Tag Archive | employment

Chinese Firm Halves Worker Costs by Hiring Army of Robots to Sort out 200,000 Packages a Day*

Chinese Firm Halves Worker Costs by Hiring Army of Robots to Sort out 200,000 Packages a Day*

A viral video showing an army of little orange robots sorting out packages in a warehouse in eastern China is the latest example of how machines are increasingly taking over menial factory work on the mainland.

The behind-the-scenes footage of the self-charging robot army in a sorting centre of Chinese delivery powerhouse Shentong (STO) Express was shared on People’s Daily’s social media accounts on Sunday.

The video showed dozens of round orange Hikvision robots – each the size of a seat cushion – swivelling across the floor of the large warehouse in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.

A worker was seen feeding each robot with a package before the machines carried the parcels away to different areas around the sorting centre, then flipping their lids to deposit them into chutes beneath the floor.

Comment: Wait till the robots malfunction, and see what the cost is then!


Related Topics:

U.S. House Bill Would Allow Employers to Demand Genetic Information from Workers*

Chicago Workers Took over a Window Factory Three Years ago, and They’re Thriving*

More Subcontract Workers Go On Strike at West Coast Ports*

Venezuelan President Calls for Workers to Take on Economic Policy*

A Reminder Why South African Mineworkers have a Right to Strike*

Not Only French Workers Protest Attacks on Pensions*

Verizon Workers Strike

‘Day of Disruption’: Fight for 15 Strikes in 340 Cities Across the U.S.

‘Day of Disruption’: Fight for 15 Strikes in 340 Cities Across the U.S.

Striking workers protest on the “Day of Disruption.” | Photo: Twitter / @Latinos4Bernie


“On November 29 we will wage our most disruptive strike and protest ever,” said Terrence Wise, a McDonald’s worker.

From Mcdonald’s employees in Missouri, to airport laborers in New York, to Uber drivers in Los Angeles, workers from 340 cities in the United States are coming together to wage the “most disruptive” strike ever in the fight for a $15 minimum wage.

In the first one conducted since U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s victory, while many striking and protesting are fearful of the incoming administration’s austerity measures against low-wage workers and unions, Trump is not the focal point of their protests.

“Republicans in Congress, the GOP state legislatures, McDonald’s, airlines, they’re who our message is directed to. It’s not for any one particular person,” organizing director of the Fight for 15 movement, Kendall Fells pointed out.

Trump’s position on a minimum wage increase, like much of his policies, is all over the map.

“He’s been all over the place,” Fells said.

“At one point he said wages were too high in this country; we showed up at the debate and he said $10.”

With a federal minimum wage that currently sits at only US$7.25 an hour, and with CEOs from the country’s largest corporations earning on average a staggering 340 times more than the average worker, for many, the issue is one of basic survival.

“With only being paid $9 an hour, I constantly am worried about keeping a roof over my and my daughter’s head,” a worker that plans to strike, Marvette Hodge, told The Guardian.

“In 2009 I was homeless for a couple of years.”

“America does not feel fair anymore,” said another, Oliwia Pac, who works at Chicago’s O’Hare international airport, citing “long hours of difficult and both physically and mentally demanding labor”.

“The payment we receive is nowhere near the amount of blood, sweat and tears we expend at O’Hare,” she said.

“I’ve stood out on jet-bridges in negative 30 degree weather with only a thin flannel to keep me warm. I’ve been told to push two wheelchairs at once. I get cuts and bruises all the time.”

The “Day of Disruption” will see thousands come out in cities across the country.


Related Topics:

As Poverty Continues to Rise in the U.S. so do Tent Cities*

One-Third of U.S. Children Live In Poverty*

U.S. Took the First Steps towards Dividing the World into Distinct Economic Zones*

The U.S. is At the Centre Of The Global Economic Meltdown*

Rapidly Declining U.S. Exports*

Tories to Introduce Negative-hours Contracts*

Tories to Introduce Negative-hours Contracts*

By John Shafthauer

The Department for Work and Pensions (a.k.a. DWP/Dangerous Work Pricks) has announced that it will henceforth be allowing employers to introduce negative-hours contracts – a scheme which will make zero-hour contracts look like paid leave from the cat café.

For those out of the loop, an employee on a negative-hours contract starts every week owing their employer several hours of work before they get paid. So a worker on a minus-8 hour contract would have to complete an entire shift before they were in fact owed any compensation.

We spoke to one of the DWP’s top bastards about the scheme – a scheme which we thought was some sort of unfortunate typo before the vicious creature began defending it:

“The people of Great Britain sent a very clear message when they voted for us – namely that people want jobs, and employers want employees. We’ve found a way of making that happen. We’re making it happen!”

When it was pointed out that employees would also like to be paid, the minister began to froth at the mouth and bang his forehead with the butt of a pistol that he had suddenly produced:

“You’re not getting it. You’re not getting it! We’re making jobs. We’re giving employers employees! We’re doing an economy! WE’RE DOING AN ECONOMY!

Although there were several more questions we wanted to ask, the governmental freak became increasingly aggressive at that point. Primarily, this involved him pointedly loading his pistol with bullets – bullets onto which he’d carved phrases like ‘FIT FOR WORK,’  ‘IN IT TOGETHER,’ and ‘ARBEIT MACHT FREI.’

The Unions have been quick to criticise the government’s latest method of circumventing labour laws – pointing out that it will almost certainly lead to an increase in poverty/slavery.

The government responded by assuring us that measures which allow them to fine homeless people mean poverty is now a gainfully capitalised commodity, and as such will:

“Make us all considerably richer. Although please don’t ask me to expand on who I’m referring to when I say ‘us’.”

The DWP has also been boasting that it will pretty much eradicate unemployment, as most businesses are happy to employ people now that they can do so with very little/no cost whatsoever.

The scheme has led to some negative press, however. Particularly after Queen Elizabeth II was accidentally signed up to it, and was rudely awoken by her new line manager on the phone saying she owed them an eight-hour shift down at the local Poundland.


Related Topics:

U.K. Ground Foot Soldiers, the Social Services to Run the NHS*

U.K. GPs to Gather Info on Sick Patients for the State*

U.K. Secretively Scraps Free Meal Grants for Poorest Primary School Children*

U.K. Cuts to Social Services has Caused the ‘biggest rise in death rates’ since WWII*

U.K. Taxpayers Subsidising World’s Largest Oil Companies to Exploit Its Own Natural Resources*

Chicago Workers Took over a Window Factory Three Years ago, and They’re Thriving*

Chicago Workers Took over a Window Factory Three Years ago, and They’re Thriving*

By Sarah van Gelder

After closing its doors without notice, Republic Windows and Doors turned into a worker-owned co-op—where the employees hold the power. And the thriving business model is simple: Enough pay and benefits to live with dignity.

Back in the day, factory workers at the Chicago-based Republic Windows and Doors were simply told what to do. That wasn’t unusual. Workers might have seen ways to improve the production process, but at Republic their supervisor wasn’t interested, said former employee Armando Robles.

“Whatever the bosses want, we do it. We’d say, ‘Look, this is a better way,’ and they say, ‘No, we say you have to do it this way.’ Even when they make a mistake, they just continue,” Robles explained.

Things are very different today. Employees of what is now called New Era Windows and Doors are also the owners. And their ideas matter. Any of them can propose improvements, and if they can convince a majority of their co-workers, things can change quickly.

If we make a mistake, we talk to each other and we find a solution,” Robles told me when I visited the factory in late September.

We try to do the best for everyone. We work harder because we’re working for ourselves. But it’s more enjoyable. We work with passion.”

It was a long journey to becoming a worker cooperative, and it was not a journey anyone had planned.

In 2008, Republic’s owners closed the factory and laid off the work force without the required 60-days notice. Workers occupied the factory and refused to leave the premises until they were paid what they were owed. The story went nationwide. Pressure from the union, area activists, and even President Obama led to a victory. The workers were paid, and instead of shutting down, the factory was sold to California-based Serious Materials.

The workers kept their jobs, though the experience radicalized them. Some visited Argentina where they learned that other workers facing the same situation had occupied their factories and eventually became worker-owners.
So Robles and his co-workers were prepared when, three years later, Serious Materials announced they would shut down and liquidate the factory. Once again, the workers occupied. With a nationwide petition drive, support from United Electrical Workers, financing from The Working World (an organization that helps establish worker cooperatives), support from the local Occupy movement, and the memory of the previous occupation still fresh in the minds of the Chicago power elite, the protest turned into a buyout.

The New Era Windows and Doors Cooperative has been in operation since 2013. It hasn’t been easy, but the worker-owners have learned together how to operate their own business. And then there were the meetings:

“It was difficult to make decisions together,” Robles said.

“But it’s kind of fun, because at the end of the day it’s for the benefit of everyone.”

Sales are modest, but growing. Last year the company sold about a half million dollars worth of windows. This year, they anticipate the number will be significantly higher. There are 23 worker-owners, and two staff members who Robles hopes will opt to become worker-owners.

His vision is for New Era to help spawn other cooperatives. Instead of expanding by hiring drivers, for example, he’d like to see the company help start a cooperative of drivers.
How is this company staying alive when other owners have failed? The worker-owners made tough decisions about what equipment they could get rid of to save money. And they did a lot of sales via word of mouth.

“The good thing is we don’t have the CEO making millions of dollars,” Robles said, “so we have the ability to compete with the industry.” Also, they don’t have to generate big profits to keep investors happy; they just have to make enough to pay expenses and pay back their debt.

This business model is based on “enough.” Enough pay and benefits to live with dignity. Enough of the machinery that is necessary, but not the sort that is too expensive. Opportunities for employee-owners to draw on their full capacities, not to be relegated to repetitive work while a few make all the decisions and much of the money. Their more equitable pay structure creates opportunities for more people to have enough to live and thrive; instead of keeping some at the edge of poverty while others prosper.

This is what local power looks like: companies like New Era Windows and Doors creating the stability that comes with locally rooted employment, insulated from the speculative finance that, in the case of publicly traded companies, requires many jobs be moved to low-wage regions. These worker-owners focus on values, including the possibility for others to also be worker-owners, and the importance of producing ecologically smart products. The company prides itself on selling energy-efficient windows and doors, and customizing them to the climate and location of the client.

If this and other locally rooted companies can survive government policies that favor big corporations over local business, they could help lay the foundation for an inclusive and sustainable rebirth of our society.


Related Topics:

How America’s Largest Worker Owned Co-Op Lifts People Out of Poverty*

More Subcontract Workers Go On Strike at West Coast Ports*

Worker Co-Ops Moving Beyond Capitalism*

Not Just About the Slave Wage of Mineworkers!

U.K. When Freedom of Speech Loses the Right to Work

French Workers Threaten To Blow Up Their Factory*

Venezuelan President Calls for Workers to Take on Economic Policy*

Working and Staying Sane in Ramadhan*

More Subcontract Workers Go On Strike at West Coast Ports*

More Subcontract Workers Go On Strike at West Coast Ports*

By David Moberg

The nation’s largest port—spread across parts of both Los Angeles and Long Beach, CA—is a strangely varied workplace. And after years of tenacious effort, workers throughout the port may soon share one important tool their predecessors once had: a union and, therefore, a better job.

At one extreme of the state’s ports, there are longshore workers who belong to one of the most progressive unions in the U.S., the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. It has brought annual incomes of over $100,000 and higher skilled work to many of its members, once regarded as low-skilled.

At the other end, there are truck drivers (for “drayage companies,” that move goods from dock to warehouses), who are wrongly classified as “independent contractors”—as the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board recently determined—and who have unpredictable incomes, often below the minimum wage. And there are warehouse workers who typically earn $9 to $11 an hour but may work only part-time for a labour contractor or for the warehouse operator itself.

Once these jobs were unionized and paid reasonably decent “middle-class wages,”  but the unions—mainly Teamsters—lost their contracts and members. The employers vary, too, both in size and in organization—from parts of global corporations with sophisticated management to family-owned firms driven by personality (often a bit tyrannical or ideological).

After 10 years of trying, these low-wage workers are stepping up their game, raising the prospect of once again being unionized. And if that happens, it will be a testament to the workers’ willingness to take direct action, even at a risk to their jobs.

Thirty-eight drivers at a drayage company, Pacific-9, who have demonstrated at both state and local legal hearings that they have been misclassified as independent contractors and deprived of $6 million in back pay, are on their sixth strike in two years, an indefinite walkout that has already lasted ten weeks.

“They’ve shown resolve,” Teamster spokesperson Barb Maynard says.

“They’re not going back to work.”

A couple dozen warehouse workers at a facility owned by California Cartage, a large logistics firm, are on their first strike. They are leaders in a drive to improve work organized with the help of a worker centre, a partial, short-term walkout started Tuesday by a couple dozen leaders from a workforce that can range from 150 to 300, about half directly hired, half hired through a contractor.

The workers have received help from the Warehouse Worker Resource Center, an independent operation at the port that grew out of a Change to Win project in the warehouses of the “inland empire” near San Bernadino. The strike is a protest against retaliation for organizing and other unfair labour practices as well as a call for higher wages and safer working conditions.

In a class action suit filed last December, workers contended that since the warehouse land belongs to the city of Los Angeles, California Cartage should have been paying the city’s living wage under the city’s living wage law. That would imply the company owes workers millions of dollars.

Change to Win’s Strategic Organizing Center started out helping the Teamsters to organize a union of the short-haul truckers, and the Teamsters have recently won three union representation elections. One newly unionized company has been created out of one of the first strike targets. The head of the hedge fund that bought its predecessor is now shifting assets to the new company, called Eco-Flo. He has promised to negotiate a contract with the firm’s employees—dropping the contractor ruse—and to install a zero-emissions fleet of new trucks.

“He was open to what was going on,” Maynard said,

“ and saw the law catching up to the industry.” But he was also pushed by workers and by public pension funds that provided some of the investment capital.

The Warehouse Workers Resource Center, also nurtured by Change to Win in its origins, is not presently organizing for a union, although it is not opposed to unions. It aims to help workers organize to improve working conditions and to defend themselves against management, using direct action and the law to protect workers’ legally obliged pay and other rights. California Cartage is another big company with big clients—Amazon, Sears, K-Mart, VF—that sees itself as the logistics company of the future, and Resource Center spokesperson Sheheryar Kasoosji says that they want workers from the start to help define that future.

“There’s clearly an opportunity for this place to do better,” he says.

“It’s just a matter of calling on the company to do the right thing.”

“This year has been a watershed year in terms of our effort to do the impossible,” says Nick Weiner, a long-time Change to Win staff person directing the decade-old ports organizing project. “No one thought that truck drivers could even be organized, and no employer would recognize them as employees or sit down with them to have labour peace.”


Related Topics:

Third Week of Strikes by U.S. Oil Workers*

Worker Co-Ops Moving Beyond Capitalism*

Worker Co-Ops Moving Beyond Capitalism*

By David Morgan

The explosion of worker cooperatives in recent years has social justice organizers talking. Transitioning to a people-powered economy will require the work of many different social movements and worker co-ops have come to the center of the conversation due to their ability to address multiple issues at once.

These democratically owned and controlled businesses serve as a laboratory for reinventing our economy and many overlapping social movements are combining forces in the experiment. A new documentary, Own the Change: Building Economic Democracy One Worker Co-op at a Time, shows the potential of a networked worker co-op movement and activists across the country are embracing the film as a way to form new alliances.

We – GRITtv and the Toolbox for Education and Social Action (TESA) – created the film and are coordinating a nationwide series of screenings with local activists. At TESA, we have also designed additional educational tools that speak to these audiences and that local organizers can use to further their efforts. The Toolbox for Education and Social Action provides each screening host with a discussion guide for use at the event. We also offer how-to guides to getting a worker cooperative started, like readiness evaluations, resource mapping exercises, and more. The film and educational materials are helping turn conversations into action in many communities.

Labor organizers have been quick to recognize the value of Own the Change. The first in the series of screenings was hosted in Detroit two weeks after the film’s launch. Co-op developers and educators hosted the event as part of a coalition of diverse groups. Three co-op organizations joined with the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network and Jobs With Justice. “It seemed that showing this film would be an ideal program for one of our monthly get-togethers,” says Mike Friedman of the Center for Community-Based Enterprise (C2BE).

Own the Change joins other labor-led efforts in Detroit to support the burgeoning worker co-op movement. Jobs with Justice has poured resources into co-op education, hosting a three-part series on what labor can learn from worker-owned enterprises that also included the participation of United Food and Commercial Workers, C2BE, and Colors Co-op Academy.

Surprisingly, unions and cooperatives haven’t always been friends; they have a complicated, even turbulent history. At certain points, the antagonism was so sharp that union shops thought co-ops were stealing jobs away from the labor movement. These days, however, labor is evolving rapidly and trying out new forms of organizing. They’ve come to see cooperatives as economic development engines and a new organizational form has emerged: the union co-op. It is one of many responses to the assault that lawmakers in many places have launched against unions.

One of the most discussed offenders, Wisconsin, has seen its state government dismantle its citizens’ right to organize in the workplace – but meanwhile cities like Madison have provided millions in support to worker co-op development. In a recent interview, Paul Soglin, the mayor of Madison, commented on the city’s new Cooperative Enterprise Development (CED) initiative: “Building a great local economy is not reserved for white males,” he said.

“We’re hoping this will be part of our economic development strategy in areas where there’s food insecurity, where there isn’t a concentration of jobs, and where significant numbers of households are below the poverty line.”

Rebecca Kemble, president of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives and a worker-owner at Union Cab Cooperative of Madisonranfor Madison Common Council on a people-centered economic development platform that includes strong support for the CED initiative. In Own the Change she highlighted the importance of building strong networks of cooperative businesses saying, “Just as an individual co-op enterprise can only be successful if there’s good relationships amongst the members, the co-op movement as a whole can only exist as a movement if the co-op businesses are engaged in these ever-expanding layers and levels of networks and cooperating with each other.”

She added, “The film and educational materials offer a chance for new and experienced cooperators to work with community organizations and civic leaders to build a new economy.”

Local civic leaders in other municipalities are also embracing worker cooperatives as a way to localize economic development, especially in the pinch felt after the 2008 economic crisis. Cooperators in New York City recently made gains when their city councilors approved the largest pledge of government support for worker cooperative business development in U.S. history. The $1.2 million award will fund the development and expansion of new and existing worker cooperatives.

Members of the New York City Network of Worker Cooperatives, the coalition that won this campaign, came together at the debut screening of Own the Change to strategize, educate, and celebrate their recent victory. Hosted by the filmmakers, the event included panel presentations by organizations as diverse as a social services agency and an educational nonprofit. One presenter, Vanessa Bransburg, says that her agency, The Center for Family Life, a program of SCO Family of Services, views worker cooperatives as a necessary support structure for the low-income and immigrant families they serve.

“Tools like Own the Change give us the opportunity to share our unique approach to providing cooperative development incubation services and enable us to connect with other like-minded organizations,” she said.

Own the Change speaks to the diverse audiences that make up the movement for economic justice and will no doubt galvanize the partnerships and alliances that use the film. Social movements that grow and incorporate a variety of viewpoints have staying power, and, thanks to Own the Change and many other efforts, new economy activism is blossoming with this kind of activity.


Related Topics:

How America’s Largest Worker Owned Co-Op Lifts People Out of Poverty*

Debt-ocracy: Enslaving Entire Nations and Peoples*

How Students Transformed $6 Billion Corporatization of their University*

Only 8, but He Raised $20,000 So Fellow Students Could Eat Lunch*

We Societies

Vermont Towns Vote to Start a Public Bank that Works for Them*

Third Week of Strikes by U.S. Oil Workers*

Third Week of Strikes by U.S. Oil Workers*

The Real News Network speaks to United Steelworkers Spokesperson Lynn Hancock who says the union is demanding improved safety for its 30,000 members and their communities –   February 21, 2015


JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: The union representing 30,000 oil workers has rejected the latest industry offer over health and safety concerns. Members of United Steelworkers are preparing to enter the third week of their strike, and reports indicate the industry’s biggest strike in three and a half decades may spread as the union has reportedly asked other locals to prepare to join the picket lines.

Industry negotiations are being led by Shell Oil. They did not respond to an interview request, but said on their website, Shell continues its dialog with USW for the second straight day in hopes of reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement. Union supporters said Wednesday’s massive ExxonMobil refinery explosion that injured four workers underscored the need for enforceable improvements for safety conditions. The plan had a history of safety violations in previous explosions.

According to the L.A. Times, dozens were injured and one was killed in two previous incidents in 1998 and 1994. An ExxonMobil spokesperson told the L.A. Times, we regret this incident and apologize for any inconvenience that this incident may have caused the community. The Real News also reached Lynne Hancock, a spokesperson for United Steelworkers.

LYNNE HANCOCK, SPOKESPERSON, UNITED STEELWORKERS: Yeah, the oil industry is the most powerful and the richest in the world. But we know that we have a lot of solidarity among our members in the community and that we are fighting for safer refineries, not only for the employees, but also for the surrounding communities. And that’s why we’re out walking the line, because we need to hold the oil companies accountable for health and safety within their facilities.

NOOR: She describes some of the reasons the workers are going on strike.

HANCOCK: Our workers are working 12-hour shifts for a number of weeks. And that excessive overtime is causing them to feel fatigued. And when you’re fatigued, you could accidentally make mistakes. And those mistakes in a refinery or petrochemical plant can be very deadly and lead to such an event as an explosion or a fire. And when that happens, it negatively affects not only the employees, but also the surrounding community.

We’re also concerned that our full-time maintenance people who handle daily maintenance are being replaced when they retire or leave with contractors who don’t receive the same high-quality health and safety training as the full-time employees, because the full-time employees are represented by our union and they get a lot of–we have a lot of health and safety training programs to help them. In addition, a full-time daily maintenance worker understands the ins and outs of these facilities, and they can spot something that might go wrong a lot faster than an untrained contract worker who isn’t familiar with these facilities as much as the full-time people.

We are convinced that we will prevail, that we will prevail one day longer than the oil companies. And we know that we have the facts on our side and that it comes a time when workers have to say enough is enough. And that’s what our oil workers are saying.


Related Topics:

A Reminder Why South African Mineworkers have a Right to Strike*

Oil vs. Communities: Has the Chicken Come Home to Roost for ExxonMobil!

Tanzania Stands to Lose US$1 billion Annually in a Exxon Mobil-Norwegian Gas Deal*

Chevron and Exxon: The Criminals Behind Katrina*

Ecuador: How an Oil Giant Decimates a People

The Eight Families’ Rigged Oil Game