Labor Notes #377, August 2010

New technologies can affect the number of jobs, the skills needed, training issues, monitoring, pace of work, intensity of work, control over the work process, and even the ability to do our work well. What should we do about technology? What do we need to know? We do have rights, but we need to take the initiative.

GM stamping plant workers in Indianapolis have told the company they won’t cut their wages in half, even when threatened with a shutdown. A prospective buyer of the 650-worker factory has indicated he wants United Auto Workers members to drop from $29 an hour to $14.65.

Wal-Mart outmaneuvered its Chicago opponents, winning approval for a second store. Some unions claimed victory, saying a wage agreement was reached. The company denies it.

The stock market may be climbing, but city and state budgets across the country are stuck in a downward spiral. From California to Maine, double-digit deficits have left civil servants with a giant bull’s-eye on their backs

Some of the 27,000 workers in the Gulf cleanup are falling sick, but fear retaliation for speaking out. The long-term effects of chemical exposure on workers and residents are yet unknown.

Are taxes too high? That all depends on where you sit on the income ladder.

Immigrant rights activists met during the U.S. Social Forum to gear up for a national day of action July 29, the date Arizona’s anti-immigrant law SB1070 goes into effect. SB1070 demands local and state police officers do double-duty as immigration enforcement, checking the papers of anyone they profile as undocumented.

What if workers excluded from today’s labor laws and unions’ organizing campaigns were able to collectively bargain? What if we were able to overturn historically racist exclusions and see a whole new group of workers “stand in the doorway to a new labor movement,” as one organizer put it?

The U.S. Social Forum proved to be a place where union troublemakers could meet up with agitators for every other cause under the sun. Organizers say 15,000 people registered for the five-day event, which hosted 1,000 workshops in downtown Detroit.

This year saw the first labor protests in recent memory at Emory University, as students and food service workers put the screws to Sodexo.

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