First, a little background on worker centers:
Juan Campis was sweating in the 90-plus degree heat as he whipped a white towel across a gleaming black Chevy TrailBlazer at a carwash here—one of six in the city that was unionized in recent months with help from two nonprofit community groups.
“They’re the ones that kept us all together and showed us the steps we needed to take,” Mr. Campis, 20 years old, said of the community groups. Workers probably wouldn’t have joined the union without daily contact from the two groups, he said.
The community groups, called worker centers, are often backed by unions. But they aren’t considered “labor organizations” by law because they don’t have continuing bargaining relationships with employers. That gives them more freedom in their use of picketing and other tactics than unions, which are constrained by national labor laws.
The new approach is sparking a backlash from some businesses, who call it an end-run around labor laws that can be used to help unionize new groups of workers.
“It’s a more potent strategy than unions have used in the past,” said J. Justin Wilson, managing director of the Center for Union Facts. Worker centers are “winning hearts and minds with positive things like language classes, while worker centers create strife and conflict within a company.”
Workers who are first organized by worker centers can be later organized by unions. That is what happened with nearly 200 carwash workers in Los Angeles and New York, organized by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and the United Steelworkers. The steelworkers union also is trying organize several hundred pizza factory workers in Wisconsin who joined a worker center.
Some worker centers target immigrants, organizing taxi drivers, day laborers and domestic workers who can’t join unions because they are independent contractors.
Business and labor are going to war over the nonprofit worker centers that union officials increasingly see as the future of their movement. The organizing groups are thriving amid the decline in traditional unions, and campaigns, like Fast Food Forward, have made a splash by staging walkouts of fast-food workers who are demanding $15 per hour in wages and the right to unionize.
“They have morphed into groups that harass employers, shame companies and hurt business across the country,” said Ryan Williams, an adviser to Worker Center Watch. “They are essentially getting away with skirting labor laws.”
Williams, a former spokesman for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign and a consultant at FP1 Strategies, said Worker Center Watch is gearing up for a national campaign against the worker centers. It launched a website this week that will closely track the organizing activities.
House Republicans are beginning to scrutinize the worker centers as well.
The House Education and the Workforce Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Thursday on the future of union organizing where the worker centers are expected to be a prominent focus.
Spencer said he is briefing Chamber members across the country on worker centers and talking to lawmakers about the groups.
Williams with Worker Center Watch said his group would be writing op-eds, running ads and mobilizing activists on the ground to provide “a counter-effort” to worker centers.
The group has support from businesses, but Williams refused to disclose its donors.
Amid the heightened scrutiny, the worker centers are vowing to get more aggressive with protests and strikes.
Murray with OUR Walmart said her group is planning action on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Last year, the group helped organized hundreds of Walmart workers who walked off the job on the biggest shopping day of the year.
I think the fast food strikes were enormously successful in finally getting a discussion on wages going. It’s just a completely different dialogue when we’re talking about actual companies and specific workers rather than holding yet another roundtable on the Earned Income Tax Credit and whether we prefer “transfer payments” to raising the minimum wage. To me it was like they said “Hey! Over here! We’re the people you’re all talking about! This is what WE want”
I’m always amazed at the absolutely ferocious response on the part of Republicans and their business backers to ANY public show of strength by real live workers. Last week conservatives were quoting the Bible on the majesty and dignity of work. This week they’re pulling out all the stops to smear people who work at a McDonalds in Milwaukee. Yes, that’s who pull the levers of powers in America. Minimum wage workers. I know I was terrified during their reign of terror for those 4 hours in select cities.
You have to love this carefully crafted victimization language, too:
harass employers, shame companies and hurt business
Harass, shame and hurt. When will minimum wage workers stop being so mean to conservative lobbyists and their clients?
Free Assembly is in the 1st, thus one of the disposible clauses, no?
“And everyone knows it’s only employers who are supposed to do that.”
Villago Delenda Est
My sympathy for Ferengi swine is EXTREMELY limited.
And those restrictions placed on unions by national labor laws need to go the way of the buggy whip.
@Roger Moore: Ahh, but business pants labor laws, so they’re macho and to be obeyed.
@Villago Delenda Est:
That’s what they’re afraid of.
This is just fucking insane. My own industry is one of the few remaining majority-unionized – probly 80-90 pct of our employees and locations are organized.
As a C-level macher who spends 70 pct of my time dealing with employee issues, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m delighted when one of our holdout locations finally organizes.
Better pay and benefits = happier employees and fewer problems. This is simple.
@Kay: Soooooo not the bootstrap-up-pulling yourself they were pushing as the one and only solution? This getting your own education is all wrong . . .
I wonder how they would feel if we armed the workers while talking about better wages?
Worker centers are no more or less an end run around Federal labor laws than state right-to-work laws. But there’s an important difference. Worker centers are a reactive end run that seeks to restore a level playing field between management and labor. State right-to-work laws are a proactive end run that seeks to create an imbalance in power between management and labor.
The two may be legally equivalent, but ethically and morally? Nuh-uh.
This reminds me of the GOP’s attempt to fight Obamacare by pointing out how it would harm the poor wittle health insurance companies. Only now the GOP is attempting to convince people they should be happy to work themselves to death or the poor wittle corporations will be harmed.
Their defense of HICs seems sane by comparison.
Here is a fact. Australia has a minimum wage of almost $16.00 an hour. Since 1994, they have averaged about 1.75% GDP growth per year.
Here is another great data point. According to trading economics, the unemployment rate never exceeded 6%. These two data points that the GOP has been selling the American people are proven false, at least by the Australian economy. The fact that Australia is the “extreme” of examples, but I am sure this is the norm.
To top this all off, the ultra conservative Heritage Foundation ranked Australia as the third most freest country regarding their economy. “Australia is ranked 3rd out of 41 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and its score is well above the regional and world averages.”
JumpCry you fuckers!
That gonna work way more better, I guar-ron-tee!
Well, there was an opening, right? No one was listening to them, no one was helping them.
I don’t know what was stopping Republicans and business leaders from holding language classes and “winning hearts and minds.” It’s like it’s “unfair” if anyone makes a move other than them. What’s the alternative to the labor plan? Twenty more years of high-level discussions that none of these people are ever invited to?
‘Bout time I heard some good labor news.
Worker Centres! Loved it! Didn’t all those big corps want worker innovation? Well they have it now. Workers were so innovtive they found a way around the restrictive labour laws, meant to restrict workers rights and collective bargaining. Employers use “right to work” laws to get what they want. Multi millionairs use PACS to get what they want. So what is so wrong with non millionairs banding together to get what they want? That is what the founding fathers of the U.S.A. did. They banded together to get what they wanted. Less oppression, more freedom.
The 1%ers may find they will have difficulty getting rid of worker centres. Theiy are part of the American Constitution, the part about the right to freedom of assembly. Supreme Courts in other countries have already ruled, unions/worker centres have the right to exsist.
When people have a working wage, they are able to pay for food and not rely on food stamps so much. They can afford to purchase medical coverage, they can afford to buy their children the necssities of life. Oh, and best of all, people who make a working wage, usually pay federal/state income taxes, unlike the 1%ers, who don’t pay or pay much less.
Sort of like those 1%ers who live on park avenue in New York. Those billionaires pay less than half of the taxes that the New York fire fighters do. If a government was handing out tax rates I’d suggest fire fighters ought to have a better deal than a billionaire. I’ve never seen a billionaire run into a burning building to save someone.
Anonymous At Work
If business executives feel that strongly, then they need to be made to attend 8 am Saturday seminars (mandatory, or it’s a fire-able offense) about the subject matter, and have their shifts changed without warning, have meetings at the community centers with 3 or 4 representatives from labor movements, etc.
Tone in DC
These g00pers are normally big on using shame on people (Sandra Fluke comes to mind). They don’t mind harassing people, either; I still can’t believe we may have poll watchers challenging people in the next elections around here.
All of a sudden, these MotU are upset about worker centers. These winger lobbyists need a very tall glass of STFU.
@Kay: Of course it’s unfair. They want / need those “solutions” as a means to shut down other options, not as something to be implemented (and thus put out of rhetorical reach) and certainly not as anything implemented and used to ameliorate any of the original problem(s). Du-uh. Wasn,t Kthug going on about something similar?
It’s one of those things where I feel like I’m on a different planet from conservatives. I can’t imagine anything more bootstrappy than walking off your McDonalds job and then returning and attempting to negotiate. That’s goddamned amazing, anyway you look at it.
I know it doesn’t “count” because it’s collective, but that is also an individual act particularly because they are not actually in a union. It’s very self-directed. I think conservatives should be congratulating them. They want to work. We supposedly encourage that. What’s the problem?
@Tone in DC: ON ICE!
For those sniveling pundits who like to go on about how unions protect lousy employees, I have a great anecdotal tale. Many years ago, I had a young guy (mid 20s) come see me about a beef he had. Seems that he had a bit of an issue with the bottle. Basically, he’d gone to a bar on his lunch break and downed an entire bottle of tequila, then came back to the plant, had a blackout and took a swing at his supervisor. They fired him on the spot.
He was griping because he felt like he should have gotten an EAP referral for some sort of rehab, but his union rep told him in no uncertain terms that the little drunk wasn’t going to get the sweat off the rep’s nutsack (I think the union guy tossed him out by the collar). At the time, I dabbled in some LMRA cases, and found that the employer and the union clearly had an out due to a clause in the CBA on workplace violence.
@Kay: They’re not attempting to negotiate, they’re not attempting to get along, we’re not supposed to be equal elements of the equation. Remember us? We’re the un’merican ones by definition. (Some are now lecturing the pope on catholicism, so we’re in good company.) You’re indeed on an entirely different planet.
@Ash Can: no, you were right the first time: Jump you fuckers.
My biases are obvious and documented but…
Nothing, and I mean nothing, will attract as quick and harsh a response as anything perceived as a threat to profits and rich people’s perception that they are entitled to all of them. You watch how many laws the GOP will trample to make these things illegal.
Yeah, like businesses haven’t been doing that for decades. Now workers are doing the same thing? “No fair!”
I have family of wingnut in-laws that considered a move to Australia because of encroaching “socialism” in the U.S., their fears driven largely by Obamacare. I told them not only was there a minimum wage in Australia of $16, but that they have had a national health insurance program called “medicare” since 1984. They stayed here. I half regret informing them.
@Kay: Well, McDonalds DID create that very helpful, user-friendly budget pamphlet. Don’t you remember that great educational assistance?
pseudonymous in nc
‘Worker Center Watch’ and the ‘Center for Union Facts’ are, of course, corporate-funded, union-busting wingnut welfare operations.
‘Corporate Honesty Foundation’, anyone?
While generally extolling the unfettering of market regulations so that our country can move ever closer to a totally “free” market, it is always an enlightening moment when businessmen are so adamant in their insistence on regulating the part of the market that doesn’t work in their favor — the labor market. The effectiveness of even the small work-arounds that labor has when it can organize outside of the laws meant to constrain unions show clearly that the low wages we see in this country are not just a result of the “free” market, as much as a labor market constrained by laws written to favor rich businessmen.
Villago Delenda Est
You mean like Carly Fiorina and George W. Bush? Total fuckups who can never leave the club? Perhaps perpetual fuckup Donald Trump, who ran a fucking ca$ino into bankruptcy?
Tone in DC
As far as I can tell, few people who threaten to go Galt actually follow through on that threat. This is probably true across the political spectrum.
Not that I’d mind if Jamie Dimon, T. Boone Pickens, the Kochs and every teabagger in the 50 states made a run for it and didn’t come back.
@OzarkHillbilly: Whereabouts are you? I ask as one who grew up in the Phelps County-Pulaski County area…
Perhaps you should suggest to them a few countries with absolutely no socialism and no or extremely low minimum wages and see if those countries are more to their liking.
Aren’t most of the groups with names like “[BLANK] Watch” Koch-sponsored astroturf groups that are basically one energetic douchebag with a website?
IIRC, they also have very strict gun laws driven by a massacre that happened there in the 1990s. So, yeah, not exactly Wingnut Paradise.
Villago Delenda Est
Somalia. Glibertarian paradise. Well, except for all the mud people there.
@Villago Delenda Est:
Somalia came to mind and no doubt there are many more almost as free of evil liberalism but real wingnuts wouldn’t actually want set foot in any of those places. It’s pretty amusing really. This country is too liberal for them but they aren’t leaving in droves to other countries with the “values” they crave. I wonder why that would be, lol. The wingnuts really are stuck.
Maybe Mittman’s former spokesman can ask how all those workers of Bain company takeovers felt about what Bain did with their benefits and pensions. See if they think Bain was “skirting around’ the laws. Seriously, after all the crap stories you read every week about companies fucking over employees – these companies don’t like the consequences of people trying to organize? Oh, well, y’all should have thought about that before you cut hours to avoid Obamacare, before you stole wages, before you gave your employees credit card paychecks, before you didn’t follow OSHA rules….
@Villago Delenda Est:
I’ve always gotten a giggle out of that. What kind of maroon goes broke running a ca$in-o? Yet he gets a TV show where everyone kisses his ass as some kind of uber-businessman.
(I also loved how impotently pissed he got at Spy magazine.)
The Moar You Know
@MikeJ: Laugh all you want, but arming the poor would change a lot of shit in America for the better. Very quickly.
I think so. I’m not worried about it. A threat of writing editorials doesn’t chill me to the bone.
I do think House Republicans can bug the shit out of the Labor Department and do that thing where they impart nefarious meaning to single words and political pundits will have a field day because they can pretend they found union thuggery.
They have a particular bug up their ass about Thomas Perez, who is now at the Labor Dept. He was at the DOJ when they went completely insane over the New Black Panther Party.
Tone in DC
Funny how that works. Remember over 10 years ago, how people in the northern US were buying Canadian drugs via the web that were substantially cheaper than the American medication? The legislative branch fell all over themselves making the Canuck drugs illegal.
Quick, fast and in a hurry.
I watched a bit of Apocalypse Now last night. Been a long time since I saw that.
Businesses trying to shut down worker centers because they improve the lives of workers and “win their hearts and minds” reminds me uncomfortably closely of Kurtz’s story of the VC raiding a village and hacking off the arms of all the children who had received polio vaccinations from Kurtz’s Special Forces. The purity of that vindictiveness caused Kurtz to have a psychotic break, in the story.
By the way, it seems that story came from an actual Special Forces veteran, who told it to screenwriter John MIlius in the first person.
Also, the 1%’s jihad against worker centers is also like an abusive partner: “if I can’t control you then I will destroy you”.
Another Holocene Human
Note they style calling attention to their bad corporate citizenship as “skirting the law”. No, Mr. Koch-Shill, we have THE RIGHT to peacefully assemble and the RIGHT to freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
Truth hurts, doesn’t it?
Another Holocene Human
@Villago Delenda Est: The employees that go on about this suck themselves, but since they’re white males they believe that they cover themselves in glory daily, and their sincere belief is what counts, right?
Another Holocene Human
Kay, the Koch shills’ use of language is more proof that they believe the purpose of labor laws is to give business power over labor, rather than to create an equal playing field. Hence the cries of “no fair!”.
@Another Holocene Human:
I think it’s silly. They’re so enormously powerful. They’re terrified of 200 car wash workers?
The worker centers came about because they were exploiting people in RTW states.
Not only were they not valued employees, they aren’t even employees. They’re independent contractors. They have no protections at all. I think they’re skirting labor laws, actually.
Their actions created a need for worker centers, obviously, or people wouldn’t be flocking to them.
Mike in NC
This dirtbag should be scrubbing pots and pans for $7 per hour, with no medical benefits or vacation.
@pseudonymous in nc:
Oh, a central delivery point for all the latest corporate propaganda?
They should just not have workers then! I know they are only doing it from the kindness of their heart, but if it’s so much trouble, I know they can get along fine without them.
They’d better keep a lookout for James O’Keefe. I’m not joking.
thalarctos (not the other one)
“Harass, shame and hurt.”
They should be happy to get off so easy, as the alternative is tar, feathers and rope.
The choice is theirs.
Hey, the labor movement can’t skirt labor laws…that’s CAPITAL’S prerogative!
@Roger Moore: Yep. Big time. By the way all lefty groups should come together to support these folks because as this story makes clear, the Right and Business does not like folks who make the serfs discontented. Freedom is about the money.
What goes around, comes around, assholes. Let me see if I can find an onion so I can squirt out a few false tears for these poor, poor businesses who have to deal with their workers’ temerity at collectively demanding a living wage.
Jay in Oregon
@thalarctos (not the other one):
I keep saying that I’d prefer to resolve this issue without resorting to torches and pitchforks, but the other side seems intent on making that the best course of action.
So, y’know, Please Proceed.