On the picket line

‘Amazonians United Sacramento’ walk out Christmas Eve

Night shift workers at Amazon’s DSM1 warehouse in Sacramento, Calif.,  celebrated Christmas with a walkout. It was the latest action in their campaign for paid time off (PTO). After delivering a petition with 4,015 signatures to management during their break on Dec. 23, the workers read their demands for a meeting with management and PTO out loud. Then 36 of 100 workers clocked out mid-shift.

“A lot of people were scared, but it was encouraging to see how many people came through,” said one of those who walked (organizers have agreed not to identify them). “[I]t was good to show people we can stick together.”

Like other Amazon workers, those at DSM1 are harassed by ever-increasing productivity goals. One job is sorting and scanning packages. The rate of scans per hour was recently increased from 180 to 300, while workers were gradually cut. Complaining about the stress, a worker noted: “[E]very part of the labor process [is] to get the same amount of volume done with fewer people” — classic capitalist maneuver!

Some DSM1 workers, called Amazonians United Sacramento, went public about organizing last September. Around 100 workers are wearing buttons reading, “Amazonians

United for PTO.” (Labor Notes, Jan. 3) Stay tuned.

Florida teachers march on Tallahassee capitol

Thousands of teachers, parents and supporters, including leaders of national educational unions, rallied and marched to the Florida Capitol Jan. 13 to demand more funding for public schools. Organized by the Florida Education Association, downtown Tallahassee came to a standstill as teachers in red T-shirts, some carrying signs reading, “I shouldn’t have to marry a sugar daddy to teach,” protested the attack on public education, which began in the late 1990s.

“There are 36 high schools with 1,000 students or more that fail to offer physics classes because they can’t find certified teachers. And one out of eight English classes in this state are taught by uncertified teachers,” said Fedrick Ingram, FEA president.

Lack of consistent pay increases has produced over 3,500 vacant teaching positions across the state. Florida ranks in the bottom 10 states in educational funding, with spending below pre-recession levels. The state is 26th in starting pay, according to the National Education Association.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed spending $603 million to raise the state’s starting teacher pay and another $300 million in bonuses for highly effective teachers. Though legislative leaders are skeptical, teachers call DeSantis’ proposal a “good start.” They are seeking a 10 percent across-the-board pay raise for all classroom teachers and school staff. According to tallahassee.com, Florida teachers are emboldened by gains made by teachers from Arizona to West Virginia. (Jan. 13)

Teamsters show solidarity with French strikers

Even though the U.S. corporate press hasn’t paid much attention to the massive strike beginning Dec. 5 in France, the Teamsters union has. On Dec. 18, it issued a solidarity statement protesting the government’s proposal to drastically change retirement benefits for the working class, and on Jan. 9 the Teamsters held picket lines at and delivered letters to the French Embassy in Washington, D.C., and the Consulate General in Los Angeles. The letter began: “The 1.4 million members of the Teamsters Union stand in solidarity with workers in France during their struggle to maintain a pension that allows them to retire with dignity and respect after years of hard work.” The letter also demanded the French-owned, U.S.-based company Airgas respect the workers’ right to organize, free from harassment and intimidation, and sign a contract with adequate retirement benefits. (teamster.org, Jan. 9)

DOL attacks franchise workers

The Department of Labor issued a rule Jan. 12 to make it harder to prove that corporations are responsible when franchise owners or contractors violate wage laws. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said the Trumpian rule, first proposed last April and slated to go into effect on March 13, was to limit “joint employers” and “promote entrepreneurs.”

The DOL ruling chopped Obama administration wording, expanding the definition of joint employers: corporations that set policies about hiring, firing and supervising workers and set pay and maintain employment records that franchises must follow. McDonald’s workers have taken advantage of that wording. However, last October a San Francisco federal appeals court ruled that McDonald’s was not responsible for such wage law violations by franchise owners.

Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, stated the new DOL rule “makes it easier for corporations to cheat their workers and look the other way when workplace violations occur.” She added that DOL’s reversal exposes “millions of workers to wage theft.” (The Hill, Jan. 13) No wonder Fight for $15 has posted a petition calling for support at fight4fifteen.com.


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