Governor signs bill to protect farm workers’ right to unionize
United Farm Workers President Arturo S. Rodriguez issued the following statement today after Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 126, by state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento). The new law will let the Agricultural Labor Relations Board certify a union if employers’ election violations could affect the outcome of the balloting.
“Today, Governor Brown helped farm workers take their biggest step forward yet in the cause of fair treatment for farm workers by approving his proposal put into legislation by Sen. Steinberg. Under SB 126, if growers cheat during an election campaign, break the law and deny farm workers their right to have a union, then the Agricultural Labor Relations Board can certify the union.”
Sparks start to fly in Target fight
A labor union charges that store supervisors are using illegal tactics to persuade employees not to make a Valley Stream, L.I., store the nation’s first unionized Target. By Daniel Massey
Published: May 26, 2011 - 3:03 pm
Sparks are starting to fly in the attempt to unionize Target stores.
The labor union behind the effort filed a complaint this week alleging that Target illegally intimidated workers at its Valley Stream, L.I., store in order to thwart the organizing drive there.
The unfair labor practice charges, lodged by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500 with the National Labor Relations Board office in Brooklyn, contend the retailer engaged in at least 10 illegal actions since the union began organizing workers several months ago.
In one instance, managers “implicitly threatened” the store would close if they supported the union, the filing alleges. In another case, it claims a supervisor threatened to fire employees if they spoke about the union.
The union also alleges workers have been prevented from discussing their employment on social networking sites, that they have been interrogated about their union activity and that they have been told their union activity was under surveillance.
The filing comes as the retailer and union jockey for support from the 260 workers eligible to vote in a June 17 election. If the workers vote to join UFCW Local 1500, the Valley Stream store would be the first Target in the country to be unionized.
Alvin Blyer, the Brooklyn regional director of the NLRB, said his office had just received the charge and had not yet investigated it.
A spokeswoman for Target said the company “follows all local, state and federal laws.” She said the company has not received any complaint from the NLRB about the Valley Stream store, and therefore can’t comment on specific claims the union is making. “However, we believe that we have followed the policies and procedures” of the NLRB, the spokeswoman said.
“We believe it is important to provide our team members with the time and opportunity to gather all of the information they need to make this important decision in private,” she added.
The campaign in Valley Stream is part of a broader effort to organize workers at all 27 Target stores in the metropolitan area, including 10 in New York City. The union’s focus has been on the Long Island store, where workers approached Local 1500 several months ago complaining about low wages and too few hours.
Since then, workers say management has waged an aggressive campaign to get them to vote against the union. Sonia Williams, a 53-year-old overnight clerk who has worked at the store for nine years, said she was called into a meeting with a manager who told her she had to stop talking to coworkers about the union.
“She said, ‘It’s been brought to our attention you’ve been soliciting team members,’” Ms. Williams recalled. “Why is it OK for managers to talk to us and tell us to vote no, and I can’t tell anybody to vote yes?”
Ms. Williams said that workers are given a new piece of anti-union literature each day. One read: “Will the store close if the union gets in? There are no guarantees…The union has a terrible record of store closings.” All of the literature ends with “Vote No.”
Jeffrey Braff, a partner at Cozen O’Connor who has represented retailers fighting union organizing campaigns, said the handout itself was probably not against the law, as it doesn’t explicitly say the store would close. But he said the NLRB under President Barack Obama has been more labor-friendly than under former President George W. Bush and that it could take issue with the flyer.
He said employers facing a union election should sit supervisors down and explain what they are and are not allowed to do. They should shy away from surveillance, interrogation and threats, but err on the side of being more aggressive, he added.
“I’d rather have an unfair labor practice because you’re trying to get your message out than lose the election because you’re sitting on your hands and being overly cautious,” Mr. Braff said.
If the charges are proven and the union loses the election, the NLRB could order a do-over, but Mr. Braff said reruns typically turn out in favor of the employer.
Caution doesn’t appear to be an issue in Valley Stream. Tashawna Green, a 21-year-old sales floor worker, said supervisors are pulling employees into one-on-one meetings. “They keep telling us about dues and stores closing because of the union,” she said. “It’s been very intimidating.”
Leaders of the campaign say workers are scared they’ll lose their jobs, but that they are working hard to counter Target’s strategy.
“We’re reaching out to them to stand strong,” Ms. Green said. “We’re telling them they have to listen to both sides of the story. And they are standing strong.”Entire contents ©2011 Crain Communications Inc.
Burma Recognizes The Rights To Unionize And To Strike ! http://newish.info/74167-burma-recognizes-the-rights-to-unionize-and-to-strike
If I count the faces, I’ll lose my nerve. I know there’s more than fifteen and less than thirty. I can’t read their emotions. I think I might see panic, fear, distrust, and I know that I see anger. I know little about these people with the vast array of facial expressions other than they were recently fired for little or no reason, probably never graduated high school, don’t really speak English, and that they’re undocumented.
Someone asks what their “rights” are. I explain to them that the state of California has some of the most progressive labor laws in the country. I explain that they are entitled to breaks and lunches, depending on hours worked, and that they’re also entitled to a minimum wage. I tell them that they have a right to compensation had they been injured at work.
However, this means nothing to them. Their employers’ break and overtime violations went unreported because the workers didn’t know they could appeal them. Besides, the one successful lawsuit against their employer for break violations that didn’t even cover all affected employees was hardly a drop in the bucket in the face of the company’s multi-million dollar profits. After paying their paltry fine, they went right back to disregarding labor laws.
“No one’s standing there at the border when you cross explaining all of your rights as an illegal alien,” snaps someone in the crowd. “Besides, even if they never broke a law other than hiring a mojado, don’t they owe us some compensation? Some severance?”
I am intimidated by them, but I am also infinitely frustrated by our failed union organizing attempts due to their apathy and the company’s ability to buy their loyalty. I squint to see where the voice came from. I identify her as one of the women who refused to have anything to do with us during our latest attempt to unionize her now ex-workplace.
“How many years did you work there?” I ask her.
“15,” she barks.
“And how many years did you receive pay?”
“15,” she repeats, slower, quieter.
“So what does the company owe you?” I pose.
I can hear my voice echo an empty response to my stupid question. Someone shuffles in their chair. I immediately feel like a bitch for answering this tired, probably impoverished woman in the same way her employer would have likely answered her.
“Look,” I tell the group. “California has some of the most progressive labor laws in the country. Still, there’s no chance of getting your jobs back or even any sort of severance pay because the laws don’t call for it. Had you all been union members and under contract, we could have done something.”
But they don’t need to hear this ‘I told you so’ speech. I know what they’re thinking. It’s fucking hard to unionize, especially if you’re undocumented and scared. This company has fired, bribed, demoted, promoted, transferred, threatened, and reported to immigration authorities all manner of employees who have in the past been suspected of or turned in for unionizing.
So I invite them to an immigrants’ rights group meeting where they can discuss possibilities with trustworthy lawyers, DREAMers, and worker centers. I ask any interested volunteers who want to help with organizing attempts at the company to see me after the meeting. But let’s face it, these people don’t have the time or will to volunteer for shit. They’re job-hunting, which as difficult as it is for a well-equipped, well-off and well-enculturated college graduate to do, is even more difficult for an undocumented immigrant. Scratch “more difficult”. It’s potentially dangerous and detrimental to the unity of their families.
I drive home and sink into my couch, knowing that the things that most concern me (losing ten pounds, getting a new phone, talking down my gym fees, making sure I call my mother at least once a week) are fucking laughable and petty in the face of the things that most concern them (feeding their kids, paying their rent, not getting scammed by corrupt employers or lawyers, not getting kicked out of the country).
I watch a re-run of Portlandia. The hipsters ask if their chicken is organic, where it grew up, if it had a name and some friends. I distantly wonder what would happen if I politely asked the waiter at the next restaurant I eat at, “What can you tell me about the people who harvested this produce? Were they fairly compensated? Paid when injured at work? Deported? Their names, their kids’ names?”
HELP ME PLEASE
In short, I’m doing GISHWHES. If any of you could sign the petition attached in the following link I’d be forever grateful. It honestly will only take a minute!
Team SuperWhoLocker needs YOU!