance you can for the poor people devastated by the massive earthquake and tsunami, and now facing the very real, terrifying threat of radiation exposure from several failing, destroyed reactors. It is beyond harrowing.

–Jason Kozlowski

 

March 12 Labor Hour Available

Thanks to Illinois World Labor Hour co-host, WEFT factotum, technical guru, blues maven, and all-around good guy Bob Paleczny, the latest edition of the Illinois World Labor Hour is now up and available at radio4all.net. It was a good show with Gloria Hays, who has been heavily active in the Wisconsin protests, calling in with a live report from the massive rally Saturday. Also, Tom Thomas read his latest poem, Bill Gorrell expressed his typically good thoughts on the possibilities of a general strike, and yours truly offered some commentary as well as a bit of labor history on the 99th anniversary of the successful conclusion of the IWW’s Lawrence, MA “Bread and Roses” strike of 1912, and the labor activist and feminist Leonora O’Reilly.

Be sure to tune in every Saturday morning at 11 a.m. CT to the Illinois World Labor Hour on WEFT 90.1 FM, Champaign, IL, also streamed online at www.weft.org, for the latest news and analysis on the labor movement, in the US and around the world.

–Jason Kozlowski

 

SEIU 73 Rally and March March 16

SEIU Local 73, representing building and service workers on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fighting for a fair contract, will hold a rally and march on Wednesday, March 16 from noon until 1 p.m. It will begin at the Alma Mater at the corner of Wright and Green streets, then will proceed to the Henry Administration building for some noise. Come out and support this union and their members, which has been strung out in bargaining for months with the University. Many make less than $30,000 per year despite providing vital services to the University community, many are laid off during the summer, and many lack adequate job security provisions. Theirs is not just a good cause; it is our cause. They need and deserve as much support as they can get.

–Jason Kozlowski

 

Wisconsin Union Contracts Expiring; Recall Efforts Underway

The Wisconsin State Journal is reporting that union contracts covering about 39,000 workers, which had been extended for nearly two years, are set to expire Sunday March 13. Included among the nearly 20 expiring agreements are contracts covering non-building trades workers, administrative and technical support staff, security and public safety, and professional social services workers represented by the Wisconsin State Employees Union (WSEU). Various provisions of the recently passed anti-union legislation will be phased soon and in over the next few months, such as the termination of dues deduction, greater deductions from paychecks for pensions, and higher health insurance premiums.

Currently, recall efforts targeting Republican state senators are underway, with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee spearheading and raising funds for the effort. Eight Republicans in all are eligible for recall, though six are likely targets. Should three lose recall votes and Democrats replace them, the balance of power in the state senate will dramatically shift.

Not to be overlooked, with the eventuality of legal challenges to the terms of the anti-union bill and how it passed the senate, it is essential to note that there is an election on April 5, less than a month away, for a seat on the state supreme court. The election is between Republican David Prosser and Democrat JoAnn Kloppenberg. Expect this to be a hotly contested, well attended, and expensive election for the seat, since currently four Republicans and three Democrats comprise the state supreme court.

–Jason Kozlowski