Some Retail Workers Find Better Deals With Unions

From NYT September 7 by Rachel Swarns:

By now, the hardships endured by retail workers at clothing stores across New York City are achingly familiar: the frantic scramble to get assigned enough hours to earn a living on painfully low wages; the ever-changing, on-call schedules that upend child care arrangements, college schedules and desperate efforts to find second jobs.

Workers and government officials around the country are increasingly pushing for change. But for an example of more humane workplaces, there is no need to jet to Sweden or Denmark or Mars. We need look no farther than Midtown Manhattan, no farther than Herald Square.

Ladies and gentlemen, step right onto the escalators and glide on up to the sixth floor. Allow me to introduce you to Debra Ryan, a sales associate in the Macy’s bedding department.

For more than two decades, Ms. Ryan has guided shoppers in the hunt for bedroom décor, helping them choose between medium-weight and lightweight comforters, goose-down and synthetic pillows, and sheets and blankets in a kaleidoscope of colors.

But here is what’s truly remarkable, given the current environment in retail: Ms. Ryan knows her schedule three weeks in advance. She works full time and her hours are guaranteed. She has never been sent home without pay because the weather was bad or too few customers showed up for a Labor Day sale on 300-thread-count sheets.

This is no fantasy. This is real life, in the heart of New York.

“I’m able to pay my rent, thank God, and go on vacation, at least once a year,” Ms. Ryan said. “There’s a sense of security.”

So what makes this Macy’s store so different? Its employees are represented by a union, which has insisted on stability in scheduling for its members. (Union workers enjoy similar scheduling arrangements at the Bloomingdale’s, H&M and Modell’s Sporting Goods stores in Manhattan.)

Now, I know the term “union” is a dirty word in some circles, even in this city, where labor still has considerable clout and has catapulted many workers into the middle class. But no one can deny that these union workers savor something that is all too rare in the retail industry right now: guaranteed minimum hours — for part-time and full-time employees — and predictable schedules.

This is no accident.

Read the entire article here.

NYC fast food workers stage walk out, fighting for rights to unionize

Dozens of fast food workers at some of the country’s largest chains, including McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Domino’s, walked off the job today in a coordinated campaign to highlight low wages and encourage unionization. The campaign is backed by community groups, civil rights groups, religious leaders, and a labor union, the Service Employees International Union.

Workers are protesting what they said are low wages and retaliation against those workers who have backed unionization among the thousands of fast food worker in New York City. Coordinators claim this is the first multi-restaurant strike by fast food workers in American history, and promised further action as unions make in-roads into the traditionally anti-union fast food industry.

Over the decades there have been efforts to unionize single fast-food restaurants or chains, but there has never before been an effort to unionize multiple restaurants at one time. The new campaign states advocates raising low wages and reducing the disparities of income inequality.

CUNY sociology professor Ruth Milkman said, “These jobs have extremely high turnover, so by the time you get around to organizing folks, they’re not on the job anymore.”

 

Storm wreckage to disrupt election

Election Day is just two days away. The cost of Hurricane Sandy to the region is estimated to be around $60 billion. While the clean up crawls forward, tensions in the Northeast are running at an all time high. Many officials are now stating publicly that this untimely storm has had and will have adverse and unexpected consequences for the outcome of the presidential race.

In New Jersey, Connecticut, and parts of New York, voters will find it more difficult than usual to cast a ballot. Widespread damage from the storm and a lack of basic services is creating an organizational nightmare for election officials who must find adequate polling stations and resources to accommodate voters. In New Jersey, which absorbed the storm surge along its coast, state officials are finding other, novel means for voters to cast their ballots. Gov. Chris Christie announced yesterday that displaced citizens, and those living in areas hardest hit by the storm, may be able to vote this year by email ballot, an extreme measure for what many see as extreme circumstances.

Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno of New Jersey said voters may find polling stations at military trucks dispersed across the state with “a well-situated national guardsman and a big sign saying, ‘Vote Here.’”

The disruption of mail services across the Northeastern states will also slow the election process. In addition to absentee and mail-in ballots that are either delayed or gone missing, election officials are bracing for a larger influx of paper ballots that must be counted. All of these post-storm consequences are likely to delay the counting of votes and the certification of elections.

Even thought the states most affected by the storm sit firmly in President Obama’s column, some pundits are predicting that lower than average voter turnout in this region, increasing the likelihood of splitting the electoral college and popular vote. That scenario has been a popular one touted in policy and media circles the last few weeks as the race between Obama and Romney closed to a dead heat.

The President has pulled head slightly in some of the important swing states, but close polls show that America is still a nation more divided than ever by partisan lines—even during a time of national crisis.

Sandy douses Northeast, disrupts markets, campaigns and polling

Last year, Hurricane Irene was promoted by meteorologists and media-hype as the “storm of the century” but failed to develop the promised punch. This year, Sandy did not fail to deliver. The Category I hurricane slammed into New Jersey and New York, causing heavy damage and widespread flooding. There were also power disruptions across several states, leaving millions without electricity. Public officials estimate it will take days, possibly weeks, to restore the power grid.

Parts of lower Manhattan remain underwater today, as the tidal surge from Sandy deluged the coasts of New York and New Jersey.

Meanwhile, financial markets faced an unscheduled interruption on Monday and Tuesday as Wall Street shut down to brace for Sandy’s onslaught. The emergency conditions also disrupted the election as President Obama left the campaign trail to return to Washington Sunday night. In the early hours of Monday morning he declared New Jersey and New York and other parts of the Northeast federal disaster areas, and issued executive orders to ensure FEMA acted quickly to provide states with much needed resources. Governors Chris Christie of New Jersey and Andrew Cuomo of New York praised the quick actions of President Obama and federal relief agencies.

The specter of Hurricane Katrina lurked in the background. The Bush Administration’s failure in 2005 to handle that crisis speedily and competently led to widespread criticism of both President Bush and FEMA. Former Gov. Mitt Romney is on the record stating that responsibility for large natural disasters should devolve on states and private actors, but that untenable position is viewed with skepticism and hostility in the face of large, regional disasters affecting multiple states.

Today, President Obama toured the heavily damaged region of New Jersey’s shoreline with Gov. Christie, leaving the campaigning to former President Clinton and others who have stepped up their efforts in the last week to get out the vote in key swing states such as Ohio and Florida. In addition to disrupting campaign events, the lasting damage of the hurricane will make polling impossible in some places before the election. Many pundits and pollsters alike are bemoaning this event, but the disruption of both financial markets and polling can also be viewed as a timely reminder that Americans can be bipartisan, especially during times of national crises.

It remains to be seen whether adequate power is restored and weather conditions permit voters to get to the polls on election day next Tuesday, raising concerns that the storm might tilt the election in favor of one candidate or another in some important states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio.

OWS attempts to shut down Stock Exchange, hundreds arrested

Hundreds of protesters marched on Wall Street early this morning to prevent traders, financiers, and technocrats from reaching their jobs at the Stock Exchange. So far, 100 people have been arrested as the Occupy Wall Street movement vows to keep up its visible presence in New York, highlighting the greed and injustice of the American financial and political system.

84-year-old Dorli Rainey was brutally pepper sprayed by Seattle police, and has become a symbol of the brutal tactics used by law enforcement to suppress democratic dissent.

Protesters clogged the streets around Wall Street, blocking traffic and halting people from reaching the Exchange. Police in riot gear moved in quickly, telling the marching crowds to disperse or face arrest. When dozens of people began sitting down in the intersections, they were quickly arrested. Similar protests and marches are scheduled to continue throughout cities across the nation.

The tactics of law enforcement have come under increasing scrutiny as video footage is leaked to the public and press, showing police pepper spraying and beating otherwise peaceful protesters. In Seattle, the police are being heavily criticized for unjustifiably using pepper spray and truncheons on its own citizens including 84-year-old Dorli Rainey, who has come to symbolize the protest movements nationwide.

As law enforcement moves to evict occupiers in cities across the country, more attention should focus on police tactics, which all too often rely on the brutalization of citizens and the violation of their civil liberties. The police are supposed to “serve and protect,” but their role in suppressing these democratic protests raises the question whether they have become an instrument for the wealthy and powerful to preserve the status quo. Mayors, police commissioners, and officers who are implicated in these brutal tactics should be held accountable for their actions.

NYPD clears Occupy Wall Street encampment, hundreds arrested

The truth hurts us all.

Acting on behalf of the wealthy and powerful interests of Wall Street, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended his decision to clear out Zuccotti Park, where protesters have staged a camp out that has captured the attention of the nation in order to highlight the injustices and inequities of American-style capitalism.

Mayor Bloomberg claimed that conditions in the park had become intolerable, and that “public health and safety” determined his decision. However, he also announced that the park would reopen tomorrow morning, raising doubts that the conditions of the encampment in the public park were to blame. More likely, Bloomberg’s close ties with Wall Street pressured the billionaire to use his official position to deny the Occupy Wall Street movement its constitutional right to peaceably assemble.

This is not the first time Bloomberg has used the coercive powers of the state, as well as the notorious tactics of the NYPD, to deny democratic protesters their constitutional rights on the streets of the Big Apple. In 2004 his administration and the NYPD came under fire for mishandling the Republican National Convention protests around Madison Square Garden. Thousands of people were arrested in broad and unjustified sweeps of the city streets under the guise that “law and order” must be imposed in order to provide security against the threat of terrorism.

Many of those arrested were either innocent bystanders watching the protests from sidewalks, or people out shopping, or New Yorker’s walking home from work. I was personally jailed 46 hours, first at Pier 57 where a bus terminal was turned into a holding pen, and then at the city’s notorious central jail called “the Tombs.” The New York Civil Liberties Union and National Lawyer’s Guild later launched a class action suit against the city, which has been bogged down in a legal quagmire. Hopefully, the Occupy Wall Street movement will receive much needed legal aid from the armies of unemployed lawyers who have lost their jobs because of the greedy fucking pricks running Wall Street, our country, and the global economy into the ground.

Occupy Wall Street is a small movement fronting a gigantic cause for the rest of us. Mayor Bloomberg and has now established a precedent that other cities are likely to follow. In the name of “public health and safety,” the constitutional rights of Americans to protest government incompetence and inaction concerning the causes and consequences of the recession will be ignored and undermined. In the name of cleaning up some shit on the sidewalks, they will be asked to tolerate more shit flowing downhill as their incomes shrink and profits flow uphill.

The use of state violence to deny this constitutional right is a gross injustice that Americans are likely to tolerate, leaving them vulnerable, yet again, to future collusions between the state and wealthy individuals in which they bear the costs, socially, economically, and politically.

What is to be done? #occupycongress