Tag: Labor

Wage Theft is the Goal

Shipt, the delivery service owned by Target, is facing a strike over its shift to an algorithm based pay structure, which workers are claiming will cheat them out of pay.

This is no surprise.  Opaque pay structures like this are intended to cheat workers out of their pay:

Workers for the Target-owned grocery delivery service Shipt are striking Wednesday in protest of the company rolling out a less transparent payment structure nationwide.

The walk-off will coincide with the day that the new pay model will take effect in 12 metro areas, including Chicago, Tampa, Richmond, Va., and Portland, Ore.

Shipt shoppers are raising alarm over the change, which they say would likely reduce shopper pay by at least 30 percent based on a similar pay shift that occurred at the end of 2019.

While Shipt previously had a simple model for calculating payouts — a 7.5 percent commission on all orders plus $5 — the model, dubbed V2, rolled out in some markets last year doles out pay based on a black box algorithm.

“We do not like the transparency because we’re not able to calculate or figure out exactly how it is that we’re being compensated,” Willy Solis, one of the strike’s organizers and a shopper in Texas, told The Hill on Monday.


Shipt gig workers’ experiences in areas where the V2 model has been tested do not line up with that claim.

Jeanine Meisner, a veteran shopper in the Kalamazoo, Mich., area told The Hill that she saw an immediate drop in the dollar amount of offers when V2 came to her area.


“For six months now we have tirelessly, endlessly provided screenshots, we’ve called, we’ve texted, we’ve emailed about these lowball offers that we’ve gotten and we’ve got nowhere, we get a cut and pasted response,” she said.

Shoppers across V2 markets felt similar impacts, according to Solis.

“Collectively we joined forces and started keeping tabs and calculating … and shoppers were losing significant money,” he said.

So not a surprise.

This is a feature, not a bug.

Algorithmic pay schemes always end up cheating workers, because they make doing so effortless.

Another Example of Misaligned Incentives in Policing

The New York Police department is seeing a surge in retirement requests as a result of the George Floyd Black Lives Matter protests, but this is not because the cops are feeling “under seige”, but because their pensions are dictated by their pay in their final year, and so the explosion in overtime leads to an explosion in the pensions.

This is completely f%$#ed up.

First, including overtime in determining a pension is just insane, and second, it creates an incentive for cops with one foot out the door to pack on the overtime.

This means that you have senior officers on the job who are so fatigued that they are not thinking straight.

This is incredibly bad policy:

New York’s Finest are putting in for retirement faster than the NYPD can handle — while citing a lack of respect and the loss of overtime pay, The Post has learned.

A surge of city cops filing papers during the past week more than quadrupled last year’s number — as the city grapples with a surge of shootings — and the stampede caused a bottleneck that’s forcing others to delay putting in their papers, officials and sources said.


Sources also said the flood of overtime tied to last month’s protests — which will boost pension payouts for eligible retirees — and the expected loss of overtime due to the recent $1 billion cut to the NYPD’s budget were also factors.

“This is the best time to leave,” one cop said.

“You’ve padded the numbers as high as you can pad them.”

Another cop noted, “When they cut the OT, a lot of people were done.”


A Brooklyn cop said the NYPD was facing a “perfect storm,” noting that “cops made the most overtime they will for a long time — at least until next year” and citing rumors that “grade promotions” for detectives and “special assignment money” for sergeants and lieutenants will be canceled. 

It being a New York Post story, they bury the lede, that cops are trying to cash in on an extraordinary level of overtime that they have received recently, and they completely ignore the policy implications.

Every time I look into police union contracts, I am horrified at what I see.

A Win for Justice and Transparency

The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that, notwithstanding a contract with the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, state law prohibits the destruction of police disciplinary records, so this contract provision is unenforceable.

In response, I expect the police to ignore the law and destroy the records anyway, because, for them, laws are only for other people:

Chicago police misconduct records that are more than five years old will remain available to the public, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled Thursday, turning away an attempt by the city’s police union to have them destroyed as a matter of course.

The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police had sued, contending that such records should be eliminated after five years under the city’s police collective bargaining agreement. A court arbitrator had called for the city and the FOP to come to an agreement on the issue, but the city had successfully challenged that decision at the appellate level.

The state’s high court found 6-1 that the arbitration outcome violated clear public policy in the state’s Local Records Act, siding with City Hall.

“In sum, we find there is a ‘well-defined and dominant’ public policy rooted in state law concerning the procedures for the proper retention and destruction of government records,” the majority wrote.


FOP President John Catanzara on Thursday said he “couldn’t be more disappointed” with the court’s decision, and said he is instructing the union’s lawyers to see if there is a way to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It goes against every ounce of logic there is,” Catanzara said. “The contractual rights that were in our collective bargaining agreement for the better part of four decades were set in stone.”

And that provision was probably illegal that whole time, so Mr. Catanzara can go Cheney himself.

Provisions like this has allowed cops to literally get away with murder for years.

46 Years of Anti-Union Politics Will Do That

This is an Embarrassment

The United States hasn’t had a President who was not hostile to Organized labor since at least the Ford administration, so it is no surprise that America has been ranked as having the worst worker’s rights environment among all the developed nations:

The U.S. has the worst record among major developed countries when it comes to workers’ rights, according to a survey of labor unions.

The world’s largest economy is ranked a 4 in a scale by the International Trade Union Congress, meaning there are “systematic violations of rights.” Every other Group of Seven country ranks 3 or better.

How about card check and repealing Taft-Hartley the next time the Democrats controll the White House, House of Representatives, and the Senate?

Bummer of a Birthmark, Uber

The California PUC has just made it official, ruling that the drivers for Uber and Lyft are employees, not independent contractors.

I guess that the “Ride Sharing” companies are going to have to find a new way to f%$# over their drivers to justify the obscene money that they pay their senior executives.

Oh, the humanity.

Think of the venture capitalists!

The California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates private transport companies including Uber and Lyft, has ruled that the two upstarts’ drivers should be recognized as employees instead of contractors.

The issue over the status of drivers for ride-hailing companies has been controversial for a while. Cali Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 5, known as AB5, that classifies gig economy workers, such as Uber and Lyft drivers, as employees in the US state.

The law came into force in January this year, though Uber and Lyft have resisted the change. Both companies were sued by the state’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra last month for failing to recognize its drivers as employees. Now, the California Public Utilities Commission has weighed in.

About f%$#ing time.

Those Buffalo Police ERT Members Who Quit Were Driven out by Their Own Union

The officers who quit the unit (they are still employed by the Buffalo PD) quit because Buffalo Police Benevolent Association notified them that they would be on their own if they needed a lawyer.

You will recall that the BPBA claimed that they had quit in solidarity with their fellow officers, who have been charged with assault.

Once again, the police lied:


Two officers of the Buffalo Police Department’s Emergency Response Team spoke with 7 Eyewitness News under the condition their names not be used.

The officers are part of the 57-person volunteer assignment team that resigned Friday, following an incident involving two of their members Thursday night in Niagara Square. They did not resign from the police department, only from their roles on the team.

The officers we spoke with said the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association’s statement asserting all 57 officers resigned from ERT in a “show of support” with the two officers that were suspended without pay is not true.

“I don’t understand why the union said it’s a thing of solidarity. I think it sends the wrong message that ‘we’re backing our own’ and that’s not the case,” said one officer with whom we spoke.

“We quit because our union said [they] aren’t legally backing us anymore. So why would we stand on a line for the City with no legal backing if something [were to] happen? Has nothing to do with us supporting,” said another.

A representative from the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association told 7 Eyewitness News Reporter Hannah Buehler the officers resigned in “disgust” with how the two officers were treated.


7 Eyewitness News was not able to reach PBA president John Evans to confirm this information or get a response to several officers shooting down his assertions, but we did obtain an email sent to PBA members by Evans.

It states, in part:

In light of this, in order to maintain the sound financial structure of the PBA it will be my opinion the PBA NOT to pay for any ERT or SWAT members legal defense related to these protests going forward. This Admin in conjunction with DA John Flynn and or JP Kennedy could put a serious dent in the PBA’s funds.

If you get a quote from a police spokesman, fact check it.

If it comes from the PBA, you need to confirm every word, including the “and” and the “the”.

The New York Times has Turned Into a Complete Sh%$ Show

The New York Times published an OP/ED by Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) that called for the activity military to come in to put down the anti-police brutality protests with guns blazing.

Needless to say, the Times staffers, prticularly those of color,  have completely lost their sh%$ over this, stating (correctly IMHO) that this put staffers, particularly staffers of color:

The internal fallout from the New York Times’ decision to run an op-ed by Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, which called for the U.S. military to be deployed to American cities to crack down on protests against police killings of Black people, continued apace on Friday during a company all-hands meeting.

Publisher A.G. Sulzberger, Executive Editor Dean Baquet and Chief Operating Officer Meredith Levien all offered opening statements. But as always, the most informative parts of the meeting came from the lengthy question-and-answer portion. Staffers asked for an autopsy of the piece and how it was published; if company leaders were planning to address James Bennet’s leadership of the opinion section, which has had “several misfires”; whether Opinion staff editor and writer Bari Weiss would be fired for “openly bad mouth[ing] younger news colleagues on a platform where they, because of strict company policy, could not defend themselves”; whether the opinion section had suggested the topic of the op-ed to Cotton; and what the Times would do to help retain and support Black employees.

The newsroom first revolted Wednesday, shortly after the op-ed was published. Dozens of staffers tweeted a variation of the phrase “Running this puts Black @nytimes staff in danger,” along with a screenshot of the op-ed’s headline. The paper’s union put out a statement about the column as well.

In a development that can only be described as mind boggling, Bennet said that, “He had not read Mr. Cotton’s essay before it was published,” even though it is clear from the Times own account that there was extensive review and editing from inside the editorial division.

Fire Editor-in-Chief Dean Banquet and Opinion Editor James Bennet, and for good measure, have them take Bret “Bedbug” Stevens, whose hobby appears to be threatening reporters on the news side of the paper, with them.

This is a Strong Argument for Abolishing the Police

After 2 officers were suspended for throwing an elderly man to the ground and leaving him there with blood pouring out of his ears, the the entire Buffalo, NY resigned from the team.

I can think of no better example to show how the entire police force is bad apples, either directly, or as a result of peer pressure:

Fifty-seven officers in the Buffalo Police Department’s Emergency Response Team resigned Friday from their positions on the unit in support of two of their colleagues who were suspended for shoving an elderly man onto the ground during a protest Thursday, putting him in the hospital.

“The cops who are resigning over this are proving they shouldn’t have been on the force in the first place,” tweeted CounterPunch editor Jeffrey St. Clair. “I hope many more of them resign. And soon.”

To be clear, these guys have not left the force, just the Buffalo ERT.

The Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, the department’s AFL-CIO-affiliated union, claimed in a statement announcing the mass resignation that the two officers caught on camera shoving 75-year-old Martin Gugino to the ground with no provocation were only following orders.

It’s unclear what orders led to the unprovoked assault, after which Gugino lay motionless on the ground, blood pouring out of his ear.

“This is an example of officers doing exactly what they’re supposed to,” union president John Evans told the Investigative Post Friday.

I wonder what percentage of police forces are broken this way.

My guess is that over 90% are infected with the “Thin Blue Line” disease.

The Impact of Police Unions

I came across a fascinating Twitter thread about the effect of police unions upon on law enforcement.

The study is preliminary, and the author is very clear on this, but the results are striking.

Police unionization has increased pay and benefits, no big surprise there, and a slight decline in police employment, which might correlate with the increase in the cost, which is also not a surprise.

The big take away is that there is a substantial increase in the lethality of law enforcement, with the death toll of minorities accounting for the bulk of the increase.

The number (admittedly preliminary) is stunning, “We find a substantial increase in police killings of civilians over the medium to long run (likely after unions are established) with an additional 0.026 to 0.029 civilians killed in a county each year of whom the overwhelming majority are non-white.”

Given that there are (Googling furiously) 3,143 county equivalents in the United States, this means that we would see about 82 extra deaths a year, and over the past 40 years, this would be more than 3200 excess deaths.

The obvious conclusion is that the decrease in accountability of police officers has resulted in increased violence and police racism, though as is frequently stated, correlation is not causation.

Additionally, court rulings over the past 50+ years have had the effect of reducing police accountability for the use of force as well, so teasing out the effects specific reductions of accountability would be difficult.

The obvious take-away though is that we need greater accountability for our police forces.

The Most Karen Thing Ever

Have you heard about “No Evil Foods”? They are a vegan meat company that claims to be socialists, and they are waging a scorched earth campaign against its workers joining a union.

This so typical of the faux socialist bougie types.

Socialism for thee, not not for me:

Earlier this year, the company No Evil Foods, which sells a variety of socialist-themed vegan meats, fought a union drive at its Weaverville, North Carolina plant that included numerous “captive audience” meetings where management told workers to vote against a union.

Motherboard obtained a 23-minute video of No Evil Food’s CEO and co-founder Mike Woliansky repeatedly imploring workers to vote “no” in the union election, and telling workers that a union could hamper the company’s ability to “save lives” and “change the world.”

In his speech, Woliansky compared joining the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, which represents tens of thousands of meatpacking workers in the US, to “hitching your wagon to a huge organization with high paid executives and a history of scandal and supporting slaughterhouses,” he said. “I don’t think that’s an organization you want to support with your dues money.”

No Evil Foods brands itself with a socialist messaging and sells $8 packages of vegan products with leftist names like “Comrade Cluck” (a chicken substitute seasoned with garlic and onion), and “El Zapatista” (a mock chorizo), a reference to Mexico’s anti-capitalist indigenous movement. It sells its product at 5,500 stores nationwide, and, in online listings for jobs in its Weaverville production facility, the company says, “we do good no evil. We care about doing good through the products we make.”

In recent weeks, the company fired several workers who led the union drive at its manufacturing plant (known as “the Axis”), according to a report in the Appeal. Four employees told Motherboard that the company has fired five workers active in labor organizing since April.


“Just when we filed for our election, they ramped up their [anti-union] meetings,” a former No Evil Foods worker who quit in March told Motherboard. “They told us we’d have to negotiate with shareholders instead of them and made emotional appeals to us like ‘we have our house in this.’ Hey, I would love to be able to afford a house that I’d be able to risk to start a business.”


The hypocrisy of capitalizing on socialist messaging while using anti-union speeches to defeat a union drive was not lost on workers.

“We are not a bunch of whiny kids who would complain at any job,” a former no No Evil Foods worker who was fired in May, told Motherboard. “Personally I wouldn’t be speaking out to the media if this was a company that didn’t use socialism for its marketing. It’s the fact these people are liars.”

“In my first few months, I thought this company was great. The $13.65 I made was the highest I’d ever been paid in my life,” a former No Evil Foods worker who was involved in the union drive and quit in March, told Motherboard. “But then they started making changes that impacted people with second jobs, and their response was just so starkly like ‘we don’t give a shit.’ I realized that their socialist messaging is all branding and tricking the consumer into making them feel like they have a consciousness.”

I am sure that the Wolianskys think that they are actually progressive in some meaningful way, it’s just that they rationalize that anything that might inconvenience them is a bridge too far.


From the Department of, “About F%$#ing Time”

The California AG, as well as some DAs have sued Uber and Lyft to treat them as employees as required by the new California law.
This should have been done the day that the law went into effect.

The so-called sharing economy business model has been about regulatory and labor arbitrage in order to make the rest of us pay the cost that they inflict on the rest of us:

California’s attorney general—as well as attorneys from three of the state’s largest cities—have sued Uber and Lyft, accusing the companies of violating the labor rights of thousands of drivers. The plaintiffs argue that state law requires Uber and Lyft to treat their drivers as employees, which would make them eligible for minimum wage protections, overtime pay, expense reimbursements, and other benefits they don’t currently receive.


A lawsuit from the state of California is a totally different scenario. Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the city attorneys of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego have enough combined legal resources for a fair fight against the ride-hailing giants. And if Uber and Lyft lose, they could not only owe hundreds of millions of dollars in back wages and other costs, they could also be forced to fundamentally rethink how they do business in the most populous US state.

“Californians who drive for Uber and Lyft lack basic worker protections—from paid sick leave to the right to overtime pay,” Becerra said in a Tuesday statement. “California has ground rules with rights and protections for workers and their employers. We intend to make sure that Uber and Lyft play by the rules.”


Last year, California’s legislature passed landmark legislation that sets a high bar for companies to classify workers as independent contractors rather than employees. Under the so-called “ABC test,” an employer wanting to exclude a worker from employee status must show that the worker meets three criteria:

  1. The person is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work…
  2. The person performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.
  3. The person is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business.

To win, Uber and Lyft must prevail on all three of these questions. The companies must show that they don’t control the drivers and that drivers’ work isn’t core to their business and that drivers are engaged in an independent trade.

These companies are a threat to public safety, and they make their money off of the misery of their “independent contractors.”

Here is hoping that this goes to a jury, and the award is massive.

Heroism: Someone Put Their Money Where Their Mouth Is

Amazon VP Tim Bray, just quit citing what he calls the “chickensh%$” behavior of the company toward whistle-blowers, who they had aggressively harassed and fired.

This guy probably made 7 figures a year over this, and he walked away over the toxic company culture promulgated by Jeff Bezos.

If more people did this, and did this as LOUDLY the world would be a far better place:

Amazon VP Tim Bray, who had been with the company for more than five years, has resigned in protest of Amazon’s treatment of warehouse workers and the firing of other employees who spoke out.

The company fired multiple warehouse and office workers in recent weeks amid organizing efforts to improve conditions in the company’s distribution centers, where individuals have contracted COVID-19. Firing the whistleblowers is “evidence of a vein of toxicity running through the company culture,” Bray said in a blog post explaining his departure. “I choose neither to serve nor drink that poison.”

The alpha and omega of the particularly nasty nature of Amazon is its founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.

It is literally a part of its DNA.

This is Truer than Taxes

Today, there’s a broad consensus that neoliberalism is making work more precarious. Indeed, for four decades and more, successive governments in developed countries have passed various measures to flexibilize the labor market. These measures increasingly allow businesses to use fixed-term contracts with a definite end date. Added to these are other measures that make it easier for employers to lay off staff.

In France, for instance, the creation of interim contracts dates back to 1972. This was meant to make it possible to substitute one member of staff with another in exceptional cases. Yet, over the years, it has become an instrument of flexibility in the hands of employers. When a company sees its levels of activity falling, it can choose not to renew temporary contracts. In so doing, it can get rid of some of its employees without having to enter a long and risky collective redundancy process.

In his famous book The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class, Guy Standing concludes that it is no longer appropriate just to speak of a division in society between workers and capitalists. What we are instead seeing, Standing argues, is the emergence of a precariat underneath the old proletariat.


It is clear that their precarious status undermines trade unions. Temporary workers are reticent about unionizing, for they fear that it means their contracts won’t be renewed. Precarity gradually eats into the unions’ own ranks: in some companies, the core of stable workers is gradually replaced by temporary ones. There are not no conflicts involving precarious workers. But they are relatively rare.

For some, like Standing, precarity also has other malign effects — with the rise of far-right populism in Europe and the United States counting among its direct consequences. For want of any real alternative, the destabilization of the popular classes would, it seems, drive them to look for scapegoats among those even more precarious than they are: migrants, the unemployed, LGBT people, and so on.

Yet by no means is this division — the separation of workers into a multitude of different statuses — actually something new. It has existed in various forms throughout the history of capitalism. We could even say that it is functional to capitalism’s very dynamic. Whatever period we look at, we always find that permanent staff coexisted with their temporary counterparts — and that regular employment had to be fought for.
The Permanent and the Temporary

Precarity is, in a sense, inherent to the very nature of employment contracts under capitalism. In principle — at the juridical level — a worker is free to negotiate the price of her own labor power, on an equal footing with her putative employer. According to this liberal conception, the employment relation — whether or not it takes the form of a contract — is thus a commercial transaction between formally equal subjects.


In 1966, it was stipulated that employee-elected works councils should be informed of and consulted about any company restructuring plans, and in 1969, redeployment, early retirement, and redundancy compensation were introduced in order to limit the impact of restructuring. These measures sought to orient the employer toward solutions other than “straight” firings.

The idea of a stable, long-term job is, in fact, something relatively new, when we look at the history of capitalism as a whole. These measures were possible only due to the strength of the labor movement and the strong economic growth of the postwar decades. Once these conditions were gone, stable and long-term jobs in capitalism appeared rather more of a short-term “parenthesis.” Today, employment contracts are less and less associated with a protection from market forces. Both governments and employers use the vocabulary of the individual worker’s “mobility” and “liberty” to justify reforms to flexibilize the labor market.

Whenever capitalists talk about the need to increase flexibility to improve the economy, what they really mean is that they want to make work more precarious as a way of driving down wages and benefits.

Your Mouth to God’s Ears

I will believe it when I see it, but I hope that this prediction that the United States will see a period or strikes and labor actions unseen since 1945-1946 is true:

In September 1945, a little-remembered frenzy erupted in the United States. Japan had surrendered, ending World War II, but American meat packers, steelworkers, telephone installers, telegraph operators, and auto assemblers had something different from partying in mind. In rolling actions, they went on strike. After years of patriotic silence on the home front, these workers, along with unhappy roughnecks, lumberjacks, railroad engineers, and elevator operators—some 6 million workers in all—shut down their industries and some entire cities. Mainly, they were seeking higher pay—and they got it, averaging 18% increases.

The era of raucous labor is long past, and worker chutzpah along with it. That is, it was—until now. Desperately needed to staff the basic economy while the rest of us remain secluded from COVID-19, ordinarily little-noticed workers are wielding unusual leverage. Across the country, cashiers, truckers, nurses, burger flippers, stock replenishers, meat plant workers, and warehouse hands are suddenly seen as heroic, and they are successfully protesting. For the previous generation of labor, the goal post was the 40-hour week. New labor’s immediate aims are much more prosaic: a sensible face mask, a bottle of sanitizer, and some sick days.

The question is what happens next. Are we watching a startling but fleeting moment for newly muscular labor? Or, once the coronavirus is beaten, do companies face a future of vocal workers aiming to rebuild lost decades of wage increases and regained influence in boardrooms and the halls of power? For now, at least, some of the country’s most powerful CEOs are clearly nervous. Late last month, Apple, faced with reporters asking about a company decision to furlough hundreds of contract workers without pay, did a quick about-face. Those employees, Apple now said, would receive their hourly wages. A few weeks earlier, after Amazon warehouse workers demanded better benefits during the virus pandemic, that company also reversed course, offering paid sick days and unlimited unpaid time off.


But if companies are responding to those who are protesting, they might also think ahead and preempt festering trouble down the road. “I like to believe people will say, ‘We treat these people as disposable, but they are pretty indispensable. Maybe we should do what we can to recognize their contribution,’” says David Autor, a labor economist at MIT and co-director of the school’s Work of the Future Task Force.


But in 1981, President Ronald Reagan changed all that. Some 12,000 air traffic controllers went on strike, demanding higher pay and a shorter workweek. In a breathtaking decision, Reagan fired all but a few hundred of them. The Federal Labor Relations Authority decertified the controllers’ union entirely. The era of strong labor was over.

In the subsequent age of the no-excuses layoff, the number of major strikes has plunged. Starting in 1947, when the government began keeping such data, there were almost always anywhere from 200 to more than 400 big strikes every year. But in 1982, the year after the air traffic controllers debacle, the number for the first time fell below 100. In 2017, there were just seven. “There was damage to self-esteem every time there was a layoff. It took the militancy out of organized labor, and I don’t think it ever recovered,” Uchitelle says.


The current revival of worker activism precedes COVID-19 in the unlikeliest of places. In 2018, West Virginia teachers, among the lowest paid in the nation and four years without a raise, went on strike for nine days in a demand for higher pay. That they won a 5% increase was one astonishing thing. But the walkout itself was stunning, specifically because of the state where it occurred—a former bedrock of ultra-militant coal miners who had repeatedly gone to actual war for better pay and safety but more recently were a bastion of worker passivity.

I hope that this is true, but if labor keeps supporting politicians who offer their full throated support for destructive labor arbitrage policies, (“Free Trade” deals) then we are going to continue competing with people who work for a dollar an hour in Bangladesh.

109th Anniversary

Normally, there is a gathering commemorating the disaster, but the lock-down in New York City has meant that there will be no gathering to remember the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire this year:

“Today, we mark the 109th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, a catastrophic event in which 146 workers, mostly young immigrant women, were killed as a direct result of abhorrent working conditions and woefully insufficient workplace safety standards. The loss of life was both tragic and avoidable, and sent shockwaves through our city and nation. Outraged Americans demanded that these workers’ deaths not be in vain, and the public outcry that followed brought a renewed sense of urgency to the labor movement and to the fight for stronger workplace protections and fire safety laws,”

—Workers United Secretary-Treasurer Edgar Romney & New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO President Vincent Alvarez, Mar 25, 2020

Normally, we gather at the site of the blaze to mark the anniversary of the Triangle Fire. We assemble at the corner of Washington and Greene Streets to watch the fire truck ladder rise to the 6th floor, which was as far as it could reach in 1911, as workers burned alive or leapt to their deaths from the factory floors above. This year, we express our solidarity by marking the occasion at home, each doing our part to flatten the wave of infections that threatens to overwhelm or city and our country. Even as we stand apart, we stand together.

146 people died, mostly young women working at the factory.

The doors were locked so they could not get out, and the fire truck ladders could not reach their floors, and many of them jumped to their deaths.

About F%$#ing Time

Kickstarter employees have voted to unionize.

You know, foosball tables and good food in the cafeteria does not excuse management from treating people badly.

Unionization is the only logical response:

Kickstarter employees voted to form a union with the Office and Professional Employees International Union, which represents more than 100,000 white collar workers. The final vote was 46 for the union, 37 against, a historic win for unionization efforts at tech companies.

Kickstarter workers are now the first white collar workers at a major tech company to successfully unionize in the United States, sending a message to other tech workers.


“I feel like the most important issues [for us] are around creating clearer policies and support for reporting workplace issues and creating clearer mechanisms for hiring and firing employees,” said RV Dougherty, a former trust and safety analyst and core organizer for Kickstarter United who quit in early February. “Right now so much depends on what team you’re on and if you have a good relationship with your manager… We also have a lot of pay disparity and folks who are doing incredible jobs but have been kept from getting promoted because they spoke their mind, which is not how Kickstarter should work.”

In the days leading up to Kickstarter vote count, Motherboard revealed that Kickstarter hired Duane Morris, a Philadelphia law firm that specializes in labor management relations and “maintaining a union-free workplace.” Kickstarter confirmed to Motherboard that it first retained the services of Duane Morris in 2018 before it knew about union organizing at the company, but would not go into detail about whether the firm had advised the company on how to defeat the union and denied any union-busting activity.


But in 2018, a heated disagreement broke out between employees and management about whether to leave a project called “Always Punch Nazis” on the platform, according to reporting in Slate. When Breitbart said the project violated Kickstarter’s terms of service by inciting violence, management initially planned to remove the project, but then reversed its decision after protest from employees.

Following the controversy, employees announced their intentions to unionize with OPEIU Local 153 in March 2019. And the company made it clear that it did not believe a union was right for Kickstarter.

In a letter to creators, Kickstarter’s CEO Aziz Hasan wrote in September that “The union framework is inherently adversarial.”

Yes, it;s inherently adversarial for there to be checks and balances on your behavior, Azis.

How about you have a nice cup of ……… Well, you know.

Schadenfreude Much?

The food delivery firm DoorDash requires its employees to sign an arbitration agreement, which among other things, prevents class action suits, largely so that it can pretend that they are independent contractors.

A lawyer has taken about 5,000 of of these employees as clients, and filed about 5,000 arbitration claims, which will cost DoorDash about $12,000,000 in arbitration costs.

So, DoorDash attempted to get a judge to move this to a class action suit to save money, and Federal Judge William Alsup called bullsh%$ on this:

Rejecting claims that the legal process it forced on workers is unfair, a federal judge Monday ordered food-delivery service DoorDash to pay $9.5 million in arbitration fees for 5,010 delivery drivers’ labor demands against the company.

“You’re going to pay that money,” U.S. District Judge William Alsup said in court. “You don’t want to pay millions of dollars, but that’s what you bargained to do and you’re going to do it.”

Barred from filing labor suits in court under the terms of a required arbitration contract, 6,250 DoorDash drivers brought their claims to an arbitrator. Last fall, the American Arbitration Association found each worker met the minimum requirements for filing a claim and ordered DoorDash to pay $12 million in fees. The workers paid $1.2 million in filing fees, or $300 per case.

DoorDash refused to pay its share of fees, arguing the workers failed to specify how much money they were seeking or prove they had a valid arbitration deal with the company.

In response, the delivery drivers filed two motions to compel arbitration, which landed in Alsup’s court. DoorDash told Alsup the company shouldn’t have to pay those fees because the petitioners’ law firm, Chicago-based Keller Lenkner, failed to properly vet its clients’ claims or prove it had an attorney-client relationship with each worker.


Despite those problems, Alsup said he would not deny relief to the majority of petitioners on that basis.

“Out of those 6,000 there probably are a few people where you pulled the wool over my eyes, but I think the vast majority of these are legit,” the judge said. “I’m not going to hold up that relief just because there are going to be a few glitches.”


In total, Keller Lenkner sought to compel arbitration for 5,879 workers. Alsup said he would grant the motion for 5,010 workers who submitted valid declarations affirming that they worked for DoorDash and signed a valid arbitration contract with the company. At $1,900 per case, DoorDash must pay $9.5 million.

In May 2019, the company was valued at $12.6 billion.

Attorney Warren Postman, of Keller Lenkner, described Alsup’s decision as a major victory for gig economy workers misclassified as independent contractors and fighting for minimum wage.

“They’ve been shut out of every forum for months, and in some cases years,” Postman said. “I’m glad our clients will have their day to have their claims heard.”

Late last year, Alsup allowed the petitioners to investigate claims that DoorDash worked with a new arbitrator to concoct rules that would benefit DoorDash while disadvantaging workers.

DoorDash introduced new arbitration terms on Nov. 9, which workers must agree to before they can log onto the DoorDash app to work and get paid. The new terms require workers arbitrate disputes through the International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution (CPR). Under the CPR rules, only 10 arbitration cases can proceed at once when more than 30 cases are filed. The rules also mandate 90-day mediation sessions and other conditions, which the petitioners say could delay their cases for years.

DoorDash and CPR both maintain the new rules were created in response to mass arbitration demands, but they say multiple stakeholders were involved in the development of a “fair and neutral process” that expedites a small number of “test” or bellwether cases followed by a mediation process that encourages resolution of all claims.

On Monday, Alsup said he would deny motions to seal communications between DoorDash’s law firm, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, and CPR, adding he will give DoorDash 14 days to appeal his decision.

“There’s a public interest in the world at large knowing that someone like CPR that holds itself out to be an impartial agency is actually being guided by the employer side,” Alsup said.

So, it is highly likely that the plaintiffs will get access to communications between DoorDash and the arbitration firm, and this will almost certainly reveal that the arbitration firm is working for DoorDash, and not a neutral actor, which would open up both to damages under things like RICO which mandate large punitive damages.

Hopefully, this tactic will spread to the other “Gig Economy” fraudsters.

Karma, Neh?

An examination of Obama’s record shows that (at best) conclude that the administration was profoundly indifferent to the needs of traditional union members.

Biden has stapled his candidacy to his time as Obama’s VP, so he is dealing with the backlash from Barack Obama’s labor policies:

On the campaign trail, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has highlighted the first two years of the Obama administration as a time when he helped enact sweeping legislation to widen access to health care and revive the economy, accomplishments most Democrats revere.

But to many union officials, those years were a disappointment — a time when the administration failed to pass a labor rights bill that was their top priority and imposed a tax that would affect many union members’ health plans. And they partly blame Mr. Biden.

“They were in the driver’s seat for the first two years, and what did they get done from a labor perspective?” said Chris Laursen, the president of a United Automobile Workers local in Ottumwa, Iowa, with nearly 600 members. “Joe Biden is complete status quo.”


The reservations of union members could be a bigger problem for Mr. Biden than they were for Hillary Clinton during her 2016 Democratic race against Mr. Sanders. Some large unions, including the American Federation of Teachers, endorsed Mrs. Clinton, though many members later supported Mr. Sanders.


And the skepticism toward Mr. Biden among union voters may be even more pronounced in the less white, less male parts of the labor force.

Nicole McCormick, a West Virginia music teacher who helped organize a statewide walkout that made national headlines in 2018, said she worried that Mr. Biden wasn’t “willing to push for the things that we as Americans look at as radical, but the rest of the world looks at and is like, ‘We did that 50 years ago.’” She cited expanded access to unions, universal health care and paid parental leave as examples.


In voicing their concerns about Mr. Biden, union officials frequently cite dismay over the Obama years. They acknowledge a number of accomplishments, including the economic stimulus, the rescue of Chrysler and General Motors, and elements of the Affordable Care Act, as well as a variety of pro-labor appointments and regulations. But they express reservations about the administration’s focus on deficit reduction, its ties to Wall Street, and especially its efforts to lower barriers to foreign competition. 

If you look at Obama and Clinton Democrats, their support for unions has always been of the , “Yes, but,” variety, where the qualifiers apply to the (unfortunately true) history of racism and sexism in unions, and the need to, “Train people for the jobs of the future.”
So little effort is spent on card check, or repealing anti-union “right to work” laws, or the widespread use of contractors, etc.
Rinse, lather, repeat.