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The Art of Writing a Resignation Letter – For Leaving on Good or Bad Terms

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Resignation Letters – Good Examples from Allison & Taylor, The Reference Checking Company

While crafting a resignation letter is simple enough when you’re leaving an employer on civil terms, what do you do if you’re parting on less than favorable circumstances? Writing a resignation note in anger or haste could become an action you will later regret. 

On the other hand, a beautifully written resignation letter will stand out, even if you left as a result of poor performance.  Hopefully a thoughtful resignation accepting responsibility will  afford you great references in the future. 

Here are some examples of how your resignation letter might be worded for best effect. Allison & Taylor can also assist in crafting an appropriate resignation letter.

Example #1: Resignation Due to Philosophical Differences

Please accept this as my official notice of my resignation. As you are aware, over the last twelve months we have had numerous differences of opinion regarding my philosophies for corporate policy, best practices and goals for the company.

Unfortunately, it is clear to me that you and I will be unable to resolve our differences. Therefore, I feel that my resignation is the best option for the team and all concerned.

My last day at Allison & Taylor will be xx. I would appreciate meeting with you in the next week or so to discuss the transition of my duties to a successor.

Example #2: Resignation Due to Bullying, Harassment, Age Discrimination, or Sexual Overtones

As you may or may not be aware, some members of your management team do not adhere to appropriate company policy. Accordingly, I regretfully tender my resignation having experienced unsuitable corporate behavior.

It has been my pleasure building Allison & Taylor to its current level and I regret the unfortunate circumstances that compel me to leave the company.

Please advise if you wish to meet with me and my attorney in the near future to discuss these events, which have been brought to the attention of HR over the past 12 months. My last day will be xx.

Examples #3: Resignation Due to Perceived Shortfall in Employee Performance or Compliance with Corporate Policy

It is with heavy heart that I respectfully submit my resignation from Allison & Taylor, effective immediately.

I do so with the realization that a growing number of my peers view my recent actions with the firm as unprofessional and a poor reflection on the corporate image. To whatever degree this is true, I offer my heartfelt apologies and feel I would serve the company best by removing myself from our corporate arena.

Be assured that it has been my honor and pleasure to work with you and our organization over the past years. The company has become a second home to me, and I have come to think of my associates as more family than co-workers. I am hopeful that in some small way I have contributed to the firm’s success and respected position in the marketplace. 

I will be forever grateful for the business acumen and relationships that I have gained, and wish all organization members the very best in their professional and personal lives.

If you like the sound of the resignation letters above, head here to view more.

This blog originally appeared at Allison & Taylor on DATE. Reprinted with permission.

About JobReferences.com & Allison & Taylor, Inc., the Reference Checking Company:

The principals of this firm have been in the business of checking references & credentials for corporations and individuals since 1980. Over 40 years of assisting job seekers and those companies hiring them. For those seeking a promotion or a new job opportunity: JobReferences.com will call your former employer obtain your references, document them and give the results to you.


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The Importance of Providing Mental Health Days for Your Team

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With nearly 1 in 5 American adults being diagnosed with a mental health condition each year, introducing Mental Health Days in the workplace could, in theory, benefit around 20% of your employees.  

Although most workplaces agree that employee wellbeing is essential, there is still some uncertainty around the concept of ‘Mental Health Days’; from employers granting and embracing them, to employees feeling ashamed or embarrassed to request them. 

For some, managers and assistants alike, bringing up the topic of mental health may seem like a difficult conversation to have at work. But, changing mindsets and reframing mental health days will begin to break down stigmas and overall create a more open dialogue and a more productive and healthy work environment. 

Providing, and even encouraging, regular Mental Health Days could decrease extended periods of leave for employees, in particular Executives and Senior Managers. “Executives face unique stressors,” says Kayla Gill, Content Director at LuxuryRehabs.com. “With so many people depending on you, […] many executives feel like they don’t have the time or freedom to step away from work in order to begin recovery.” 

Granting regular Mental Health Day’s could alleviate some of the pressure that leads executives to seek recovery help from work-related stress. This can result in many serious problems, such as anxiety disorders and even substance abuse and addiction.

In this article, we will define what a Mental Health Day is, discuss why they are so important and how they can help to reduce work-based stress and anxiety, and ultimately help to reduce burnout.  

What is a Mental Health Day 

Much like a traditionally accepted ‘sick day’, a Mental Health Day is taking a day off to recover. Having a cold, sickness bug or another physical sickness may seem easier to ‘prove’ as there are obvious visible symptoms. But, struggling with mental health is often harder to explain as many of the side effects are invisible to others, though felt strongly by the sufferer. 

Mental Health Days could be scheduled in advance. For example, if employees are working towards a deadline, encouraging them to take a Mental Health Day after this has passed, to recuperate and de-stress following their hard work could see them returning refreshed. 

However, mental health isn’t always something that can be pre-planned or prepared for. Sometimes severe anxiety or other mental health disorders can come on suddenly, and employees may need to request a Mental Health Day in the morning for that day. 

Being accepting of all Mental Health Day requests is important to changing attitudes towards mental health in the workplace. Ensuring employees, of all levels, are aware of how to request them, in a safe space, will encourage uptake, contributing to employee wellbeing and overall company culture. 

Why Mental Health Days are Important

While having just one day off may not seem revolutionary, and it certainly won’t make stress or anxiety disappear, it is an important step in avoiding complete burnout. 

It encourages employees to recognize signs of stress before they become larger problems or contribute to developing anxiety disorders. But it is equally important for employers to look out for early signs of stress 

If multiple employees in the workplace and working remotely are requesting Mental Health Days, or there is a noticeable increase of them within a team or coinciding with a project, it could be a sign that workload is too much, deadlines are too tight, or overall stressors need to be addressed. 

How to reduce stress and anxiety in the workplace. 

Mental Health Days could be counterproductive for staff if met with negativity or suspicion. Staff could be hesitant to request Mental Health Days through fear of how they will be perceived or feelings of guilt for prioritizing their mental wellbeing. This leads to them not being able to fully relax and focus on self-care on their requested day. Here it is vital that there is a company-wide positive approach to Mental Health Days, and a united mission to reduce stress across the board. 

Although not all mental health days are impacted by work-related stress, it is still worth finding ways to reduce stressors for employees. Overwhelm and pressure are two key factors that contribute to stress and anxiety and could be a cause for staff to request mental health leave. 

Managing tasks, good communication and regular check-ins will help gauge team morale and present a space for issues to be aired in an accepting space.  

High performers and Executives are at a higher risk of burnout and more likely to experience workplace stress, finding it hard to say no at work and often having to manage multiple projects, teams and tasks. Noticing early signs of stress in these members, and all staff, will help to indicate where Mental Health Days could benefit, and where workload needs to be shifted. 

Final Thoughts 

With 40% of American workers finding their jobs stressful, implementing processes to alleviate stress in combination with scheduling Mental Health Days could have a huge impact on overall employee wellbeing and productivity. 

Recognizing signs of stress in staff, opening conversations about mental health, and encouraging scheduled Mental Health Days, especially after high-pressure projects can positively impact stress levels. 

This blog was printed with permission.

About the Author: Gemma Hart is a HR and Recruitment Specialist based in the South of England. Since graduating from Sussex University in 2016, Gemma has developed her skill set and knowledge around the future of recruitment and graduate education.


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Proving Sexual Harassment in the
Workplace

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As allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace continue to make the news, the question of how victims should respond remains unanswered. Even when no celebrities are involved, it can be difficult to convince those around you that a boss or co-worker is acting inappropriately.

A study conducted by Harvard Business Review found that although women’s reports of sexual harassment have decreased following the #MeToo movement, reports of gender harassment have gone up. This means that we still have a way to go, and that harassers may be acting in more subtle ways. According to a 2018 study by Pew Research Center, 69% of women who reported experiencing sexual harassment said it happened in a work setting.

As a brief refresher, the two main types of workplace sexual harassment are quid pro quo and a hostile working environment. Quid quo pro sexual harassment refers to offering something in exchange for the sexual act, such as a promotion or raise. A hostile work environment is fairly self-explanatory, but essentially means creating an uncomfortable environment due to inappropriate comments, behavior, or physical touch. All workplace sexual harassment is federally illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Barriers to Justice

Gathering admissible evidence is crucial to workplace sexual harassment cases. This is because most companies have a policy requiring proof “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The standard that courts use is a lower one – “preponderance of evidence” – but private companies can set their own rules. Unfortunately, this means that without a confession or witness statement, it is incredibly hard to prove harassment.

The other policy creating a barrier is confidentiality. Even if the accused is found guilty, (and if they are, they are rarely punished), no one at the company will find out. That makes it difficult for potential victims to avoid the perpetrator around the workplace.

Burden of Proof

When sexual harassment in the workplace does occur, it unfortunately falls on the victim to prove. They will need to show four things: 1) they belong to a protected class (in this case gender), 2) they have been subject to harassment/unwanted sexual advances, 3) the harassment was based on sex/gender, and 4) the harassment was severe enough to create a discriminatory or abusive workplace. The fourth point is often the hardest to prove.

Victims of harassment will need to gather any evidence they can, which can be difficult. One way to establish a pattern of harassment is to simply document it privately. While the ideal evidence would be an email, text, video, or audio recording, that’s difficult to obtain.

If you are experiencing harassment at work, no matter how minor, you should begin documenting it. Every single time an instance occurs, write it down. Create a document or use your phone’s notes app to start a list. Write down as much information as possible, such as: the date, time, who was involved, what was said/done, were there any witnesses. If there were witnesses, that will help your case.

Retaliation

Retaliation is a very important issue in the world of workplace harassment. It is defined as any action that may deter someone from participating in an activity protected by antidiscrimination laws. A 2020 study conducted by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found that 55.8% complaints that year related to retaliation after reporting workplace sexual harassment.

A famous example in the news would be the Harvey Weinstein case. Because Mr. Weinstein had authority over the careers of the women he harassed, he was able to allegedly threaten retaliation if they spoke up. Unfortunately, just like sexual harassment, retaliation is very difficult to prove without hard evidence. If you experience harassment or retaliation in the workplace, remember to take detailed notes and establish a pattern of behavior – then report it.

This blog was printed with permission.

About the Author: Sharon Feldman is a writer based in San Diego, California, who is passionate about safety and equality. When not writing blogs, Sharon can be found at the beach with her dog.


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“We Will Win”: For the First Time in 50 Years, Minneapolis Teachers Are Out on Strike

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In an interview, one striking teacher explains how community support is providing energy and optimism on the picket line

On March 8, around 3,500 Minneapolis teachers and educational support professionals went out on strike, effectively shutting down a system of 35,000 students. The action, led by Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) Local 59, is the first walkout the city has seen in over 50 years. 

Educators are demanding caps to class sizes, higher wages and more mental health support for students. While the school district is claiming a budget shortfall, union advocates have pointed to the state’s record $9.3 billion surplus as a potential untapped resource. 

We sat down with Beth Dill, a 5th grade teacher at Whittier International Elementary School and an active union member, to talk about the strike, which is entering its second week.

What do you see as the key issues in this strike?

It’s about what kind of future thousands of kids will have. Specifically, we are fighting for smaller class size, more mental health support for children, recruitment and retention of teachers of color and increasing the pay for our lowest paid members?—?the educational support staff. They start at $24,000 per year. The educators make it work. Short staffing has been a huge problem over the years, but the pandemic has brought us to the breaking point and it’s unacceptable.

How are educators holding up so far?

I know we are only a few days into the strike but so far it has been amazing. On the picket line at Whittier Elementary it’s been like a raucous party with music, dancing and food. Every morning several schools in the area join for picketing. All over the city, the same thing is happening: Large boisterous picket lines.

The support from parents, students and community members has been unbelievable. We have parents, kids and their dogs walking the picket line with us, bringing us food. It keeps our spirits up to see Somali, Black, Latinx and white parents out here. We have 65% kids of color here and many English language learners. Children of color make up well over half of the school population.

Our union members went door knocking in neighborhoods across the city last Saturday and again today [Friday, March 11]. There were a thousand union members talking to neighbors. I just heard that we had positive feedback from 94% of those we talked to. I’m so glad we’re using this tactic. It helps keep us in touch with the community and gives a sense of confidence that we are supported. I haven’t heard of too many strikes that do canvassing.

We’ve also had great support from political leaders. The Minneapolis City Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting our fight on Thursday. Our three socialist city council members (Robin Wonsley Worlobah, Jason Chavez and Aisha Chughtai) have spoken at our rallies, walked the strike line and been a megaphone for us. Unions in the area have also come through for us, from the Teamsters to the Laborers. It helps a lot.

How do you account for the community support?

The public knows what we’re fighting for: smaller class size, mental health supports, educators of color and higher pay for everyone but especially the lowest paid. MFT has also been very involved in some important social struggles. Our union was part of the fight to try to remake public safety in the city after the police murder of George Floyd. We’ve been very involved in the struggle around rent control. 

The fight to protect our kids isn’t just in the classroom. Their ability to learn and thrive is impacted by public safety, housing and environmental concerns.

How does the ?“education reform movement” fit into the political picture and the strike?

They are definitely trying to turn the community against us, especially the Black community. And we must be honest. The union has historically not always been seen as an ally to the Black community. Astroturf groups like the Minnesota Parents Union (MPU) are finding some sympathy for their point of view because of that. Of course, MPU does not represent the vast majority of Minneapolis parents. We see that clearly on the picket lines. So the Minnesota Parents Union is losing the battle.

The funding for the education reform movement comes from neoliberal operations like The Minneapolis Foundation. Under the guise of racial equity they attack public education and the union. They are aiming to privatize education because there is a lot of money to be made there and charter schools are largely non-union. We know the foundations and rich people behind charter schools don’t care about educating children because the products they promote?—?charter schools?—?don’t produce better outcomes for kids.

How long do you think this strike will last?

I’m not making any predictions. I think Ed Graff, the superintendent of Minneapolis schools, has underestimated us. He didn’t think we would get a 97% vote of the membership to strike. He thought educators wouldn’t stick together, that parents and the community would turn against us. Right before the strike he sent an email encouraging us to cross the picket line. All that did was make people madder.

Negotiations have begun again. That’s a step in the right direction. We will turn up the heat. We will hold the line. We will win.

This blog post was printed at In These Times on March 14, 2022.

About the Author: Kip Hedges is a school bus driver in St. Paul and longtime union activist.


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Starbucks Workers Are Facing Down One of the Most Intense Union-Busting Campaigns in Decades

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Workers at more than 100 Starbucks stores in 27 states have filed union petitions for elections. In response, the company has launched a relentless anti-union effort.

In interviews, Starbucks workers tell In These Times that starting a union campaign is the first time they’ve felt hopeful in their adult lives. ?“A lot of us have gotten used to a sense of hopelessness and helplessness when it comes to our jobs,” says Rachel Ybarra, 22, an organizer at a Starbucks in Seattle. ?“But unionizing can give you a sense of agency,” Ybarra adds.

“If a union is involved, your coworkers have the power to go to bat for you.”

In Memphis, Tenn., Nikki Taylor, at age 32, is one of the oldest Starbucks baristas at the busy corner of Poplar Avenue and S. Highland Street. She says she feels like a mother figure to a ?“close-knit, regular barbecue-type family.” When she started as a shift supervisor two years ago, working in the café was a dream job?—?but this soon changed.

During the pandemic her store has faced chronic staffing shortages and baristas have been tasked with the work of three or four people. ?“You’re getting hundreds of drink orders, making them all yourself, still having to give that ultimate customer service,” Taylor says.

So workers began to talk. ?“When you’re working alongside people going through the same thing every day, you guys bond so much,” Taylor says.

One concern was pay. The starting wage at the store is about $12, and some workers take multiple jobs to make ends meet, Taylor says. According to MIT’s living wage calculator, the living wage in Memphis is $13.26 for a single adult, $18.02 for a family of four.

Another issue was Covid-19 policy. Vaccinated workers who were exposed to Covid-19 but had no symptoms were expected to work their shifts. During the highly contagious Omicron wave of the virus this winter, workers say they’d see people with known exposures come in for work, only to develop symptoms while on the clock.

Asked for comment, ?“Anthony D.,” a corporate Starbucks representative, told In These Times in an emailed statement, ?“Throughout the pandemic, we have met and exceeded the latest direction from the CDC. … Over and above that, all leaders are empowered to make any changes make sense [sic] for their neighborhood, which includes shortening store hours or moving to 100 percent take-out only.”

Taylor says the store’s policies still presented a dilemma: “[Do] I not get paid and be at home and try to be safe?—?and then not be paying my bills? Or go to work and continue to be exposed?”

In January, Taylor contracted the virus soon after working alongside someone with a known exposure. At home, Taylor exposed her fiancé and 8?year-old daughter, who developed a 102-degree fever days later. The previous month, a location in Buffalo, N.Y., had become the first unionized Starbucks café in the country. (Some smaller Starbucks ?“kiosks,” such as those inside grocery stores and airports, do run under union contracts with the larger venue.)

When Taylor heard that, she thought her Memphis store might have a real shot at a union, too. She contacted Starbucks Workers United, the Buffalo-based campaign assisted by Workers United, itself an independent affiliate of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

When they replied, Taylor says, she jumped and cried with excitement. 

The Starbucks union drive went public in Memphis on January 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day?—?a deeply personal event for many of the Memphis workers.

“We have [workers] here that were born and raised in Memphis, whose grandparents were in those same rallies and walks that Martin Luther King Jr. did,” says Beto Sanchez, 25, an R&B and jazz musician who began working at the Memphis café after the pandemic decimated the music industry. ?“We are practically 10 minutes away from Lorraine Motel [where King was assassinated]. Whether it was the Kellogg’s strike, whether it was the sanitation workers, there’s a lot of union history in this city.”

But immediately, workers say, they felt like they were under surveillance, with high-level managers frequenting the store, loitering in the café and watching the counter.

On February 8, Taylor, Sanchez and five other union supporters were fired without warning. The company cited minor policy violations that workers and a former store manager, Amy Holden, say were never enforced nor taught in training.

?“One of the employees literally walked in, signed her union card, took a sip of a drink and left?—?and she was fired,” Taylor says.

Starbucks rep Anthony D. claims the workers ?“violated several safety and security policies and protocols, including opening the store after hours, allowing unauthorized personnel inside, leaving the doors unlocked and opening the safe without permission.” Workers reply that, on the night being referenced, they did let a local news crew film in their lobby, all within 10 minutes of the store closing, which they say is company policy?—?but then they talked about the union campaign on camera.

“How we got fired is not why we got fired,” Sanchez tells In These Times. He notes he was the one fired for opening the safe while off-shift, though he generally had that authority as a shift supervisor. He also points out an irony: ?“Starbucks decided to tweet about Martin Luther King Jr. and then … decided to fire Black workers here in Memphis for unionizing.” Two of the seven fired workers, including Taylor, are Black.

“It’s union-busting, completely,” Taylor says. ?“We were loud, we were bold and the company tried to use us as examples. … That scare tactic wildly backfired.”

News of the firings spread rapidly, and the workers became known as ?“the Memphis 7.” Workers and community members gather outside the Poplar and Highland store early each morning to picket in solidarity. Within a week, rallies demanding their reinstatement sprang up in Boston, Chicago and on the doorstep of Starbucks headquarters in Seattle. Starbucks responded to the Memphis pickets by drastically reducing store hours in the name of ?“worker safety.” Sanchez says this shows they’re hitting the company ?“where it hurts … in the wallet.”

Since the first Starbucks union campaign succeeded in Buffalo, N.Y., in December 2021, more than 110 Starbucks stores in 27 states have filed union petitions for elections. That effort encompasses more than 2,000 workers, from Miami-Dade to Seattle.

Common goals include a living wage, access to benefits, adequate staffing, consistent scheduling, more hours, improved health and safety conditions, proper training?—?and for ?“partners,” the corporate lingo Starbucks uses to refer to employees, to actually be treated like ?“partners.”

For Ky Fireside, 31, who works at a Starbucks in Eugene, Ore., one driving force is a living wage. After nearly seven years at the store, Fireside makes $14.70 an hour. According to MIT’s living wage calculator, the living wage in Eugene is $15.58 for a single adult, $22.10 for a family of four.

“In my store, we’ve got three partners who have been with the company for over 15 years,” Fireside says. ?“These aren’t people working temporary jobs, these are people that are trying to support their family on this income. I’m in my 30s, this is my career. And we’re watching the prices of everything go up, including the coffee that we serve.”

Starbucks has touted itself as an industry leader in wages and benefits, pledging to raise wages nationwide to a range of $15 to $23 by this summer. Benefits include paid parental leave, healthcare plans that cover gender-affirming procedures, and tuition for an online degree at Arizona State University.

According to Fireside, however, less than half of the 30 workers at the Eugene location are scheduled enough hours to be eligible for benefits.

“I’m on state healthcare,” Fireside says. ?“Starbucks doesn’t pay me enough to buy health insurance and does not work me enough hours to qualify for Starbucks insurance.” Starbucks requires its workers to average 24 hours a week to qualify for the health insurance benefit, which, on the recommended plan, still costs workers a minimum of $84 each month.

Brick Zurek, 25, a Starbucks worker in downtown Chicago, says their store organized after management’s dismal response to workers receiving death threats in December 2021. When a customer threatened to shoot up the store one night, Zurek says, management refused to allow the store to close early. ?“Starbucks really laid the foundations [for organizing] themselves, on accident,” Zurek says. ?“When we were so understaffed, when we were threatened, and when we were scared?—?we were taking care of each other. … We were forming those bonds and connections.”

Meanwhile, as these small union campaigns await their election dates from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), they are facing a multimillion-dollar anti-union effort considered to be one of the most intense in decades.

In These Times spoke with more than a dozen Starbucks workers trying to unionize their shops. They say, within weeks of their filing for an election, corporate broke out the union-busting playbook. Common tactics include disciplining workers for infractions that were never a concern previously (such as wearing buttons on their aprons or even how they tie their aprons), hiring new workers en masse to dilute the union vote at the store, tense meetings with workers, and surveillance on the floor.

During Buffalo’s campaign, organizers from Workers United say corporate flew in more than 100 ?“support managers’’ from across the country, including such high-ranking corporate officials as former CEO Howard Schultz, to cafés throughout the district. They began hosting mandatory ?“listening sessions” between managers and workers. The sessions run under a pretext of addressing grievances, but management uses them to disseminate ?“facts” about unions. 

Workers at other stores with unionizing efforts say the listening sessions, once unheard of, are now routine. While it’s illegal for management to threaten to take away benefits in response to a union campaign, In These Times spoke with Starbucks workers who say managers imply their current benefits won’t be guaranteed with a union, claim that union dues are expensive and suggest that a ?“third party” (i.e., the union) ?“will get between” workers and management.

Fireside says listening sessions are a daily occurrence in Eugene and workers in a district-wide group chat alert each other when management is en route, so they can prepare. Fireside adds that, in addition to pulling workers off the floor during busy shifts, the sessions cause stress in other ways, like the anxiety that comes with being cornered. ?“They say things like, ?‘You never know what’s going to happen in a contract: You could lose your benefits, and then where would you be? Where would your kids be?’”

After some sessions, Fireside says, workers leave the floor to cry privately.

Starbucks Workers United has filed an NLRB complaint of unfair labor practices, alleging that the company waged a campaign of interference, intimidation and coercion during the Eugene union drive.

As of March 1, all eight Eugene cafés had filed for a union election.

“You wouldn’t expect us to be the first store, after Buffalo, to unionize?—?but we did,” says Tyler Ralston proudly. Ralston works at a small, ?“hole-in-the-wall” Starbucks ?“connected to a Smashburger” in Mesa, Ariz., a conservative community in a state not known for its union support. 

Workers felt compelled to unionize, Ralston says, when manager Brittany Harrison was fired after leaking a video she recorded of Starbucks corporate coaches warning Arizona managers against union organizing. Harrison shared the video with Starbucks Workers United and the New York Times, and “[corporate] started calling me, asking if I was the ?‘whistleblower,’” Harrison says in an interview with More Perfect Union. Harrison put in her notice to quit, but was fired instead.

In response, workers in Mesa filed for a union election Nov. 18, 2021. As one of the earliest stores to file, they have been subject to corporate’s full arsenal of anti-union tactics. Within weeks, three new managers were hired to oversee the store?—?who, according to workers, spent most of their days just sitting in the lobby on laptops or watching employees at the counter.

Starbucks began holding ?“captive audience meetings,” meetings in which management tries to dissuade workers from unionizing. (These types of meetings would be banned under the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act, a pro-labor bill currently stalled in Congress.) Workers who had been outspoken about the union were taken to a meeting at an offsite hotel, while everyone else talked at the store.

Ralston was outraged at what he says were ?“intimidation tactics,” and printed out a 12-page document detailing workers’ allegations of mistreatment, passing it around at a captive audience meeting in December 2021.

“I thought it was time for [management] to feel intimidated,” Ralston says.

Ralston was then called into a meeting with two managers. ?“We sat down at a table and they called me a bully to my face,” Ralston says. ?“They said I needed to apologize [to the store managers] because of the union and everything that [the union] has done to them.”

Ralston, of course, did not.

Then, in advance of the February election, management began mass-hiring new workers, a tactic the union alleges is used to dilute the vote; staffing went from 25 to 40. According to Ralston, the in flux of hires caused chaos, at times doubling the number of workers necessary, reducing hours and diluting tips.

Starbucks has also contracted legal services from Littler Mendelson, one of the largest and most notorious union-busting law firms in the country, with hourly rates reportedly as high as $600 to $700. The firm worked with McDonald’s and Uber during two of the largest labor battles of the last decade: the national fight for a $15 minimum wage, and the corporate campaign to pass California’s Proposition 22, which classified app-based gig workers as contractors rather than employees.

Starbucks is not required to disclose how much they’re paying Littler Mendelson, though in a February review of NLRB filings, HuffPost found at least 30 Littler lawyers attached to Starbucks cases.

Starbucks does seem concerned that the company’s anti-union efforts are hurting its image as a forward-thinking corporate citizen, writing in a February 1 report to the SEC that ?“our responses to any union organizing efforts could negatively impact how our brand is perceived and have adverse effects on our business.”

Starbucks’ ?“Anthony D.” tells In These Times, ?“From the beginning, we have been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, without a union between us, and that conviction has not changed. Our position since the beginning is all of our partners in a market or district deserve the right to vote.”

But Workers United organizer Richard Bensinger, 71, former national organizing director of the AFL-CIO, sees no sign of Starbucks letting up on its anti-union efforts. ?“This has to be the most intense [anti-union] campaign in modern U.S. history, and there’s really nothing in second place,” Bensinger says.

On February 16, for example?—?the day the Mesa store’s votes were scheduled to be counted?—?corporate Starbucks lawyers appealed to the NLRB to delay the vote count, arguing that stores should vote district-wide rather than one by one. Organizers allege the goal of this tactic is to dilute the vote. Starbucks lost the appeal.

?“They’ve lost this case [for district-wide votes] [four] times now, and they’re going to lose it 100 times,” says Bensinger, who works with the Buffalo union campaigns. ?“This is 50 years of legal precedent.”

Starbucks also lost the union vote?—?with a landslide 25?–?3 win for the workers of the Mesa café, which became the third unionized Starbucks in the United States.

But for every successful union drive, Bensinger notes, countless stores silently buckle under immense corporate pressure before filing. Bensinger describes one failed effort at a store in Buffalo where 80 percent of workers signed union cards; Starbucks simply closed the store and converted it into a training center, relocating the workers to stores that were miles away. Most of them quit.

This store reopened after publishing and won their union election?—?by one vote?—?on March 9.

“We’ve passed 100 [organized] stores,” Bensinger says. ?“That’s great. But that’s in spite of what [corporate] is doing.”

Previously, the only union to try to organize Starbucks nationwide was the Industrial Workers of the World, with a campaign that started in 2004. They never won a union election, and the campaign was hindered by relentless corporate anti-union efforts and high worker turnover (often due to firings the union said were retaliatory); the effort died out by 2017. But by garnering free media attention, organizers did pressure image-conscious Starbucks into regional wage increases, fairer scheduling and one additional paid holiday?—?Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

When Workers United began organizing cafés in Buffalo in 2019, Starbucks was not a consideration.

While on the picket with striking Rainforest Cafe workers in Niagara Falls, Canada, Bensinger was approached by workers from SPoT Coffee, a Buffalo-based chain. Those initial organizers were fired in short order, but SPoT workers won a union that year.

Bensinger says that union election was a rallying cry for Buffalo’s labor and progressive community. After SPoT workers secured a strong contract (the median hourly pay rose $4), workers at the Starbucks across the street took notice. They soon reached out to Workers United.

“The partners really get the campaigns going,” Bensinger says. By 2021, Starbucks Workers United had formed an organizing committee with more than 100 workers from Starbucks across Buffalo, training them in union organizing.

“It’s all organic,” Bensinger says. ?“Any good organizing campaign is either run by the workers, or you lose.”

Workers United formed in 2009 (by splitting off from Unite Here) and operates as an ?“independent affiliate” of the SEIU. The Starbucks unionizing effort, however, bears little resemblance to the SEIU’s Fight for $15 campaign, which attempted to organize fast-food workers nationwide for “$15 and a union,” and for which the union hired dozens of organizers in 2011 and 2012, investing millions.

For starters, Fight for $15 was not focused on store-by-store organizing. Its primary strategies were to build momentum for a $15 minimum wage while pushing the NLRB to allow franchises (such as McDonald’s) to be unionized at the national level, rather than shop by shop. The SEIU lost its case under the Trump-era NLRB, then lost a final appeal in 2021.

Starbucks Workers United, however, is a worker-led campaign with support from Workers United. The union is primarily made up of volunteer organizers from around the country who continue to work at Starbucks and serve on their cafés’ organizing committees. Fewer than 20 paid organizers with Workers United nationwide help by facilitating communication between stores and filling support roles like printing and delivering union cards. The union is not planning new hires. Instead, at national trainings, workers at active campaigns learn to move other stores in their region through the process.

Casey Moore, 25, a Starbucks worker in Buffalo, runs communications for Starbucks Workers United as a volunteer. Moore had never been involved in a union campaign before joining her store’s organizing committee. Now, she helps new stores start organizing every day. 

“I joke now that I don’t have a life; this is my life,” says Moore. ?“But I think it’s the coolest thing ever to be a part of.”

Workers interested in learning more about unionizing often email Starbucks Workers United or reach out via Twitter and Instagram, accounts run entirely by Starbucks workers. Since the Memphis 7 firings, Moore says, there’s been a surge in organizing.

?“I’ve heard from a lot of partners that this just angered them and was the driving force telling them to message us,” Moore says.

“I’m on Zoom call after Zoom call, just listening,” Bensinger says. ?“On many of the calls, I never say a word?—?just marvel at it. It’s an honor just to listen to them. And everybody knows exactly what to do. The partners all are wired in through social media and they share everything. The second something new happened in a store, it’s all over social media. They’re wickedly, devastatingly funny and positive.”

Starbucks Workers United is also building a virtual network of organizers to share resources, answers to common questions, organizing strategies and updates on corporate tactics. If a new anti-union leaflet pops up in Seattle, for example, Moore says a worker in Knoxville or Cleveland can confirm they’ve seen identical material and share how they responded.

“A lot of the things that people are asking for,” Moore says, ?“are, ?‘What can I share with my coworkers to dispel these lies that Starbucks is telling to scare people?’ And answering questions like, ?‘What is a union? What do we fight for with the union? Why organize? What’s collective bargaining?’”

Labor historians are connecting the Starbucks Workers United momentum with the wave of labor militancy that began in 2018 when West Virginia public school teachers went on strike.

Importantly, “[the teachers] framed the strike as being about community, rather than about just being themselves,” says Erik Loomis, associate professor of history at the University of Rhode Island. ?“It’s about dignity. It’s about fairness.”

Christian Sweeney, deputy organizing director of the AFL-CIO, confirms the AFL-CIO has seen a significant increase in organizing interest since 2018. He notes, however, that larger labor unions have limited appetite for organizing a few dozen workers at a time, store by store, as the Starbucks campaign is doing. Though the campaign is growing rapidly, the number of stores that have organized for an election are a fraction of the 9,000 company-operated Starbucks in the United States. And across all sectors, U.S. union density has been on the decline for decades, bottoming out at about 10 percent within the past few years.

Instead, Sweeney says, unions have been looking for ways to work around a ?“terribly broken” NLRB process by putting resources into getting reform legislation, such as the PRO Act, passed.

The PRO Act, however, is likely stalled in the current Congress without filibuster reform. Sweeney sees in the Starbucks campaign one alternate way forward.

“Waves of labor movement growth [in the 1880s, 1910s, 1930s and 1950s] have been associated with different ways that workers figured out how to organize, reflective of both changes in the economy, but also changes in the ways that work is organized,” Sweeney says. ?“I think we’re on the verge of bigger things to come, and these Starbucks workers might just be the caffeine that we all need to figure out the next thing.”

“Maybe there are lessons to learn from this for established labor unions, that if you can get in the door, you can create this wave you’re seeing in Starbucks,” Loomis agrees. ?“There’s lots of other kinds of companies, both in fast food and other forms of service industries, that can easily build on this.” Loomis cautions that rebuilding a powerful labor movement will take decades, just as building one did.

On lunch breaks and after clocking out for the night, workers brush past management and head straight for the picket.

“It does give me hope every day knowing that people are starting to recognize the power that they have, as a collective force, as a workforce,” says Sanchez from the Memphis store. He adds that ?“there are always going to be more of us” and hopes the rest of the coffee industry will follow suit, ?“whether it’s the coffee farmers, whether it’s the suppliers, whether it’s the manufacturing area.” As of press time, two of the nation’s three flagship Starbucks roasteries have filed to hold union elections.

In the midst of a fierce corporate intimidation campaign, organizers say that public attention and community support are crucial. ?“Everybody’s rallied around the Starbucks workers, and that’s what it’s going to take to win, because you have to get [Starbucks] to stop their anti-unionism,” Bensinger says.

When captive audience meetings began at one of the first Starbucks to file for an election in Portland, Ore., members of the Democratic Socialists of America, the Teamsters and other union members occupied the café with a ?“solidarity sip-in” at a table adjacent to management. Management was eventually forced to conduct meetings outside.

When the first captive audience meeting hit the downtown Chicago store, a crowd of 50 from Workers United and the other two Chicago stores with unionizing efforts picketed directly outside.

Members of the Memphis 7 say workers there have since formed a new organizing committee and are going harder than ever. On lunch breaks and after clocking out for the night, workers brush past management and head straight for the picket.

“Like I said, we’re a family,” Taylor says. ?“You hurt one family member, you hurt them all.”

This blog post was originally printed at In These Times on March 21, 2022.

About the Author: Hannah Faris is associate editor at The Wisconsin Idea, an independent reporting project of People’s Action Institute, Citizen Action of Wisconsin Education Fund and In These Times.


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How Starbucks Workers Won in Mesa

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Starbucks Workers United (SWU) won its third store election February 28 in Mesa, Arizona. The vote was an overwhelming 25-3, with three additional contested ballots, despite heavy anti-union pressure from the company and in a state with only 5.4 percent union density.

“We led with kindness and care and just did our jobs in the face of union-busting from upper management,” said shift supervisor Liz Alanna, who helped lead the effort. Shift supervisors coordinate the day-to-day running of a store but are eligible for union membership because they don’t have hiring and firing power.

The Mesa store at Powerline and Baseline Roads became the first U.S. company-run store outside Buffalo to be unionized in the recent organizing wave.

Starbucks Workers United is now three for four in the elections held so far—and workers at more than 110 more locations have filed or announced their intention to unionize. A Canadian Starbucks also filed to unionize separately with the Steelworkers (USW) in January.

In Mesa, the company’s retaliation against a cancer-afflicted manager drove workers into the arms of SWU and Workers United, the Service Employees (SEIU) affiliate that has been supporting these union drives nationwide.

COLLAPSED ON THE FLOOR

‘It was just a huge slap in the face that our manager has leukemia, we never got support from another assistant store manager, and it was holiday season and we were getting slammed,” said Alanna.

The manager, 29-year-old Brittany Harrison, had been diagnosed with leukemia in October. Harrison requested paid leave, which was denied, and asked for an assistant manager to help at the store, which was also denied. She wanted to be able to make medical appointments and take care of herself as she coped with both the diagnosis and the illness.

But in November, when Harrison became aware of Starbucks’ planned union-busting strategy in Buffalo through a corporate meeting, she blew the whistle on the company. Harrison spoke anonymously to the media about a plan to send hundreds of managers to Buffalo Starbucks. She also made contact with Starbucks Worker United members in Buffalo.

Higher-ups stopped communicating with her. “I was getting ghosted by my supervisor and that sucked,” Harrison said. “My health was deteriorating.”

Starbucks company-owned stores are run by managers like Harrison, who have hiring and firing power and are not eligible to join barista unions. Above them are district managers who are responsible for multiple stores in the same area. Below them are assistant store managers, shift supervisors, and baristas, all of whom have been eligible to vote for the union. (NLRB regional directors so far have deferred the question of whether assistant store managers will ultimately be included in the bargaining unit to post-election proceedings.)

A bronchitis outbreak hit the store on November 10 and multiple workers called out. Harrison felt unwell November 11 and called out sick; the district manager told her that night she was not allowed to call out even though there were multiple shift supervisors present, and questioned her leadership ability.

The district manager went so far as to order Harrison to work the next day even though she had not been scheduled.

That night at 3 a.m., Harrison called her again to tell her she was too sick to work, but the district manager didn’t pick up her phone. Harrison even texted her photos of the temperature reader that showed she had a fever, but got no response.

The store was already short-staffed, and Harrison was forced to come in.

She ended up working until she collapsed to the floor after six hours. Unable to get up, she defecated on herself. Even then, she was forced to stay another hour because her district manager failed to send someone to cover for her in a timely way.

“This company will not be happy until I work myself to death,” Harrison remembers thinking. She put in her two weeks’ notice that day at the corporation she had once expected to retire at.

Starbucks fired her three days later, citing an “open investigation”; the charges were not disclosed to Harrison. Her Starbucks health benefits were cut off on November 16.

The coffee giant made $816 million in profits from roughly October through January and expanded by 484 stores in the quarter.

DON’T QUIT, UNIONIZE

Starbucks eventually tried to walk back the firing, claiming in a mass email to partners that it had never happened. By then, though, the cat was out of the bag.

When word spread through a group chat, “we were all really upset,” said Michelle Hejduk, a shift supervisor and worker leader. “People were talking about quitting. Somebody said ‘unionizing’—and everybody knew I was the main one that would talk about it with everybody.”

Hejduk had previously been an IATSE member in custodial work at Universal Studios in California and an SEIU member doing costuming at Disneyland.

She called Alanna that night; the two had talked politics before. Alanna remains a member of the American Guild of Musical Artists from her past work as an opera singer.

“Both of us were scared at first that we would get fired or lose our jobs,” Alanna said. She was pregnant and nearly due; she didn’t want to risk losing her family’s health insurance and owing thousands of dollars in hospital bills.

But after the pair talked with Workers United organizing adviser Richard Bensinger about legal protections for workers trying to unionize, they felt reassured enough to move forward.

By November 16, just four days after Harrison had collapsed in the store, the workers had enough cards to file for a union authorization election.

SWU raised $30,000 through crowdfunding to support Harrison, the uninsured and cancer-stricken whistleblower, in a striking display of reciprocal solidarity.

The Mesa store is not the only one where workers allege a retaliatory firing. In February, Starbucks fired seven unionizing workers in a Memphis store. Cassie Fleischer, a bargaining committee member, was also terminated from the Buffalo Elmwood location that was the first to win a union.

UNDERSTAFFING AND DISCRIMINATION

Like other Starbucks workers organizing around the country, Mesa baristas were motivated by understaffing, pressure to come to work sick, the company’s reluctance to stop accepting mobile orders when a store is overwhelmed, and a lack of worker voice.

“People who sit behind a computer do not know how to make a latte, do not know how to clean a toilet—we need to have a say,” said Alanna.

Many Starbucks workers around the country said that people tend to underestimate the amount of physical labor they’re required to do in an environment where there’s pressure to be efficient and customer-pleasing at all times. This includes everything from heavy lifting to being on your feet all day—in some shifts, for almost six hours with only a ten-minute break.

Another concern at the Mesa store was religious discrimination. Harrison, who is Jewish, filed a complaint against the district manager for anti-Semitism.

For example, when Harrison had a swastika painted on her house and the mezuzah torn off, the district manager suggested she should try to understand where the person who did it was coming from.

Harrison and workers in the store say that the district manager, whom Alanna described as “very Christian,” regularly prayed in meetings at which they were present.

“I’m Christian and even I find it very off-putting to have her reading a Christian story at the holiday meeting—I just think it’s weird,” Alanna said.

STALLING AND INTIMIDATION

There were 25 workers for the Mesa store the day they filed for election. But in a union-busting move, Starbucks started hiring. The number of eligible voters ended up at 43.

“They hired half the store just to say ‘no,’” Alanna said.

The company also flooded the store with management—another tactic it has repeated around the country.

Whereas when Harrison was diagnosed with cancer Starbucks wouldn’t add a single assistant manager to help the workers in Mesa, now it added three, plus two managers.

“We called them the babysitters,” Hejduk said. “We were not allowed to be there without them.” One day she was scheduled for the morning, but because a new manager couldn’t come in, the store did not open until 1 p.m.

The managers held captive group meetings (“listening sessions”) and one-on-ones to pressure workers over the union. One manager cried as she told a worker, “I want you to vote ‘no’.”

Hejduk found the episode “totally bizarre.”

“They’ve done so much wild stuff,” she said. “We’ve been desensitized to everything that’s happened.”

As it has done around the country, Starbucks argued to the NLRB that the appropriate bargaining unit would be the whole district, not just one store.

The company lost on this issue in a regional director’s ruling, but then filed an appeal with the NLRB’s head office. A ruling on the appeal was not made by February 16, the day the Mesa votes were to be counted, even though Starbucks had already lost on this issue at the NLRB in Buffalo.

As a result, the final vote count for the Mesa store was postponed pending a decision by the Board’s head office. It was eventually held on February 28.

The NLRB’s decision against Starbucks set the size of the bargaining unit at the store level rather than the district. This is expected to allow the Board to more quickly stop the company’s procedural delays on this issue moving forward.

NEW CAMARADERIE

As the organizing drive continues to build, SWU is building worker-to-worker contacts nationwide.

The day the Mesa workers filed their cards with the NLRB, they met over Zoom with Colin Cochran, a Buffalo-based SWU member, who told them what union-busting tactics to expect.

“Starbucks uses the same playbook everywhere and we know the ins and outs of it,” Cochran said over email. “It’s really fulfilling to be able to help other stores.”

And among the Mesa workers themselves, Alanna said the process of organizing has forged a new sense of community.

“Previous to this, night workers might never talk to day workers,” she said. Now they’re all on the same group chat, and are going out for food and attending parties together.

“I’ve worked in four different stores and I’ve never felt this kind of camaraderie before,” Alanna said.

Within weeks, SWU will know if it has managed to replicate the successes in Mesa and Buffalo through election wins in more stores and in other parts of the country. Next up: Seattle and Boston.

This blog was originally printed at Labor Notes on March 5, 2022.

About the Author: Saurav Sarkar is an Assistant Editor of Labor Notes.


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Unions Stand With Exploited Immigrants Demolition Workers in NYC

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A conversation with Chaz Rynkiewicz, vice president of Laborers Local 79.

With Laborers Local 79 leading the charge, union demolition workers, construction workers, carpenters, bricklayers, and more have rallied multiple times in the past month outside the Chelsea Terminal Warehouse in New York City to protest the mishandling of workers’ pensions and the exploitation, union busting, wage theft, and hazardous conditions workers have experienced at the job site. As Dean Moses writes in The Villager, ?“Many of the Laborers are immigrant demolition workers, also called los demolicionsitas, and construction workers who say that they have been deprived of healthcare throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to face intimidation and threats for trying to unionize Terminal Warehouse. Protesters named several culprits?—?three being New Line Structures, ECD NY and Alba Services?—?which, they alleged, have a history of wage theft and permitting hazardous working conditions. There were also allegations of gender discrimination.” We talk to Chaz Rynkiewicz, Vice President and Director of Organizing for Laborers Local 79.

This blog was originally published at In These Times on 03/03/2022.

About the Author: Maximillian Alvarez is a writer and editor based in Baltimore and the host of Working People, ?“a podcast by, for, and about the working class today.” His work has been featured in venues like In These Times, The Nation, The Baffler, Current Affairs, and The New Republic.


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Workers Say They Breathe Polluted Air at “Green” Insulation Facility

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Kingspan employees in Santa Ana, California are demanding improved health protections—and a fair process to organize.

Mindy Isser | Author | Common Dreams

As the acceptance of climate change becomes increasingly commonplace, more and more companies will be created or adapted to ?“fight” or ?“solve” it — or, at the very least, minimize its effects. Kingspan Group, which began as an engineering and contracting business in 1965 in Ireland, has since grown into a global company with more than 15,000 employees focused on green insulation and other sustainable building materials. Its mission is to ?“accelerate a zero emissions future with the wellbeing of people and planet at its heart.” 

But workers at the Kingspan Light + Air factory in Santa Ana, Calif. don’t feel that the company has their wellbeing at its heart?—?and they say they have documented the indoor air pollution in their workplace to prove it. Differences between Kingspan’s mission and its true impact don’t stop there, workers charge: One of its products was used in the flammable cladding system on Grenfell Tower, a 24-floor public housing tower in London that went up in flames in June 2017, killing 72 people. Kingspan has been the target of protests in the United Kingdom and Ireland for its role in the disaster. Both Kingspan workers and survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire have called on the company to put public safety over profits.

Since the 1990s, union organizers say there have been multiple attempts from the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) union to organize employees at Kingspan, but none were successful. The company says its North America branch employs ?“1,600 staff across 16 manufacturing and distribution facilities throughout the United States and Canada.” Workers at the Santa Ana plant are tasked with welding, spray painting and assembling fiberglass to produce energy-efficient skylights. During the pandemic, when workers say Covid-19 swept through the facility, employees reached back out to SMART?—?not just because they wanted to form a union, but because they grew concerned about what they say is poor air quality in the facility. 

While SMART provided support for their campaign for clean air, the workers took control: In the summer of 2021, the Santa Ana workers came into work armed with monitors to measure indoor air pollution. Their goal was to measure airborne particulate matter that is 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller (PM 2.5). Such fine particulate matter constitutes a form of air pollution that is associated with health problems like respiratory and cardiovascular issues, along with increased mortality. The workers found that the average PM 2.5 concentration inside the facility was nearly seven times higher than outdoors. (To put that in perspective, wildfires usually result in a two- to four-fold increase in PM 2.5.) The majority of monitors found PM 2.5 levels that would rank between ?“unhealthy” and ?“very unhealthy” if measured outdoors, according to Environmental Protection Agency standards, the workers reported. 

Because this is the air workers were breathing in for 40 hours per week, in October 2021, they went public with both their campaign to form a union and their fight for a safe workplace?—?a campaign that continues to this day. 

According to Jorge Eufracio, a welder who’s worked at Kingspan for six years, ?“The campaign started for safety, better wages, and respect. We signed a petition for workers at Kingspan, and we had a delegation give it to the boss. The petition was about our whole campaign?—?including a fair process to organize.” 

Kingspan employees told In These Times that management has ignored their plea for a fair process to organize, but in response to pressure has made some strides regarding health and safety, although the changes are inadequate. Jaime Ocotlan, a welder who’s been at the company for two years, said, ?“We have seen some small changes but we believe it’s not enough. They have given us some PPE, and recently they have started to give us some ear plugs. When they say they’re going to give us PPE, it needs to be fire safe. It’s not enough yet. It’s a band-aid. We need stuff that’s protective in the long run.” 

Over Zoom, Ocotlan showed In These Times how shards of fiberglass get stuck in his work clothes, leaving small holes in the fabric and making it possible for the shards to reach his skin. 

The workers have partnered with environmental justice organizations in order to pressure Kingspan to clean up the facility. An open letter signed by environmental groups in the Santa Ana area and nationwide states that ?“Kingspan is not an appropriate source for continuing education courses or sponsorships of events for the green building community, including those that touch on fire safety.” There are 45 signatories, led by the Labor Network for Sustainability, which brings together unions and union activists to fight for environmental justice. 

A coalition of environmental activists and workers is coalescing. Both Eufracio and Ocotlan told In These Times that most workers at this Kingspan facility live in Santa Ana, and mentioned that one coworker lives directly behind the facility. Ocotlan said workers are concerned not only for themselves but ?“for the kids and the elderly. The contamination is something you can’t see but we breathe every day, and causes a lot of pulmonary problems.” 

Ron Caudill, vice president of operations at Kingspan North America, told In These Times, ?“Kingspan has a long history of dedication to a safe working environment for all employees. In fact, as of today, it has been over 600 days since we had a lost time injury or illness, and we have never had an illness related to air quality.”

But workers at Kingspan are not only concerned with their own situation at work, or even at home: They’re also thinking of the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire. This past December, workers held a candlelight vigil in solidarity with a concurrent march in London to honor the 4.5 year anniversary of the fire. The British public inquiry into the fire found that Kingspan’s insulation product Kooltherm K15 was used in the cladding system on the Grenfell Tower. According to Kingspan, K15 only made up about 5% of the insulation layer of the system. But the U.K. government’s Grenfell Tower Inquiry unearthed a number of allegations concerning the company’s role in the fire, including the that workers kept secret the results of fire safety tests. Going forward, the government now demands that Kingspan and other insulation companies contribute a ?“significant portion” to the approximately £9 billion ($12 billion) in remediation costs.

Kingspan workers and victims of the Grenfell Tower fire are more than 5,000 miles apart, but they say they share a common interest: safety. Eufracio told In These Times, ?“We’re supporting Grenfell.” 

He added, ?“We want to avoid what happened there.”

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on 03/03/2022.

About the Author: Mindy Isser works in the labor movement and lives in Philadelphia.


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It’s Time For Mandated Maternity and Paternity Leave

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Ask any parent and they’ll tell you that having a child changes everything. It shifts your priorities. It changes the way you look at life, the world, and your place in it. 

Unfortunately, though, not all employers are willing to accommodate the many profound transformations that occur when an employee becomes a parent — and that has led to some pretty egregious oversights that U.S. labor laws have yet to sufficiently redress. 

For example, despite proclaiming itself the leader of the free world, the great, shining example of human rights across the globe, the U.S. remains the only industrialized country not to guarantee paid maternity leave for new mothers. That said, if America is to retain its moral standing in the international community, then mandated maternity and paternity leave for all workers in the U.S. must be instituted immediately.

Why It Matters

Despite opponents’ claims to the contrary, paid leave for new parents is not a mere luxury, or a desirable, but optional, perk to be offered by employers who can afford it. Rather, mandated leave is an attribute of the human right to enjoy safe and healthy work environments and conditions. 

Simply put, paid leave supports the physical, emotional, and financial well-being of all concerned. Women who have just given birth, for instance, face numerous physical and psychological challenges in the postpartum months, from physical pain and fatigue to postpartum depression. New mothers need time at home to recover not only from the pregnancy and childbirth, but also from the physical demands of caring for a newborn and infant.

However, it’s not only about giving a new mother time to recover in mind and body from having a baby, it’s also about giving new parents the time and space to bond with their child. This is why mandated leave needs to apply both to new biological mothers and also to fathers, adoptive parents, and domestic partners. 

Infants need ample time with their parents because it’s in these first formative months of life that essential foundations for learning and socialization are built. 

New parents who are able to stay home with their infant without fear of losing their income or their job can focus their entire attention on nurturing and teaching their little one. This paves the path to healthy future development. 

For instance, children begin to hone their communication and socialization skills in preschool and this positions them to advance and thrive in their primary and secondary schooling, which, in turn, fosters the transition to higher education. 

But success in preschool often begins in the nursery, with engaged, attentive, affectionate parents who have the time and resources to shower their infant with love and care in the critical first weeks and months of life.

Without paid leave, however, not only are far too many infants deprived of much of this bonding time with their parents, but our nation as whole risks perpetuating the social and economic inequities which currently plague it. For example, studies show that 81% of new moms without a high school diploma are not given paid maternity leave. 

In other words, the issue is often one of class. More affluent and educated parents often have greater bargaining power when it comes to securing a job or negotiating for benefits. But poor and working-class parents, especially those without an education, often must take what work they can get. It’s not only the parents and children who suffer but also entire communities who must endure the consequences of an entire generation of children growing up without the strong foundations they should have enjoyed in infancy.

The Takeaway

Mandated maternal and paternal leave is not a choice but a necessity. If the United States is to retain its status of moral, political, and economic leader of the free world, then it must join all other industrialized nations in guaranteeing this right to its workers and the children who are our nation’s future.

This blog was 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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