CODE-CWA Newsletter: September 7

Happy Labor Day Weekend! We hope that those of you who have today off have some time to rest and recover.

There’s lots of exciting news in this week’s newsletter. Just in time for Labor Day, a new poll was released showing record support for labor unions in the United States. Workers are organizing in the video game industry, the gig economy, and more. We also cover the history of the American Labor Day and explain why the United States no longer celebrates International Workers Day alongside the rest of the world.

Organizing at your company is a fantastic way to celebrate Labor Day! Ready to get started? Get in touch, and let’s build together.

Events

Now through mid-October, CODE-CWA is offering free, online training courses on Saturdays and Sundays.

Experts will walk you through the 101 of how to start talking to your coworkers and organize your first campaign. Enroll online today!

Worker News

The video game industry has two tiers of workers — full time employees and workers permanently relegated to “temp” employment and poverty wages. Temp employees rarely get paid vacation. They’re paid poverty wages, denied benefits, and usually kept out of opportunities to climb the corporate ladder. This dynamic keeps workers separated and prevents them from organizing. Increasingly, there are efforts to fight this exploitation, but there are currently no unions in the video game industry. Get in touch if you’d like to organize the first at your company! More at Bloomberg.

Americans are seeing the power of labor organizing! A new Gallup poll shows that a strong 65% of the country approves of labor unions — the highest approval numbers unions have seen since 2003. Approval of unions had been on a steady decline since 1954, and union membership rates fell alongside approval ratings. That trend has now reversed, and approval of unions has been on the rise since the 2008 depression. This is good news for workers. Workers who are members of a union receive higher wages and better benefits on average. More at Gallup.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff isn’t shy about appropriating the word “ohana” — Hawaiian for family — to refer to his staff. But last week, after Salesforce announced record-breaking profits, Benioff announced he was laying off some of his family in the middle of a pandemic. Even during a time of record growth, Salesforce bosses are prioritizing their own profits over the workers who made them all of their money in the first place. Get organized at your company before something bad happens. More at Vice.

Gig workers are going to extraordinary lengths to make ends meet in the middle of a pandemic while their bosses continue to pay them scraps. Amazon illegally classifies their drivers as independent contractors, rather than employees, which means they only get paid per job and not for the hours they wait in between. To get a jumpstart on claiming deliveries before other drivers, some drivers are rigging smartphones in trees closer to Amazon’s delivery centers where the jobs originate. Amazon is allegedly aware of this behavior but has turned a blind eye. More at Bloomberg.

The National Labor Relations Board just upheld strippers’ right to unionize. Brandi Campbell, a stripper in Ohio, was retaliated against when her employer found out that she had a history of labor organizing. At the time, Campbell was working at a club that classified her as an independent contractor, while simultaneously holding her to rules for employees, including how much she could charge for dances and what she had to wear. Campbell sued, and won. This confirms a previous Nevada Supreme Court that says strippers are employees, and therefore have a right to unionize. More at Jacobin.

Today Derrick Baker, a Black Uber driver and organizer with Gig Workers Rising in the Bay Area, was published in The New York Times. He has diabetes and has been struggling with his health throughout the pandemic because Uber illegally denies him healthcare. In this powerful Op-Ed, Baker responds to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s argument that “gig workers deserve better” by talking about the impact of Uber’s exploitation on drivers. More in The New York Times.

Organizing Tip of the Month

HR is not your friend.

It’s important to remember that your company’s human resources department exists to protect the company, not its workers. If you’re having a problem at work, reach out to your coworkers and build the power to push back in numbers rather than reporting it to human resources.

Get in touch if you need help getting started!

This History of Labor Day

Today, Monday, September 7 is American Labor Day. Unlike over 80 countries across the world who celebrate International Workers Day on May 1, the United States celebrates Labor Day on the first Monday of September. The history of this division is rooted in anti-communist propaganda.

In the late 19th century, workers first began to suggest a day of the year devoted to labor. At the 1885 American Federation of Labor convention the date May 1 was proposed, in celebration of a resolution that just passed codifying the eight-hour workday. The resolution was set to go into effect the following May 1, in 1886. At this convention, union members also committed to striking as a tactic to enforce the eight-hour workday.

President Grover Cleveland and his anti-labor allies became skittish of the May 1 date because they saw the endorsement of strikes as too radical. Their fears were heightened when at a labor action that became known as the Haymarket affair on May 4, 1886, someone threw a bomb at a police officer. In 1887, Cleveland suggested a September date for Labor Day as a neutral compromise.

Up until the 1930s, Labor Day was still not widely granted to American workers as a day off. Still today, many service workers including waiters and baristas work on Labor Day.

In 1947, at the beginning of the Cold War, U.S. favorability on International Workers Day soured further as it became associated with communist. Congress renamed May 1 “Loyalty Day.” Loyalty Day is still celebrated in several U.S. cities.

Today we’re reflecting on the common struggles we share not just with workers in other industries, but across country borders.

Read more on Wikipedia.

French workers march on International Workers Day in 2009. | Source: Wikimedia Commons

Song of the Week

The Coup — "The Guillotine"

(Don't feel like reading anymore? Click the song title to listen instead.)

We got the guillotine

We got the guillotine, you better run

We got the guillotine

We got the guillotine, you better run

We got the guillotine

We got the guillotine, you better run

We got the guillotine

We got the guillotine, you better run

We want to thank you for flying with us

We know you coulda stayed home, just cried and cussed

May all your guns go off if it's time to bust

May all they tanks have time to rust

They got the armies turning bullets into gold

They got the hookers turning tricks in the cold

And every time the police kicks in a door

An angel gas break dips in the O

And even if a d-boy flips him a O

It ain't enough to buy shit anymore

Sleep in the doorway, piss on the floor

Look in the sky, wait for missiles to show

It's finna blow cause

They got the TV, we got the truth

They own the judges and we got the proof

We got hella people, they got helicopters

They got the bombs and we got the, we got the

We got the guillotine

We got the guillotine, you better run

We got the guillotine

We got the guillotine, you better run

We got the guillotine

We got the guillotine, you better run

We got the guillotine

We got the guillotine, you better run

Don't talk about it

It's not a show

Be about it

It's 'bout to blow

Don't talk about it

It's not a show

Be about it

It's 'bout to blow

I just spit the dope lines, I don't snort 'em

Tell the boss to call police to escort him

You don't write all them lines, you just quote 'em

Get offline, plug in to this modem

No, you can't out-vote 'em

The rules is still golden

Only jewels we holding is if we guarding our scrotum

If you press your ear to the turf that is stolen

You can hear the sound of limitations exploding

Please sir, may we have another portion?

We're children of the beast that dodged the abortion

Neck placed firm 'tween the floor and the Florsheim

We'll shut your shit down, don't call it extortion

Caution -- we're coming for your head

So call the Feds and get files to shred

Every textbook read said bring you the bread

But guess what we got you instead?

We got the guillotine

We got the guillotine, you better run

We got the guillotine

We got the guillotine, you better run

We got the guillotine

We got the guillotine, you better run

We got the guillotine

We got the guillotine

Let's keep it banging like a shotgun

We in a war before we fought one

Now if you're tired of working from day to day

A common enemy, we got one

Now keep it banging like a shotgun

We in a war before we fought one

Now if you're tired of working from day to day

A common enemy, we got one

Don't talk about it

It's not a show

Be about it

It's 'bout to blow

Don't talk about it

It's not a show

Be about it

It's 'bout to blow