Posts Tagged ‘unions’

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Throughout American history, whenever workers try to organize, they’re opposed by their employers.

That was true in the period of manufacturing, and then with the growth of the service sector. Now, it’s true in the so-called sharing economy.

Seattle [ht: sm] was the first city in the nation to allow drivers for companies such as Uber and Lyft, as well as taxi and for-hire drivers, the right to collectively negotiate on pay and working conditions.

Back in January, Uber tried to stop workers from organizing by having their customer service representatives engage in union-busting by reading anti-union statements to drivers.

“Drivers choose Lyft to earn extra money when, where and for however long they can work,” a company spokeswoman told PCMag. “We continue to share concerns raised by city officials that the ordinance threatens the privacy of drivers, conflicts with longstanding federal labor and antitrust law, and may undermine the flexibility that makes Lyft so attractive both to drivers and passengers.”

Now, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is suing Seattle over the new ride-sharing ordinance.

“This ordinance threatens the ability not just of Seattle, but of every community across the country, to grow with and benefit from our evolving economy,” Amanda Eversole, president of the Chamber’s Center for Advanced Technology and Innovation, said in a statement.

“Technology companies are leading the charge when it comes to empowering people with the flexibility and choice that comes with being your own boss, and that is something to be championed, not stifled,” she added.

Seattle’s ordinance—approved unanimously by the city council but opposed by Mayor Ed Murray—threatens the viability of that economy, the Chamber said.

The U.S. economy today is radically different from what it was in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. And, yet, some things have not changed: Workers are exploited and they try to organize unions to bargain over their wages and working conditions. Meanwhile, their employers do everything they can to try to stop them.

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Apparently, physicians are not going gently into that good night.

Doctors are being increasingly treated like assembly-line workers—forced to see more patients, in order to boost nonprofit hospitals’ profits, or replaced by contractor doctors or outsourced as “hospitalists,” who are employed by multistate management companies.

As recently as the mid-1990s, there was no one called a hospitalist. Most doctors would simply scramble from their offices to the hospital when they had to tend to patients there. But the discipline grew rapidly thereafter — to roughly 50,000 hospitalists nationwide in 2015 from about 11,000 in 2003, according to industry estimates. . .

Hospitalists could also increase hospital profits. They were on hand to discharge people throughout the day, emptying beds that could generate revenue again. And while paying the doctors was a new cost, hospitals at first found the efficiencies so advantageous that hospitalists were afforded the rare privilege of spending more time with patients. The doctors spent the time diagnosing and treating what were often highly complicated conditions — chronic health problems stacked on top of one another, or multiple organ failures.

This reprieve from the economic forces bearing down on the medical profession didn’t last long, however. “A consequence of how much the health care market has changed is that everybody has to be more efficient,” said Adam Higman, who specializes in hospital operations at Soyring Consulting in St. Petersburg, Fla. He noted that the increasing focus on metrics like readmission rates and hospital-acquired infections had created more work for hospitalists, who are responsible for a lot of documentation. “In some sense that comes to the detriment of the patient, there’s not as much quality time,” he said. “In some sense, that’s to their benefit — there’s a system to manage them.”

But now, some of the doctors are fighting back, by forming unions and then affiliating with larger union confederations, which in some cases already represent the nurses at those hospitals.

That’s a start—but probably not enough.

We’ve spent a lot of time in recent years debating health insurance. Clearly, it’s time to take up the debate about how healthcare itself is provided, and how nurses, doctors, and other healthcare providers participate in making the decisions about how their patients are cared for.

And we need to do this while we can still see with blinding sight.

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.

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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.