We Once Jailed CEOs for Their Crimes. Remember?

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

Jeffrey Skilling, the ex-CEO of the now-bankrupt energy giant Enron, has got to be steaming. Skilling helped Enron soar high up in the Fortune 500, then sank into infamy when his company went bankrupt in 2001 amid revelations of widespread fraud. Five years later, a federal judge sentenced Skilling to 24 years in prison. Last week, federal authorities released the 64-year-old to a halfway house, the first step to outright release. Enron’s collapse cost shareholders billions and employees their life savings. Skilling personally has had to pay $45 million in fines and over $75 million in legal fees — and his 20-year-old son died while he was serving his time. But Skilling has yet another reason to fume. None of the top CEOs responsible for the fraud that ushered in the 2008 financial crash — and wreaked much more havoc on America than Enron — has yet faced a day behind bars and, notes federal judge Jed Rakoff, likely never will.

Sam Pizzigati edits Too Much, the online weekly on excess and inequality. He is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. Last year, he played an active role on the team that generated The Nation magazine special issue on extreme inequality. That issue recently won the 2009 Hillman Prize for magazine journalism. Pizzigati’s latest book, Greed and Good: Understanding and Overcoming the Inequality that Limits Our Lives (Apex Press, 2004), won an “outstanding title” of the year ranking from the American Library Association’s Choice book review journal.

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. 

More ...

Make Father's Day Union Made!

Make Father's Day Union Made!