Labor Roundup | December 2018

The U.S. Agriculture Department planned to speed up poultry plant production four years ago after lobbying by big poultry processors, endangering 250,000 workers and potentially putting sick chickens on consumers’ plates. But labor protested, and the USDA backed down. In October, the Trump administration re-started the scheme, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), and the Government Employees union (AFGE) is protesting again.
NELP – whose attorneys defend exploited poultry processing workers (many of them foreign-born, women and minorities) – is also resisting, along with the labor-backed National Consumers League.

NELP Worker Safety and Health Director Debbie Berkowitz, a former senior Occupational Safety and Health Administration official, blew the whistle on Trump’s USDA.

“Overwhelming evidence supports the conclusion that allowing poultry-processing plants to operate with faster line speeds than allowable by law is inconsistent with the USDA’s waiver regulation, undermines the rule, and most of all, endangers both workers and consumers,” she said.

The News Guild is fighting sudden layoffs at Bloomberg’s Bureau of National Affairs where 46 workers and supervisors lost their jobs. However, Washington-Baltimore Local 32035 said when 17 union members were told to leave, 14 non-union BNA workers signed union cards.

“The Guild is providing representation to every employee and is investigating the circumstances to ensure that the contract is being followed in each case,” unit chair Laura Francis said. “We will make everyone aware of the details when they become available. Just know the Guild is working to ensure everyone’s rights are protected during this process.”

“Donald Trump is waging a regulatory war the likes of which we’ve never seen” against workers and consumers, U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., says.

“We’re at a particularly dangerous time,” Markey told a meeting of the National Consumer League. “While Donald Trump may think NCL stands for ‘neutering consumer laws,’ we know NCL means ‘never compromise liberties’.”

Quoting the ancient lawgiver Hammurabi, Markey added, “The purpose of the law is to protect the unprotected.”

Trump’s reign has been marked by a wide rollback of pro-worker, pro-consumer and pro-environment rules ranging from the elimination of worker safety and health rules and denial of human-caused climate change to changing “net neutrality” to let Internet providers discriminate among customers and rolling back civil rights protections, Markey noted.

“We have to intensify our efforts over the next two years, so that when our children look back in reference books, they’ll have trouble finding a page named for a president named Donald Trump,” he said.

Chicago labor advocate and neighborhood activist Alberto Bocanegra Jr. was killed in September after chasing a hit-and-run driver who’d struck a bicyclist riding in a group event on the city’s South Side. Bocanegra, 39, was also a Green Party candidate for City Alderman from the 15th Ward in 2011 and 2015, when he was endorsed by the likes of the Almalgamated Transit Union, which represents bus drivers, rail workers, mechanics and support staff at the Chicago Transit Authority.

“I have always been a strong ally and advocate for organized labor,” said Bocanegra, who was two months into his remission from leukemia.

News briefs courtesy of The Labor Paper

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