The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Work News for the Week Ending August 14

by Brendan Coyne

Our weekly rundown of workers' rights, union and wage stories... @ Union embraces day laborers @ Fatal job injuries increase @ Calif. paid sick day mandate @ Wal-Mart's controversial pay raise @ Flight attendants postpone strike @ Study debunks immigrant worker myth

AFL-CIO embraces day laborers

The nation’s largest day laborer network and the largest umbrella union announced plans last week to partner on a number of issues, including immigration reform, workplace health and safety, and workers’ rights.

Under the agreement between the AFL-CIO and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), the two organizations will coordinate efforts to ensure wage, workplace safety and other labor laws are enforced fairly at the local and state level, according to a joint statement released Wednesday. In addition, the new partnership plans to work toward “comprehensive immigration reform,� but, outside of calling for a path to citizenship and non-punitive legislation, the groups have not yet offered any concrete strategies.

The deal does not provide a path by which day laborers can join a union. By contrast, Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) announced plans last Thursday to begin organizing day laborers engaged in construction and related work in California. The organizing drive, which NDLON supports, is aimed at giving some of the nation’s most marginalized workers LIUNA representation.

As The NewStandard reported earlier this year, the first ever nationwide study of day laborers found that their jobs are often marked by harassment, threats, low pay and dangerous tasks.

Fatal job injuries increased for at-risk workers in 2005, data shows

Despite a slight dip in fatal workplace injuries in 2005, deaths among at-risk and marginal workers continued to climb, according to Labor Department data released last week. In total, 5,702 workers were killed at work last year, only 44 fewer than in 2004, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), marking 2005 the third least-deadly year for workers since the agency began reporting workers’ deaths in 1992.

Blacks, Latinos, immigrants, children and other lower-income workers saw workplace injury rates jump, while the overall rate dropped slightly, BLS reported.

Fifteen more Hispanic and Latino workers were killed on the job in 2005 as compared to 2004. Thirty one more blacks were killed at work in 2005 than in 2004, and 166 workers under nineteen years of age lost their lives – an 18 percent jump from the 2004 report.

Transportation, mining, construction and agriculture-related occupations accounted for 64 percent of all reported workplace fatalities in 2005.

Paid sick day mandate qualifies for San Fran ballot

Pending voter approval, San Francisco may become the first city in the country to require employers to provide their employees with paid time off for illness.

Under a measure to come before city voters this November, companies doing business in San Francisco will have to give workers at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. In addition, workers would be permitted to use the days to care for sick family members or significant others. The law would not affect pre-existing workplace policies that meet the minimum requirements, but it would supercede collective bargaining agreements that do not.

Four city supervisors co-sponsored the initiative, which a coalition of community and labor groups kicked off last month. It is opposed by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

Critics: Wal-Mart’s starting pay raise falls short

Wal-Mart stores announced plans last week to bump starting pay by an average 6 percent at about 1,200 stores nationwide – leaving over two-thirds of its stores unaffected. In addition, the increase is accompanied by a tiered compensation cap that will leave many long-time employees without prospects for a raise.

The plan, which the retail behemoth announced last Monday, came quickly under fire by Wal-Mart’s critics. In a statement released shortly after the company’s announcement, Paul Blank, campaign director for the union-backed group Wake Up Wal-Mart, termed the wage shuffling a “publicity stunt.� He said the wage caps will force experienced workers to seek employment elsewhere rather than continue a career with the company, which is prioritizing a “low pay, part-time work force.�

According to the store’s proxy public relations arm, WalMartFacts.com, workers at the top of their pay rate can apply for higher paying positions within the company if they want a pay increase.

Alleged terror plot forces Northwest flight attendants to hold off on job actions

Citing security concerns raised by the apparent foiling of an alleged plot to simultaneously blow up several planes flying from England to the US, the union representing flight attendants employed by Northwest Airlines extended a recently issued strike deadline Friday

In a statement, Mollie Reiley, interim head of the Association of Flight Attendants’ Northwest Airlines branch, said the new deadline will be August 25. At the beginning of the month, the union notified bankrupt Northwest of plans to initiate its trademarked job action, Create Havoc Around Our System (CHAOS), on August 15.

Last month, a bankruptcy court judge ruled that the airline could impose contract terms on its attendants despite the union having previously rejected them. After the union announced its intent to act, Northwest sought a court injunction barring a strike. The court held a hearing on the matter last Wednesday but has yet to issue a ruling, the Associated Press reported.

“We must give our immediate attention and vigilance to all safety and security procedures at this time,� Reilly said. “However, we renew our commitment to a fair contract and stand ready to engage in CHAOS if Northwest management is unwilling to reach a fair agreement that fully recognizes our role and our value as safety and security professionals.�

Study debunks job-stealing immigrant worker myth

The long-held and loudly voiced impression that immigrant workers take jobs away from native-born workers is not supported by facts, the Pew Hispanic Center reported last week.

According to a study conducted by the non-partisan research organization, an influx of immigrant workers does not lead to job losses or higher unemployment rates among workers born in the US.

“An analysis of the relationship between growth in the foreign-born population and the employment outcomes of native-born workers revealed wide variations across the 50 states and the District of Columbia,� the report found. “No consistent pattern emerges to show that native-born workers suffered or benefited from increased numbers of foreign-born workers.�

The study used state-level Census Bureau information. It did not examine claims that low-skilled immigrant workers depress wages of native-born workers.

The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.


This News Digest originally appeared in the August 14, 2006 edition of The NewStandard.
Brendan Coyne is a contributing journalist.

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