Workers in Chile demand an end to its privatized social security system

Hundreds of thousands of people on August 21 took to the streets of Santiago, Chile to demand an end to Chile’s privatized social security system and to replace it with a public pension plan.

Similar demonstrations took place in other parts of the country. Organizers of the protest estimate that 1.3 million people took part in countrywide demonstrations against the AFP, the country’s privatized social security system.

“We pledge that we will not rest until our retirement savings are no longer serving the economic elite, but are once and for all placed in the service of those who are its rightful owners–working men and working women.” said Luis Messina , coordinator of the group that organized the mass protest NO AFP.

AFP has not lived up to its promises.

In 1981, Chile’s dictator Augusto Pinochet scrapped the country’s social security system, and replace it with AFP, a collection of private individual retirement savings accounts, administered by banks and other financial institutions.

Workers were required to contribute 10 percent of their salaries to AFP. Employers who had been required to contribute to the former social security fund were no longer required to make contributions.

AFP administrators invested the money from the individual accounts in capital markets, and of course charged fees for services provided. Any losses resulting from the investments were borne by individual account holders not the administrators.

At the time that AFP was established, Pinochet relying on expert advice, estimated that private retirement savings accounts would provide retirees with between 70 percent and 75 percent of their final salary.

That has not turned out to be the case. The average replacement income for Chile’s retired males is 38 percent and for women it’s 33 percent.

The result has been that a substantial number of Chilean retirees are living in or near poverty.

The Wall Street Journal reports that “From 2007 to 2014, almost 80 percent of Chile’s pensions were less than the minimum wage and 44 percent were below the poverty line.”

“We just spend on food. We don’t buy clothes, we don’t buy shoes,” said Nora Guerrero, a 71-year-old retiree to the Journal.

Pinochet’s privatization of the country’s social security system was the brainchild of Chilean economist José Piñera, an acolyte of Milton Friedman, an American Nobel Prize winner in Economic Sciences who pioneered work in the economic theory called Monetarism and was the prominent professor at the Chicago School of Economics.

Piñera’s plan was hailed as a model for other countries to emulate by the World Bank and other international financial institutions.

But AFP’s problems became apparent as soon as people started retiring under it.

For his book Social Insecurity (Beacon Press, 2014), a critique of private retirement savings accounts, James Russell traveled to Chile to learn how AFP was working.

He reports that a study conducted by the National Center for Alternative Development (CENDA, its Spanish acronym) found that real growth rates for AFP accounts were much lower than had been originally forecast and that “retirees under AFP were receiving less than half of what those who retired under the old INP (the former public social security system) . . . received.”

But while retirees weren’t doing so well, the financial institutions that managed their private accounts were doing just fine. The CENDA report found that “the corporations managing the private accounts were pocketing one of every three pesos deposited and accumulated in them,” writes Russell.

Because of the problems created by AFP, the government in 2008 made some reforms, but did not completely abolish AFP. Doing so argued the government would undermine capital markets because the accumulated funds in AFP had become a huge source of investment.

In essence the individual savings plans, which failed to provide retirement security, had nevertheless, become a “source of capital accumulation for businesses,” writes Russell.

Today, AFP funds have grown to $176 billion and according to Bloomberg, they underpin Chile’s capital markets.

Chile’s retirement insecurity problem has forced the government of President Michelle Bachelet to propose further reforms to Chile’s retirement system, but NO AFP is calling for the abolition of AFP and a return to a public social security system.

The public also appears to be fed up with AFP.

The Wall Street Journal reports that “Chilean opinion pollster Cadem found that 84% of Chileans want an overhaul (of AFS), while a University of Santiago survey said 61% want to return to a public pension system.”

After the large turnout at the latest NO AFP demonstrations, the organization, which was founded by a group of trade unions, said it will continue to pressure the government.

Speaking at the Santiago demonstration, Carmen Espinoza spokeswoman for NO AFP told the audience that if the government “doesn’t listen to the workers, who are the owners of these funds, then the way forward is a national strike on November 4.”

NLRB: Columbia grad student are workers, may join a union

The US National Labor Relations Board recently ruled that graduate students working as academic assistants at Columbia University are workers who have the right to join a union and bargain collectively.

A day after the ruling, a delegation of Columbia graduate students from the Graduate Workers of Columbia-UAW Local 2110 (GWC-UAW) delivered a letter to Columbia’s president Lee Bollinger urging him to allow a union representation election without interference and should graduate students vote to join a union to “immediately commence good­faith negotiations for a contract” should graduate students decide to join the union.”

“The NLRB clearly recognizes the increasingly indispensable role we play in carrying out Columbia’s world-class research and teaching missions—we teach hundreds of classes and help bring in roughly $1 billion in research grants each year,” reads a message to members on the union’s website. “Up to this point, Columbia has fruitlessly spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on an expensive outside law firm to oppose our right to a union. They say a union is ‘not necessary,’ yet Columbia still fails to fully address the constant insecurity and unpredictability of our working conditions. We hope they will do better moving forward, and more than 160 elected and community leaders told Columbia last year that they agree with us.”

Graduate students at Columbia began organizing their union in 2014 after New York University recognized the The Graduate Student Organizing Committee-UAW Local 2110, the union of graduate students at NYU.

What started as conversations among concerned Columbia graduate students quickly transformed into a campuswide movement.

In May 2014, GWC-UAW held its first town-hall type meeting. The meeting hall was packed with graduate students from more than 30 departments.

By June GWC-UAW had union activists in nearly every department at Columbia.

With an organization in place, the union began asking graduate students to sign cards signifying their interest in joining a union.

By the end of the semester, union activists had gathered 1700 union cards.

In December with the union cards in hand, a delegation from the union asked Columbia’s administration to recognize the union, but the administration ignored the request.

A week later, GWC-UAW filed a petition for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board, but an NLRB regional office denied the request.

It said that a previous NLRB decision called Brown University prevented the regional office from recognizing graduate students as workers.

The union appealed the regional office’s decision, and on August 23, the NLRB by a 3-1 vote overturned Brown and recognized graduate students who work as teaching and research assistants as employees.

In announcing its decision, the NLRB said that the Brown decision “deprived an entire category of workers of the protection of the (National Labor Relations) Act without convincing justification.”

More than a year and one-half elapsed between the time that GWC-UAW filed its petition and the final decision by the NLRB. During that period, GWC-UAW continued to organize, agitate and find ways to serve graduate students.

In the spring of 2016, international graduate students who are members of GWC-UAW organized a series of workshops to provide information on taxes and visas to other international student workers.

GWC-UAW members in the spring joined other low-wage workers in demonstrations for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and worked with the Graduate Student Advisory Council to improve pay and benefits for graduate students.

As a result, Columbia in May announced new benefits for graduate workers, including paid parental leave, a child care subsidy, and expanded fee waivers.

In July, Columbia announced that it would raise pay for graduate student workers.

The union applauded these gains but pointed out that they were the result of solidarity and collective action rather than the administration’s generosity and that much more needed to be done.

“With collective bargaining, we would have more power to build on improvements we have already won by joining together across campus over the last few years. We could not only bargain as equals for additional improvements, but could also secure those provisions in a contract that Columbia could not change without our agreement—as they do frequently with our health and dental benefits,” said the union in a message to members.

Union announces new way to support striking Trump Taj Mahal workers

UNITE HERE announced that it has created a GoFundMe website where people can show their solidarity with striking UNITE HERE Local 54 members who work at the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

About 1,000 cooks, housekeepers, servers, bartenders, and other service workers at Trump Taj Mahal on July 1 went on strike for a new contract that includes pay and benefits similar to those agreed to at four other casinos in Atlantic City.

Most striking workers make about $12 or less an hour.

Trump Taj Mahal is owned by Carl Icahn, a billionaire whose net worth is estimated by Forbes to be $16.5 billion.

When the casino was in bankruptcy for the fourth time, Ichan in 2014 convinced a bankruptcy judge to strip the workers of their health insurance and pension plans.

When the casino emerged from bankruptcy, the union sought to recover the health insurance plan.

Local 54 had successfully negotiated contracts with four other Atlantic City casinos, and the union wanted the new contract with Trump Taj Mahal to include a health care plan similar to the ones enjoyed by other Local 54 members.

When Icahn refused, the workers went on strike.

A month after the strike began, Icahn announced that he would close Trump Taj Mahal on October 10.

Despite the devastating news, members of Local 54 have continued with their strike and are asking people to show their solidarity by contributing to the union’s Hardship Fund through the GoFundMe website.

“Workers have been struggling under Carl Icahn’s reign of terror at the Trump Taj Mahal for over 22 months. Their benefits have been stripped away, and now, Icahn has said that he will close the place in two months,” said Donna Decaprio, financial secretary-treasurer of Local 54.  “These women and men have been on strike for over a month to defend middle class jobs. People ask all the time how they can support the strikers; this GoFundMe campaign is one way to do that.”

Icahn said that he can’t afford to pay for the health care plan that Trump Taj Mahal want restored.

The Guardian reports that it would cost Icahn about $4 million a year to provide the same level of health care benefits to Trump Taj Mahal workers that other Atlantic City casino workers receive.

That’s about the same amount of money that Icahn spent buying back shares from investors in another Atlantic City casino that he owns, the Tropicana, which, by the way, agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement with Local 54 just days before Trump Taj Mahal workers went on strike.

“For the workers, it is the difference between a $12-an-hour job with a $3 benefits package that leaves them on the hook for their family’s healthcare and their own hospital visits, or a $6.65 benefits package that they say would give them a decent, middle-class life. Currently, workers say, the Taj is paying $20 an hour to scabs to staff the hotel, restaurants and gaming services,” reports the Guardian.

Despite the news of the closing, Trump Taj Mahal workers remain on the picket line and the strike continues.

The GoFundMe campaign will help Local 54 replenish its Hardship Fund that helps union members facing financial difficulties.

“Shortly after I was diagnosed with breast cancer, Carl Icahn took my healthcare away.  The Local 54 Hardship Committee helped pay my medical bills.  I don’t know what I would have done without their help,” said Patricia Mazur, a 26-year cocktail server at the Trump Taj Mahal.

University shared services stumbles —- again

The University of Texas at Austin (UT) pulled the plug on the most important component of its Shared Services experiment, a consolidation of support services that was supposed to save UT hundreds of millions of dollars but would have eliminated hundreds of jobs on the university’s campus.

In a message to staff, UT’s Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Darrell Bazzell announced the phase out of the Central Business Office (CBO) pilot program.

The CBO pilot consolidated support services such as procurement, accounting, inventory, human resources, and payment and revenue collection for a select number colleges, schools, and support units at UT.

If the pilot had been successful, all support services at UT would have been transferred to the CBO.

When the Shared Services plan was first proposed three years ago, it was estimated that as many as 500 jobs would be eliminated.

The proposal sparked an organized opposition campaign of employees worried that they might lose their jobs, faculty concerned that centralizing services would interfere with their teaching and research, and students angry that a centralized distant bureaucracy would create a barrier to vital services.

Opponents of Shared Services argued that centralizing support services would destroy the sense of community cultivated for decades among staff, faculty, and students and that it was yet another step toward the corporatization and privatization of public higher education.

Bazzell said that CBO was being phased out because it “has not produced the savings and efficiencies initially anticipated when it was launched.”

Instead of saving money, the CBO was costing an additional $600,000 per year. According to a Frequently Asked Question page about the CBO phase out, “this lack of efficiency is the principal reason we are ending the pilot.”

CBO was one of the two main components of UT’s Shared Services plan. The other was the consolidation of information technology services, which has not changed.

Shared Services was the vision of a select group of business grandees appointed by then UT President William Powers. The group’s purpose was to recommend changes that would transform UT into a more businesslike operation.

The group was composed of eminences from private equity companies, consulting firms, energy corporations, and the furniture trade.

The chair of the group was a top executive for Accenture, a well-known outsourcing and consulting firm.

In 2004, Accenture was awarded an $899 million contract to privatize Texas’ health and human services.

The state Health and Human Services Commission in 2007 fired Accenture because it failed to produce the cost savings it promised and because service deteriorated quickly once the company began implementing its plan.

“It failed miserably to provide services or save money,” wrote state senator Eddie Lucio in a 2007 op ed piece for the Valley Morning Star.

That failure didn’t dissuade the Texas attorney general from hiring Accenture to redesign the state’s child support computer system. Nearly ten years after the project began, the new system, called T2, is still being developed and cost overruns have reached $200 million dollars.

At UT, the group of business leaders tasked with transforming the university was led by Steve Rohleder, one of Accenture’s top executives. The group issued a report in 2013 entitled “Smarter Systems for a Greater UT.”

The report estimates that by implementing the CBO and consolidating information technology services, UT would save between $150 million and $200 million over ten years.

The report also contained other recommendations for making UT greater such as increasing parking fees, privatizing UT’s dining facilities, and increasing student food costs.

“Smarter Systems for a Greater UT” alarmed a large segment of the UT community, who formed the Save Our Community Coalition (SOCC), a united front that included the Texas State Employees Union CWA Local 6186 and a number of student and community groups.

The coalition led a grassroots movement opposing Shared Services and other recommendations in the report.

SOCC succeeded in stopping the privatization of food services and got the university to scale back Shared Services to a pilot program.

Now that CBO is being phased out there is some concern about its employees.

Bazzell said that 30 positions in the CBO may be eliminated, but he added that the university would try to place them in other jobs on the UT campus.

Anne Lewis, a senior lecturer at UT, a documentary film maker, and an executive board member of the Texas State Employees Union, expressed concern for those whose jobs may be eliminated

On the union’s University Caucus Facebook page, Lewis urged the administration to place those facing layoffs “in departments within our community and with control over their work and creativity, a  way that worked better for all.”

“So much for in sourcing and shared services — a lousy model for public universities,” she added.

Study: Charters schools are no path out of poverty

Charter school entrepreneurs like Bill and Melinda Gates market charters as a pathway out of poverty. According to their narrative, innovative instruction offered only at charters best prepares students for good paying jobs.

But a recent study entitled “Charter Schools and Labor Market Outcomes” by two Ivy League economists, Will Dobbie and Roland Fryer, challenges this narrative.

After studying the impact of Texas charter schools on earnings by former students, the authors find that regular charter schools in Texas have had “a negative impact on earnings” and that the impact of Texas’ elite charters is insignificant.

“Charter schools, in particular No Excuses charter schools (the elite schools), are considered by many to be the most important education reform of the past quarter century,” write Dobbie and Fryer. “At the very least, however, this paper cautions that charter schools may not have the large effects on earnings many predicted.”

“Much more troubling, it seems,” continue Dobbie and Fryer. “Is the possibility that what it takes to increase achievement among the poor in charter schools deprives them of other skills that are important for labor markets.”

“Apparently, the obedience and conformity taught in No Excuses charter schools do not help people in jobs where initiative and independent thinking are valued,” writes Diane Ravitch in her comments on the study on her education blog.

Ravitch described the study as “astonishing” because Dobbie, a professor at Princeton, and Fryer, a professor at Harvard, “are economists who have frequently studied charters, incentives, and their effects on test scores.”

Ravitch also notes that Fryer’s research institute was started with a multi-million grant from the Broad Foundation, founded by Eli Broad, California’s leading charter school promoter.

Dobbie and Fryer chose Texas for their study because the state has a long history of diverting public education spending to charter schools.

They write that Texas introduced “high-stakes” standardized testing in 1993, and two years later, authorized the opening of charter schools.

Since then, “the Texas charter sector has . . . grown into one of the largest in the nation, with approximately 3.5 percent of Texas public students now enrolled in a charter school.”

This long history gave Dobbie and Fryer the opportunity to observe the impact that charters have on their students’ earnings.

In their study, Dobbie and Fryer classified charters they studied into two groups–regular charters and No Excuses charters, “schools that tend to have higher behavioral expectations, stricter disciplinary codes, uniform requirements, and an extended school day and year.”

First, Dobbie and Fryer find that, “at the mean, charter schools in Texas are no more effective at increasing test scores or educational attainment than regular public schools.”

As far as giving students the tools they need for higher earnings, the study concludes that neither regular charters nor No Excuses charters provide in significant advantage, and in many cases attending charter schools turns out to be a disadvantage.

“Turning to labor market outcomes, the focus of our analysis, we find that charter attendance is associated with a $163. . . decrease (authors emphasis) in annual earnings, with no detectable impact on employment rates, “states the study. “Taken together, these results suggest little positive impact of the average charter school in Texas.”

No Excuses do a little better but their impact on future earnings is “statistically insignificant.”

About the same time that the Dobbie’s and Fryer’s charter school and labor market study was published, two of the US’ leading civil rights groups took a stand against charter schools and the privatization of education.

At its national convention in July, the NAACP passed a resolution reaffirming its opposition to charter schools.

The resolution says that charter school promoters “have targeted low-income and communities of color” and “have contributed to increased segregation.”

The resolution compares the practices of charter school promoters to “predatory lending practices” of banks, which led to the financial crisis of 2008. These practices, says the resolution, have put public schools and their communities “at great risk of loss and harm.”

More recently the Movement for Black Lives, a united front of 30 civil rights organizations, issued a list of policy demands aimed at fighting racism.

Included in those demands is a call for a moratorium on charter school openings, full funding for public education, an end to the privatization of public education, and real community control by parents, students and community members of schools including democratic school boards and community control of curriculum, hiring/firing, and discipline policies.”

“Sixty years since Brown v. Board of Education, the school-to-prison pipeline continues to play in role in denying Black people their human right to an education, and privatization strips Black people of the right to self-determine the kind of education their children receive,” reads the introduction of the movement’s policy demands for education. “This systematic attack is coordinated by an international education privatization agenda, bankrolled by billionaire philanthropists such as Bill and Melinda Gates, the Walton Family, and Eli and Edythe Broad, and aided by the departments of education at the federal, state, and local level.”

Unions vote no confidence in Southwest Airlines executive leadership

Transportation Workers Union Local 555 on August 3 became the fourth union at Southwest Airlines to express no confidence in the airline’s Chief Executive Officer Gary Kelly and Chief Operations Officer Mike Van de Ven and call for a change of leadership at the top.

The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) was the first union to take a no confidence vote. The SWAPA executive board on August 1 voted 20-0 for a no confidence resolution.

“After years of operational failures and a degradation of our culture that risks slowly eroding our loyal customer base, we must speak up and be catalysts for change,” said Captain Jon Weaks, president of SWAPA, explaining his union’s no confidence vote. “We are faithful to our company and its founding principles, and we feel that our CEO and COO have broken the faith with both.”

That vote was followed by similar actions by Transport Workers Local 556, whose members are Southwest flight attendants, and the Airline Mechanics Fraternal Association Local 11 (AMFA).

“Over the past several years, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly and COO Mike Van de Ven have failed to recognize and adequately fix the operational failures that continue to plague our airline,” said TWU Local 556 president Audrey Stone. “Our flight attendants, along with other front-line employees, end up bearing the brunt of these failures. Management’s failures continue to erode the morale of employees, endangering the famous culture upon which our beloved airline was founded.”

The unions say that despite record profits Kelly and Van de Ven have not made the investments needed to upgrade the Southwest’s crumbling infrastructure such as the company’s threadbare computer system and aging fleet of airplanes.

The result has been a series of gaffes like July’s mammoth computer system shutdown that caused hundreds of flight delays and cancellations that stranded thousands of passengers and ruined their travel plans.

Greg Puriski, president Local 555, whose members are baggage handlers and ground operations workers, said that the computer breakdown was the last straw for a beleaguered workforce who had to clean up the mess caused by Southwest’s system failure.

“After witnessing the recent electronic meltdown that left customers and flight crews stranded in airports (and) our members trying to pick up the pieces of delayed and cancelled flights, we will no longer remain silent but join with SWAPA, AMFA and TWU 556 in declaring our vote of ‘no confidence,'” said Puriski.

Bloomberg reports that  the company’s computer system crashed in July “after an old router and its backup system failed.”

Another Southwest computer crash that stranded thousands of passengers and flight crews occurred in 2015. That one was blamed on “outdated technology.”

Southwest’s computer system isn’t the only thing that’s old and outdated. According to SWAPA, Southwest operates the oldest fleet of airplanes in the airline industry, which also has caused flight delays and cancellations.

The unions say that instead of fixing these problem, Southwest has been using its record profits to buy back stock from investors.

Southwest spent $700 million on stock buybacks in the second quarter of its fiscal year, and $3.1 billion on buybacks during the last three years.

Southwest’s board of directors recently authorized another $2 billion for stock buybacks.

Southwest isn’t alone in spending its profits on buybacks rather than on investing in innovation and employees.

Nick Haneuer writing for the Atlantic reports that between 2004 and 2015, corporations spent $6.9 trillion on stock buybacks, and in the last ten years, corporations on the S&P 500 index have spent 54 percent of their profits on stock buybacks.

“Today, these buybacks drain trillions of dollars of windfall profits out of the real economy and into a paper asset bubble, inflating share prices while producing nothing of tangible value,” writes Haneuer, an entrepreneur and venture capitalist.

While the buybacks might not do anything to create “tangible value,” they do a lot to boost the compensation of executives such as Kelly and Van de Ven.

Much of Kelly’s and Van de Ven’s compensation is in the form of company stock. When companies buy back their stock from investors, the price of stock increases because there are fewer shares on the market.

While Kelly and Van de Ven have failed to make the capital investments needed to maintain quality service, they’ve also failed to invest in their employees.

Three of the unions, SWAPA, TWU Local 556, and AMFA have been in protracted collective bargaining negotiations with Southwest. Local 556 and SWAPA have been negotiating since 2013 and AMFA since 2012.

Since 2013, Southwest has reported net income of more than $4 billion. Each year since 2013 has been a record year for profits.

Local 556 reports that Southwest’s estimated year-to-date profits for 2016 are $1.379 billion. If Southwest continues at this rate, 2016 profits will be $2.364, another record-breaking profit year.

Despite the record profits, Southwest has been reluctant to agree to fair contracts with the three unions and negotiations have stalled

In a message to its members, Local 556 said that the computer breakdown in July had changed the dynamics of its negotiations with management.

“We have further put management on notice that the nature of these ongoing contract negotiations has changed due to this event,” reads the message. “Excuses given in the past are no longer valid; protections once taken for granted have failed the flight attendants, and that is intolerable. We expect contract language guaranteeing that we will not be abused due to inadequate staffing of reserves, that there will be solutions should there be issues with procuring hotels, and, finally, that our members are in no mood to even consider an Extended Duty Day (a company demand that if implemented would significantly reduce flight attendant’s free time).”

Local 556 members will be holding informational picket lines on August 8 at airports in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Las Vegas, Oakland, and Phoenix.

“We’re picketing to show unity and solidarity with our union sisters and brothers,” reads an explanation of the picketing. “It’s an opportunity to have your voice heard and to fight for the contract we deserve.”

Nissan in Mississippi refuses meeting with fact-finding French lawmaker

Management at the Nissan factory in Canton, Mississippi refused to meet with a French lawmaker investigating charges that Nissan is violating workers free speech and free association rights by intimidating and harassing workers trying to form a union.

Christian Hutin is the deputy chairperson of the French National Assembly’s Social Affairs Committee. The French government is a Nissan shareholder, and Hutin is trying to find out if the French government is supporting activity that violates core principles of the French nation.

“France is a country of fundamental rights, and those fundamental rights are the rights to express yourself, it’s the right to associate, and the right unionize or not,” said Hutin in an address to the National Assembly before he left for Mississippi on his fact finding mission.

Hutin told his colleagues that he and other members of the Assembly had heard that workers at the Canton plant who are trying to form a union “are discriminated against, threatened, (and) intimidated” by management and that he was going to Canton to find out if these charges are true.

The Canton plant is owned by the Renault Nissan Alliance, a global manufacturing organization that unites two worldwide auto brands, Nissan and Renault.

The French government owns a 20 percent share of Renault and Renault owns a 43 percent share in Nissan.

Nissan recognizes unions at its plants in Japan, South Africa, Brazil, and other countries, but has conducted an anti-union campaign in Canton, where workers are trying to join the United Autoworkers (UAW).

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in December charged Nissan with violating US labor law which protects workers who want to form a union from retaliation by their employer.

Among other things, the NLRB charged Nissan’s top management with stifling workers’ right to free speech, illegally questioning workers about their union activity, threatening union supporters with retaliation for the union support, and threatening to move work at the plant to Mexico if workers voted to join a union.

Despite the company’s threats and harassment, Nissan workers continue their efforts to build a union at Nissan.

“With a union, workers can sit down with management to discuss the important issues of working conditions, policies, pay and benefits, as well as ways to improve the company’s processes and products,” reads an explanation of why workers need a union on the union organizing campaign’s website.

One of the issues that union supporters want to negotiate with the company is Nissan’s misclassification of many of its workers as temporary workers.

The UAW, which has been helping Nissan workers to organize, estimates that 40 percent of the 5000 workers at the Canton plant are classified as temporary workers, the overwhelming majority of whom are African American.

Many of these temporary workers, like Robert Hathorn, have been on the job for years.

In June Hathorn testified at the Democratic party’s platform committee that Nissan misclassifies workers as temps to avoid paying decent wages and providing good benefits.

“I was hired by Kelly Services three years ago to work at the Nissan plant,” said Hathorn, a production technician. “When I was hired, I was given less pay and benefits than permanent employees. This was because Nissan didn’t put me on the payroll, they put me on the payroll of Kelly Services. But Kelly wasn’t my real employer. They only interviewed me and gave me paycheck.”

After working as a temporary worker doing the same work as permanent workers for two years, Hathorn finally had the chance to become a permanent employee.

“But as a former temp, I will never receive full Nissan pay and benefits,” said Hathorn. “I currently earn about $12,000 less per year than I would according to the Nissan pay scale.”

Hutin said that Nissan workers need a collective voice on the job to address the inequities like the ones described by Hathorn and that he was disappointed that Nissan refused to meet with him.

He also said that when he returns to France he will inform “the French government and the French President Hollande about the anti-union practices in Canton.”

“Workers rights are human rights,” said Hutin. “In my opinion, the French government cannot ignore Renault-Nissan’s anti-worker culture and its decision to thumb its nose at US and international authorities.”

California labor looks for ways to help immigrant union members

Representatives from 12 California labor councils met in San Francisco for an historic meeting on immigration. The meeting was hosted by the San Francisco Labor Council and the California AFL-CIO.

“In the context of ICE raids, stalled national immigration reform, the Supreme Court ‘non-ruling’ that has kept President Obama’s DAPA order on hold, as well the difficult process to obtain green cards and a path to citizenship, we thought we should gather to discuss how labor councils can support immigrant members of our affiliate unions with the difficulties they face,” said Tim Paulson, executive director of the San Francisco Labor Council.

Among other things, those attending the meeting heard how local unions were providing space in their union halls for immigrant centers, places were immigrants can go to get help on a wide range of issues.

In San Francisco, the local labor council and SEIU Local 87 have worked together to create the We Rise San Francisco Immigration Center, which is housed in Local 87’s union building.

Local 87 is a union of 3500 janitors who clean office buildings in downtown San Francisco. Many if not most of its members are immigrants.

The union has been negotiating a new contract with janitorial service companies.

Negotiations have not been going well, so Local 87 called for a week of action between July 25 and July 29.

During the week of action union members marched to and picketed buildings in the city’s financial district.

One of the excuses that the building service employers are using to avoid giving their workers a decent pay increase and preserving their health care benefits is that the owners and/or occupants of the building, which are mostly financial services and technology companies, are threatening to employ non-union companies that pay low wages with few benefits.

The week of action is aimed at exposing the greed of these companies that report billions of dollars in revenue but seek low ball deals for important services such a cleaning services. The money that they might save on these deals amounts to pocket change for them.

At the end of the week of action on Friday, members of the union voted on whether to authorize a strike.

Results of the vote have not been made public at the time of this writing.

Even though Local 87 has been involved in high stakes negotiating and may be facing a strike soon, it has continued to house the We Rise San Francisco Immigrant Center.

The center was opened in 2015 through a cooperative effort between the San Francisco Labor Council and Local 87. It is funded through a grant from the city of San Francisco.

“San Francisco would not be the innovative, diverse, and resilient city that it is without our strong immigrant community,” said San Francisco City Supervisor Katy Tang when the grant from the city was announced. “We must do everything we can to support new immigrants looking for new opportunities in our city, as well as long-time immigrant families seeking support and stability.”

At the We Rise center, staff who speak a number of different languages explain how people can become citizens, provide legal resources, help with job related issues, and provide information on other issues faced by immigrants. Staff members also help immigrants who have become citizens register to vote.

Paulson said that the California labor movement is leading the fight for social justice in a number of areas including health care, affordable housing, and labor project agreements that ensure decent wages and working conditions on construction projects. All are aimed at making life better for working people.

Immigration reform is key to these other reforms, which is why labor has become more active in supporting immigrant rights, said Paulson.

“Even with anti-worker court rulings and a Congress that refuses to fix our failed immigration system, the California labor movement will continue to protect immigrant workers who pay taxes, work hard and make America work,” he continued.