Thousands of Furloughed Federal Workers File for Unemployment Benefits

From today’s New York Times:

On the second day of the year, Danielle Miller gave up on the federal government.

Furloughed from her Internal Revenue Service job near Cincinnati and fearful of running out of money during the partial government shutdown, she filed for unemployment benefits: $414 a week, about $200 less than usual.

“Once Christmas came and went, after New Year’s, I was like, I can’t go on,” said Ms. Miller, a single mother who has worked for the I.R.S. for almost 14 years. She spent part of this week calculating when her first unemployment check would arrive. “It’s disappointing, and it’s frustrating,” she said. “I have a job.”

The shutdown, the longest on record, is prompting tens of thousands of federal employees to seek jobless benefits. As the impasse meanders through its fourth week and more bills come due, their numbers have been growing.

On Thursday, two days after the White House doubled its projections and warned that the shutdown was reducing quarterly economic growth by 0.13 percentage points per week, the Labor Department reported 10,454 initial claims by federal workers for the week that ended Jan. 5, doubling the previous week’s figure. Thousands more have applied since, state officials said.

Read the complete article here.

First teachers’ strike in 30 years leaves half a million L.A. students in limbo

From today’s Los Angeles Times:

With umbrellas in one hand and picket signs in the other, Los Angeles teachers braved cold, drizzly weather Monday morning as they walked off the job in their first strike in 30 years to demand smaller class sizes, more support staff at schools and better pay.

L.A. teachers go on strike

“Let’s be clear, educators don’t want to strike,” United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl said to a crowd of supporters during a morning news conference at John Marshall High School in Los Feliz. “We don’t want to miss time with our students. We don’t want to have less money for the car payment or less money for the school supplies that we always end up buying ourselves.”

The strike became inevitable when negotiations broke off late Friday afternoon between the L.A. Unified School District and the teachers union after more than 20 months of bargaining.

Schools are open during the strike, but it’s not clear how many students will head to classes in the nation’s second-largest school system. Staffers at some schools said attendance appeared to be low Monday, but official numbers were not immediately available.

During the last teachers’ strike, about half of the district’s students went to school. The plan at many schools for this strike is to gather students into large groups so they can be supervised by fewer adults. It’s not clear how much learning will be going on outside of the real-time civics lessons happening on the sidewalks.

Read the complete article here.

Interactive Map: Government Shutdown Is Affecting Federal Workers in All States

From today’s New York Times:

About 800,000 federal workers are furloughed or working without pay across the country because of the government shutdown, many of them concentrated in the West.

Over all, federal workers account for about 1.5 percent of the country’s labor force, with a fifth of them in the Washington metro area. But the shutdown has hit some agencies — and states — harder than others.

Outside the capital, states with large numbers of workers for the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior are more likely to feel the shutdown’s effects. And nearly the entire staff of the Environmental Protection Agency is furloughed, including hundreds of workers in North Carolina and Illinois.

A budget agreement to end the shutdown remains the subject of a fierce partisan fight in Congress, with federal workers caught in the middle. Some senators who count these workers among their constituents are pushing for an end to the impasse, but federal employment does not appear to have a clear relationship to lawmakers’ positions on the shutdown.

Read the complete article here.

Pence and Cabinet Members Are Due a Raise, as Federal Workers Go Unpaid

From today’s New York Times

Vice President Mike Pence, members of the cabinet and other high-ranking political appointees in the Trump administration are positioned to receive a pay bump of about $10,000 a year even as 800,000 federal employees are entering their third week without paychecks.

The increases are the result of Congress’s failure to renew a longstanding freeze on raises for high-ranking officials and political appointees. An extension of the freeze was included in the spending bills funding multiple government agencies that were not acted on before the expiration of the 115th Congress on Thursday.

That has created an unexpected optics issue for the Trump administration: While correctional officers, Transportation Security Administration agents, and other federal employees work without pay during the government shutdown, Mr. Pence’s annual salary could jump to $243,500 from $230,700. Cabinet secretaries who are paid $199,700 a year could see their annual pay rise to $210,700.

The administration appeared to be aware of the perception problem, and hoped to avoid it. Asked at his news conference on Friday if he would freeze the raises during the shutdown, President Trump said he “might consider that.” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, later explained that the administration was “exploring options to prevent this from being implemented while some federal workers are furloughed” and described the situation as “another unnecessary byproduct of the shutdown” that she said could be remedied by Congress.

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L.A. teachers set to strike Jan. 10. Union says it has no plans for more negotiating

From today’s Los Angeles Times:

A labor agreement is not the only thing dividing the Los Angeles Unified School District and its teachers. One missing element crucial to coming together on a contract deal — and averting a strike — is trust.

L.A. teachers set to strike Jan. 10. Union says it has no plans for more negotiating

On Wednesday, the union representing Los Angeles teachers announced that its 31,000 members will walk out Jan. 10 and that it has no plans to return to the negotiating table.

The union announcement came one day after L.A. schools Supt. Austin Beutner portrayed his side as the reasonable party in the dispute and said he was willing to negotiate around the clock.

The two sides appear to agree on very little.

Union leaders seem certain that those running L.A. Unified have a secret plan to dismantle traditional public education in Los Angeles. District officials seem just as certain that the union has always been determined to strike, even before negotiations began.

The district declares itself in financial straits too dire to meet many union demands. The union says there is money available.

Read the complete article here.

New Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Would Remedy Decades of Injustice

From The Nation Magazine:

There are about 2 million domestic workers in the country, a workforce that is only growing larger as baby boomers age and millennials have children. But despite the size of the workforce and the importance of the work it performs, domestic workers are excluded from basic workplace protections and face rampant abuse and exploitation. Eight states and Seattle have passed bills of domestic-worker rights that extend some of these protections, but outside of those places, domestic workers labor in people’s homes with little recourse if they get hurt or taken advantage of.

That could change under legislation that was just unveiled in Congress. On Wednesday, Senator Kamala Harris and Representative Pramila Jayapal announced a federal bill of rights for domestic workers, the first-ever nationwide legislation that would extend working rights to domestic workers and offer them financial stability and safety. The bill would ensure that domestic workers are covered by some basic labor laws: the right to overtime pay when they put in more than 40 hours a week, to the protections of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, to form unions, and to recourse against harassment and discrimination. It also extends new ones, such as the right to meal and rest breaks, paid sick days, advanced notice of scheduling, written agreements, and privacy and other protections for live-in workers.

As of 2012, domestic workers made less than $11 an hour at the median, while nearly a quarter were paid less than their state’s minimum wage. They very rarely get health insurance or retirement benefits from work. Their schedules are usually dictated by their employer’s whims and wishes, even when this interferes with sleeping and eating. Rates of injury are high, as are incidents of discrimination and harassment.

Read the complete article here.

Sex Workers Say Incel Campaign to Report Them to IRS Won’t Work

From today’s Rolling Stone Magazine:

A few angry men on the internet have launched a campaign encouraging others to report sex workers to the IRS for failing to report income they make online, claiming they’ll get a cut of any back taxes collected as a reward for being “whistleblowers.” The campaign, dubbed the “Thot Audit,” is circulating around misogynist “men’s rights” and incel (involuntary celibate) circles on Twitter and Reddit along with a lot of anti-women, anti-sex worker rhetoric. Sure, it’s cruel — but does it pose a real threat?

“I’m not concerned about being reported,” says Rachel, who works as a financial dominatrix. “The IRS is not only heavily overburdened, I’d be shocked to find someone had even one-sixteenth of the necessary information to file form 3949-A [the form used to report another person for non-payment].”

“The presence of any kind of real threat here seems to be mitigated by people who are more interested in being granted some kind of permission to harass sex workers,” she says. “Boredom will inevitably set in, and the ‘thot audit’ campaign will be put to bed soon.”

Christopher Kirk, a tax attorney who works with sex workers and other alternative communities, agrees that this is likely an empty threat.

“I don’t think that cam girls and other online sex workers are at a very high risk of being audited as a result of this harassment campaign,” he says. “The IRS requires rather detailed information from whistleblowers, including, at the very least, the taxpayer’s legal name and location. While some cam girls and other online sex workers may operate under their legal name, I doubt many do.”

“Moreover,” Kirk says, “the Service wants actionable information about significant tax issues, not guesses, and the program is not a forum for people with an ax to grind. Because the incel trolls engaging in the #thotaudit campaign likely have no idea whether their targets file taxes or report the income from their online work, I don’t think it likely that such reporting will actually trigger an audit.”

He says the best way for sex workers to protect themselves is to file their taxes, reporting their income as accurately as possible, and keeping receipts for any business expenses so they have a paper trail if they ever do get audited.

Read the complete article here.

G.M. to Idle Plants, Cutting Thousands of Jobs in North America as Sales Slow

From today’s New York Times:

General Motors announced Monday that it planned to idle five factories in North America and cut roughly 14,000 jobs in a bid to trim costs. It was a jarring reflection of the auto industry’s adjustment to changing consumer tastes and sluggish sales.

The move, which follows job reductions by Ford Motor Company, further pares the work force in a sector that President Trump had promised to bolster. Referring to G.M.’s chief executive, Mary T. Barra, he told reporters, “I spoke to her and I stressed the fact that I am not happy with what she did.”

Mr. Trump also invoked the rescue of G.M. after its bankruptcy filing almost a decade ago. “You know, the United States saved General Motors,” he told reporters, “and for her to take that company out of Ohio is not good. I think she’s going to put something back in soon.”

In addition to an assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio, the cuts affect factories in Michigan, Maryland and the Canadian province of Ontario.

Part of the retrenchment is a response to a slowdown in new-car salesthat has prompted automakers to slim their operations and shed jobs. And earlier bets on smaller cars have had to be unwound as consumers have gravitated toward pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles as a result of low gasoline prices.

In addition, automakers have paid a price for the trade battle that Mr. Trump set in motion. In June G.M. slashed its profit outlook for the year because tariffs were driving up production costs, raising prices even on domestic steel. Rising interest rates are also generating headwinds.

Read the complete article here.

As Immigrant Farmworkers Become More Scarce, Robots Replace Humans

From today’s New York Times:

As a boy, Abel Montoya remembers his father arriving home from the lettuce fields each evening, the picture of exhaustion, mud caked knee-high on his trousers. “Dad wanted me to stay away from manual labor. He was keen for me to stick to the books,” Mr. Montoya said. So he did, and went to college.

Yet Mr. Montoya, a 28-year-old immigrant’s son, recently took a job at a lettuce-packing facility, where it is wet, loud, freezing — and much of the work is physically taxing, even mind-numbing.

Now, though, he can delegate some of the worst work to robots.

Mr. Montoya is among a new generation of farmworkers here at Taylor Farms, one of the world’s largest producers and sellers of fresh-cut vegetables, which recently unveiled a fleet of robots designed to replace humans — one of the agriculture industry’s latest answers to a diminishing supply of immigrant labor.

The smart machines can assemble 60 to 80 salad bags a minute, double the output of a worker.

Enlisting robots made sound economic sense, Taylor Farms officials said, for a company seeking to capitalize on Americans’ insatiable appetite for healthy fare at a time when it cannot recruit enough people to work in the fields or the factory.

Read the complete article here.

Google workers worldwide walk off job to protest its treatment of women

From today’s Los Angeles Times:

Carrying signs with messages such as “Don’t be evil,” Google employees around the world are walking off the job Thursday in a protest against what they said is the tech company’s mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations against executives.

Employees staged walkouts at offices from Tokyo to Singapore to London to Chicago. Hundreds protested outside Google’s office in New York, and others were expected to do so in California later in the day.

In Dublin, organizers used megaphones to address the crowd of men and women to express their support for victims of sexual harassment. Other workers shied away from the media spotlight, with people gathering instead indoors, in packed conference rooms or lobbies, to show their solidarity with abuse victims.

Protesters in New York carried signs with such messages as “Not OK Google” and the company’s onetime motto, “Don’t be evil.” Many employees outside Google’s New York offices cited job security in refusing to talk.

In an unsigned statement from organizers, sent from a company account, protesters called for an end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination. They also want Google to commit to ending pay inequity and to create a publicly disclosed sexual harassment report and a clearer process for reporting complaints.

Read the complete article here.