Fighting Against the Gigification of the Entire Economy: The Working People Weekly List

Working People Weekly List

Every week, we bring you a roundup of the top news and commentary about issues and events important to working families. Here’s the latest edition of the Working People Weekly List.

Want Your Hotel Room Cleaned Every Day? Hotel Housekeepers Hope You Say Yes: “In the tourism heart of Washington, D.C., ringed by posh hotels and globally famous landmarks, they marched to a familiar beat, chanting ‘What do we want? Clean rooms! When do we want it? Every day!’ Their demand may have sounded simple: that the D.C. council extend a temporary ordinance that in effect required hotels to clean rooms daily, unless a guest opts out. (The council complied just days later.) But for the hospitality union UNITE HERE, that requirement is so important to its members, it's waged a fight over the issue across the U.S. and Canada.”

U.S. Lawmakers Call to Modernize OSHA as Hundreds Die on the Job Each Day: “The AFL-CIO’s Death on the Job 2023 report, released on 26 April, outlines the ‘toll of neglect’ that comes from inadequately addressing workplace safety issues amid aggressive opposition from industry groups and employers against improving and enforcing workers protections. The report cites low civil penalties for safety violations issued by OSHA, understaffing and underfunding at OSHA, the millions of workers who are currently not covered under OSHA, which include independent contractors and federal, state and local public workers, inadequate retaliation protections for workers to speak out and report safety issues, and the need to improve and expand data on worker injuries and illnesses. For Black workers, the workplace fatality rate increased from 3.5 per 100,000 workers in 2020 to 4.0 in 2021, the highest rate in a decade, while Latino workers currently have a worker fatality rate of 4.5 per every 100,000 workers, 25% higher than the national average.”

Black Workers Died on the Job at the Highest Rate, AFL-CIO Report Says: “People of color are dying while at work more than others, the AFL-CIO said in its latest report: ‘Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect.’ Looking at the number of worker deaths in 2021, the union found that ‘Black workers died on the job at the highest rate in more than a decade’ and ‘Latino workers continue to be at greater risk of dying on the job than all workers.’”

Actors’ Equity to Join WGA Picket Line at NYC’s HBO and Amazon Offices: “Actors’ Equity Association, the union representing theater actors and stage managers, is inviting its members and allies to join the WGA picket line outside HBO and Amazon offices tomorrow. In tweets yesterday and this morning, Equity writes, ‘New York Members (and allies): Join us on Wednesday, May 10 from 11 .m. to 2 p.m. ET on the #WGAStrike picket line’ at the HBO and Amazon offices in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards neighborhood. ‘Join Equity in standing with The WGA on Strike,’ the tweet states.”

Rutgers Unions Vote to Ratify New Contracts: “It took nearly a year of tough negotiations and the first strike in school history, but three unions representing 9,000 Rutgers University educators, researchers, clinicians and librarians overwhelmingly voted to ratify new contracts with the school May 8. As NJBIZ reported, the Rutgers AAUP-AFT, which represents full-time faculty, graduate workers, postdoctoral associates, and counselors; the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union, which represents adjunct faculty; and AAUP-BHSNJ, which represents health science faculty in Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences facilities, announced Monday that some 93% of members who cast ballots voted yes to ratify a total of five tentative agreements with the university.”

Nurses Feel Worse Off Now Than They Did During the Height of the Pandemic, Survey Shows: “National Nurses United says there are one million registered nurses with active licenses who are not working as nurses. ‘I would say the job has gotten increasingly harder since I started nursing,’ said Jean Ross, a nurse in Minnesota and one of the presidents of National Nurses United.”

UMass Dartmouth Grad-Student Employees Form Union: “UMass Dartmouth graduate student employees let out cheers of joy on Thursday, April 27, after they voted to officially become a labor union after months of effort. Of the 122 certified votes received at the on-campus election only three were against unionizing, said AJ Vincelli, a seventh-year PhD student in Protein Engineering who is among those leading the unionization drive. That high favorability for a union ‘speaks very loudly of how horribly mistreated our graduate students have been,’ said Vincelli. UMass Dartmouth could not be reached for comment. The students will join the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts union. Prior to this vote, UMass Dartmouth was the only UMass campus other than the medical school that did not have a union for grad-student employees and had among the lowest compensation rates of the four main campuses, organizers said.”

The WGA Strike Is a Fight Against Silicon Valley’s Gigification of the Entire Economy: “Thousands of Writers Guild of America (WGA) writers in New York City and Los Angeles are on strike fighting the impact of technological innovation on their industry and earnings. These entertainment writers are in many ways the original gig workers. Even for unionized writers, job security never lasts more than a few weeks. Much like other gig workers including Uber drivers and DoorDash delivery workers, technological innovations driven by Silicon Valley firms have been used to drive down wages and to justify rewriting the terms of employment in the industry to workers’ detriment. Where taxi drivers saw their work moved onto apps like Uber and its independent contractor model, writers saw their shows moved from broadcast networks to streaming services—with entertainment bosses insisting that residuals, the compensation writers receive on reruns and other future revenue generated from their work, no longer need to be paid.”

Why Julie Su’s Nomination as Secretary of Labor Matters to Asian-Pacific Americans and Beyond: “As an Asian-Pacific American, I’m filled with pride to support Julie Su as Secretary of Labor. Julie Su is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Her mother came to the United States on a cargo ship because she couldn’t afford a passenger ticket, her parents later built a small laundromat business and raised a daughter who became a worker’s advocate and civil rights leader. Su’s unwavering dedication to confronting corporate greed and championing workers’ rights is genuinely inspiring.”

Focus Organizing Drives on Workers Without College Degrees, U.S. Unions Told: “‘Just because we’re not seeing many wins yet in blue-collar doesn’t mean things aren’t happening’ said Cindy Estrada, a former UAW vice-president who was recently named director of the AFL-CIO’s Center for Transformational Organizing. ‘There’s a lot of stuff happening on the ground. I’m excited about this moment.’ That center will seek to spearhead and coordinate large, more innovative unionization campaigns. Estrada voiced confidence that her center will work with various unions to organize thousands of workers in new jobs created by the infrastructure act, the Chips Act to encourage semiconductor production in the US, and the climate-change provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act. ‘We’re looking at how do we capture this moment right now when federal dollars are subsidizing whole industries,’ Estrada said. She talked of ‘sectoral strategies’ to unionize electric bus factories and battery plants as well as workers modernizing the electric grid and making schools more energy-efficient. ‘We have this narrative about manufacturing that it’s going to rebuild the middle class,” Estrada said. ‘That’s not going to happen unless workers have democracy in the workplace and an ability to bargain.’”

Overturning Labor Laws: A New Republican Assault on Children: “Now, advocates of fair labor standards are aghast, watching in horror at the Republican-led rollback of laws protecting children. Charlie Wishman, president of the Iowa AFL-CIO, told the Guardian newspaper, ‘It’s just crazy to me that we are re-litigating a lot of things that seem to have been settled 100, 120, or 140 years ago.’”