Shop Talk: Freelancers go union, paid family leave a success

Wages drop through the floor
Wages have fallen lower and stayed lower than in any recession since the Great Depression.
The Wall Street Journal reports that 54.9 percent of unemployed people lucky enough to find new jobs are making less than they did before and almost 40 percent took a 20 percent cut in pay.
The paper interviewed Dale Szabo, a Wisconsin manufacturing manager with two master's degrees who took a job as a janitor: "It's very hard work. I never dreamed I would be doing it. But I have to pay the bills."

Freelancers gain union representation
The Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) has brought union representation to a growing group of workers outside the traditional union model: freelance writers and producers who work on nonfiction TV shows.
WGAE won two difficult National Labor Relations Board elections covering 150 workers at ITV Studios and Atlas Media, companies that contract workers for such popular nonfiction TV shows as "Dr. G: Medical Examiner" and "The First 48." Another election is set for workers who help create "Cash Cab" and PBS's "History Detectives."
Unions see helping freelance workers join a union as particularly important these days in an economy where 25 percent of those employed have temporary jobs and that percentage is rising. "Freelancers want the same as do other workers: fair pay, good benefits and respectful treatment on the job," says Justin Molito, WGAE's organizing director. Molito says the freelance economy is being used intentionally by multinational corporations to extract the maximum profit from people's labor.

"Let them eat tort reform!"
He billed it as a special session on job creation, but at the special legislative session Wisconsin's Republican Governor Scott Walker unveiled a "tort reform" package that, according to the states' AFL-CIO President Phil Neunfeldt, had nothing to do with jobs.
Some likened it to Marie Antoinette's famous "Let them eat cake" response to statements that her people were hungry.
"The special session on job creation," the labor leader said, "is being used as a cloak for corporate interests to achieve a long-desired goal - to deny access to the courts for workers who are injured or killed on the job, as well as consumers and other victims who have been harmed."

Thousands to gather for good green jobs
From Feb. 8 - 10 in Washington D,C, thousands of union, environmental, business, community and elected leaders will discuss how to create millions of good green jobs across America. The conference is the leading forum for sharing ideas and strategies to grow a green economy that creates good jobs, addresses global warming and other environmental problems and preserves America's environmental and economic sevurity.
On Feb. 10, Green Jobs Advocacy Day, hundreds of green jobs advocates will head to Capitol Hill to lobby lawmakers about the necessary tools to build a green economy.
The conference is being coordinated by the Blue Green Alliance, a coalition of labor and environmental organizations, which includes the United Steelworkers, Communications Workers of America, the American Federation of Teachers, the Utility Workers, the Amalgamated Transit Union, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Paid family leave law is working
California's paid family leave law "has been remarkably successful" and received high marks from both employers and workers, according to a new study released Jan. 11 by researchers from UCLA/City University of New York (CUNY) and the Center for Economic Policy Research.
Study co-author Ruth Milkman, a professor of sociology at UCLA and the CUNY, says the law, "has helped hundreds of thousands of workers - especially in low-wage jobs - balance the costs and challenges of tending to family and work and it has begun to close the gap in access to paid leave benefits."
The business community vigorously fought against the now six-year-old law, claiming it would be costly and easily abused. But paid family leave has disproved opponents' claims that the program would be a "job killer," says Eileen Applebaum, the other co-author and senior economist at CEPR. "Almost all the employers found the program had positive or neutral effects on areas such as productivity, morale and turnover."
The law allows private-sector workers to take up to six weeks a year off at 55 percent of a worker's wage to care for a new child or a sick family member. The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act law allows up to 12 weeks off, but it is unpaid.

 

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