September, 2015

Union, Yes: Unions Help Kids in Our Communities

Unions-Help-Children-Move-Up-LadderA new study shows yet another benefit of unions you may not be aware of: The New York Times this week wrote about a study that “suggests that unions may also help children move up the economic ladder.”

The paper–written by researchers at Harvard, Wellesley and the Center for American Progress–essentially finds that children born into low-income families have a greater chance of ascending “to higher incomes in metropolitan areas where union membership is higher.”

The Times article points out that it seems that no other link to upward mobility is as strong as the one found in the study. It’s also another reason why the decline in union membership is so troubling.

Beyond the effect of unionization on parents’ wages, the researchers found that this trend is also attributed to the fact that “unions are effective at pushing the political system to deliver policies — like a higher minimum wage and greater spending on schools and other government programs — that broadly benefit workers.” Perhaps the best and most recent examples of this are seen in San Francisco, Seattle, and New York, where the minimum wage has been raised significantly.

And the correlation between increased union membership and increased income earning percentile for children doesn’t just apply to children in the lowest percentile, but children of all households.

Interestingly, the study also found that “children with fathers who belong to a union have significantly higher wages than children who don’t. But when it’s the mother who belongs to a union, only the wages of daughters rise.”

When trying to determine why, the Times notes that “it’s possible that the explanation is sociological: Daughters with a mother who belongs to a union may be more likely to work themselves, which means they’re more likely to have higher wages. Or, put differently, union membership is helping to change social norms.”

What norms are unions changing exactly? “Giving workers a greater sense of agency.” That sense, that union workers have the power to speak out if they are mistreated, then spreads to their peers.

Richard B. Freeman, one of the study’s authors, summarizes the takeaway nicely: “things that have a small effect at the individual level can have a larger aggregate effect.”

FORMER WALMART WORKERS LAUNCH SECOND LEGAL ACTION AGAINST COMPANY

12002035_1109405492420680_8214577125137660520_nYesterday, former Walmart workers, with the help of the UFCW, Making Change at Walmart, and OUR Walmart, announced at a press conference that they had filed a second charge against Walmart with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regarding the retaliatory closing of the Pico Rivera, Calif., Walmart store. In the charge, workers allege that they were discriminated against in the transfer process due to their participation in protests for better wages, hours and working conditions.

“When Walmart closed our store, I knew it was because we had been leading the nationwide movement for $15 an hour and access to full-time, consistent hours,” said Jenny Mills, a nine-year Walmart worker who was listed on the charge. “Seeing who they did and did not transfer just reaffirmed that. Walmart intentionally refused to transfer those of us who have been the most vocal in standing up for fair wages and hours. That’s simply not just a coincidence.”

The workers were joined at the conference by community leaders, clergy and city residents calling for the reinstatement of all 530 laid off Pico Rivera Walmart workers. Despite the fact that there are 45 Walmart stores within 20 miles of the closed Pico Rivera store, Walmart has failed to transfer the most vocal workers in the fight for $15 an hour and access to consistent, full-time hours since the closure back in April.

“The Walmart store in Pico Rivera has been a valuable contributor to our local economy. However, as a massively profitable company like Walmart knows, for a vibrant economy to grow, people need a steady paycheck,” said Pico Rivera Mayor Gregory Salcido. “That’s why I’m urging Walmart to reinstate the 530 employees it laid off as soon as the store reopens. These families are an important part of our community and our economy. I’m hopeful that by working together, we can help our businesses and our families thrive.”

“Punishing workers by denying them a livelihood in this fashion isn’t only legally wrong; it’s morally wrong,” said Rabbi Jonathan Klein, Executive Director of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice. “Brave workers entitled to a better life for their families now face spirit- and body-crushing stress because of Walmart’s unconscionable choice. We cannot let such injustices prevail. We must hear the voices of those fighting for what is right.”

Walmart Workers Protest Store Closures, Retaliation

WM CEO ProtestOn August 24, Walmart workers and supports protested outside of the Walmart store in Oakland, Calif., where Walmart CEO Doug McMillon was expected to be making a store visit. While McMillon never showed up, the protestors called on him to stop retaliation against workers who speak out about low wages and unfair working conditions at Walmart. The workers involved in the protest included some from the Pico Rivera store – one of five stores that Walmart abruptly closed last April for alleged “plumbing problems,” laying off more than 2,000 workers with just hours’ notice.

Denise Barlage, who worked at the now closed Pico Rivera, Calif., store said, “We need reinstatement of all Pico workers. I told the manager, I’m sure you’re a nice guy, but you should never feel that you can’t be downsized as well.”

Margaret Hooten who works at the Placerville, Calif., Walmart store said, “I support unjustly fired people. I’m not going away.”

The Pico Rivera, Calif., store that Walmart closed was one of the most vocal in the fight for $15/hr and respect on the job. It was the first store to ever go on strike back in 2012. More recently, workers from that store held sit-down strikes and even participated in civil disobedience.