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Most States Flunk Wage Theft Test

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Image: Mike Hall

A new report from the Progressive States Network (PSN) finds that workers in 44 states have little to no protection against wage theft. “Where Theft Is Legal: Mapping Wage Theft Laws in the 50 States” reports that:

States’ wage theft laws are grossly inadequate, contributing to a rising trend in workplace violations that affect millions of people throughout the country.

Wage theft, a growing problem affecting millions of workers, is the systemic non-payment of wages by unethical employers. The report graded states based on their legal protections for workers and paints a dim picture for low-wage workers in nearly every state. Only a few states are starting to address the problem in earnest through legislation—and the vast majority have laws that are grossly inadequate.

According to the report, more than 60 percent of low-wage workers say they have been victims of wage on a weekly basis. As a result, they lose 15 percent of their earnings each year on average—about $2,634 per year—with the majority of workers affected supporting at least one child.

PSN senior policy analyst Tim Judson, co-author of the report, says:

Working people throughout the country are losing billions of dollars each year to wage theft, and this report shows why: the laws needed to protect workers are too weak. Forty-four states would fail the basic test of enacting the right laws to address the crime. With millions more people being forced into lower-wage industries where wage theft is rampant, and states losing millions of dollars in unpaid taxes and economic losses, the stakes for failure are simply too high.

Click here for the full report.

Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) and its network of workers centers around the country have long recognized the gaping need for better wage protection for workers and have kicked-off several local wage theft campaigns over the past few years. IWJ Worker Center Coordinator Dianne Enriquez says:

Communities are building and passing wage theft enforcement ordinances in areas that are typically very conservative and it is clear that this is because people are tired of unethical employers stealing from them.

More information on IWJ’s local wage theft campaigns is available here.

This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO on June 13, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL-CIO in 1989 and has written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety.


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First-Ever Trans Senate Witness: ‘To Be Unemployed Is Very Devastating, Demeaning, And Demoralizing’

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Zack FordThis morning, the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee held a hearing on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would extend employment protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. For the first time in the Senate’s history, a transgender witness testified on behalf of the bill. Kylar Broadus, founder of the Trans People of Color Coalition, discussed his experiences coming out trans, including mistreatment by police, workplace harassment, and employment discrimination:

BROADUS: When I used female restrooms, police would accost me. I would have to strip and then they still told me, “Sir, get out of the bathroom,” when I would use the ladies’ room. It’s just humiliating and dehumanizing to say the least.[…]

Prior also to the physical transition, I was working in the financial industry, which is actually a high-paying industry. But again, when I shifted or transitioned, that’s when all the trouble began. And it’s still emotional to me, because it impacted me emotionally — I suffer from post-traumatic stress as a result of the harassment that I encountered in the workplace from my employer.[…]

To be unemployed is very devastating, also demeaning and demoralizing. And then the recovery time — there is no limit on it. I still have not financially recovered. I’m underemployed. When I do talks, I tell people I’m not employable. I was lucky to be where I am and I’m happy to be where I am, but I’m one of the fortunate people that is employed. There are many more people like me that are not employed as a result of just being who they are — being good workers, but being transgender or transsexual. So I think it’s extremely important that this bill be passed to protect workers like me.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) expressed pride in the committee for inviting Broadus to speak. Watch his full testimony:

No opponents of the bill attended the hearing, so the panel and questions were mostly positive. One witness, Craig Parshall of the National Religious Broadcasters Association, testified against ENDA, arguing that religious businesses should be able to discriminate against gay and trans employees according to their beliefs. Largely the committee ignored Parshall during the questioning, and when he did express concern, Samuel Bagenstos of the University of Michigan Law School countered the technicalities of his claims, pointing out that ENDA actually has broad religious exemptions.

ENDA has been stalled in Congress for decades. Though Republican control of the House may prevent its advance yet again in 2012, today’s Senate hearing was nonetheless historic. The fact that most of the discussion at today’s hearing was supportive and non-confrontational demonstrates how significantly overdue these employment protections are.

This Blog originally appeared in Think Progress on June 12, 2012. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Zack Ford is an LGBT researcher/blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Prior to joining ThinkProgress, Zack blogged for two years at ZackFordBlogs.com with occasional cross-posts at Pam’s House Blend. He also co-hosts a popular LGBT-issues podcast called Queer and Queerer with activist and performance artist Peterson Toscano. Zack has a bachelor’s in Music Education from Ithaca College, where we served as student body president, a Master’s in Higher Education Student Affairs from Iowa State University, and also helped found the Central Pennsylvania LGBT Aging Network. Zack holds a B.M. in music education from Ithaca College and an M.Ed. in higher education (student affairs) from Iowa State University, but he’s originally (and proudly) from rural central Pennsylvania.


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Certificates can help boost pay. More if you’re a man, of course.

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Laura ClawsonFor some high school graduates looking to get some more education and increase their income, or for people with college degrees looking to retrain into a new field, a certificate can be a good alternative to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. But like just about everything else, certificates pay off less for women than for men:

Men who earn certificates earn 27 percent more than high school educated men. Women with a certificate, by comparison, only receive an average 16 percent increase in earnings over women with a high school diploma.

Some of that difference is because men are more likely to get certificates in higher-paying fields, such as construction, while women are more likely to get certificates in lower-paying fields, such as cosmetology. But that doesn’t explain the entire gap:

A male with a certificate in computer and information service can earn about $72,000 per year—more than 72 percent of his peers with an associate’s degree and more than 54 percent of male bachelor’s degree holders.

Notice we said “male.” Thanks to gender inequity, just as a man with a bachelor’s degree can out-earn a woman with a master’s degree, women don’t benefit from certificates as much as the guys do. A woman working in that same field only earns about $57,000.

That’s just one of the ways that the value of getting a certificate is variable: fewer than half of certificate-holders work in a field related to their training, and those working in other fields see just a 1 percent increase in median pay relative to high school graduates. But those who do work in the field they’ve trained in earn only slightly less than the median worker with an associate’s degree. Impact varies by race, as well, with Latinos getting the biggest earnings boost from a certificate over a high school diploma, while African Americans benefit the least from certificates. White certificate holders get much less of a boost than Latinos—but because white high school graduates earn more than Latinos, white certificate holders don’t need a big increase to keep out-earning Latinos.

The picture on certificates is mixed: Some certificates in some fields can mean real pay increases for some people. The picture on gender inequity remains clear: In any level of education, in just about any field, women are left behind.

This blog originally appeared in Daily Kos Labor on June 12, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos. She has a PhD in sociology from Princeton University and has taught at Dartmouth College. From 2008 to 2011, she was senior writer at Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.


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Working Women’s Bodies Besieged by Environmental Injustice

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Michelle ChenFrom birth control pills to equal pay, women are a favorite target in the country’s most heated political wars. But a much quieter struggle is being waged over women’s bodies in their neighborhoods and workplaces, where a minefield of pollutants threaten working mothers and their children.

According to new research from the the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, working pregnant women who are exposed on the job to toxins known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are more likely to have children with gastroschisis, a rare birth defect in which the intestines stick out from the baby’s body, generally requiring surgical repair.

The study, summarized by Environmental Health News, reveals a distinct link between women’s occupational exposure and the prevalence of the defect: “mothers who were exposed to PAHs had 1.5 times the risk of having a baby with gastroschisis compared to women who were not exposed to PAHs at work.”

While this is a rare defect, the troubling context of these findings is the prevalence of PAH pollution in women’s workplaces. The researchers noted, “assessing workplace exposure to PAHs is important because ‘more than 95 percent of employed women in the United States remain employed during pregnancy’ and ‘an increasing number of women are being exposed in their jobs to chemicals that can harm the fetus.’” The researchers especially noted exposures among women working as “cashiers in fast food restaurants.”

PAH’s are an ubiquitous byproduct of everyday combustible materials like oil and coal. Studies have linked the contamination they cause when burned and churned into the atmosphere with health problems that can shape a kid’s entire upbringing, ranging from developmental disabilities to childhood obesity.

A separate study on women in New York City linked prenatal PAH exposure to behavioral issues that could pose a lifelong burden. Researchers with the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health found a connection between a pregnant woman’s exposure to PAH-laden air and the chances that her child will by age 6 or 7 show mental health symptoms such as anxiety or attention problems. These long-term behavioral patterns, the researchers wrote, “suggest an adverse impact of prenatal PAH exposure… that could impact cognitive development and ability to learn.”

The ramifications of toxic childhood environments are a global issue. A 2010 study on women in Krakow, Poland, revealed similar impacts of PAH exposure in the womb, with a significant effect on intelligence tests at age 5.

To environmental justice activists, the synergy between pollution and social hardship intersects with barriers surrounding urban communities. Environmental hazards compound the burdens that already shadow children growing up in disadvantaged communities: poverty, gaps in healthcare and education, racial segregation.

The recent Columbia study, which focused on New York City women of black and Dominican descent, noted that “Urban, minority populations in the U.S. often have disproportionate exposure to air pollution.” According to ABC News, the investigators also accounted for other issues associated with the stresses and hazards urban life–like exposure to secondhand smoke and the mother’s mental health (“demoralization” was one potential factor)–which can also shape children’s development.

Much of this environnmental research focuses on everyday exposures, not work-related pollution specifically. But in unhealthy workplaces, there’s a unique convergence of economic, gender and environmental injustice. The economic and ecological abuses looming over working-class women on the job each day may pose crippling costs for the whole family.

Urban environmental justice advocates recognize that workplace protections, especially for working moms and women of childbearing age, are critical for community health. Cecil Corbin-Mark, deputy director of the Harlem-based environmental group WE ACT, says, “It’s a good thing to avoid creating a dynamic where a worker has to choose between their health and their livelihood. It’s like forcing someone to choose between either having a heart or having lungs.”

Dr. Shanna Swan, a professor of Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, says more research is needed on the intersection between workplace health and the everyday exposures that encircle expecting mothers in struggling communities:

This is an important and understudied area, especially since exposures are usually far higher in the occupational setting than those to which the general public is exposed, and because the period of fetal development is the most sensitive window; developmental damage during this time is irreversible. We have just begun to recognize that this may be a sensitive window, not only the developing fetus, but for the pregnant woman herself, since she is subject to the stress of pregnancy, workplace stress and likely the added stress of low socioeconomic status. All of these may contribute to adverse development for the fetus and challenges to the woman’s own health.

The right rallies to defend the sanctity of “the unborn” while vilifying women for trying to exercise reproductive choices in response to socioeconomic realities. This is the same kind of rhetoric that assaults environmental regulation, healthcare programs, and labor protections that alleviate gender inequity. So the ideology that claims to honor life actually militates against the right to a healthy childhood and safe community. Women’s bodies carry the burden of this hypocrisy, and the next generation will bear the fruits of the injustice.

This blog originally appeared in Working In These Times on June 8, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the author: Michelle Chen work has appeared in AirAmerica, Extra!, Colorlines and Alternet, along with her self-published zine, cain. She is a regular contributor to In These Times’ workers’ rights blog, Working In These Times, and is a member of the In These Times Board of Editors. She also blogs at Colorlines.com. She can be reached at michellechen @ inthesetimes.com.


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Tax Credits for New Jobs, but Really for Union Busting?

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mike elkA California-based company called VWR is busting its union, moving work to a non-union workforce a few hours away and receiving both federal and state tax incentives to do it. The scandal is yet another example of how companies can game the tax systems while hurting workers, and the government does little to stop them.

In Brisbane, Calif., 183 workers, members of Teamsters Local 853 that work at VWR, will lose their jobs at the end of the year when their scientific chemical warehouse closes. VWR, which is owned by Chicago-based private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners, is moving the warehouse 230 miles away to Visalia, Calif. At the warehouse in Visalia, workers will be non-union and are expected to make half of what the current workers in Brisbane earn, according to the Teamsters.

The job losses will devastate local workers, many of whom are close to retirement age and will have difficulty finding jobs elsewhere. It will also devastate the city of Brisbane. A study conducted by the Federal-State Inquiry into Job Losses and Misdirected Tax Policy, chaired by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, found that the warehouse closure will result in the loss of 183 direct jobs and 83 indirect jobs among the suppliers and surrounding community in the Brisbane area. The loss of jobs will also reduce the City of Brisbane’s tax revenue by 18.5 percent.

The company, though, will benefit financially not only from halving workers’ salaries, but from a large amount of federal and state incentives to move. The City of Visalia, where the warehouse is being moved to, has received $2 million in federal Department of Commerce grants to do infrastructure improvements to the industrial park where the new warehouse will be located. VWR will also receive a total amount of $30,000 over a five-year period in tax credits from the state of California for every new worker hired.

“They aren’t creating new jobs, all they are doing is union busting,” says VWR worker John Thomas. “It’s a shame they are getting our tax dollars to destroy good middle-class jobs.”

This isn’t the first time VWR has used the new hire tax credits intended for job creation to simply move jobs from one place to another. Recently, the company received tax credits from Monroe County, N.Y., to move jobs from one warehouse in Towanda, N.Y., to another warehouse in Henrietta, N.Y. The move resulted in the layoffs of 41 warehouse workers in Towanda.

“I think this is a formula that union and non-union companies are using to abuse federal funds. You are not creating new jobs. You are really just transferring jobs and getting paid to screw these people out of their employment,” says Teamsters International Vice President Rome Aloise. “There should be some restrictions on how federal funding is provided to not allow this kind of transfer to occur.”

There are supposed to be “non-relocation” laws in place at the federal level to prevent corporations from receiving federal tax dollars for moving jobs from one area of the country to another area of the country. Teamsters are upset that the Department of Commerce is still providing a $2 million dollar infrastructure improvement grant for a project that will facilitate union warehouse jobs being moved from Brisbane to Visalia. The Department of Commerce counters that it has not violated “non-relocation” laws since the grant was intended to facilitate the creation of other jobs besides VWR ones in Visalia’s industrial park. Furthermore, the Department of Commerce claims it didn’t know about the VWR facility when issuing the $2 million grant.

“The site of the VWR facility was not contemplated as part of the project, nor was it included in any job creation estimates. Moreover, the City advises us that it had no knowledge of VWR’s interest when it applied for EDA funds and that it did not solicit or court the company to relocate,” wrote Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez in a letter to Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa, Jr.  “As the decision should be clear from the above, the decision to the Plaza Driver project was entirely independent of the VWR matter.”

However, in a written response to the Commerce Department, Hoffa Jr. argued:

Just as VWR is dealing in bad faith with employees and the City of Brisbane by refusing to explore viable alternatives, VWR and the City of Visalia are dealing in bad faith with the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration and U.S. taxpayer about how will benefit from this public financing. The $2 million grant awarded to the City of Visalia in April 2011 to make infrastructure improvements to Plaza Driver will benefit VWR in its relocation efforts according to city documents and news reporters. However VWR was omitted from the list of companies, Visalia identifies as beneficiaries in its EDA grant application.

As evidence of Visalia’s bad fatih, the Teamsters point to an August 2010 newspaper account that quotes the Visalia City community development director saying that “the planned widening of Plaza… and improvements to Riggin Avenue… (and) the Betty Drive interchange… were big selling points to (VWR).“ But it appears that regardless of whether Visalia told the truth in its application for the $2 million grant, the city will receive the money and Brisbane’s workers will lose their jobs.

Economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic Policy and Research, says such schemes are intrinsic to programs that give tax credits to companies hiring new workers.

You inevitably run a risk with new hire credits that most of the hires would have occurred even without the credit,” says Baker. “In those cases, you’re giving money for nothing. Obviously the story is worse when what you’re giving money for is a union-busting scheme. As a practical matter, this can be hard to prevent since there will always be some way to game the system.

This blog originally appeared in Working in These Times on June 7, 2012. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Mike Elk is an In These Times Staff Writer and a regular contributor to the labor blog Working In These Times. He can be reached at [email protected].


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Walmart Drives Down American Wages by Outsourcing Jobs

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waldron_travis_bioWalmart’s outsourcing of jobs is driving down wages at American factories, according to a report from the National Employment Law Project. Instead of employing its own factory employees, Walmart subcontracts many of the jobs to outside companies that have histories of low wages and labor violations, the report said. “These outsourced workers laboring on Walmart’s behalf toil at the bottom of a complex hierarchy of intermediaries and in alternative employment schemes that leave them vulnerable to significant worker rights abuses and unsure where to seek redress,” said the report, which also noted that workers at multiple Walmart-contracted facilities have sued their employers for violating minimum wage laws and cheating them out of pay.

This post originally appeared in ThinkProgress on June 6, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Travis Waldron is a reporter/blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Travis grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and holds a BA in journalism and political science from the University of Kentucky. Before coming to ThinkProgress, he worked as a press aide at the Health Information Center and as a staffer on Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s 2010 Senate campaign. He also interned at National Journal’s Hotline and was a sports writer and political columnist at the Kentucky Kernel, the University of Kentucky’s daily student newspaper.


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What’s Really Happening Behind the Kitchen Door?

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From locally grown, organic greens to grass-fed beef, we care about the food that comes out of the kitchen—but what about the workers who chop, grill, sauté and serve our food? Today, the restaurant industry is one of the largest and fastest growing industries in the United States. Despite its size and growth, the industry suffers from pervasively low wages, wage theft, non-existent benefits, rampant discrimination and often dangerous or unhealthy working conditions.

This week in New York City, consumers, students and working people, are coming together for an action and food justice conference to learn more about the enormous impact food workers have on the economy and on consumers, food safety and public health.

This video trailer, for the upcoming book Behind the Kitchen Door, gives a brief glimpse into the working conditions in restaurants told through the stories of workers. According to author Saru Jayaraman, co-founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, the health and well-being of the second-largest private-sector workforce is at stake—the lives of 10 million people, many immigrants, many people of color, who bring passion, tenacity and important insight into the American dining experience.

It’s no coincidence that seven of the 10 lowest-paying jobs in America are in the restaurant industry, 90 percent of restaurant workers lack paid sick days and only .01 percent are represented by a union. Workers represented by unions, on average, are paid 20 percent higher wages than nonunion workers and are more likely to have paid leave and a secure retirement. Despite facing many barriers, restaurant workers across the country are building awareness among consumers and organizing to improve their working conditions.

As one Washington, D.C., restaurant worker quoted in the book, says:

Customers always ask us if this dish is organic or local, thinking that is what will ensure that they are having a healthy meal, a meal they can feel good about but if they knew about what workers were dealing with…working with the flu, tips and wage being stolen by the owner, getting screamed at and abused by managers, being called racial slurs, getting groped by male workers—they would think twice about the quality of their food.

Learn more about what you can do as a consumer to eat ethically. For more information on Behind the Kitchen Door, check out www.behindthekitchendoor.org, and for a consumer guide to eating out, please visit http://rocunited.org/dinersguide.

This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO Now on June 6, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Jennifer Angarita is an AFL-CIO Worker Center coordinator.


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Workers Win Facebook Fight Against Huge Supermarket Chain

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Two labor unions representing workers at supermarket chains are reporting success in efforts to protect their members from employers who want to impose restrictive rules on the use of social media outside the workplace.

Leaders of the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) union and the Teamsters have successfully backed down a large multinational conglomerate that attempted to impose such restrictions on more than 100,000 workers across the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions, union officials said.  Complaints to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) have resulted in the New York-based unit of the company withdrawing the disputed policy, and a settlement of similar complaints is imminent in the Baltimore area, they said.

The fight erupted late last year when supermarket chains owned by the Dutch retailing conglomerate Royal Ahold began demanding that employees sign a “Social Policy Guidelines” document that warned of dire consequences if workers used social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to communicate too freely about their jobs. The grocery chains—Stop & Shop in New England/New York, Giant Food in the Mid-Atlantic, Martin’s Food Markets in Virginia, and a separate home delivery service called Peapod—threatened disciplinary action, including possible dismissal, if employees refused to sign the document or violated any of the guidelines.

For Jeff Armstrong, a five-year employee at the Giant store in Rehoboth Beach, Del., the threat of dismissal for refusing to sign was startling. “I couldn’t believe it. They called us in and made us sit down in front of a terminal. They said ‘Read this, then sign it.’ They told us you had to sign right then and there, and that if you didn’t sign, you could be fired,” Armstrong said. Feeling pressured, he reluctantly signed.

But Armstrong grew angry as he discussed the humiliating incident with co-workers and reconsidered it in his own mind. A UFCW member, he talked to his shop steward and other union representatives. Impatient for action and determined to assert his own rights, he ultimately took a courageous step and personally filed a complaint against Giant with the NLRB regional office in Baltimore.

He didn’t know it at the time, but complaints were already starting to pile up at NLRB offices. Ritchie Brooks, president of Teamsters Local 730 in Washington, D.C., was hearing stories similar to Armstrong’s from his members at a Giant warehouse in the Maryland suburbs.

“I told the guys not to sign anything. They (Giant) can’t pull this shit. It was retaliation, plain and simple. They did it (imposed the social media policy) because in 2010-2011 we fought them on the contract,” Brooks said, referring to heated contract talks in which Giant has sought to cut Teamster jobs in the area.

Brooks quickly filed an NLRB complaint and was joined by two other Teamster locals in the region that also have contracts with Giant. Filing a separate complaint was UFCW Local 400, which represents thousands of Giant employees in Maryland and Virginia. Significantly, Local 400 is also involved in nascent efforts to organize workers in the Martin’s Food Markets chain, which is one of several non-union operations under the Ahold umbrella.

Meanwhile, the same issues were coming to a head in the New York area. Tony Speelman, secretary-treasurer of UFCW Local 1500, represents about 5,500 Stop & Shop employees in New York City and its suburbs. He says he received dozens of reports from members when Stop & Shop sought to impose the social media guidelines in a way virtually identical to Giant. In March Local 1500 filed an NLRB complaint, charging that the guidelines were a violation of federal labor law and of the civil rights of workers, he said.

“ It is our belief that Stop & Shop has implemented a policy that is vague, overbroad and in violation of the civil rights of our members employed at their stores. Furthermore they did so without first bargaining with our union. That action alone is in violation of federal labor law,” Speelman stated in announcing the complaint.

If not in agreement with Speelman, Stop & Shop executives at least recognized they had a legal problem. Last month, the guidelines were withdrawn and are currently under review, Speelman says.

Contacted by Working In These Times for comment, Ahold USA spokeswoman Tracy Pawelski said the company would not make anyone available for a telephone interview to discuss the policy. Separate offices for Giant and Stop & Shop also declined to discuss the matter, and refused or ignored repeated requests for copies of the disputed guidelines.  Stop & Shop spokeswoman Arlene Putterman insisted that new social media guidelines are now in effect, but wouldn’t say what they were or how they are different than those that had been withdrawn.

In any event, a settlement of the charges in NLRB’s Baltimore region appears to be imminent, according to NLRB spokeswoman Shelly Skinner. Documents have been circulated among all the parties to the complaints, Skinner said, and the NLRB is taking the position that the language of the Giant policy is overly broad. The labor agency also sees merit in the charge that the policy could chill the exercise of the employees’ protected rights, she said. Armstrong added that his understanding of the settlement is that Giant will no longer threaten dismissal for employees who refuse to sign the policy document.

For UFCW, this victory is part of a larger struggle taking place in the realm of social media, according to Amber Sparks, director of new media at the union’s international headquarters in Washington, D.C. The union is using social media, especially Facebook, as a way to connect workers with each other and their union, she said. These efforts are provoking reactions from employers like Giant who see Facebook campaigns for fair labor contracts, or new organizing initiatives, as a threat, she said.

For Armstrong, his experience has given him a unique perspective on the NLRB, which yesterday released its latest report on employer social media policies, and on the political fights that have engulfed the agency since President Barack Obama took office.

“When I read these stories about the NLRB, it makes my skin crawl,” Armstrong says. “I have nothing but the highest regard for the NLRB people I’ve worked with. There is no other agency that is there to protect employees, and that is why the companies get so upset.  As far as I am concerned the NLRB people are wonderful—they are there for the employee when there is no place else to go.”

This blog originally appeared in Working in These Times on June 1, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Bruce Vail is a Baltimore-based freelance writer with decades of experience covering labor and business stories for newspapers, magazines and new media. He was a reporter for Bloomberg BNA’s Daily Labor Report, covering collective bargaining issues in a wide range of industries, and a maritime industry reporter and editor for the Journal of Commerce, serving both in the newspaper’s New York City headquarters and in the Washington, D.C. bureau.


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