Fighting for Safety on the Job

From the AFL-CIO

Monday marked the 107th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in New York. After claiming the lives of 146 young immigrant garment workers, this tragedy drove working people to join together and demand safe conditions on the job. More than a century later, we’ve made enormous strides forward. But we’re still fighting for our right to work without risk of injury, illness or even death.

Disasters like the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire can seem like a sordid history that has been put long behind us. Nearly 50 years after the Occupational Safety and Health Act was signed into law, surely working people can go to work confident that they will return safely to their families at the end of their shifts.

Yet, that is still far from the case. From headline-grabbing tragedies like the Upper Big Branch mine disaster to chronic diseases that quietly haunt workers for years, we still face dire threats to our well-being. Coal mine deaths rose by 87.5 percent last year.

Instead of taking steps to bolster worker protections, President Donald Trump is taking us in the wrong direction. From hiding statistics on worker deaths to cutting workplace inspectors, the Trump administration continues to side with powerful corporate interests over the basic freedoms of working people.

We have given our time, blood and sweat to build the most prosperous nation on earth. And we’re joining together and fighting for the decent working conditions that we deserve.

Posted In: Union Matters

Union Matters

Uber Drivers Deserve Legal Rights and Protections

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

In an advisory memo released May 14, the U.S. labor board general counsel’s office stated that Uber drivers are not employees for the purposes of federal labor laws.

Their stance holds that workers for companies like Uber are not included in federal protections for workplace organizing activities, which means the labor board is effectively denying Uber drivers the benefits of forming or joining unions.

Simply stating that Uber drivers are just gig workers does not suddenly undo the unjust working conditions that all workers potentially face, such as wage theft, dangerous working conditions and  job insecurity. These challenges are ever-present, only now Uber drivers are facing them without the protection or resources they deserve. 

The labor board’s May statement even seems to contradict an Obama-era National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that couriers for Postmates, a job very similar to Uber drivers’, are legal employees.

However, the Department of Labor has now stated that such gig workers are simply independent contractors, meaning that they are not entitled to minimum wages or overtime pay.

While being unable to unionize limits these workers’ ability to fight for improved pay and working conditions, independent contractors can still make strides forward by organizing, explained executive director of New York Taxi Workers Alliance Bhairavi Desai.

“We can’t depend solely on the law or the courts to stop worker exploitation. We can only rely on the steadfast militancy of workers who are rising up everywhere,” Desai said in a statement. 

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A Friendly Reminder

A Friendly Reminder