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Environmental Protection and the Protection of Those Preserving Tomorrow

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Dan Matthews, Author

Many of us are concerned about the environment and our impact on the planet but, fortunately, there is a bright future ahead. People are more interested in sustainability than ever before and as technology evolves, we see more companies using new forms of green energy to make their products.

However, while these changes are helping the environment, the workers that bring these solutions to reality must still be cautious of new hazards that are  dangerous if not handled appropriately. 

Clean Energy is the Future

Many years ago, we wouldn’t even be talking about changing our manufacturing processes, but as the world evolves, more people are witnessing our negative environmental impact and are demanding change. Many companies are jumping on board as they look for new forms of sustainable and renewable energy that will produce clean power and the same high-quality products without the harmful side effects.

According to the Environmental Defense Fund, these clean industries are growing by leaps and bounds. Currently, 2.2 million workers are performing energy-efficient jobs, and the renewable energy sector has brought on almost one million workers over the last couple of years. These positive changes will mean great things for our environment, but hard work is necessary to bring them to life and employee safety is key.

Employee safety should always be at the forefront of management’s minds as safe and happy workers are more eager  to show up to work and are often more productive because of it. However, the typical safety mindset must be shifted as new dangers become apparent. 

New Employee Dangers

One example of a new danger is the generation of biofuels which produce lower carbon emissions than fossil fuels. While the result is great, the creation of biofuels often involves dangerous substances like gasoline and numerous acids, which can be dangerous when they are touched or inhaled. To stay safe, workers must always use protective gear, including gloves and safety goggles, that management should provide.

Solar energy is a very popular form of alternative energy that has many families excited as they place solar panels on their homes. However, solar installers and other employees who regularly work with the energy can be subject to thermal burns, electrical shock, and potential falls from the top of high buildings. This is another circumstance in which  protective gear is essential in addition to adequate training before anyone does the job.

Even folks working in recycling jobs face their share of challenges, especially when it comes to recycling items from construction sites which can include anything from hazardous materials to dangerous machinery with moving parts. Employees must work with extreme caution to avoid harm and use protective gear to stay protected. Of course, renewable energy jobs will also require safety protocols against common threats that impact any industry, including slips, trips, and falls.

Employer Responsibility

It should be stated that it is not all doom and gloom when it comes to renewable materials. In fact, it can be argued that sustainable practices may actually increase worker safety by using materials that are overall cleaner and less toxic, making them less dangerous if inhaled. Also, many of these processes use automation that keeps the worker less involved in the actual process and out of harm’s way.

Even if that is the case, it is still the responsibility of management to ensure the safest work environment possible. Keeping employees safe is the right thing to do, especially in this changing world with a complicated healthcare system and physician shortages that require an employee to wait longer to get the help they need. When employees are not working, they can’t get paid and provide for their families, and companies lose valuable productivity. 

If you are an employee who feels that your company does not have your best interest at heart, then it is your right  to make your concerns known. Talk to management and tell them what bothers you and what needs to change. If your concerns fall on deaf ears, then you may need to take legal action or file a workers compensation claim. Remember that you are not telling on anyone, but instead, you are doing what is right to protect yourself and your coworkers, and you cannot be discriminated against for your actions.
In the end, it is a great thing that our world is turning towards renewable energy and sustainable practices. By protecting the workers that are helping our planet, everyone’s a winner in the end.

This blog is printed with permission.

About the author: Dan Matthews is a writer, content consultant, and conservationist. While Dan writes on a variety of topics, he loves to focus on the topics that look inward on mankind that help to make the surrounding world a better place to reside. When Dan isn’t working on new content, you can find him with a coffee cup in one hand and searching for new music in the other.


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How the Wage Gap is Affecting Women’s Mental Health

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Gemma Hart, Author

In America, women earn 82 cents for every $1 earned by a man. This significant wage gap is not only affecting women’s financial security and independence, it’s also having a negative impact on women’s mental health.

Why Do Women Earn Less than Men?

Perhaps the most common question relating to the gender pay gap is, why do women earn less than men in the first place? Sadly, many explanations for the gender pay gap are dissatisfying and generally unfounded in facts.

The most common explanation given by organizations is that men typically have the freedom to work in more senior positions that demand longer working hours. This is because, despite the fight for equal rights, women are typically the caregivers of their children. They must balance their family commitments while trying to climb the career ladder.

Even today, in the 21st Century, the workplace inherently favors men over women. It still favors unsocial work hours over flexible schedules, those without family commitments over those with children. Too often, women’s roles are put in certain boxes and these boxes can limit their personal and professional potential, resulting in low pay, job dissatisfaction, lost identity, burnout, and ultimately mental health problems.

The Gender Pay Gap and Mental Health

Gender discrimination and the daily experiences women face are structurally embedded in our society and have a significant impact on women’s mental health, often resulting in anxiety and psychological trauma.

Unfortunately, some women blame themselves for considering alternatives like perhaps if they’d delayed having a family, made themselves more available at work, or worked harder for longer, they would have a more successful career. For many, it feels like the best solution is to work harder and do better. However, this can simply exacerbate the symptoms of mental health, causing burnout and an increased risk of depression and anxiety disorders.

How Women’s Mental Health is Affected

There are many ways the gender pay gap impacts the lives of women. They include:

Chronic Stress:

Many women experience chronic stress as a result of the wage gap. They often feel pressured to work harder and for longer periods to keep up with their male colleagues and maintain their job security. Add this to the constant demands of family and home life; chronic stress can quickly set in.

“Chronic overload at work, deadline pressure, double load and family strain […] and a lack of success have a high potential to generate chronic stress […] this gradually leads to exhaustion and a weakening of the immune system. In the long run, this can be seen in different physical and psychological symptoms,” says Dr. Claudia M. Elsig MD at The CALDA Clinic.

Physical Sickness

For many women, experiencing gender discrimination in the workplace directly correlates with worsening physical health, reduced living conditions, and for some substance abuse.

More than 1 in 10 women report experiencing gender-based discrimination at work. And, as such, they are more likely to struggle with reduced physical health. This is particularly true for women who have experienced sexual harassment.

It is extremely common for women to experience high levels of stress due to gender discrimination and this can lead to numerous chronic conditions, from high blood pressure to diabetes.

Poor Living Conditions

A direct result of the gender pay gap is that many women find themselves living in worse conditions than their male counterparts. Despite working in the same level of seniority and performing the same professional tasks, women are still paid less than men and this can mean they have less access to things they need to live well.

As a result, women can find it takes longer to get out of debt, save for retirement, and buy houses, in comparison to men. Understandably, this can cause high levels of stress and also result in women struggling to afford quality food, health insurance, safe housing, and so much more. Understandably, and perhaps inevitably, women’s mental health can be severely impacted as a result.

Depression and Anxiety

The wage gap between men and women is one of the most common causes of rising rates of depression and anxiety among women. In fact, women who earn less than their male counterparts are 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depression negatively impact women in the workplace, impacting everything from their job performance to their physical health.

Final Words

Change is needed. Women are still overlooked in the workplace and, as you can see above, they continue to be greatly impacted by the gender pay gap. There is a direct correlation between the wage gap and womens’ mental health and it is time to value all employees equally, regardless of their gender. Working to reduce the gender pay gap will not only help to create a more equal society but also a healthier one.

This blog is printed with permission.

About the author: Gemma Hart is an independent HR professional working remotely from as many coffee shops as she can find. Gemma has gained experience in a number of HR roles but now turns her focus towards growing her brand and building relationships with leading experts.


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The ACLU of Illinois Seeks a Playbook for Acceptable Progressive Union Busting

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The staff union and management are locked in a battle over who can be included in the union.

Aunion fight that is playing out in Illinois highlights how progressive organizations can use technical objections to the scope of a proposed union to effectively pursue union-busting while maintaining plausible deniability that they are doing so. This effort to have it both ways makes sense when you consider where this labor battle is happening: at the ACLU. 

The past two years has been a landmark one for unionization at the ACLU, part of the broader, ongoing wave of nonprofit organizing. As the pandemic raged in 2020, workers at several ACLU state branches unionized–including in Kansas, where the staff faced a corporate-style anti-union campaign. In January of 2021 about 300 staffers nationwide formed the civil liberties group’s largest staff union, called ACLU Staff United. In subsequent months, more state ACLU staffs across the country have successfully unionized, and ACLU staff union drives are underway in other states, like Virginia and Illinois*. Workers have vowed to continue until they have successfully unionized every state office. 

Though common sense might tell you that an organization that proudly declares that it “has championed the right of workers to organize unions since its inception more than 90 years ago” would be an easy place to unionize, that has not been completely true. While most of the union drives at the ACLU have secured voluntary recognition from management—a necessary baseline for any employer to be considered pro-union—that has not been the case in Illinois. In late June, workers there asked management to recognize their staff union, part of the National Organization of Legal Services Workers. More than five months later, they are still waiting. 

An ACLU of Illinois employee who is a member of the proposed staff union, and who asked for anonymity in fear of workplace retaliation, said that organizing there started in late 2020, after internal efforts to improve the workplace fell short. Employees were particularly upset after an internal staff committee aimed at improving diversity, equity and inclusion was disbanded, even as the organization lost staff members of color year after year. In June, 20 staffers signed an open letter to management requesting recognition for a union covering 27 people. 

“We expected the ACLU to live up to their values” and voluntarily recognize the union, as other state ACLUs had done, the employee said. “But instead we had a strange reaction.” Middle managers were told to keep quiet about the union, and workers were told that they could not use a Zoom background that advertised their union, according to the employee. 

For months now, management and the union have been locked in a stalemate over the issue of how many workers will be allowed to be members of the unit. Restricting the size of a proposed unit is a common tactic by employers, who often seek to assert that as many employees as possible are managers or supervisors, and are therefore not eligible to be union members. These sorts of negotiations, though cloaked in legalistic language, are usually more about power than about law—how fiercely management chooses to argue over vague job descriptions comes down to whether they are comfortable working with a staff union, or whether they see it as a priority to make the union as small and weak as possible from the very beginning. 

Fed up with the delays, the ACLU of IL Staff United finally filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board in early October, seeking a resolution. The union had a two-day hearing at the NLRB that concluded on November 1. Though the timeline is not certain, the union expects to get a ruling on the size of its unit soon, and then it can proceed to a formal vote for certification.

“We were fed up, and decided if they weren’t going to be good faith partners,” going to the labor board was the only option, the employee says. “We’re deeply disappointed that the ACLU forced us to spend time and resources going before the NLRB. It’s not a good use of anyone’s time. We’d rather be doing the civil rights work everyone is here to do.”

The ACLU of Illinois said that executive director Colleen Connell was unavailable for an interview. Instead, the organization sent a statement attributed to Connell, which said that she has always been willing to extend voluntary recognition to “an appropriately defined bargaining unit of ACLU employees.” 

“To date, we have not been able to extend voluntary recognition because the Union’s proposed definition of the bargaining unit includes a number of positions that are supervisory, managerial, or confidential in nature and cannot, therefore, be lawfully included. We discussed these issues at length with the Union’s organizer prior to the Union filing its representation petition,” the statement says. It goes on to portray the dispute as one in which management is actually trying to protect employees, saying “our objections are not driven by a desire to defeat the Union’s representational objective. Just the opposite. NLRB law and policy makes clear that unionizing employees’ rights are frustrated by the inclusion in a bargaining unit of supervisors, managerial employees, and confidential employees.” 

That assertion of concern for “employees’ rights” is sharply at odds with what employees themselves say they want. Eleven positions in the proposed bargaining unit are in dispute, representing 40% of the total proposed union. The staff union filed a 50-page brief with the NLRB arguing that management has “taken dramatically expansive definitions” of who should be excluded from the unit, and that these “overbroad” arguments are inconsistent with labor law. 

The workers in Illinois are receiving vocal support from their colleagues across the country. “We’re disappointed that ACLU of Illinois leadership continues to drag out the union recognition process by failing to agree to a fair and inclusive unit,” said ACLU Staff United, the organization’s national union, in a statement. “It seems so easy for management to forget that the ACLU was founded over 100 years ago with a commitment to protecting workers’ rights. Staff at ACLU affiliates across the country and at the national organization have unionized to create a better ACLU and address pay inequities, lack of workplace diversity, remote work policies, and organizational transparency.”

There is no question that the ACLU of Illinois will eventually have some sort of staff union, covering at least some of its employees. But the outcome of its dispute will be significant. If successful in drastically restricting the size of the unit, management will have demonstrated a successful playbook for kneecapping a union’s power while insisting that you are pro-union, in line with your organization’s stated values. 

For workers at the ACLU of Illinois, the process has been eye opening—and has left them “surprised, disappointed, and disheartened.” 

“We came to work at the ACLU because we believe in civil rights,” the employee says. “And that includes labor rights.” 

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on November 15, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Hamilton Nolan is a labor reporter for In These Times. He has spent the past decade writing about labor and politics for Gawker, Splinter, The Guardian, and elsewhere. You can reach him at Hamilton@InTheseTimes.com.


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Biden’s vaccine-or-test mandate to go before Cincinnati-based federal court

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The mandate will be tested before a court with a majority of Republican appointees.

The legal fight over the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test mandate will be heard before the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, after a lottery conducted Tuesday by an obscure federal judicial panel.

Nearly three dozen lawsuits have been filed in multiple federal appeals courts against the requirement, triggering the lottery to consolidate the cases before one court.

The rule, released by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Nov. 5, requires private businesses with more than 100 employees to ensure that their workers are vaccinated or tested weekly for Covid-19, starting Jan. 4.

The lawsuits — brought by several Republican-controlled states, private businesses and religious groups — argue that the rule exceeds the Labor Department’s authority and Congress’ ability to delegate to federal agencies, as well as the First Amendment, the Constitution’s Commerce clause, and laws protecting religious freedom, among other legal arguments.

The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation selected the 6th circuit as part of a random selection where each court’s name was entered into a drum.

The New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay against the requirement earlier this month, and further instructed the Biden administration to “take no steps to implement or enforce” it, finding that the states and businesses challenging the rule “show a great likelihood of success on the merits.”

The Biden administration will now issue its response to that order in the 6th Circuit. The Cincinnati-based court has 16 judges: 11 appointed by Republican presidents and five by Democratic presidents. Six of the judges were appointed by former President Donald Trump.

However, the three-judge circuit panel that will hear the arguments is unlikely to be the final arbiter, since the losing side can request a rehearing before all the judges in that circuit and request Supreme Court review.

While it’s unclear what specific judges on the panel will hear the consolidated challenge, notably, three judges on the 6th circuit struck down a court order late last year that would have allowed Kentucky religious and private schools to reopen for in-person education amid a surge in coronavirus cases.

The First Liberty Institute, a Texas-based group that takes up court battles on behalf of Christian issues, represented one of the parties in that Kentucky school case and also filed one of the challenges against the OSHA vaccine-or-test rule in the 5th Circuit.

Josh Gerstein contributed to this report.

This blgo originally appeared at Politico on November 16, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Rebecca Rainey is an employment and immigration reporter with POLITICO Pro and the author of the Morning Shift newsletter.


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For 2nd straight month, Americans quit jobs at a record pace

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The figures point to a historic level of turmoil in the job market as newly-empowered workers quit jobs to take higher pay that is being dangled by businesses in need of help

Americans quit their jobs at a record pace for the second straight month in September, in many cases for more money elsewhere as companies bump up pay to fill job openings that are close to an all-time high.

The Labor Department said Friday that 4.4 million people quit their jobs in September, or about 3% of the nation’s workforce. That’s up from 4.3 million in August and far above the pre-pandemic level of 3.6 million. There were 10.4 million job openings, down from 10.6 million in August, which was revised higher.

The figures point to a historic level of turmoil in the job market as newly-empowered workers quit jobs to take higher pay that is being dangled by businesses in need of help. Incomes are rising, Americans are spending more and the economy is growing, and employers have ramped up hiring to keep pace. Rising inflation, however, is offsetting much of the pay gains for workers.

Friday’s report follows last week’s jobs report, which showed that employers stepped up their hiring in October, adding 531,000 jobs, while the unemployment rate fell to 4.6%, from 4.8%. Hiring rebounded as the Delta wave, which had restrained job gains in August and September, faded.

It is typically perceived as a signal of worker confidence when people leave the jobs they hold. The vast majority of people quit for a new position.

The number of available jobs has topped 10 million for four consecutive months. The record before the pandemic was 7.5 million. There were more job openings in September than the 7.7 million unemployed, illustrating the difficulties so many companies have had finding workers.

In addition to the number of unemployed, there are about 5 million fewer people looking for jobs compared with pre-pandemic trends, making it much harder for employers to hire. Economists cite many reasons for that decline: Some are mothers unable to find or afford child care, while others are avoiding taking jobs out of fear of contracting COVID-19. Stimulus checks this year and in 2020, as well as extra unemployment aid that has since expired, has given some families more savings and enabled them to hold off from looking for work.

Goldman Sachs, in a research note Thursday, estimates that most of the 5 million are older Americans who have decided to retire. Only about 1.7 million are aged 25 through 54, which economists consider prime working years.

Goldman estimates that most of those people in their prime working years will return to work in the coming months, but that would still leave a much smaller workforce than before the pandemic. That could leave employers facing labor shortages for months or even years.

Businesses in other countries are facing similar challenges, leading to pay gains and higher inflation in countries like Canada and the United Kingdom.

Competition for U.S. workers is intense for retailers and delivery companies, particularly as they staff up for what is expected to be a healthy winter holiday shopping season.

Online giant Amazon is hiring 125,000 permanent drivers and warehouse workers and offer pay between $18 and $22 an hour. It’s also paying sign-on bonuses of up to $3,000.

Seasonal hiring is also ramping up. Package delivery company UPS is seeking to add 100,000 workers to help with the crush of holiday orders, and plans to make job offers to some applicants within 30 minutes.

About the Author: The Associated Press is an independent global news organization dedicated to factual reporting. Founded in 1846, AP today remains the most trusted source of fast, accurate, unbiased news in all formats and the essential provider of the technology and services vital to the news business.

This blog originally appeared at Politico on November 12, 2021. Reprinted with permission.


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Mental Health at Work and Appropriate Adjustments Managers Should Make

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Mental health in the workplace has, in recent years, become a priority for employers. Many organizations are fighting the stigmas of mental health through training programs and reasonable adjustments in the workplace, ensuring those struggling with their mental health receive the required support. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 5 adults in the United States struggle with their mental health. Symptoms of mental health and the numerous struggles people face as a result don’t just affect the lives of individuals; they can also impact the businesses they work for. 

Your Responsibility as an Employer 

As an employer, you cannot ignore the seriousness of mental health and the impact this can have in the workplace. It is a fact that there are people in your workforce struggling with mental health conditions. In fact, it is estimated that around half of the US workforce suffer from mental health issues. 

Just as you would make adjustments for an employee with a physical illness or disability, employers should make reasonable adjustments within the workplace for those with mental health struggles. Below are some of the adjustments you can make. 

Flexible Working Hours 

For someone struggling with mental health, sometimes the smallest changes can make all the difference for them in managing their symptoms. One of the best reasonable adjustments you can make as an employer is to provide opportunities for flexible working. Whether you allow for later start times, remote working, or part-time options, flexible work opportunities can relieve some of the pressure on struggling employees. 

So, whether they need to attend counseling sessions, take time off for medical appointments, book a holiday, or just need to feel more in control of their schedule, allowing for flexible working hours is a reasonable option for employers keen to support their workers. 

Create Support Systems 

Mental health can be extremely isolating. Most sufferers feel embarrassed to speak up about their struggles out of fear that others might judge them. As Adam Nesenoff, an expert working in mental health recovery at Tikvah Lake Recovery states, “one of the worst effects of suffering from any mental health problem is that it often leaves people feeling alone. This is frequently made worse because there is a tendency to start isolating.” Isolation often causes symptoms to worsen. 

Support systems (otherwise known as buddy systems) help employees create connections with their colleagues, find people they can talk to, and feel more comfortable in the workplace. These support systems can be created formally or informally but they are an excellent way to support someone dealing with mental health issues. 

Introduce a Phased Return to Work 

Sometimes, employees need to request an extended period of time off work so they can receive professional support. As an employer, you should support this as much as possible. Seeking support is a huge step out of a comfort zone for many people and it is something that should be commended. 

However, after an extended period of time away from work, many returning employees can feel anxious (whether they struggle with mental health problems or not). So, it can be helpful to introduce a phased return to work. This will help employees to return to their previous duties at a pace that works for them. 

You might consider asking them to come in for a few hours or days each week at first and then building up from there. If you are unsure what is best, just speak to the individual and ask them what they would like to do. 

Address Discrimination and Fight Stigmas 

Unfortunately, there are numerous stigmas surrounding mental health. Sufferers are often faced with questions like, “isn’t it all in your head?” or “things can’t be that bad?” These kinds of responses are unhelpful and, ultimately, damaging to individuals, regularly causing mental health symptoms to worsen.  

One of the critical challenges of tackling mental health in the workplace involves confronting the stigmas and the best way to do this is through addressing the discriminations and educating your workforce. 

Despite the fact you may feel powerless to support every employee in the way they need, one of the best steps you can take is fighting stigmas. Provide mental health training for your employees, address stigmas head-on and let perpetrators know that such behavior will not be tolerated. Creating an understanding and inclusive work culture can transform the health and happiness of your employees. 

As an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure all your employees are cared for and supported in the workplace.

This blog is printed with permission.

About the author: Gemma Hart is an independent HR professional working remotely from as many coffee shops as she can find. Gemma has gained experience in a number of HR roles but now turns her focus towards growing her brand and building relationships with leading experts.


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Biden vaccine mandates will hit after holiday season, offering relief to businesses

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The announcement follows weeks of pressure from business leaders who complained the rules would wreak havoc on the supply chain and possibly aggravate worker shortages.

The Biden administration’s forthcoming vaccine mandates for millions of private employers, certain health care workers and federal contractors will not be enforced until after the holiday season, following weeks of pressure from business leaders who complained the rules would wreak havoc on the supply chain and aggravate worker shortages.

The administration released two new rules on Thursday that will be enforced starting Jan. 4 — one setting up new vaccination-or-test requirements for businesses with more than 100 workers and another implementing a vaccine mandate for health care workers at facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid. Together, the rules are expected to affect over 1 million workers.

“COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on workers, and we continue to see dangerous levels of cases,” Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said. “Many businesses understand the benefits of having their workers vaccinated against COVID-19, and we expect many will be pleased to see this OSHA rule go into effect.”

Officials also said the administration is pushing back the Dec. 8 deadline for federal contractors to ensure their workers are fully vaccinated, so that all three mandates will go into force on Jan. 4.

While employers were given a brief reprieve from immediately implementing the test piece of the rule, the administration clarified that businesses must be in compliance on Dec. 5 with all other requirements, such as providing paid time off for employees to get vaccinated and requiring unvaccinated workers to wear a mask in the workplace.

Under the rules, workers at private businesses with more than 100 employees will have the option to wear a mask at work and submit to weekly Covid-19 testing in lieu of getting vaccinated. Health care workers and government contractors do not have the testing option.

Unvaccinated workers who claim they have a legally protected exception to getting the vaccine could be fired if their employer says it would be an “undue hardship” to offer remote work or some other accommodation.

Companies that fail to follow the vaccine-or-test rules can be fined up to $14,000 per infraction.

The temporary rules for private employers go into effect immediately and stay in place for six months, but can be directly challenged in the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Private employers will not be required to pay for weekly Covid-19 tests for employees who refuse to get vaccinated, according to the new emergency temporary standard released by the Labor Department on Thursday. Whether insurers will cover the cost of testing for unvaccinated workers is up to individual insurance plans, according to Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Jim Frederick.

Private employers subject to the emergency standard must also provide paid time off for workers to receive and recover from the Covid-19 vaccine, according to the rule.

Senior administration officials told reporters Wednesday that the vaccine-or-test requirement for private businesses alone “will protect more than 84 million workers from the spread of the Coronavirus” on the job and estimate that it will prevent over 250,000 hospitalizations.

The requirements, which President Joe Biden announced in September as part of his latest campaign to combat Covid-19, have already ignited a legal battle with conservative states and businesses over the government’s authority to impose such directives.

Shortly after the emergency rule for private businesses was announced, the Job Creators Network, a small business advocacy group, filed a lawsuit on behalf of several businesses in federal appeals court seeking to block the requirements from going into effect, arguing that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration doesn’t have the authority to issue the rule.

“The Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate is clearly illegal and will have a devastating impact on our small business community and our entire economy,” said Alfredo Ortiz, president and CEO of the group, in a statement on the lawsuit.

“The Administration’s mandate will exacerbate the worst labor shortage in recorded history by requiring small business owners to terminate some employees who wish not to get vaccinated while also shrinking the pool of job applicants available for hiring,” he said.

Nineteen states, including Florida and Texas, sued the Biden administration last month over the vaccine mandate for federal contractors, arguing the requirement was an unlawful overreach. And 24 state attorneys general and various business groups have warned the administration that it would face legal challenges if it moved forward with the vaccine-or-test rules for private employers.

Some Republican governors, including Florida’s Ron DeSantis and Alabama’s Kay Ivey, have tried to preemptively block private businesses from imposing mandates of any kind via executive order, although legal experts and the administration say those state rules are preempted by the new federal requirements.

“I expect to see battle royale in Texas, in Florida or anywhere else that wants to try to stop these” rules, David Miller of Bryant Miller Olive P.A., said. States are likely to argue the federal mandate violates the First Amendment, as applied to states through the 14th Amendment, Miller said.

“I really think that’s where it’s finally going to come to the nub in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. That’s the only way this is getting settled,” he added.

The administration’s move to delay the federal contractor mandate comes after trade groups, businesses and Republicans complained that the requirements will force employers to fire workers who refuse to get the vaccine or lead to mass resignations among workers who don’t want to comply, leading to more disruption in the labor market and the supply chain ahead of the crucial holiday season.

“In response to similar state and federal mandates, many private companies have begun firing workers who refuse the Covid-19 vaccine,” said Rep. Russ Fulcher (R-Idaho), during a labor subcommittee hearing on the mandate for private employers last month. “This federal vaccine mandate will worsen the supply chain crisis, almost guaranteeing Americans will go without this Christmas.”

But Biden brushed off those concerns Thursday, arguing that vaccination requirements are popular and also good for the economy.

“As we’ve seen with businesses – large and small – across all sectors of our economy, the overwhelming majority of Americans choose to get vaccinated,” Biden said in a statement on the new rules. “There have been no ‘mass firings’ and worker shortages because of vaccination requirements. Despite what some predicted and falsely assert, vaccination requirements have broad public support.”

Unions, labor advocates, health officials and even some businesses have lauded the effort from the administration, calling the vaccine-or-test rules for private companies long overdue and finally unifying a state-by-state patchwork of requirements.

“One of the biggest struggles of the last two years is that we are dealing with an ever-changing patchwork of health and safety regulations that, in many cases, have differed not just state to state, but county by county,” Richelle Luther, chief human resources officer at Columbia Sportswear Company, told lawmakers during a hearing in October.

“A federal mandate is needed,” she added. “We do not believe it is more regulation for business, but rather, less. A quilt of local laws and approaches created vastly more regulation of business, more uncertainty, risk and inefficiency.”

Some economists predict the federal vaccine mandates could have a positive effect on the labor force. Goldman Sachs analysts wrote in September that “an increase in vaccination and almost full vaccination at workplaces should encourage many of the 5 [million] workers that have left the labor force since the start of the pandemic to return.”

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is the federal agency that polices employment discrimination, has given employers the greenlight to mandate Covid-19 vaccination in their workplace, so long as they provide accommodations for workers who say they can’t get the shot because of their religious beliefs or a disability.

Last month, the EEOC clarified that “social, political, or personal preferences” are not considered protected religious beliefs under federal anti-discrimination law.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency tasked with policing worker safety, has the authority to issue emergency temporary safety rules that go into effect immediately if it determines that workers are “in grave danger” due to exposure to something “determined to be toxic or physically harmful or to new hazards.”

Emergency temporary standards are rarely issued by OSHA. Before an emergency Covid-19 workplace safety rule went into place for health care workers earlier this year, the agency hadn’t released an emergency standard since the 1980s.

OSHA has issued 10 emergency temporary standards in its five-decade history. Of those, at least five were stayed or blocked by the courts, according to the Congressional Research Service.

This blog originally appeared at Politico on November 4, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Rebecca Rainey is an employment and immigration reporter with POLITICO Pro and the author of the Morning Shift newsletter.


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How Workers at Beverage Giant Refresco Defeated a “Notorious” Union Buster

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Refresco has waged a prolonged and costly fight to stop the workers from unionizing.

As the spread of Covid-19 forced millions of workplaces to close in March 2020, Cesar Moreira continued to report to a bottling plant in Wharton, N.J., where he works as a batching technician. During 12-hour shifts, Moreira mixes vats of powdered concentrate and sugar to churn out brand-name beverages like Gatorade and Arizona Iced Tea.

Management for Resfresco Beverages Inc., the owner of the plant and one of the largest bottling companies, told workers these operations fell under the umbrella of “essential services.” Moreira was incredulous.

That the company would risk the health of its employees to maintain the supply of sugary drinks angered him. In mid-March, as workers at the plant began to call in sick with coronavirus symptoms, Moreira says plant management ignored their concerns and refused to temporarily halt production. 

On March 21, 2020, Moreira and his coworkers walked off the job to demand adequate protections and contact tracing, part of a wave of safety-related stoppages in the first months of the pandemic. Workers at a Perdue chicken plant in Georgia and a meatpacking facility in Nebraska soon followed suit, the food production sector being a particular hotspot for Covid-19 cases and emergency organizing by a heavily immigrant workforce. 

But workers at the Wharton plant didn’t stop there. Their spontaneous protest quickly blossomed into a full-fledged union drive. In June, 15 months after the walkout, Refresco workers voted 114–101 to join the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE). Their 250-person bargaining unit is one of the biggest victories of blue-collar organizing during the pandemic.


To win the election, Moreira and his co-workers also had to overcome an aggressive anti-union campaign targeting their predominantly Spanish-speaking workforce. The company pulled out all the stops, posting anti-union flyers and a fake UE contract—and hiring Lupe Cruz, a union avoidance expert who specializes in “bilingual consulting.” In These Times obtained more than eight hours of recordings from six weeks of mandatory anti-union meetings led by Cruz at the Refresco plant this spring. The recordings provide a window into an especially insidious union-busting strategy: exploiting ethnic and linguistic differences to sow doubt and confusion among immigrant workers.

The tactic is old, but it speaks to the increasing specialization of a multi-million-dollar union-busting industry. Labor activists say Cruz, himself a former union organizer, is infamous for his attempts to thwart organizing in industries with large numbers of immigrant workers.

Alejandro Coriat, who encountered Cruz in 2017 while organizing a union at his job at a Hilton Hotel in Stamford, Conn., even coined a term to describe this approach: “intersectional union-busting.” In a workplace dominated by Latino and Haitian immigrants, Cruz and his team “divided us according to two language groups, and with each group, they tried a different tack,” Coriat says. The workers ultimately won their union by a near-unanimous vote.

Cruz’s strategy also failed at Refresco, but the workers’ fight isn’t over. After the union won the election, Refresco moved rapidly to scrap the results on a technicality. While a representative for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recommended certification of the union in September, Refresco has signaled that it intends to appeal.

That leaves the Refresco workers in limbo, unable to start contract negotiations. At a time when essential workers are reporting more willingness to take collective action, the Refresco drive shows just how many hurdles they still face.

Licinia Ochoa has worked as a machine operator at the Wharton bottling plant for 22 years. It was her first job after she moved from Colombia to New Jersey in 1999. UE estimates that, of the 250-some workers who mix, bottle and pack beverages at the Refresco plant, more than 85 percent are Latin American immigrants.

Work at the plant, which opened in 1980, was never easy, Ochoa says. But until recently, it was dignified. Her schedule was regular, the hours weren’t too bad and she knew she would be covered if she got injured or sick.

Then, in 2016, the plant’s original owner sold it to Refresco.

The beverage giant has grown rapidly by gobbling up smaller companies in North America and Europe; its gross profit in 2020 was 1.9 billion euros, according to an annual report. Refresco operates more than 60 plants worldwide, including about 30 in the United States. The majority of workers in the U.S. facilities are not unionized.

“Many things changed since Refresco came,” Ochoa says.

Soon after acquiring the Wharton plant, Refresco switched the company’s healthcare plan to one with high deductibles and skimpier coverage. Later, the company replaced many 8-hour shifts with 12-hour shifts. For many workers, wages stagnated below $20 per hour.

Cesar Moreira immigrated to the United States from Ecuador and has worked at the plant for seven years. He suffers from sleep apnea. “I’m paying $750 [for treatment], plus $1,500 to the company that makes the mask that sends oxygen to my brain,” he says. “That’s $2,200.

“We are talking about a multinational corporation. So why couldn’t they keep our health insurance [from before]?”

Ochoa, 62, was among those assigned to 12-hour shifts. Ochoa makes $17 an hour and says her healthcare copays are so high she avoids seeing a doctor. But she had no choice after becoming seriously ill in March 2020, eventually requiring hospitalization for Covid-19. The virus put her out of work for two months.

Ochoa and several coworkers had reached out to UE in 2019, beginning talks over healthcare and scheduling concerns. But the drive didn’t kick into high gear until spring 2020.

Anthony Sanchez, an employee of 15 years, says when he tested positive for Covid-19 in March 2020, he tried to alert the company. “They didn’t talk to the coworkers I interact with all the time,” he says. “They didn’t give tests. They didn’t put anybody in quarantine.”

For months, workers kept their intentions to unionize quiet, while distributing and amassing signed union cards to demonstrate majority support.

“They never would have thought we would do this under their noses,” Ochoa says. “It was brutal when they found out.”

When workers attempt to organize a union, it’s almost a given they’ll face resistance. A 2019 report by the Economic Policy Institute reveals employers spend about $340 million on anti-union services annually. Hiring professional “union avoidance” consultants to interrogate workers and carry out so-called captive audience meetings is an especially common tactic.

As the union avoidance industry has grown, it’s also become increasingly sophisticated. Richard Rehberg, a researcher for the International Union of Operating Engineers, says he first encountered Cruz and his special brand of culturally competent union-busting while working for Food and Allied Service Trades, an AFL-CIO affiliate, in the early 2000s.

“It was a new thing,” Rehberg says. “Basically, the union-busters were pandering. You know, ‘OK, how are we going to deal with these Latino workers and Spanish speakers?’”

Now, says Rehberg, this kind of specialization is common. Employers can hire union-busters to appeal—sometimes crudely—to almost any demographic. On campaigns to organize construction and building trades, for example, Rehberg says he has repeatedly encountered one man with a “pseudo-biker look” apparently intended to help a well-paid consultant relate to blue-collar workers.

In 2020, employers gained another anti-union strategy: They could simply lay off workers attempting to organize and blame it on Covid-19. That appears to have successfully stalled active union drives among nurses in North Carolina, truck drivers in New Jersey and a host of others, according to an April 2020 New York Times investigation.

“This is a continuation of behavior that has become all too common, of employers being willing to use increasingly aggressive tactics to stop unionizing,” Sharon Block, a former NLRB board member, told the Times. “The pandemic has given them another tool.”

The situation creates a kind of paradox: While unions report workers increasingly want to organize (spurred by the pandemic), the number of actual union drives has declined.

The number of union representation elections fell by 30% from 2019 to 2020—partly due to a total stoppage of NLRB elections in March 2020 and the new challenges that in-person organizing faced. The Refresco workers’ campaign was a bright spot amid the lull.

Soon after Refresco workers submitted their union cards in May, management ushered them into the first of six weeks of mandatory meetings. In a recording of one of the first meetings, obtained by In These Times, Lupe Cruz introduces himself.

“Where are you from, sir?” Cruz asks employees in the audience in Spanish. One is from Ecuador. Another is from Peru. Venezuela, Colombia, El Salvador and Mexico are also represented.

“All different countries—six for six!” Cruz says. The workers’ immigration backgrounds will become an ongoing theme.

“One of the first things we’re going to teach you is, What is the process and the system here in the United States,’” Cruz says. “Because the way this works in Mexico, in Colombia, in Venezuela—it’s very different.”

Throughout the meetings, Cruz and the other consultants refer to the sessions as “classes,” saying they intend to provide the workers an education about U.S. labor law.

In one session, a worker chimes in with a story about how Refresco changed the plant. Cruz interrupts him: “I’m giving you a legal opinion, not an emotional one. There’s a difference. This is objective.” 

“They wanted to trick people with an image that they were neutral,” says Anthony Sanchez, who sat through multiple anti-union meetings.

In another session, Cruz presents a truncated history of UE, implying that thousands of workers jumped ship from the union after learning about U.S. labor.

“You know what the highest number of members this union has had?” Cruz says. “Six hundred thousand. What happened with those members? They left. Those who understood the system left.”

In fact, UE’s steep decline in membership, beginning in the 1950s, followed a wave of plant closures and vicious anti-Communist attacks, including by Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s notorious House Un-American Activities Committee.

In the same session, Cruz suggests UE is incapable of defending workers: “If this union isn’t one of the big ones, and Refresco is the biggest in the world, what kind of funds does this union have to help you in a fight?”

In an apparent attempt to cast doubt on the union, a document with the header “legal and binding contract between UE and the employees of Refresco” was posted at the plant. It contained a list of benefits and raises, as well as a blank signature line for the union—as if to say the union couldn’t actually guarantee improvements.

After casting the union as underfunded and impotent, Cruz describes a hypothetical scenario in which Refresco loses its big clients, like Pepsi, and workers are laid off.

“Who’s the real boss?” Cruz asks. “The real boss is Pepsi. If you’re Pepsi, you’re in the best position to negotiate [with bottling companies] because they all want your business. So if Pepsi looks into contracts with other businesses, what if they like them? They steal Refresco’s business. And then what happens to your jobs?” According to UE, the possibility of layoffs came up frequently in anti-union meetings.

The National Labor Relations Act prohibits employers from threatening workers with layoffs or reduced benefits if they join a union. Because of this, “employers are more likely to make implied rather than direct threats of job loss,” explains Kate Bronfenbrenner, labor scholar and director of labor education research at Cornell University. “They are much harder to prove [as legal violations], because so much is dependent on the culture and history of a particular workplace.”

In a statement emailed to In These Times, a spokesperson for Refresco says the company’s actions are entirely legal. “As it has done throughout this election process, Refresco has and will continue to follow all the legal rules governing its behavior in connection with and arising out of the union’s efforts to organize employees at its Wharton, New Jersey facility,” writes Antonella Sacconi, Refresco’s communications manager. “This includes, but is not limited to, neither retaliating against nor rewarding employees based on their union sympathies or support.”

Neither UE nor pro-union Refresco workers allege the company’s anti-union campaign broke any laws, just that Refresco and its hired consultants sought to confuse and manipulate workers—the legality of which, they say, serves as evidence of the weak labor protections for U.S. workers.

Cruz did not respond to multiple requests for commentBut to union organizers and labor activists, he is a familiar figure. Bronfenbrenner calls him “notorious.”

Cruz once worked as an organizer for the hospitality union Unite Here but has been battling the campaigns of his former union for more than a decade. In 2006, the owners of a Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles paid Cruz $480,000 during a particularly bruising anti-union fight, according to reporting by the Los Angeles TimesHilton fired an employee active in the union drive who had allegedly been caught stealing by a “mystery shopper” posing as a guest. When workers gathered in the cafeteria to protest the firing, management suspended more than 70 of them for a week.

Cruz has since gone on to consult for such employers as Trump Hotels, the auto club AAA and others. His involvement helped quash high-profile union campaigns at American Apparel in 2015 and a New Seasons Market grocery store in Oregon in 2019.

Cruz is associated with at least two firms that have filed disclosures with the Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS), which requires third-party labor consultants to report income from employers. The firm Cruz & Associates reported more than $3.5 million in income in 2018 but has not filed additional reports since 2019. Quest Consulting, established in 2019 with Cruz as its president, reported $1.4 million in revenue for 2020, according to OLMS records.

Workers who have encountered Cruz on other union campaigns report seeing similar tactics to those at Refresco.

During a union drive at Tartine Bakery in 2020, workers say monolingual Spanish speakers were siloed for separate captive audience meetings. OLMS data shows Quest collected $243,363 from Tartine in 2020.

Refresco has since hired Seyfarth & Shaw, a prominent employer-side law firm, to appeal the union election results to the NLRB, which Bronfenbrenner says is an “extremely common” tactic. “It gives the employer more chances to raise questions about what the union really wants. And [make] the workers who voted for the union feel less secure,” she says.

For their part, workers on the organizing committee are preparing for steward elections and the eventuality of contract negotiations.

“I’m OK, but I’m uneasy,” Moreira says. “The only way to make a change is to pressure these people into understanding that we aren’t … animals to control at their will.”

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on October 19, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Alice Herman is a 2020–2021 Leonard C. Goodman Institute for Investigative Reporting Fellow with In These Times.


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How Businesses Can Better Care For Their Female Employees

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There’s no question that inequality has ruled the workplace for years. Even today, the gender pay gap is holding strong. In 2020, women in the U.S. earned just 84% of what their male counterparts made. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. 

While things may not be “fixed” at the moment, they are finally being exposed with increased public scrutiny of employers who don’t uplift female workers as high as they do their male employees. 

At this point, we need more than equal pay. Employers need to offer increased care and benefits to female employees who have been underrepresented in the past.

Equality in Traditionally Biased Industries

There has been an increased presence of female representation in typically male-dominated industries over the last few years, including the construction industry. In 2018, over 1 million women were working in the industry, and while those statistics are encouraging, it’s important to point out potential areas of inequality. 

Safety measures, training and education all need to be offered to women in male-dominated industries. This includes training women in all technological advances that could improve their careers while keeping them safe on the job. 

Unfortunately, some people believe male-dominated industries should stay that way and may go so far as to sabotage a woman’s success through: 

The trucking industry, another traditionally male-dominated field, is another area where these issues can become problematic. If you’re involved in the transportation field, you can protect your female workers and encourage more gender diversity by offering stable schedules, encouraging a strong work-life balance and having a strong policy against discrimination and harassment. 

Informing Female Employees of Their Rights

Women deserve equal pay and benefits, but they also deserve to know their rights when working for you. 

One of the obstacles many women have to overcome in the workplace is finding ways to make sure their child is cared for at home. For all employees, this is ultimately why a work-life balance is so important and has become a priority among different workplaces. For women, a fair work-life balance goes beyond simply spending more time at home. It’s also about making sure they can provide for their families financially. 

Along with providing adequate pay, business owners should also inform their employees who are parents of tax breaks that can benefit them. You may not be able to offer any of your own, but the federal government provides tax credits to mothers with children at home. 

For 2021, the numbers associated with those benefits have shifted slightly, and they’re likely to change again during the next fiscal year. As an employer, staying on top of those changes and bringing those breaks up to your female employees can put extra money in their pockets as they file their taxes. 

There are countless ways businesses can better care for their female employees, and equality and fairness should be at the very core. Women deserve to feel safe, cared for and represented no matter what industry they’re in. If you’re looking for ways to bolster the women in your workplace, keep these ideas in mind, and create in-house policies designed to ensure equality among your workers.

This blog is printed with permission.

About the author: Dan Matthews is a writer, content consultant, and conservationist. While Dan writes on a variety of topics, he loves to focus on the topics that look inward on mankind that help to make the surrounding world a better place to reside. When Dan isn’t working on new content, you can find him with a coffee cup in one hand and searching for new music in the other.


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No, Striketober Is Not About Vaccine Mandates

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The recent wave of militant labor action has been over workers demanding better pay and working conditions—not opposing Covid vaccine requirements.

This month, the United States has seen a noticeable uptick in the number of strikes by fed-up workers at companies like Kellogg’s and John Deere—a phenomenon many are calling “Striketober.” As a result, the U.S. labor movement is getting an unusual amount of attention. 

But because of the corporate media’s often spotty or ideologically slanted coverage of workers’ struggles, combined with the fact that only a small minority of Americans have any personal experience with unions, there appears to be some confusion among the general public over what Striketober is really about. 

A troubling number of Americans seem to have the false impression that tens of thousands of underpaid and overworked employees are going on strike in order to resist Covid-19 vaccine mandates—when they are actually walking off the job to win decent raises, equitable pay structures and relief from mandatory overtime.

Some of this confusion was on display last week as HuffPost labor reporter Dave Jamieson appeared on C-SPAN to discuss the current wave of strikes. When host John McArdle opened the phone lines for viewers to call up, the vaccine-specific questions started to roll in.

“I wanted to know how much the vaccine mandates are playing in these strikes? What is the role of the vaccine mandate?” asked the first caller, a woman from South Carolina. 

About fifteen minutes later, another caller from Kentucky asked, “Do you think this vaccine is causing most of the strikes?” 

In response, Jamieson patiently explained that, “the vaccine is essentially a non-issue in these strikes we are seeing.”

“As someone who’s been following these strikes closely, I was a little surprised by the assumption that vaccines might be at the center of this,” Jamieson told In These Times. “But I probably shouldn’t have been. There’s been outsized media coverage of workers defying vaccine requirements, even though they seem to be quite a small share of the workforce.”

Indeed, since this summer there have been numerous news reports about unions “opposing” vaccine mandates, and many similar stories about individual workers who would rather get fired than be vaccinated. But in reality, employers across the country are reporting that 90 to 100 percent of their workforces are complying with vaccine mandates. 

And then there’s media coverage that collapses the distinction between workers walking off the job to demand better working conditions and resistance to vaccine mandates, such as this CNN story titled, “Here comes the anti-vaccine requirement solidarity movement,” which spends dozens of paragraphs recounting opposition to mandates before stating that the recent strikes have actually not been over such objections. At the end of September, Fox News published a story falsely claiming that healthcare workers at Valley Health in Winchester, Va., went on strike over their employer’s vaccine mandate, when in fact only a small number of workers protested the requirement, rather than taking part in an official or large-scale walk out. 

Much of the media hype about supposed union opposition to the mandates stems from general misunderstandings about the nature of collective bargaining. Unions that have asserted their right to bargain with employers over the implementation of vaccine mandates have inaccurately been accused of opposing the mandates altogether.

Reacting to news that public sector unions in Portland, Oregon were demanding to negotiate implementation of the vaccine mandate, journalist James Surowiecki tweeted: “Organized labor has been on the wrong side of the vaccine issue almost across the board.”

“Maybe some unions have been captured by the cranks in their ranks,” Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell opined in response to unions wanting to negotiate vaccine mandates. “If ‘Big Labor’ obstructs this effort, it will fail not only its own members, but also the many admirers and political allies it worked so hard to win over,” she warned.

But as the Economic Policy Institute’s Dave Kamper explained, “Demanding to negotiate the impact of something isn’t the same as refusing to do it, or even being opposed to it.”

Unions seeking to bargain over vaccine mandates want to determine specific policies like whether workers can use paid sick time to get vaccinated, what they will be expected to show as proof of vaccination and whether those working remotely will also need to be vaccinated.

“Even when an employer offers something unmistakably good to employees…unions still can, will, and SHOULD demand to negotiate it, get it down in writing, formally agree to it,” Kamper wrote. “At its very heart, collective bargaining isn’t about money. It’s about power. It’s about WHO DECIDES. The principle of collective bargaining is the boss is not and should not be the unilateral decision maker. That’s what a demand to negotiate means.”

Indeed, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and Tyson Foods recently hammered out an agreement on implementation of the mandate, and now report that 96 percent of the company’s workers have been vaccinated, exemplifying that negotiating over vaccine mandates does not mean opposition to them.

“Working together, the UFCW and Tyson set a new standard with this vaccine mandate and have proved what’s possible when we listen to workers and negotiate the implementation of vaccination mandates fairly and responsibly,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone.

Meanwhile, it is true that some unions have been extremely vocal and adamant in their total opposition to vaccine mandates—but these are almost entirely right-wing police unions like Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7, which are already pariahs to many in the labor movement. Importantly, while these police unions may be holding protests and making noise, they are not on strike and are therefore completely unconnected to the current wave of work stoppages.

“I think people are conflating the labor strife they see with these highly politicized mandates,” Jamieson said. “Unfortunately, that can overshadow the important labor story that’s unfolding: workers finding their leverage and demanding a better deal.”

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on October 28, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Jeff Schuhrke has been a Working In These Times contributor since 2013. He has a Ph.D. in History from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Master’s in Labor Studies from UMass Amherst. Follow him on Twitter: @JeffSchuhrke


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