Posts Tagged ‘unions’

I missed this protest by Air France workers when it first happened. But apparently, in the days and weeks since, after five of the protesting workers were arrested, the tide in France has turned in their favor.

Many are baffled by the treatment being meted out to the five, who are all members of the CGT labour union.

They were protesting last week, along with hundreds of others, against imminent job cuts, before two bosses had their shirts ripped off, and were sent running for dear life.

Seven people were hurt in the attack, including a security guard who was knocked unconscious and required hospital treatment.

Although 38% of French people condemn the violence, 54% say they understand the workers’ anger.

According to the BBC,

Only France’s far left, and the CGT union behind the demonstration, came out in strong support of the shirt-rippers, with the union reiterating their “total support” for those arrested in the aftermath of the violence.

But then something interesting happened, says Gil Mihaely, deputy editor at current affairs magazine Causeur.

“The wind changed,” he says. “At first people were shocked by the images, but after the emotion died down, something changed. . .

Unions may also be an occasional lightening rod for a working class that feels increasingly powerless and invisible, but when it comes to violent revolt like that at Air France, says Mr Mihaely, the ruling class also bears some responsibility.

“The story here is not just the unions, it’s the French elites,” he says.

“That’s why we have the same re-enactment of the French Revolution – the aristocracy, the legitimacy of violence, the small humiliating the big.

“There are too many officers who were never soldiers,” he explains.

“When you have to announce bad news, every ounce of credibility and legitimacy counts. The future is less job security; it’s work more and earn less; it’s a smaller pension taken later.


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Bernie Sanders [ht: sm], in the view of some, is simply going too far.

LAS VEGAS—Saying his repeated efforts to collectively organize the panel were inexcusable, representatives from CNN told reporters Tuesday night that they had to scold Bernie Sanders on numerous occasions for attempting to unionize the moderators of the Democratic presidential debate. “So far during this debate, we’ve sent producers on stage during every commercial break to remind him that this is not the forum to demand fair wages and safe working conditions for moderators,” said CNN official Tara Ramirez, adding that Sanders had spent an entire rebuttal attempting to coax moderator Don Lemon into calling a unionization election right then and there. “We thought he understood, but then he was right back at it, telling Anderson Cooper that if he stood up against the machine now, moderators from Fox and other networks would follow and generations of future moderators would benefit.” Ramirez went on to say that network representatives also had to repeatedly remind Hillary Clinton that moderators were, in fact, permitted to make eye contact with her.

6-hour day?

Posted: 24 September 2015 in Uncategorized
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Back in the nineteenth century, the union movement demanded an 8-hour workday.

Here’s the question I often pose to my students: when did the United States finally pass legislation limiting the workday to 8 hours? It’s a trick question, of course. The answer is: never.


These days, with GDP per capita having grown by a factor of ten since 1886, Americans (at least those with full-time jobs) are forced to have the freedom to work much more than 8 hours.*

But in Sweden [ht: sm], they’re experimenting with a 6-hour workday, with exactly the results one would expect: workers are happier! And new jobs were created and the quality of care has gone up!

Working eight hours a day and 40 hours a week is ingrained in us as the natural division and duration of a good, honest American work week. We take it for granted. And it’s nonsense.

Much like the two-day weekend, the eight-hour work day was a safeguard won by the labor movement to protect workers from being driven into the ground by inhumane workdays of up to 16 hours. The eight hour work day was meant to be a limit, not a goal. And certainly not an ideal.

Now, in the interest of human progress and well-being, a retirement home in Sweden is testing out six-hour work days for employees. Other businesses are taking notice. The nurses at Svartedalens care home in Gothenburg reduced their workdays from eight to six hours in February, with the same pay.

The result? Happy, energetic nurses.

Interviewed by the Guardian, an assistant nurse named Lise-Lotte Pettersson said the following:

“I used to be exhausted all the time, I would come home from work and pass out on the sofa. But not now. I am much more alert: I have much more energy for my work, and also for family life.”

Now what does this mean for employers? Naturally costs go up. The nursing home hired 14 new staff members to cover the missing hours. On the other hand they created 14 new jobs and several other hospitals in Sweden have now followed suit. Vitally, the nurses say the quality of care they’re able to provide has gone up along with morale.

*1886, for those who have forgotten, was the year of the Haymarket Square demonstration, in which workers demanded an 8-hour workday.


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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has decided to jumpstart his mostly unsuccessful campaign for the Republican presidential nomination by attacking labor unions.

Later today, he’ll announce a series of antiunion measures, including making it illegal for federal workers to form unions, eliminating the National Labor Relations Board, and imposing right-to-work laws (under which workers can’t be forced to pay union dues as a condition of their employment) nationwide.

Walker’s decision seems a bit strange, given the shrinking role of unions in the United States and the positive views today unions in the country as a whole.


According to the Pew Research Center, even Republicans are split when it comes to unions. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents ages 18-34, about as many say they have a favorable as unfavorable view of labor unions. So do those with a high-school education or less, as well as those who earn less than $30,000 a year.

However, older, college-educated, and high-income Republicans and Republican-leaning independents have an overwhelmingly negative view of unions.

Guess whose support Walker is going after.

Only in America

Posted: 7 September 2015 in Uncategorized
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The bill designating the first Monday in September as Labor Day arrived on President Grover Cleveland’s desk just six days after his troops had broken the strike of railroad workers in Pullman, just outside of Chicago.*

The movement for a national Labor Day had been growing for some time. In September 1892, union workers in New York City took an unpaid day off and marched around Union Square in support of the holiday. But now, protests against President Cleveland’s harsh methods made the appeasement of the nation’s workers a top political priority. In the immediate wake of the strike, legislation was rushed unanimously through both houses of Congress, and the bill arrived on President Cleveland’s desk just six days after his troops had broken the Pullman strike.

1894 was an election year. President Cleveland seized the chance at conciliation, and Labor Day was born. He was not reelected.

In 1898, Samuel Gompers, head of the American Federation of Labor, called it “the day for which the toilers in past centuries looked forward, when their rights and their wrongs would be discussed…that the workers of our day may not only lay down their tools of labor for a holiday, but upon which they may touch shoulders in marching phalanx and feel the stronger for it.”

*And, lest we forget, this was just 8 years after the Haymarket Square tragedy, also in Chicago.