Saturday, August 29, 2015

Labor South roundup: NLRB gives fast-food workers a break; New Orleans labor organizer sees "dreams to build on"; student labor organizers win for workers in Nashville; and a labor museum in the coalfields

Here's the latest Labor South roundup, and guess what--it's all good news!

Fast-food workers get a break from the NLRB, and Republicans don’t like it

Reaction has been fierce to recent action by the National Labor Relations Board that may lead to fast-food workers being able to negotiate with corporate headquarters rather than being limited to individual franchises. The action helps unions in negotiating for better wages and benefits with corporate overseers at the table, something those overseers were often able to avoid during Republican rule over the NLRB.

“The board has set a dangerous precedent that will lead to higher costs for consumers and fewer jobs for workers,” said U.S. House Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee Chairman Phil Roe, R-Tenn., and House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline, R-Minn., in a joint statement. “The National Labor Relations Board has pushed a culture of union favoritism that is detrimental to workers and employers.”

Furthermore, “we will work to roll back this flawed decision and the damaging effects it will impose on families and small business owners.”

The NLRB action comes amid long, ongoing protests across the country by fast-food workers tired of being at the bottom of the economy’s food chain. A report last September showed that the real earnings of low-wage workers fell 5 percent between 1979 and 2013. That decline is in sharp contrast to the 64.9 percent productivity gain reported during the same period.

The United States had the highest incidence of low-pay workers among 26 countries surveyed in a report from the Economic Policy Institute in 2014.

New Orleans organizer who helped Indian workers in Mississippi win their fight with human trafficker Signal International sees “dreams to build on”

Facing South posted a compelling interview this week with Saket Soni, the New Orleans labor organizer who has championed migrant workers in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans and who helped Indian migrant workers on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast win a $20 million settlement with the shipbuilder Signal International. Signal was convicted of human trafficking earlier this year.

“The task of rebuilding New Orleans and rebuilding the South is a big one,” Soni told writer Allie Yee. “If I’ve learned anything from the people we’re organizing, it’s that they have extraordinary dreams. … There are lots of dreams to build on, and lots of work to be done.”

Soni is executive director of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice and the National Guestworker Alliance.

At Katrina's 10th anniversary, Soni said he sees progress toward "a reversal of power and governance by the people who are at its lowest rung."

Student labor organizers in Nashville help gain big victory for Davidson County workers

Benjamin Eagles and other student organizers in Nashville, Tenn., were instrumental in securing a huge victory for local workers during recent municipal elections.

On the ballot, Metro Charter Amendment 3 required that “40 percent of the work on metro government construction projects totaling $100,000 or more be done by workers from Davidson County," where Nashville is located.

Nearly 57,000 citizens voted for the amendment. Against it were a little under 41,500.

Opposing the amendment were powerful forces in Nashville, including the Nashville Tennessean, local chamber of commerce, contractors, and almost all of the candidates for mayor in the election.  The student organizers have been active in the city and on campuses for some time on behalf of local workers against the growing trend among public and private employers to outsource work.

Museum in Matewan, West Virginia, tells the region’s labor history

A great silence looms over much labor history in the United States. It is rarely taught in history classes, and political and economic leaders tend to pretend it doesn’t exist.

That’s why it’s gratifying to know that since last May a museum exists on the hallowed ground of Matewan, West Virginia, that is devoted to the compelling labor history of the region.

West Virginia residents were the driving force in creating the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum, which received funding support from United Mine Workers Local 1440 in Matewan and from the West Virginia Humanities Council.

Matewan was the site of the bloody Battle of Matewan in 1920 between union supporters and anti-union detective agents, leaving 10 people dead. It was the subject of John Sayles’ film Matewan in 1987.

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