New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote recently that if you’re blaming robots for low wages, you’re wrong. He said, “From an economic point of view, a robot is anything that uses technology to do work formerly done by human beings... And robots in that sense have been transforming our economy literally for centuries.” Instead it’s the decline of unions that’s eroded pay. “Consider the case of trucking, which used to be a good job but now pays a third less than it did in the 1970s, with terrible working conditions,” he wrote. And that’s largely attributable to de-unionization.
Unionization doesn’t eliminate all problems, as we well know. “Nineteen workers at a United Parcel Service distribution center in Ohio are suing their employer, claiming management at the facility ‘enabled, tolerated, and purposefully promoted and encouraged a culture of racism and racially discriminatory conduct’,” wrote USA Today. Some of the Black plaintiffs had been at UPS for over 20 years, and the suit details a pattern of racist incidents that they had seen or experienced at the Maumee distribution center.
Organize every sector. That’s what’s happening at Stone Creek Coffee in Milwaukee where some 140 “baristas, roasters, production workers, delivery drivers, bakers and others,” are voting on whether to join Teamsters Local 344, said the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Some employees of Stone Creek have been unhappy with wages, which start at $8 an hour for baristas, along with shift scheduling and other issues.”
For 20 years, 82 year old Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika ran the country, until a mass movement, led by trade unions, forced him to step down. Algeria depends heavily on petroleum and, according to Middle East Monitor, “An official in the energy sector indicated that workers in the country’s largest natural gas field went on a strike on Sunday to protest against the extension of Bouteflika’s fourth mandate.” When the current government offered up its own candidate, “Thirteen independent trade unions in Algeria have refused to support the efforts of newly-appointed Prime Minister Noureddine Badawi.”
The Burrito Factory, a San Jose restaurant chain had been cheating its workers for years, said NBC News. In 2017, the California Labor Commissioner’s Office, “found workers at the restaurant were allegedly receiving less than minimum wage through inadequate pay for overtime and split shifts. The restaurant also did not provide legally mandated meal breaks, paid workers in cash and did not keep accurate payroll records.” The result has been a $1 million settlement, payable to 239 workers. California Labor Secretary Julie Su said, “The message is clear: compliance with labor standards in California is not optional.”
(Photo from Middle East Monitor)