unions

Union density: yet another low

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 25/01/2020 - 9:25am in

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statistics, unions

Preparing to write up the 2019 union density statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, I looked at last year’s and was tempted just to copy–paste. Here’s the lede, as we say in journalism:

Union density—the share of employed workers belonging to unions—fell to 10.5% in 2018, the lowest since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began reporting the data in its modern form in 1964, down from 2017’s 10.7%.

The only edit I’d have to make in this bit is to change “10.5% in 2018” to “10.3% in 2019.” Similar things could be said for subsequent sentences. Union membership for private sector workers fell 0.2 point to 6.2% and 0.3 for the public sector, to 33.6%. (See graph below.) The private-sector number is an all-time low, and down almost 30 points from its 1953 peak, and below the level in 1900 (though that number must be taken with several grains of salt). The public figure is the lowest since 1978, which was at the tail end of a five-year surge in membership; it’s down over 5 points from its 1994 peak.

Union density long

Though public sector density drifted lower for years after that peak, the slide accelerated after 2011, the year Wisconsin governor Scott Walker launched his war on the state’s public sector unions by allowing members to opt out of membership. Other states followed suit, like Michigan in 2013 and Ohio in 2016. Then, in 2018, in the Janus case, the Supreme Court declared that public sector workers nationwide could not be required to pay union dues. These moves have achieved the desired results, and probably have a lot more to run.

Another bit I’m going to copy–paste from last year (click here and scroll down a screen or two to see the graph):

There’s an old lie that unions are good for white men and no one else. That’s the opposite of the case. As the graph below shows, black women, for example, earn 63% as much per week as white men overall; belonging to a union brings that up to 78%—still a large gap, but a much smaller one. Nonunion Latinas earn 60% as much as white men; a union brings that up to 83%. And, as a team of researchers from the Economic Policy Institute argues, unions can raise the level of nonunion workers if they’re prevalent enough in a geographical area or industrial sector. No wonder employers hate them.

As the map below shows, there are strong geographical patterns to union membership, with organized labor strongest in the Northeast, Upper Midwest, and Pacific Coast, and weakest in the South and Mountain West. At the bottom are the Carolinas, where just over 2% of workers are unionized, a tenth the share of Hawaii and New York, the top states.

Union density by state 2019

Yearly changes in membership at the state level are pretty noisy, but a longer-term look is revealing (graph below). Only four states saw gains between 2000 and 2019, and those were tiny. Vermont, the champ, was up all of 0.9 percentage point (though that still didn’t reverse the decline between 2015 and 2018). By the time you get to number seven, you’re talking small declines. At the bottom of the ranking, losses were many times larger, with Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio among the biggest losers.

Union density by state 2000-19

And this is more than ten years into an economic expansion, during which the unemployment rate has been under 4% for 18 of the last 20 months. Yes, I know there’s a lot wrong with the job market, but this is about as good as it’s going to get. Come the next recession and the decline is likely to be worse as corporations and governments look to cut costs.

There are a lot of things wrong with American unions. Most organize poorly, if at all. Politically they function mainly as ATMs and free labor pools for the Democratic party without getting much in return. But there’s no way to end the 40-year war on the US working class without getting union membership up, so these density stats are nothing but bad news.

In France’s Longest Protests Since 1968, Striking Workers Continue the Fight Against Neoliberalism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 18/01/2020 - 7:52am in

Nationwide protests against the government of Emanuel Macron entered their seventh continuous week today in France, as between 187,000 (a government estimate) and 250,000 people (the unions’ count) took to the streets to oppose Macron’s plans to radically alter the country’s pension plan, seen by many as the crown jewel in France’s substantial welfare state.

Led by transport unions, mass protests occurred yesterday across the country, including in Paris, Lyon, Grenoble, Nantes, Dijon and Angers. Meanwhile, in Nice, there was a party atmosphere as activists organized a torchlight evening demonstration. Despite the light-hearted tone some of the protests took, they now constitute the longest and most intense actions against the government since the famous May 1968 “revolution,” an event that continues to define French society.

https://twitter.com/BLIXOW38/status/1217887602088517632

For weeks, transport unions have blocked the capital’s arteries, with the large majority of Paris’ famous metro lines closed or virtually unusable, an action that government-owned train operator SNCF estimates has cost them around €700 million (~775 million U.S. Dollars). Likewise, suburban and national services have been canceled, with many people’s Christmas and New Year plans affected.

Transport unions are the most organized and committed resistance to Macron’s agenda and have shut down many of France’s port cities, including Calais, Dunkirk, Le Havre, La Rochelle and Marseille, calling for “dead ports” over the weekend. Yet as the strike continues into its seventh week, its intensity has waned, with many strikers forced to go back to work after their funds ran dry. Another reason some have returned to work is Prime Minister Edouard Philippe’s announcement that he would “temporarily” suspend the controversial “pivot age” that would see the de facto retirement age rise from 62 to 67. Nevertheless, Philippe has also said that the transport chaos “has gone on for too long,” as the government attempts to divide and conquer the workers.

President Macron is attempting to unify 42 separate state-funded pension programs into one amalgamated system that he argues would be more fair and transparent. However, this would mean many unions would have to give up hard-earned benefits for their members to accept a national standard, including a higher retirement age, as the president attempts to mold France into a new, neoliberal image.

However, just as the enthusiasm from transport workers has waned, they have found allies in strange places. French lawyers, whose union has managed to build up an impressive €2 billion surplus in pension funds, have struck in opposition to the plan that they fear would see it liquidated. Across the country, legal workers have theatrically thrown their gowns down in a symbolic challenge to the government. Yesterday also saw mass walkouts from schoolteachers. 

Other groups have found particularly creative ways to fight Macron’s vision. Striking ballet dancers performed a free show on the steps of the famous Palais Garnier opera house in Paris, while a week later, the Paris Opera orchestra staged their own al fresco concert. Meanwhile, employees of the Louvre Museum shut the building down today, blocking the entrance at the famous glass pyramid, telling visitors that “the Mona Lisa is on strike” and arguing that Macron’s plan would “lower everyone’s pensions.”

https://twitter.com/_ericblanc/status/1209515749120724992

President Macron came to power in 2017, winning in the final round of the election against fascist challenger Marine Le Pen. A strong believer in neoliberalism and an admirer of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, he has insisted that France must not merely be reformed, but transformed, as he attempts to radically alter the shape of French society, away from a social democratic model to one more resembling the United States. December opinion polls put his approval rate at around 30 percent and found that two-thirds of the French public disapproves of him.

The protests are the longest and among the most intense since those of May 1968, a generation-defining movement of wildcat strikes and sit ins that led to a government, fearful of a socialist revolution, hastily decreeing sweeping worker and citizen rights programs that characterize French society today. The French worker’s confidence and disdain for the authority of bosses emanates from the spirit of that movement. For decades, even conservative presidents feared the power of organized labor. However, Macron has been clear in his intentions to end the welfare state. Time will tell if his plans will succeed. But from the looks of things, there are a considerable number of people who oppose them.

Feature photo | Protestors carry a poster depicting French President Emmanuel Macron during a demonstration, Jan. 16, 2020 in Lille, northern France. Michel Spingler | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post In France’s Longest Protests Since 1968, Striking Workers Continue the Fight Against Neoliberalism appeared first on MintPress News.

5 Ways to Stop Corporations From Ruining the Future of...

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 25/12/2019 - 3:39pm in

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Video, unions

5 Ways to Stop Corporations From Ruining the Future of Work

Artificial intelligence, robots, and other advanced technologies are already transforming the world of work – and their impact is just beginning. They’ll grow the economy and make it more efficient. But unless American workers are involved, that growth and technological change will benefit only those at the top.

The challenge of making economic growth and technological change benefit all working people and not just those at the top is the same challenge I’ve written about and talked a lot about over the years. It’s the challenge of reversing widening inequalities of income, wealth, and political power. A big part of the solution is making sure workers have a voice and a union. That way they have more bargaining leverage to get a piece of the pie that in recent years has been going almost entirely to the top.

We shouldn’t think of emerging technologies as things we have no control over – as if they just happen automatically, inevitably. We have the power to shape technological progress. We need to assert our roles as workers and members of a democratic society to ensure that new technologies benefit all of us.

Here are five ways to do so:

First, workers need a stronger voice, from the boardroom to the shop floor. Workers at all levels should participate in the design, development, and deployment of technology in the workplace – as they do in Germany. 

This is not only good for workers. It’s also good for companies that otherwise waste countless dollars trying to figure out how best to use new technologies without consulting frontline workers who are closest to processes and products, and know how to get maximum use out of new technologies. 

In the early 2000s, Home Depot spent over $1 billion in automation but reduced investment in their workforce. In the end, because workers were left out of the process, many of these automated systems failed and had to be scaled back.

Second, if we want corporations to invest in innovation and their workers we need to reform Wall Street. So instead of buying back their own shares of stock to manipulate stock prices and laying off employees to boost short-term profits, corporations can make the long-term investments that are necessary for their competitiveness and for the competitiveness of their workers. 

Every corporation can get access to the same gadgets. What makes a corporation uniquely competitive is its people – how its workers utilize the new technologies. 

Third, we need to rebuild strong collaboration between government and business in researching and developing new technologies, so they work for the benefit of all. That’s what we did in the three decades after World War II, when the Defense Department worked with the private sector to develop the Internet, telecommunications, and aerospace; when the National Institutes of Health did basic research for pharmaceuticals and medical breakthroughs; and our national laboratories pioneered research on biofuel, nuclear, wind and solar energy. 

Conservatives often object that it’s not the role of government to steer technological development. Yet most of the cutting-edge technology that’s the crowning achievement of the United States’ private sector was in fact developed as a result of public innovation and public funding. 

Our government is still steering technological development. The difference now is we have the capacity to steer that development in a way that generates broad-based prosperity, not just jaw-dropping incomes for a few innovators and investors.  

Fourth, a more open and forward-looking industrial policy can help steer the nation’s economic growth toward combating our central challenges – climate change, poverty, our crumbling infrastructure, costly and inaccessible health care, lack of quality education. 

Tackling big ambitious goals like transitioning to clean energy can encourage collaboration between different sectors of the economy. Backed by the right technologies, they can also be sources of the good jobs of the future.  

Conservatives claim the government shouldn’t pick winners and losers. But that’s what we’ve done for years. We already have an industrial policy when the government bails out Wall Street banks, gives special tax breaks to oil, and hands out subsidies to Big Agriculture. But it’s a backwards industrial policy, led by powerful industry lobbyists. We need a forward-looking industrial policy that develops the industries and jobs of the future, and does so openly, in ways that benefit working people and society.  

Finally, we need to assure that our workers are protected from the downsides: That new information technologies along with their increasing potential for monitoring and surveilling workers don’t undermine worker autonomy, dignity, and privacy. That the use of algorithms to manage workers doesn’t give top management unwarranted power in the workplace. And that workplace technologies don’t make work more unpredictable for millions of workers. 

Workers need some control over how these technologies and the data they produce are used. And for this they need strong unions.

New technologies advancing toward our workplace shouldn’t reduce the standard of living of Americans. They should raise our standard of living. But that won’t happen automatically. 

Workers need a voice. Government needs a responsible role. We deserve a forward-looking and open industrial policy. And the rules of the game need to be fair. We should all be able to steer the direction of technological change and influence how new technologies affect our lives. 

Macron and the imaginary of a “start-up nation”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 17/12/2019 - 5:51pm in
With Emmanuel Macron’s administration encountering a new wave of resistance to its neoliberal reforms, Carla Ibled, PERC doctoral student, explores Macron’s vision of a “start-up nation” via the rhetoric of his speeches.

Thursday 5th December saw France brought to a standstill by a long-awaited interprofessional strike, marking an important step in the struggle between Emmanuel Macron’s presidency and the unions. Many, the French government included, expect the strike to be long and sustained. It has brought together workers from the public and private sectors, including transport (from Paris’ RATP to the air controllers), health, education, broadcast services, the energy and telecommunication sectors, lawyers and magistrates, student unions, refuse collectors and haulage contractors, firefighters and even the police. The strike is supported by the gilets jaunes movement, which recently celebrated its first anniversary. Unsurprisingly, comparisons have been drawn to the 1995 general strike that seriously weakened Jacques Chirac’s first presidency.

As in 1995, the 2019 strike is specifically targeting the French government’s ambition to reform France’s retirement system – this time by harmonising it across the public and private sectors, and by introducing some level of capitalisation. But it is also symptomatic of a deeper rejection of Macron’s policies, which have been repeatedly accused of favouring the richest at the expense of the poorest. This rejection is combined with a genuine irritation with the personality of a president who often appears disdainful and arrogant, shocking the public with his thoughtless and scornful comments (from calling the female workers of a slaughterhouse “illiterate” to contrasting the “Gauls who are resistant to change” with the (industrious) “Lutheran people”).

This piece, then, takes the occasion to go back to some of Macron’s most emblematic speeches and interviews to discuss how they reflect and construct his worldview as what Forbes hailed as a “leader of the free world” and how his rhetoric is impregnated with some of the central tropes of the Chicago School. From this perspective, Macron symbolises a new inflection of the French implementation of neoliberalism, through which neoliberalism comes to be understood not solely as a socio-economic programme to be enforced but, more radically, as a culture, “as a way of being and thinking”.[1]

I focus on four speeches: the June 2017 speech given at the Vivatech show; the July 2018 address to the French Parliament; the September 2018 announcement of the national strategy to prevent poverty; and the February 2019 speech at the international show of agriculture. What is striking is the consistency of the message conveyed in these speeches spread across Macron’s two-and-half-years presidency: France needs to adapt to the new world and thus needs to give up on its outdated regulative framework. It needs to become what Macron has famously called a “start-up nation”.

 

“Brutal changes”

Macron’s steadfastness manifests itself in the recurrent (not to say obsessional) use of certain keywords like “transformation”, “innovation”, “rights and duties” or “protection”. For instance, the word “transformation” and its verbal derivatives are repeated no less than twenty-six times in the thirsty-three minutes ‘start-up nation’ speech at the Vivatech 2017 entrepreneurial show – along with twelve occurrences of “change” and nine of “revolution”. What Macron tirelessly hammers out is that France has entered a pivotal moment of “brutal changes”, of “ruptures” and “disruptions” – the unsettling effects of the innovations brought about by the tech revolution.

On one hand is the world of “yesterday”, with its particular “jobs” and “language”, which he explicitly identifies with the welfare state of the 20th century. This world is now gone. It cannot be adapted to the new reality. Those who, in denial, attempt to hold it back and to freeze it, are resisting the inexorability of change; they “refuse the world as it is transforming”. Macron castigates stasis and immobility. For instance, the ‘national strategy against poverty’ speech blames France’s social crisis on the rigid “statutes” that, Macron believes, still stratify French society.

Yet, the target of this implicit appeal to France’s revolutionary past is not the 21st-century-republican nobility but the protected (or ‘special’) work regimes from which some nationalised sectors (like the railways and energy sector) benefit, as well the unions. Similarly, the ‘Vivatech’ speech denounces the popular resentment in France for those who succeed – a “jealousy” that materialises in the “fetters” and “tax burden” that restrain the creative power of start-ups. Generally, all four speeches deplore the nefarious “rigidity” of French regulations.

On the other hand is the fabulous world of “hyper-innovation” – a world of perpetual activity, but also a world characterised by its transience and fragility, so great is the threat to miss the opportunity of reaching it. Earning this world means France must whole-heartedly “embrace the change”, must be “open to disruption and [the] new models”. There is a strong sense of urgency, as Macron fully understands that entrepreneurs “cannot wait”. The President calls for an “acceleration in the economy”. As he repeats throughout the Vivatech hyperbolic speech, one needs to go “faster, stronger”. One needs to go beyond our present limits to “win the new frontiers of the 21st century”.

In order to do so, France will give the “liberty to do” (or, in the speech to the Parliament, will “liberate investment” from its fetters) so as to attract “the pioneers, the innovators, the entrepreneurs of the whole world”. It will become the messianic country of “hyper-innovation” where “a new future”, as well as a “new mobility, new energy will be invented”. Earning this world also requires transforming society “in its entirety”. In an uncanny echo of Margaret Thatcher’s famous statement that the “object is to change the soul”, Macron proclaims that “what we have to construct together is an in-depth revolution of our models: our models of thought, our economic and social organisation, our way of behaving”.

 

The platform state

The first step of this “in-depth” change is the remodelling of the state to make it “espouse” digital technology’s “methods, facilities and efficiencies”. As announced – in English – to the foreign ‘pioneers’, Macron wants “France to be a ‘start-up nation’, meaning both a nation that works with and for the start-ups, but also a nation that thinks and moves like a start-up”. Or in “one word” (and still in English): “Entrepreneur is the new France”. The ‘start-up’ entrepreneurial state is a variation on Foucault’s liberal self-limiting state trying to find the economical balance in the art of governing, between the too-little and the too-much.[2] It is agile and effectively targets and calibrates its intervention. It is not the physically omnipresent mammoth state, with its luxurious trail of intricate regulations, that France has known until now.

As Macron keeps repeating across the four speeches, the state is here to “facilitate” and “accompany” initiatives. It must be understood “as a platform not as a constraint”. Facilitating means simplifying the otherwise too complex and bureaucratic French regulative framework. It means nurturing enterprise via tax-breaks, and generally through reducing “the cost of failure”. But it also means having, as Macron claims to have, a “direct understanding” of “risk-takers” and their needs.

The productive tension between immobility and activity is applied to all areas of state action and particularly to the “national strategy of preventing and fighting poverty”. Interestingly, a year after the Vivatech speech and amidst increasing social discontent, this speech places a renewed emphasis on the notion of “protection” and on Macron’s putative ambition to create the “welfare state of the 21st century”. The target is what he calls “social fatality” – that is, another type of stillness caused by the structural obstacles that keep people in the social conditions in which they were born. The policies he advocates must thus contribute to liberating the young talented “Mozarts” who currently cannot structurally emerge, by helping them to transcend their circumstances through education and professional training.

There are however some important caveats. First, as the Vivatech speech had already announced, Macron’s policies are about protecting the individuals themselves through “training and retraining”, and not protecting “the jobs of yesterday”. Mirroring Friedrich Hayek’s analyses,[3] this indicates that it is not about protecting (or shielding) individuals from adverse economic conjunctures, but just ensuring life-long adaptation to disruption.

Secondly, Macron suggests that education and training are sufficient mechanisms to re-equilibrate structural inequalities so that all social actors are considered equal players in the economic game. If such a logic is carried to its conclusion, subsequent social success and failure become the result of personal talent or failure. Responsibility comes to fall on the individual and not on unequal social structures.

Thirdly, mobility and industry implicitly come to constitute the measure of what Macron means by “dignity”. People thus need to be nudged toward activity.[4] In another words, absolute poverty should be tackled but people should never be made too comfortable (or enabled to live “better” within their current circumstances) so that they continue to strive to ameliorate their living conditions. This is very explicitly the aim of Macron’s “revenu universel d’activité” (universal activity income), which, like the British ‘universal credit’, is supposed to merge all social allowance, but retains ‘activity’ as a sine-qua-non requirement. What Macron’s policies are supposed to implant in the long term is abhorrence of any ‘dependence’ on the state’s largesse. The “start-up nation” will be a nation of self-made men.

 

Mobilising the nation

The Macronian imaginary that transpires in these speeches emerges as a combination of revolutionary and conservative claims: the Silicon Valley-inspired advocacy of “hyper-innovation” and “start-ups” cohabits with a defence of “right and duties” and “values”. The social model called for is bizarrely reminiscent of the paternalistic capitalism of the 19th century. Despite the incredulity that now surrounds the mythical ‘trickle-down effect’, Macron still seems to believe in the natural redistribution of wealth that derives from the benevolence of enlightened and responsible employers and entrepreneurs. He particularly likes his metaphor of the “premiers de cordées” (literally ‘the first in the rope line’) who pull the rest of society up with them toward new heights, and who should therefore be trusted, not be impeded.

Moreover, the “start-up nation” is entirely compatible with “the republican order” – an order that can violently exclude those who do not comply. The tone of Macron’s speeches is strikingly martial: everything is turned into a “fight” or a “battle”, and the ideas of the mobilisation of the nation and the necessity of being a “leader” are omnipresent. This rhetoric is a stark reminder that the force of the state remains behind the implementation of the Macronian project (as the seriousness of the injuries caused by state repression of the gilets jaunes amply testifies to).

The warlike tone is coupled with a strong messianism, a sense that France can become a leading light in the “civilizational, cultural challenge” of today. France has the potential to become the “incarnation” of change and “the country of the revolution of entrepreneurship, of innovation and of the democratic revolution that accompanies it”. It can bring back hope to those who “didn’t believe any longer”.

I would suggest that this messianic dimension should not be underestimated, as it points towards the appeal of Macron’s imaginary – especially through its emphases on independence, on the liberation of talents against stiff social structures, and on the power of creation and imagination. What needs to be understood is how these chimeric gestures come to justify the government’s drastic, ongoing attack on the French welfare state, as well as the violence of the state’s reaction to social unrest in France.

For Macron, this is a civilizational war between the jealous, backward forces of yesterday and the “progressive”, enlightened forces of tomorrow. The result, as the president hopes, will be the profound transformation of France, a supposedly unreformable country, into the vanguard of capitalism. This attempt to bring about a revolution of thought and behaviour and to implant the entrepreneurial spirit at all levels marks a new inflection of neoliberalism à la française and a rapprochement with the philosophy of life advocated by its American cousins in the Chicago School. Beyond the immediate context of the general strike, these are the stakes of the current crisis of the social order in France.

 

Carla Ibled is a doctoral student in the Department of Politics & International Relations, Goldsmiths, and a member of the PERC graduate network.

 

Bibliography

Foucault, Michel, La Naissance du Biopolitique – Cours au Collège de France. 1978-1979, Hautes Etudes, Paris, Seuil, 2004.

———, The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the College de France, 1978-1979, trans. M. Senellart, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

Hayek, Friedrich A. (von), The Road to Serfdom, London, Routledge, 2011.

 

 

[1] M. Foucault, La Naissance du Biopolitique – Cours au Collège de France. 1978-1979, Paris, Seuil, 2004, p. 224. Foucault here contrasts American neoliberalism with its European counterparts.

[2] M. Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the College de France, 1978-1979, trans. M. Senellart, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008, p. 19.

[3] F. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, London, Routledge, 2011, pp. 126–28.

[4] Macron’s policies are here compatible with the policies put in place by President Valéry Giscard-d’Estaing, at the end of the 1970s. This is what Foucault described as the French tradition of neoliberalism, which, like Ordoliberalism, is an “economic choice”, and not, like American neoliberalism, a philosophy of life. See La Naissance du Biopolitique – Cours au Collège de France. 1978-1979, Paris, Seuil, 2004, p. 210 and p. 224.

The post Macron and the imaginary of a “start-up nation” appeared first on Political Economy Research Centre.

Anti-union bill defeated, but relying on racist Hanson is no strategy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 05/12/2019 - 4:36pm in

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unions

Unions have
dodged a bullet after Morrison’s Ensuring Integrity Bill was narrowly defeated
in the Senate last week. But we can’t rely on lobbying One Nation and the
Senate crossbench to stop the Liberals. The Ensuring Integrity Bill is now being
brought back to Parliament, but is not likely to be voted on until next
year. 

The ACTU has
claimed the result as a victory for people power, saying “the efforts of
ordinary workers defeated this bill” after “months of intense campaigning”.

One Nation and
Jacqui Lambie joined Labor and The Greens to vote the bill down.

But with union
movement still reeling from the failure of the Change the Rules campaign to
defeat Morrison at the election, the whole campaign amounted to no more than
appeals to email Senators, combined with lobbying efforts in Canberra. There
was not a single demonstration or stopwork rally.

The ACTU claims
it was able to convince Hanson that anyone who voted for the bill would be seen
as “union bashers”.

Central
Queensland CFMMEU organiser Chris Brodsky, formerly with the mining division
and now at the construction division, was credited with organising numerous
meetings between union officials and One Nation. 

The new laws would
make it even harder for unions to effectively organise by increasing the
sanctions for unlawful strike action by providing for the disqualification of
militant union officials and the threat of deregistration for whole unions.

But the answer
is not to retreat from protest or stopwork action. Behind-the-scenes lobbying
efforts do not build working class power or the fighting ability of the unions.

Mass
demonstrations against the Ensuring Integrity Bill would have shown very
clearly the strength of opposition in the community. And, crucially, they would
also build more confidence to keep fighting Morrison’s anti-worker agenda.

There is no
guarantee that One Nation or Lambie won’t backflip when the bills is next
introduced—Lambie’s capitulation to Dutton over the repeal of the refugee
Medevac legislation shows that. Hanson and Lambie have said that they would
support a bill that was more targeted on the CFMMEU. Hanson is trying to
position her party as holding to account both the “big unions” and the “big
corporations” like Westpac.

Rather than
celebrate, we need a strong call from the ACTU for demonstrations and industrial
action in defiance of the law, if Morrison is going to be defeated.

Racism

Worse still, by
appealing to and discussing legislation with Hanson, the union leadership ends
up sending the message that she is a legitimate political figure who deserves
respect or even gratitude. 

Hanson has been
spewing hateful racism for the last two decades. She has called for a ban on
Muslim immigration and said Islam was a disease, feeding on the Liberals’ own
Islamophobia over refugees and the war on terror. She is also whipping up
anti-Chinese racism, claiming they are buying up houses and agricultural land.

Hanson tries to
paint herself as a friend of workers (and is looking to the Queensland state
election next year), but she votes with the Liberals over 80 per cent of the
time. She has supported their tax cuts for the rich and penalty rate cuts for
hospitality workers.

One Nation has
traditionally taken votes from Labor and the Nationals in areas hit by unemployment
and austerity. The party hopes to pick up some support from workers sick of low
pay and cuts to services by using anti-refugee and anti-Chinese racism.

In May’s federal
election One Nation recorded strong gains in regional Queensland and the Hunter
Valley on the back of their strident support for coal mining. Most of the gains
were at Labor’s expense.

The CFMMEU
mining division in Queensland threatened to campaign against Labor candidates
over the issue of Adani—a move that opened the door to some of their members
voting for One Nation. This is a disaster. Any support for One Nation among
workers and unionists will only help spread their racism. 

Racism is poison for the working class. It divides workers against each other, eroding solidarity and effective struggle against the bosses. We can’t rely on lobbying racist politicians like Hanson to beat Morrison’s anti-worker agenda. It’s not too late to build a fightback based on mobilisation and strikes that can stand up to the Liberals and Hanson.

By Miro Sandev

The post Anti-union bill defeated, but relying on racist Hanson is no strategy appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Cabinet To All Pitch In And Buy Matthias ‘Numbers Man’ Cormann A Calculator For Christmas

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/11/2019 - 7:21am in

cormann

With the end of the parliamentary year in sight Scott Morrison’s cabinet have done a whip around with everybody chipping in to buy Senate Leader Matthias ‘Numbers Man’ Cormann a calculator for Christmas.

“In an ideal world we would have a finance minister who could do numbers,” said a Government Insider. “But we’ve made an exception for Matthias as with his accent it’s funny when he reads out the budget as he sounds just like the Terminator.”

“But it does have it’s draw backs on the plus side him stuffing up Dutton’s numbers was hilarious but stuffing up the numbers on the Union busting bill not so much.”

When asked whether the Government had considered replacing Cormann as Senate leader the Spokes person said: “With whom?”

“Look, keeping Matthias in cabinet is a great way to keep the Minister for the Dark Arts Peter Dutton in his place. As we know if he were to challenge ScoMo Matthias would once again cock up the numbers.”

“A dodgy numbers man in finance is way better than Dutton as PM, trust me.”

Mark Williamson

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Strike wins big pay rises for 1000 Woolies workers in Sydney

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/11/2019 - 1:37pm in

Tags 

unions, unions

Woolies
Warehouse workers in Sydney have won a 16 per cent pay rise over three years
after a solid 24 hour strike.

The strike by 1000 workers at
the Minchinbury distribution centre, “sent a clear message to management” union
delegate Matthew Mattaio said. Both permanent and casual staff completely shut
down the warehouse, with hard pickets stopping trucks from entering the
strategic Western Sydney centre. 

Management’s attitude to the workforce was on display
during the strike, as they set up a large mobile surveillance camera set up in
close proximity to the picket line. Workers have face bullying and
intimidation from managers, triggering a spontaneous illegal walk-out earlier
this year.

But in the face of further indefinite strike action
set to begin on 15 November, management gave in on many of the workers’
demands.

The 16 per cent wage increase over the three year
enterprise agreement includes a front-loaded 8 per cent in the first year,
followed by 4 per cent annual increases afterwards.

The big pay increases followed a campaign, “to get
equality pay with all the other Woolies people that do similar workloads”,
Matthew told Solidarity. The workers’ initial claim was for 16 per
cent in the first year and 28 per cent over three years. Workers at warehouses
in Victoria are paid 16 per cent more than the workers in Sydney.

But in the context of record low wage growth for
workers of just 2.2 per cent a year, the result is a “really good outcome”,
Matthew said.

The pay increase will provide much needed assistance
to the Sydney workers, with the highest cost of living of any city in the
country. The workers are members of the newly-formed United Workers Union
(UWU), formerly NUW members.

Workers have also secured increased redundancy
entitlements of four weeks for each year’s service, now capped at 82 weeks
total as opposed to 40 weeks previously for redundancy payouts. This will help
protect workers against the threat of job losses from automation. 

There will also be more transparent pathways for
casuals to become permanent, with length of service a deciding factor. This was
a great reflection of the solidarity of the picket line where casuals—some who
were not even rostered on for that day—stood side by side with permanents on
the picket line. As many as 400 of the workers at the warehouse are
casuals.

The result showed how strike action and strong union organisation can win serious gains on pay and conditions.

By Jess Whittall

The post Strike wins big pay rises for 1000 Woolies workers in Sydney appeared first on Solidarity Online.

University of Melbourne casuals are fighting back

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/11/2019 - 1:21pm in

Tags 

unions, unions

Casuals at the University of Melbourne have delivered a blow to the myth that casual workers are too insecure and vulnerable to stand up and fight for their rights. Over 2019 NTEU activists have organised casuals across the university into a rank and file “casuals network”.  This network has campaigned on a number of issues. Earlier this year, after the university refused to reimburse casual tutors for the compulsory working with children check, we rallied and won reimbursement in every school and faulty.

Since then we have fought for an end to the illegal “piece
rate” payment for marking and for casual tutors to be paid for lecture
attendance.

On 1 November over 100 casual staff members,
alongside students and permanent staff, rallied outside the Dean of the Faulty
of Arts’ office. We intended to deliver a petition signed by over 300 staff
calling for casual tutors to be paid for lecture attendance.

When the Dean refused to meet us and receive the
petition, we decided to take it to him. Staff members filed into the Dean’s
office chanting “union power” and occupied the office for several hours. When
he continued to refuse to meet with us we rallied again the following Friday. Once
more over 100 permanent and casual staff marched across the campus.

Following these two successful actions University HR
declared a “dispute” and called a meeting with the NTEU branch. NTEU casuals
refused to be demobilised by negotiations behind closed doors, and over the two
days around 40 casuals attended these meetings to tell their stories of
exploitation and insecurity and to hold the university to account.

HR is on the ropes but casuals will keep fighting
until we have a clear victory. Tutors must be paid for attending lectures and
the marking piece rate must be abolished.

For too long sections of the NTEU leadership have
put the issue of casualisation in the “too hard” basket. This has been based,
partly, in the belief that casuals are incapable of fighting because of their
insecure status. This is a disastrous position for any union to hold, but
particularly for the NTEU given the high rate of casualisation in the sector.

At the University of Melbourne insecure workers make
up the majority of the workforce (74 per cent). But the casuals network has
shown that it is insecure workers themselves, organised and fighting alongside
permanent staff, who have the power and potential to win an end to
casualisation and the permanent jobs we desperately need.

By Geraldine Fela

The post University of Melbourne casuals are fighting back appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Back to the weekend—New Zealand casino workers fight to get back penalty rates

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/11/2019 - 1:06pm in

Hundreds of
SkyCity
Casino workers in Auckland, New Zealand have been striking every weekend since
September to win back weekend penalty rates. Since the 1991 Employment
Contracts Act was introduced workers there have lacked any minimum legal standards
including weekend or late night penalty rates.

Solidarity’s Erima Dall spoke to Tina
Barnett
, who works on the game floor at the casino. Tina has worked at
SkyCity for 16 years and is an executive delegate with SEA UNITE (SkyCity
Employees Association of UNITE union), which has 900 members at the casino out
of 3500 workers.

Can
you tell us about the Back to the Weekend campaign and what you are fighting
for?

The
strike is about bringing back penalty rates for nights and weekends, at time
and a half. It was going to cost the company a maximum of $40 million a year.
They didn’t budge one bit.

Those are the hours when most of their profit is being
made. It’s about appreciating the sacrifices we make. Our quality time and
family time is being taken away. When customers come to the casino it’s our job
to make that as enjoyable as possible, but when it comes to our leisure time
it’s a real struggle.

Tina Barnett

SkyCity workers fought against zero hour contracts and
then it became national legislation, so if we win this, the UNITE union will
push for it for everyone.

We have been striking for two months now. Every
weekend we strike. Management are trying to say it doesn’t have an effect. But
they always overstaff now! So in my mind we’re winning. Some workers just take the
whole weekend off now to be with their families.

Every strike has a theme. We had a strike to go watch
the rugby, we had a masked ball after the fire [at the convention centre]. And
we’re going to have a “back to the beach” action.

What
was it like the first time you walked off the game floor?

You
have to be prepared that the players are going to get upset. But they were
really supportive. As each dealer walked off there was clapping and
celebration. The management started to follow us around with security! It was
very empowering.

The strike also covers cleaners,
housekeepers, security guards and other staff at the casino. Our first picket
back in early September had 250 people participate. Now the pickets have
diminished in numbers. But we ask members to come out for at least one or two
hours to picket every strike. What’s sad is there is another union on the site
that covers the overtime of our strike. But we have to stick to our Kaupapa—the
cause. Even if we keep going over Christmas and New Year our members want to
keep fighting.

The
workforce at SkyCity is very diverse. How have you made sure the union is
inclusive?

There
was a time when recruitment got quite tough. A major barrier was not being able
to speak the language, say of our Chinese and Indian workers. Because two Māori
women were leading for a long time—myself and my friend—a lot of workers
thought it was a Māori organisation. So I chose to step down and encourage more
of our migrant members to step up. And that’s been a really big improvement.
We’re all workers doing what’s been asked of us by a corporate machine.

Tell
us about walking out for the Climate Strike and your demands for public
transport.

We’ve
negotiated in our previous agreements more public transport for the staff so there
are less cars on the road, and now SkyCity are promoting a raffle to win a
Lamborghini for customers!

The majority of staff bring in their own cars. There
is a shuttle service every two hours, but we need more public transport.
Auckland is growing rapidly. The congestion at peak hours is phenomenal. So
we’re demanding “free and frequent” public transport to the city.

In Auckland we had 80,000 at the climate strike. We
were the first workers who went on strike for the climate! It was awesome.

Can
you tell us about the fire that broke out in the convention centre?

The
fire started on a Tuesday night. There was smoke coming into the casino and
staff were told to continue to work for up to five hours—now that is thick,
black, toxic smoke.

After two days off there was a rush to get staff back
to work. Our union was demanding the health and safety report that gave
clearance for the precinct. No report has been given. They sent out a message
for anyone pregnant or with respiratory problems to stay at home. But everyone
else was expected to be back at work.

So we had strike action that weekend. We
are demanding Work Safe do an independent investigation into the long term
impacts of the smoke inhalation.

The post Back to the weekend—New Zealand casino workers fight to get back penalty rates appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Woolies warehouse workers strike back for pay equality and respect

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/11/2019 - 2:56pm in

Tags 

unions, unions

Woolworths’
warehouse workers from one of the biggest distribution sheds in Sydney went on
strike for 24 hours last Friday to send a clear message to management. 

Almost 1000 workers
there are fighting for equality of pay, respect and fair redundancy packages in
Enterprise Bargaining negotiations which have dragged on for months.

“We just want to get equality pay with all the other Woolies people that do similar workloads”, union delegate Matthew Mattaio told Solidarity.

Workers at the
warehouse in Minchinbury, members of the newly formed United Workers Union
(UWU), are paid 16 per cent less than their counterparts in Victoria. Yet as a
UWU organiser pointed out, “Sydney has the third highest cost of living in the
world.”

From midnight on
Friday 9 November both permanent and casual workers formed a hard picket line
outside the Minchinbury warehouse, stopping all delivery trucks from entering.

Matthew explained that,
“The company has forced us to come out on strike today for not negotiating what
we have asked for.” He said, “What they offer is not even coming close to what
we deserve.” Workers at the warehouse were forced to take a pay cut a few years
ago due to the failure of Masters, another subsidiary of Woolworths Group.

Now they want a 16
per cent pay increase next year and 6 per cent a year for the two years
following. Management first offered 3 per cent a year with a $2000 cash bonus
up front. To put this in context, Woolworths Group management has recently
received a 30 per cent pay increase. 

“Management then came
back to us and offered 3.75 per cent, 3.5 per cent, 3.5 per cent pay increases
over the three year period with no cash bonus”, worker and UWU delegate Grant Doyle said. “which is actually lower than
the previous offer they made” he added.

Workers
are also fighting for higher redundancy entitlements and more controls on the
use of casual workers. “There’s 400 plus casuals, they all do 40 hours plus and a lot of
them have been here longer than five years”, Grant said. The union wants casual
workers to be covered by the enterprise agreement, rather than being treated
separately because they are employed through a casuals agency rather than
directly by Woolworths.

An overwhelming
majority voted to strike after it became clear that management was not going to
consider budging.

There are also other
important issues. Workers complain of being bullied and treated as “second
class” by management, with one incident leading to an illegal walk-off-the-job
a few months ago. This came after a manager initiated a physical altercation
after a worker did not have their hi-vis vest done up, a condition that is not
written into contracts.

“Management here is
different to what we’ve had in the past. They don’t listen at all,” Matthew
Mattaio said. Management’s attitude was on display during the strike with a
large mobile surveillance camera set up in close proximity to the picket
line. 

Workers were planning indefinite strike action if Woolies does not budge. “89 per cent of people who did the ballot ticked the box for indefinite action,” he added, “that sends a really strong message that we mean business.” With 95 per cent of workers in the union, an indefinite strike would be a major blow for the company. Matthew added, “We’ve taken this stance today and we’re going to take more”.

By Jess Whittall

The post Woolies warehouse workers strike back for pay equality and respect appeared first on Solidarity Online.

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