Thursday, December 3, 2015

Los Angeles Fight for 15 March

Erin Wigger, a member of The Center for Social Epidemiology team, joined in the recent downtown Los Angeles Fight for 15 march which was demanding a $15 minimum wage and the right to form a union without retaliation. Several thousand people were in attendance, fast-food workers, home care workers, child care workers, union members, and organizers. Demonstrators gathered at a local McDonald's before making their way to City Hall. The march, part of a nationwide protest spanning 270 cities, was sponsored by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), who's current efforts in Los Angeles are focused on organizing fast-food workers.

Erin spoke to several key organizers for Fight for 15, as well as one protester willing to share her story. Gloria Vergara, a home health care worker with 40 years of experience, recently lost her job when her elderly charge needed permanent hospitalization. She says she's been looking for work but has found few real prospects. Gloria states that she loves what she does and feels her work is meaningful and an absolute necessity for those she helps, but Gloria also spoke of the ceaseless pressures of taking care of another person 24/7, the often invisible and unpaid work she's required to do, not having enough time to do it, the out of pocket costs, having little to no job security and chronic stress. She says it "feels like slavery". Gloria and her niece Idianna (both pictured below), who is also a home health care worker, have both been studying to become certified nurses but are having trouble managing their time and the cost of studying. They agree that raising the minimum wage is a necessary beginning to the changes needed in their industry.

The call for a raise in the minimum wage (which is currently $7.25 an hour and has been unchanged since 2009) has been resounding louder and even made it into Tuesday night's GOP debate. The question, whether candidates were sympathetic to Fight for 15 protester's cause, was unequivocally rejected by all. Donald Trump went so far as to assert our "wages are too high."

Despite a lack of federal legislation, some progress has been made. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an order for public employees at the minimum wage to be paid $15 an hour by 2018, in Los Angeles the L.A. City Council and L.A. Board of Supervisors approved a law that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020, and Seattle voted last year to raise its minimum to $15 by 2017.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Debunking Anti-Union Myths

Everyone should check out this YouTube video of a Professor talking about and debunking anti-union myths. She makes important points that are often overlooked when talking about the importance of organized labor – esp. that individuals who are not in a union have a difficult time enforcing their labor rights and protections without reprisals from employers. Unions have the power to act collectively to protect and enforce labor laws. The film also makes a case about how rampant wage theft is…

Friday, January 2, 2015

Apple 'failing to protect Chinese factory workers'

The below is an article by BBC journalist Richard Bilton on the discoveries he and several undercover investigators made at Pegatron, an Apple supplier, as well as problems with Apple's sourcing of raw materials. You can watch a short clip of the program here.

By Richard Bilton
BBC Panorama

Filming on an iPhone 6 production line showed Apple's promises to protect workers were routinely broken.
It found standards on workers' hours, ID cards, dormitories, work meetings and juvenile workers were being breached at the Pegatron factories.
Apple said it strongly disagreed with the programme's conclusions.
Exhausted workers were filmed falling asleep on their 12-hour shifts at the Pegatron factories on the outskirts of Shanghai.
One undercover reporter, working in a factory making parts for Apple computers, had to work 18 days in a row despite repeated requests for a day off.
Another reporter, whose longest shift was 16 hours, said: "Every time I got back to the dormitories, I wouldn't want to move.
"Even if I was hungry I wouldn't want to get up to eat. I just wanted to lie down and rest. I was unable to sleep at night because of the stress."
'Continuous improvement'
Apple declined to be interviewed for the programme, but said in a statement: "We are aware of no other company doing as much as Apple to ensure fair and safe working conditions.
"We work with suppliers to address shortfalls, and we see continuous and significant improvement, but we know our work is never done."
Apple said it was a very common practice for workers to nap during breaks, but it would investigate any evidence they were falling asleep while working.
It said it monitored the working hours of more than a million workers and that staff at Pegatron were averaging 55 hours a week.
The poor conditions in Chinese factories were highlighted in 2010 when 14 workers killed themselves at Apple's biggest supplier, Foxconn.
Following the suicides, Apple published a set of standards spelling out how factory workers should be treated. It also moved some of its production work to Pegatron's factories on the outskirts of Shanghai.
But Panorama's undercover reporters found that these standards were routinely breached on the factory floor.
Overtime is supposed to be voluntary, but none of the reporters were offered any choice. In addition to the excessive hours, one reporter had to attend unpaid meetings before and after work. Another reporter was housed in a dormitory where 12 workers shared a cramped room.
Apple says the dormitory overcrowding has now been resolved and that it requires suppliers to retroactively pay workers if it finds they haven't been paid for work meetings.
Pegatron said it was carefully investigating Panorama's claims and would take all necessary action if any deficiencies were found at their facilities.
"Worker safety and well-being are our top priorities. We set very high standards, conduct rigorous training for managers and workers, and have external auditors regularly visiting our facilities to find areas for improvement," a statement said.
Dangerous conditions
Panorama also travelled further down Apple's supply chain to the Indonesian island of Bangka.
Apple says it is dedicated to the ethical sourcing of minerals, but the programme found evidence that tin from illegal mines could be entering its supply chain.
It found children digging tin ore out by hand in extremely dangerous conditions - miners can be buried alive when the walls of sand or mud collapse.
Twelve-year-old Rianto was working with his dad at the bottom of a 70-foot cliff of sand. He said: "I worry about landslides. The earth slipping from up there to the bottom. It could happen."
Panorama tracked down a gang who collect tin from the area where Rianto was working. One of them said they sold tin to a smelter on Apple's list of suppliers.
Johan Murod, who runs one of the smelters on Apple's list, said 70% of the tin that is exported comes from the small-scale mines.
"At the smelter there's everything from both large and small scale mines. It's all mixed. There's no way to know what is legal and what is illegal."
Apple says it is a complex situation on Bangka with tens of thousands of miners selling tin through many middle men.
"The simplest course of action would be for Apple to unilaterally refuse any tin from Indonesian mines. That would be easy for us to do and would certainly shield us from criticism.
"But that would also be the lazy and cowardly path, since it would do nothing to improve the situation. We have chosen to stay engaged and attempt to drive changes on the ground."