Labor Roundup | December 2019

National Labor Relations Board plans to ban RAs, TAs from unionizing, and activists such as Princeton University Research Assistant Hrishikesh Somayaji are protesting.

“We simply need a union to be able to bargain for the rights that we deserve as workers, so that we can do what we came here to do, which is to perform great research and contribute to the span of human knowledge and accomplishment. We can’t do this otherwise,” Somayaji wrote to the NLRB.

Since the NLRB released its plan in October, more than 1,500 RAs and TAs have objected, and the number is growing.
The NLRB has gone back and forth about their labor rights. Democratic board majorities called them “employees” under labor law; GOP majorities said they’re “students” and their stipends are financial aid.

Trump’s Republican board majority wants to prohibit unionization again, also making it a more powerful federal rule instead of an NLRB ruling.

“Graduate students should be legally recognized as employees as they provide irreplaceable labor that allows modern universities to run,” wrote Hannah Scupham, who’s taught writing and research methods to at least 250 University of Kansas undergrads. “Without my labor as an employee, the students … would not have learned the basic skills required.”

TAs and RAs at public and private universities – who are low-paid, non-tenured, overworked and exploited – turned to the Teachers, the Teamsters and the Auto Workers, among others, for protection and a say on the job.

Elsewhere, faculty at the University of New Mexico’s five campuses recently voted to unionize with the Teachers union, and Oregon State University workers represented by the Service Employees authorized a strike.

The nation’s largest union for federal workers is publishing a secret 19-page administration memo detailing how President Trump and his supporters plan to systematically destroy federal unions, and private-sector workers and unions are next, the memo promises.

The memo by Trump White House aide James Sherk, formerly with the Right-wing Heritage Foundation, is being posted and analyzed on the American Federation of Government Employees’ website [], showing plans to ban unionizing by the country’s 45,000 airport screeners, the Defense Department’s 200,000 civilian workers, hundreds of thousands of workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and workers at the Department of Homeland Security and the federal Office of Personnel Management.

“The memo, laced with familiar half-truths and outright lies, is proof AFGE has been right all along in saying the administration’s true goal in making changes to personnel rules is to ‘end collective bargaining’ in the federal sector,” the union states. “It’s right there in their own words.

“It details steps to boost corporations’ profits by cutting workers’ overtime pay and redefining workers as ‘independent contractors’” who can’t unionize. “It explains ways to shield mega-corporations from being liable for workers’ poor working conditions in franchises.”

News Guild on the way to another win, in Vancouver, Wash. Staffers at the Vancouver (Wash.) Columbian recently posted a 70-percent victory on union-recognition cards to join the Pacific Media Guild, focusing on improving the newspaper and increasing pay.

It’s the latest newspaper union victory, along with the Miami Herald, Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune.

AFA’S Nelson gets top consumer award. Sara Nelson, fiery president of the Association of Flight Attendants/CWA, recently received the nation’s top consumer award, The Trumpeter, from the labor-backed National Consumers League, which honors leaders “who are not afraid to speak out for social justice and the rights of consumers and workers.”

NCL Director Sally Greenberg said, “No one fits that better than Nelson, a rising star in the labor movement who fights every day for working families.”

Communications Workers of America makes passing PRO Act a litmus test for endorsements. The board of the CWA last month unanimously voted to make supporting the Protecting the Right to Organizing (PRO) Act a requirement for incumbent politicians to get a CWA endorsement.

“The stakes have never been higher in this election for workers,” CWA President Chris Shelton said. “All incumbent House and Senate candidates seeking the support of CWA members who are gearing up to knock on thousands of doors, make phone calls, and get out the vote must fight to pass this crucial piece of legislation. Our future depends on it.”

The PRO Act would give workers more power to win better wages, benefits and working conditions. It will protect strikers, make it easier for workers to join unions, prevent the misclassification of workers as independent contractors, deal a blow to “right-to-work” laws, and more.

News briefs courtesy of The Labor Paper

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