Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Gawking

As the push towards raising wages and forming organized labor aka unions to build better protections for the service industry workers led to the April 15th walk out in many cities to remind those of that need and in turn lead the never complaining Alec Baldwin to complain about blocking traffic, I was reminded of a few years ago "A day without a Mexican."

I do think we have a clear bias and discriminatory approach to who deserves better pay and working conditions.  As it is not just the issue of the hourly, its the scheduling problems, the need for clear opportunities for growth and the discontinuation of major corporations encouraging if not requiring their employees to avail themselves of public assistance.  Isn't the point of having a job avoiding such a need?

Then we have white collar. We don't realize that while many organized affiliations such as the AMA or ABA are lobbying organizations that act on behalf of their members in the same way labor unions do. They simply don't collectively bargain directly with employers as many were or are self employed and in turn have high salaries and secure professional outcomes.

But there are other white collar professions, Teachers who are conventionally unionized and in turn vilified for jobs that are increasingly low in pay and in turn becoming criminalized with the push towards testing and evaluations tied to the results.  That now seems to be something many have found common ground vs core on.

So when I read about this move to organize Gawker writers I was surprised. There is a push towards aggregate sites and this view of journalism as predominately freelance and in turn free.   Blogs are not free but I ask for donations, I know that most do as well or place ads to somehow provide some income to offset costs.    I have yet to see one donation and I don't expect any.  This is what it means to live in the sharing economy.

Journalists at Gawker Media’s Websites Are Planning to Unionize

SYDNEY EMBER
The New York Times
APRIL 16, 2015


Nick Denton, the founder of Gawker. Referring to the employees’ unionization plans, he said: “I’m intensely relaxed. We’ll see how the debate among the journalists plays out.”

The plans are in their early stages, but a blog post from one of Gawker’s senior writers said that some employees had been thinking of unionizing for some time."

Employees at Gawker Media, the parent company of websites like Gawker and Deadspin, are planning to unionize.

“Every workplace could use a union,” Hamilton Nolan, a senior writer for Gawker, wrote Thursday in a blog post announcing the move. “A union is the only real mechanism that exists to represent the interests of employees in a company.”

He added, “A union is also the only real mechanism that enables employees to join together to bargain collectively, rather than as a bunch of separate, powerless entities.”

Mr. Nolan, who has worked at Gawker since 2008, said in a phone interview that the effort to organize was still in its early stages, a point he also made in his blog post. But he added, “It’s been something that a lot of us have probably thought about in an abstract way for a long time.”

On Wednesday evening, about 30 Gawker Media employees, representing most of the Gawker blogs, met with union organizers over sandwiches and beer at the Writers Guild in New York to discuss the unionization process and hash out their concerns about the company. The meeting lasted more than two hours.

“It was a very good discussion, and everybody got to say their piece,” Mr. Nolan said. “At the end of it, the interest level was really strong.”

Many details — including which employees will be eligible to join the union — are still being worked out. The current thinking is that only nonmanagement newsroom employees would be able to join. Gawker Media said it had 116 news employees, which includes both writers and editors, across its media properties — though the line between editors and writers is blurry. Employees discussed the unionization efforts on Thursday at the company’s weekly meeting.

Gawker Media has recently experienced a number of executive changes. In December, Nick Denton, the company’s founder, announced that he was stepping down as president and would be sharing managerial responsibilities with a board of six managing partners. In a memo about the change, Mr. Denton also urged the company to focus more on good, relevant writing and less on producing viral articles.

Tommy Craggs, who was named executive editor of Gawker Media as part of the management overhaul, has been a vocal supporter of unions. In 2012, when he was the editor of the Gawker Media sports site Deadspin, he wrote a laudatory remembrance of Marvin Miller, who had recently died and was a labor leader who built the Major League Baseball players union into a force that transformed the sport.

“My sympathies are pretty clear to anyone within editorial and within the company,” Mr. Craggs said about the unionization attempt. “I don’t think there’s any great secret that I support Hamilton’s efforts.”

Mr. Denton seemed similarly serene. “I’m intensely relaxed,” he wrote in an email. “We’ll see how the debate among the journalists plays out.”

Can I just say let's hope HuffPo follows their lead. Arianna claims to care deeply about income inequity in the same vein Denton cares about actual journalism

Meanwhile among the great unwashed.....


Protest for Unions and Politicians, a Nationwide Protest on Pay
NOAM SCHEIBER
The New York Times
APRIL 15, 2015

The protest by tens of thousands of low-wage workers, students and activists in more than 200 American cities on Wednesday is the most striking effort to date in a two-and-a-half-year-old labor-backed movement that is testing the ability of unions to succeed in an economy populated by easily replaceable service sector workers.

Labor has invested tens of millions of dollars in a campaign for a $15-an-hour minimum wage that goes beyond traditional workplace organizing, taking on a cause that has captured broad public support. But the movement is up against a hostile business sector sheltered by a decades-old federal labor law that makes it difficult for workers to directly confront the wealthy corporations that dominate the fast-food and hospitality industries.

For political activists looking to the 2016 presidential campaign and beyond, the wage fight is coming at a potentially pivotal moment, the first concrete, large-scale challenge in decades to an economic system they view as skewed toward the wealthy

“There is a huge upswelling of anger around jobs in this economy that are low-wage jobs,” said Jonathan Westin, director of New York Communities for Change, a grass-roots organizing group that has played a key role in both the Occupy Wall Street movement and the current fast-food workers’ campaign. “This economy we’re living in now doesn’t work for people.”

The protests began with morning rallies that attracted crowds in the hundreds at McDonald’s franchises in Atlanta; Brooklyn; Chicago; Kansas City, Mo.; Los Angeles; and Raleigh, N.C., along with other locations.

A noon rally in front of a McDonald’s restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper West Side attracted throngs of protesters, many of them carrying signs that read “Why Poverty?” and “We See Greed.” They included fast-food workers, laundry workers, carwash employees and sympathetic bystanders.

“America, period, is unequal,” said Chasten Florence, 26, a construction worker from Jamaica, Queens. “Once we accept that, we can change that."

McDonald’s said in a statement: “We respect people’s right to peacefully protest, and our restaurants remain open every day with the focus on providing an exceptional experience for our customers,”

The campaign, staffed in part by organizers from the Service Employees International Union, orchestrated the country’s first-ever fast-food industry strike in November 2012, when 200 New York City workers walked off their jobs. The periodic protests expanded to six other cities in the spring of 2013, 60 cities in August of that year, 150 cities in May 2014, and 190 last December.

The protests have coincided with an extraordinary shift in the political consensus on the minimum wage. In the last two years, Seattle has moved to gradually increase its minimum wage to $15 an hour, from $9.32. Oakland, Calif., established a new minimum wage of $12.25, while Chicago approved an increase to $13, from $8.25, over the next four years. Alaska and Arkansas passed minimum wage increases by referendum in 2014.

In 2013, President Obama endorsed raising the federal minimum wage to $9, from $7.25 an hour, then increased that to $10.10 by the fall of that year. Democrats in the Senate are now working on a proposal to raise the national minimum wage to $12 by 2020.

“The labor movement has been stuck,” said Janice R. Fine, an associate professor of Labor Studies at Rutgers University. “They deserve a lot of credit in deciding that, in a situation this bleak, you needed ‘climate change’ ”— that is, a change in how the public views low-wage work — “before you’d actually get an opportunity to organize again.”

Partly in response to the political shift as well as competitive pressure from tighter labor markets, several major employers of low-wage workers have moved to raised their base pay in recent months. Walmart, Target and McDonald’s have all announced plans to increase their minimum wage to or near $10, though for McDonald’s it would apply only to the roughly 10 percent of its workers employed directly by the company, not by its franchisees.

But business groups argue that a substantially higher increase would force employers to reduce hiring, accelerate automation and even threaten the basic economic model of some industries
For Mary Kay Henry, the president of S.E.I.U., the investment in the Fight for $15 campaign was initially controversial among her colleagues, many of whom wondered why the union should spend millions of dollars on a campaign that did not immediately net it dues-paying members.

But it was the result of a calculation that the 20th-century model of organizing workers was rapidly becoming obsolete for those in a growing sector where employers considered it essentially costless to replace them. “We can no longer change our lives, and our kids’ lives, without the support of a broader movement of workers,” Ms. Henry said.

The origins of the Fight for $15 campaign date back to early 2012, when organizers from New York Communities for Change, which had built support for Occupy Wall Street activists among more established progressive activists and labor organizers, began canvassing low-income New Yorkers, many of them employed in the fast-food industry.

At the same time, public opinion was shifting. According to the General Social Survey, regarded by researchers as the gold standard in public opinion data, the share of Americans who agreed that “inequality continues to exist because it benefits the rich and powerful” spiked by more than 10 points from 2010 to 2012, to over 60 percent.

“People know Walmart and McDonald’s are doing pretty well, people at top,” said Leslie McCall, a professor of sociology at Northwestern University, who has closely analyzed the opinion data on inequality. “It was like: ‘Wait a minute. We’re into the recovery, the unemployment rate is going down. But most people aren’t doing well.’ ”

Even politically moderate voters appear to believe that it is the responsibility of corporations to mitigate the problem. In her own preliminary surveys, Professor McCall found that, when asked to choose who should be most responsible for reducing inequality — the poor, the rich, the government, major companies, or that it did not need to be reduced — a plurality of Republican respondents, about 37 percent, chose “major companies.”

The Fight for $15 campaign hopes to harness these sentiments in ways that Occupy Wall Street never quite succeeded in doing. In Seattle, Steve Gelb, who makes above minimum wage at a work force training outfit, said he supported the protests because “the disparity of wealth has reached alarming proportions and the salaries of business owners and executives are way out of proportion.”

But the odds are still long on whether fast-food workers can formally organize in significant numbers, and push employers to raise wages to their target. Because most are employed by thousands of independent franchisees, rather than corporations like McDonald’s, the coordination challenge is enormous.

For this reason, the minimum wage protests remain only a small piece of a broader strategy intent on dragging McDonald’s to the bargaining table. The S.E.I.U. and other labor groups have tried to spur a tax-avoidance investigation against McDonald’s in Europe. An S.E.I.U.-affiliated investment fund has campaigned against insider corporate directors in McDonald’s Japan.

Most prominently, the groups have helped to bring a complaint, currently being litigated before a National Labor Relations Board judge, challenging the franchise model that allows McDonald’s to disclaim “joint employer” status for most of the workers at its restaurants.

“To the extent we worry about this, that’s the worry here, the policy change brewing in the background,” said Glenn Spencer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “It would change the terms of the franchise model, make it not viable.”

Mr. Spencer said the model extended well beyond the fast-food industry — to hotels, rental cars, auto maintenance and even tax preparation services — and described the protests as “the P.R. wing of this attempt to get policy changed.”

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