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Financial Literacy in the Workplace: Empowering Employees

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Financial literacy is a vital skill to have and understand, as it can dictate the way that you live your life.

If you’re stressed about your finances or are living paycheck to paycheck, it can be difficult to think about the possibility of saving money. Learning how to navigate your financial state and understanding how to manage your money can help you better your current financial situation, allowing you to work towards a more secure future. 

When people become educated about their finances, it can help to improve their overall quality of life, as well as give them more confidence in both their personal and professional lives. Follow along as we discuss the importance of empowering employees to become more educated on financial literacy.
The Importance of Financial Literacy

Financial literacy is the ability to understand and use different financial skills, such as knowing how to save and invest your money, as well as how to budget your money to create a more secure future for yourself. Financial literacy is an essential skill to have, and one that takes practice. Many people stress about their finances, and the root cause of that is due to a lack of understanding. 

Impact of Financial Resources for Employees 

Many companies have resources and educational tools available to their employees that they can use to learn more about money management and financial literacy. By encouraging employees to take steps towards utilizing the financial resources available to them, it can instill confidence in them as they will have the tools to understand their current financial situation, as well as how to work towards financial freedom.

Some resources that companies can implement include employee assistance programs (EAP) which can range from retirement planning guidance, debt counseling, and even providing access to financial planners. Retirement planning is essential to understand, as it allows employees to plan for their future and provide them with money to live off of after they retire. Understanding how to best invest into their retirement can put them on a better path, as they’ll learn how to invest and have more control over their investments as well. 

In addition to that, employers can offer debt counseling through online learning or through personal financial planners as a way to teach employees how to manage their money and decrease their debt. Learning about different types of loans to improve debt management can alleviate the overwhelming stress resulting from numerous expenses to be paid off.

Debt consolidation loans, in particular, offer a promising solution for employees grappling with multiple debts, as it combines all their outstanding balances into a single monthly payment, streamlining the repayment process and enhancing manageability.

Offering financial resources to employees to encourage them to learn about their financial health and work to improve it can help employees decrease the everyday stress they may feel, and help them feel more supported by their employer.

When employees feel supported, they are more likely to work harder and stay at the company longer than someone who doesn’t feel supported. When there is an effort to improve the life of employees coming from employers, it increases the overall retention a company has because that is seen as a company that cares about their employees.

How to Improve Money Management

A large part of understanding finances is knowing how to manage money. It’s important that when employees get their paycheck, that they break it down into needs, wants, and savings. Being able to create and stick to a budget can help to better improve money management, as well as create structure for them in their daily life.

Consider the 50/30/20 rule as a guideline for budgeting. This rule consists of setting 50% of monthly income into needs, 30% into wants, and 20% into savings. 

When it comes to needs, this can include expenses such as housing, utilities, food, transportation, and healthcare. These are essential expenses that should be expected to be spent each month. These expenses may fluctuate each month depending on the situation, but it’s important to write down all the essential bills so that when it comes time to pay, they’ll have the money to do so.

In addition to that, wants should also be factored into the budget. This can include anything that is nonessential, such as going out to eat, self-care, gym memberships, or even clothes shopping. 

When considering a budget for wants, make sure that the plan is realistic, so it’ll be easy to stick to it. Oftentimes people get strapped for money as a result of overspending on their wants without realizing it until it’s too late. In order to avoid that, it’s important to stay diligent about a budget and spending habits, and adjust those habits as needed to work for their lifestyle. The remainder of an employee’s paycheck, the 20% part of the budgeting rule, should be allocated to savings. 

Setting aside money strictly for savings can help pay off any debts, as well as serve as an emergency fund or can be put towards retirement planning. By establishing and following this budgeting guide, it can help employees to properly allocate their paycheck in order to ensure they’re not spending too much, and also are able to still have a liveable wage. 

It’s important to not only understand one’s finances, but also have the resources available to do so. Employers are now taking more measures to encourage employees to learn how to manage their money, how to invest their money, and how to reduce their debts through various educational resources.

As employees, it’s important to take advantage of any learning opportunities as it can improve the knowledge and skills one has, setting them up for a more secure future.

This blog was contributed to Workplace Fairness on May 31, 2023. Published with permission.


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Navigating Self-Advocacy With ADHD in the Workplace

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Katie Brenneman

Living with neurodiversity can be a daily challenge. If you are one of the millions of Americans who has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), for example, you know all too well the impact your condition can have on your relationships and your home life. 

However, it’s not only your personal life that is likely to be impacted by ADHD. The odds are that you have felt its effects in your professional life as well. Indeed, nearly half of working adults with ADHD report that they feel as if their condition has negatively impacted their work life, with a significant majority reporting that they must work harder and longer than their neurotypical colleagues. 

What findings such as these illuminate above all is the critical importance of self-advocacy in the workplace. To be sure, fighting for the opportunities and rights to which you are entitled is not easy but, in the end, it is a necessary and worthwhile endeavor. 

What Is Self-Advocacy and Why Does It Matter?

Self-advocacy, simply put, is the process of defending your rights, of understanding your own needs, and taking proactive steps to ensure those needs are both respected and accommodated. The ultimate goal is to ensure that you are treated equitably and fairly, and that you do not experience discrimination or bias, whether conscious or unconscious, from those around you.

Self-advocacy is particularly critical for neurodivergent persons in the workplace because there is still so much misinformation and stigmatization surrounding these conditions. Unless your peers and managers become educated on what neurodiversity is and how it manifests in conditions such as ADHD, workers who are neurodiverse will continue to be misunderstood and marginalized in the workplace. 

Such marginalization can have devastating consequences not only for one’s career but also for one’s social, psychological, and financial well-being.

Know Your Rights–and Your Value

One of the first and most important steps you can take when you begin to advocate for yourself in the workplace is to understand both your rights and your value. You cannot hope to fight for your rights if you don’t first appreciate what it is, exactly, that you bring to the organization. 

When you clearly define the value you contribute, the more confidence you will have when asserting your needs and expectations. Plus, you will have the evidence you need to better make your case. You will be able to clearly articulate why it is in the company’s best interest to do what is needed to retain and support you in your work.

In addition to understanding the unique value you bring to the company, you also need to understand the rights you enjoy as an employee with a legitimate medical need. Under the terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), for example, employers are legally obligated to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities if those accommodations are needed to help the employee do their work successfully. If your employer refuses to provide those reasonable accommodations or subjects you to harassment or discrimination due to your diagnosis, you have the right to take legal action.

Navigating Difficult Conversations in the Workplace

Talking with your employer or colleagues about your condition may not be easy, but confronting the challenge can yield immense rewards. After all, how can you expect to experience a supportive and productive work environment if your supervisors and colleagues don’t understand your needs? 

If, for example, you find that your ADHD significantly affects your memory, you might discuss your challenges with your coworkers, requesting that they write important information down and provide timely reminders. Writing notes to yourself can also be an ideal way to help you keep track of important details. Best of all, if your coworkers understand that this is something you need to perform at your best, they can encourage and support you in the process.

Honoring Your Own Boundaries

No matter how well-educated you may be in regard to your legal rights and no matter how much data you collect to quantify the contributions you’ve made to your company, sometimes it’s just not going to be enough. There is, unfortunately, such a thing as a villainous work environment due to bad corporate culture and if you find yourself in one of those, there’s not much you can do. When the corporate culture is bad, sometimes the best solution is simply to move on.

The Wide-Ranging Benefits of Self-Advocacy

Despite what the name implies, self-advocacy isn’t really only about helping yourself. The benefits of self-advocacy extend far beyond the person doing it by creating a culture that is more inclusive, diverse, and supportive overall. The end result is a team environment in which everyone benefits by supporting, encouraging, and being supported and encouraged by one another. 

The Takeaway

When you have ADHD, self-advocacy in the workplace isn’t a choice, it’s a necessity if you want to enjoy the long, successful, and fulfilling career you deserve. Though it’s not easy, when you have a plan, when you understand your rights and your value, and when you recognize the benefits that your advocacy will bring to the corporate culture as a whole, you can muster the strength and courage you need to be your own best advocate.


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How to Avoid No-Strike Contract Clauses

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One thing you can be sure of when bargaining your first contract: management will demand a contract clause barring strikes while the agreement is in effect.

No-strike clauses took hold in the 1940s. During World War II, the American Federation of Labor, the Congress of Industrial Organizations, and defense industry executives issued no-strike/no-lockout pledges to guarantee production. When the war ended, many union leaders, apparently seduced by the experience of “labor peace,” agreed to similar pledges in their collective bargaining agreements.

Today, an overwhelming percentage of U.S. labor contracts, 94 percent according to a survey by the Bureau of National Affairs, contain no-strike clauses.

NO-STRIKE LANGUAGE

A typical no-strike clause reads: The union hereby agrees that no employee shall engage in, induce, or encourage any strike or work stoppage. The union also agrees that neither it nor any of its officers or agents will call, initiate, authorize, or participate in any such strike, work stoppage, slowdown, sickout, or other withholding of services.

Once a no-strike clause is ensconced in the contract, it is almost impossible to remove it. For years to come, employers will be free to fire workers who have the temerity to stop work to protest abusive employer conduct or blatant violations of the labor agreement.

Moreover, courts may order the union to pay the employer for lost income or property. To top it off, the employer may be permitted to rescind the entire labor agreement.

Note: It is not widely known, but provisions in U.S. labor law allow workers to violate no-strike provisions in order to protest “abnormally dangerous” working conditions or serious unfair labor practices that “substantially undermine” the integrity of the contract (see Section 502 of the National Labor Relations Act and the U.S. Supreme Court’s Arlan’s Department Store decision).

Nonetheless, few arbitrators or courts have had the courage to enforce such laws to overturn discharges or dismiss employer lawsuits.

INITIAL RESPONSES

Initially, a union may want to assert that a no-strike provision is so anti-union, so deep a concession, or so dangerous to members and officers that it will not even consider allowing such language in the contract.

Other Countries

French law says the right to strike is a constitutional privilege that cannot be waived in a collective bargaining agreement.

Canada, on the other hand, says strikes are only lawful before a labor contract takes effect or after it expires — in essence creating mandatory no-strike clauses.

Many U.S. states prohibit government employees from striking at any time. Nonetheless, public authorities invariably demand that public sector contracts include no-strike clauses.

Under the NLRA, however, a no-strike clause is a “mandatory” subject of bargaining. This means the union must discuss the matter in good faith with the employer and explain its objections.

Nothing in the NLRA, however, requires a union to agree to a no-strike clause. Moreover, because a no-strike clause is a mandatory subject of bargaining, the union may strike to keep it out of the contract.

If the union cannot keep a no-strike clause out of the contract, there are several ways to make it less damaging. As a first matter, the union should demand that the language be clearly restricted to the contract term. The union must be able to strike when the contract expires.

Second, the union should argue that the ban on strikes be limited “to matters that are subject to the union grievance procedure.” If a dispute does not fall within the definition of a grievance or, for other reasons, cannot be taken to binding arbitration, why should the union disarm itself by agreeing not to strike?

Third, the union should demand that strikes be permitted in certain circumstances. One is when all of the pre-arbitration steps in the union grievance procedure have been exhausted (like in the GE contracts mentioned below.) Another should permit strikes against serious unfair labor practices or unusually dangerous working conditions.

Another should permit the union to respect bona fide picket lines set up by other unions (i.e., sympathy strikes). For example, the Teamsters national UPS agreement protects drivers’ right to refuse to cross primary picket lines.

Fourth, the union should demand the removal of any language barring it from taking part in other pressure tactics during the contract term: for example, peaceful demonstrations, rallies, bannering, and boycotts.

Fifth, the union should demand language that protects itself if workers engage in spontaneous work stoppages without direction or leadership by the union. Example: “The Union shall not be liable for damages resulting from unauthorized actions of its members.”

GOLD STAR UNIONS

Some unions have bargained deep concessions from employers on strike rights. The IUE-CWA contract with General Electric has long allowed the union to strike mid-contract if a matter cannot be resolved in the grievance procedure.

The Teamsters Central Region UPS Supplemental Agreement allows the union to strike over grievances that are not resolved at the last step of the grievance process, which involves the company president of labor relations and the union national package director.

The Teamsters National Master Freight Agreement allows the union to strike if the employer fails to carry out a final decision of a grievance committee or reneges on a settlement.

The Longshore (ILWU) contract with the Pacific Maritime Association allows the union to refuse work: (1) in case of a good faith fear of a health or safety risk; (2) in the event of an “onerous” workload; or (3) to avoid crossing a bona fide picket line.

This blog originally appeared at Labor Notes on February 27, 2023. Republished with permission.

About the Author: Robert Schwartz is a labor attorney and the author of “No Contract, No Peace: A Legal Guide to Contract Campaigns, Strikes, and Lockouts.”

Learn more about unions here.


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There’s a Good Reason Restaurants Struggle to Find Workers

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Laura Clawson

A Mexican restaurant in Oakland, California, is closing because it can’t find enough workers. A Las Vegas restaurant needs 12 people to be fully staffed but is struggling to get by with just three or four. Some restaurants are “getting creative” to attract workers — if you count better pay and benefits as creativity.

There’s a reason for all of this, and, despite what you may have been told, it’s not that no one wants to work anymore.

The leisure and hospitality industry remains 500,000 workers short of where it was before the pandemic, The Washington Post’s Abha Bhattarai and Maggie Penman report, and 2 million short of what it needs, but for the most part, those people are working. Just not in restaurants and bars. 

Many former restaurant workers found other jobs when they were laid off early in the pandemic — and ended up deciding to stick with their new lines of work. Related, there are now 1.4 million more people working in professional and business services, a category that includes a range of office jobs, and it’s not the only industry that’s seen increases.

“There’s this reshuffling going on that is explaining why lots of industries can’t find workers,” economist Betsey Stevenson told the Post. “Their workers have left to go somewhere else.”

And in a lot of cases, the somewhere else was better enough that people didn’t want to go back to the unreliable pay, difficult customers, and awkward hours of the restaurant industry. Around 2.5 million people did leave the labor force during the pandemic, which has killed more than a million people in the U.S. and prompted many others to retire early. That opened up a wave of good jobs. 

“When older workers — who were in relatively high-paying jobs at the top of the ladder — retired, everyone else was able to climb up a step, from a worse job to a better one,” Stony Brook University economist David Wiczer said.

Wiczer is a co-author of a National Bureau of Economic Research paper finding “patterns that suggest that workers are moving up an occupational job ladder away from low paying, customer facing and low skilled occupations towards higher paid, higher skilled occupations.

Consequently, the decline in employment in low-paying, low-skilled occupations seems to reflect that workers previously employed in these sectors are now finding better jobs, not by a decline in demand for workers.”

“This has been a good evolution — it has raised wages and changed the structure of the labor market in a deep, profound way,” AFL-CIO chief economist William Spriggs told the Post. “Workers who were trapped in low-wage jobs were able to escape by switching to higher-paying industries.”

It’s hard on restaurant owners, but when they blame workers for not wanting to work, you always have to add that workers don’t want those specific jobs. They also have to understand that the complainers are telling on themselves and, to a great extent, their entire industry. 

This blog originally appeared at Daily Kos on February 3, 2023. Republished with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is the assistant managing editor at Daily Kos.


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Workers Need Affordable Child Care

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The start of 2023 presented some good news for America’s economic outlook. In the first week of January, the December jobs report was released, showing unemployment edging down to 3.5 percent with over 200,000 more people employed full-time. But even with this good news, an enduring conundrum remains: our country’s stagnant workforce participation rate.

The workforce participation rate represents the number of people working or actively looking for work. This job report showed that the U.S. labor participation rate is 62.3 percent, which has not changed since the beginning of 2022 and is only 1 percentage point higher than it was at the start of the pandemic.

This means roughly 38 percent of Americans who could be working are detached from the labor market because they believe there are no jobs available for them, or they are facing personal challenges that make it hard to retain employment. As a result, these individuals have stopped looking for work altogether, leaving employers desperate for talent and policymakers wondering where everyone went.

Few Child Care Options

There are many factors contributing to this social phenomenon. But one place to look for workers is in their homes with their kids.

Today, many families with young children must choose among bad options: spending a significant portion of their income on child care, finding a cheaper, but potentially lower-quality care option or leaving the workforce altogether.

While finding decent and affordable child care has always been a challenge, it’s been exacerbated in recent years due to increased demand from families for child care services, the rising cost of these services and the shortage of skilled workers and quality facilities.

Now it is one of the top reasons why workers, especially women, are not just leaving, but staying out of, the labor market. This is harmful for a myriad of reasons, not least that our country needs this talent to fill open jobs and keep our economy competitive.

Programs Not Enough

Hopes were high that President Biden’s Build Back Better plan would address this issue federally. But in the end, the child care provisions were not included. Last month’s appropriations package did include substantial funding increases for the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which received $8 billion, a 30 percent increase in funding, and for Head Start, which received $12 billion, an 8.6 percent increase.

As welcome as the new funding is, these programs serve a small portion of American families.

The CCDBG and Head Start resources are targeted at low-income families and, even then, the CCDBG serves only 15 percent of eligible families, and Head Start serves roughly one-third of eligible three-to-five-year-olds and 7 percent of eligible children under three. They don’t touch most working parents or solve the problem at scale.

As a result, states are developing solutions on their own.

This is a portion of a blog that was originally posted in full at The Hill on January 27, 2023. Republished with permission.

About the Author: Taylor Maag is director of workforce policy at the Progressive Policy Institute.


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At World’s Largest Hilton, Workers Fight for Jobs, Daily Cleaning

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This is one of two articles from Hawaiian hotel workers. Read the other, “Hawaiian Hilton Workers Fear Permanent Layoffs As Recall Rights Expiration Nears,” here.

Tourism drives Hawaii’s economy, and housekeepers are the heart of our hotels.

But as tourism is returning to Hawaii, only a few housekeepers are being called back to work because many hotels are not providing daily room cleaning—taking advantage of the pandemic to cut labor costs.

This leaves housekeepers like me, who aren’t called back, enveloped with worries. We’ve been furloughed for 15 months already. Where are we going to find a decent paying job like our UNITE HERE Local 5 union jobs, should we get permanently laid off? How will my family keep our apartment? We can’t go back to my sister-in-law’s two-bedroom apartment where we stayed for eight years when I was still working in a non-union company.

My furloughed co-worker at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, Jhorina Ancheta, is a single mom with three kids is a furloughed housekeeper. “If there was daily room cleaning, more housekeepers would be called back to work,” she says. “If I can have my job back, I will be able to support my family the way it was pre-pandemic. We are only able to survive now because my bill and loan payments are deferred until September.”

DIRTY ROOMS HURT

Guests are spending hundreds of dollars a night in our hotel. Their room is supposed to be the cleanest and safest place to be. We, the housekeepers, are in charge of creating this atmosphere. A new study by HospitalityNet on hotel cleanliness shows that 79 percent of respondents are most concerned about their room’s cleaning and sanitation, while 91 percent are more likely to stay at a hotel that helps their employees who lost their jobs during the pandemic.

Pre-pandemic, Hilton was named the number one place to work by Fortune magazine. But at the Hilton Hawaiian Village—the largest Hilton in the world—housekeepers who are currently working are suffering from stress and fatigue.

“It’s harder to clean a filthy room that hasn’t been cleaned every day, compared to a room that is being cleaned every day,” said Maria Luz Espejo, a housekeeper here for 18 years. “Sometimes we can’t finish the rooms in a timely manner, even if we skip our lunch break. I am not getting any younger, so cleaning dirty checkouts makes me suffer with body aches and joint pains.”

Housekeepers are ready to fight for our jobs and safety. We won’t stop until management works with us to resolve this. We will work together, passing leaflets to guests encouraging them to join our call to ask for their rooms to be cleaned daily.

VICTORIES

Smaller hotels like Queen Kapiolani and The Kahala Hotel in Honolulu and Sheraton Maui in Lahaina have implemented daily room cleaning.

The Kahala workers took numerous actions to voice their concerns to management regarding their working conditions, including daily cleaning.

“We found out the hotel was reopening in May 2020,” said Carmelita “Joy” R. Melegrito, a housekeeper at the Kahala. “We demanded regular meetings with management to prepare for the reopening. We had worker leaders in these meetings representing their departments, and I was there representing housekeeping. I shared with them that if we don’t have daily room cleaning, it’s going to be really hard for us to clean the rooms. It will take much longer to clean checkout rooms.

“I’m happy that we have daily room cleaning,” said Melegrito, “because it means less worry about our safety. I got two injuries pre-pandemic because I was rushing to clean a dirty room. If it was already hard before the pandemic to clean rooms, how much more [is it] now if there’s no daily cleaning?”

This blog originally appeared at Labor Notes on July 19, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Nely Reinante is a housekeeper at Hilton Hawaiian Village and a member of UNITE HERE Local 5.


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Hawaiian Hilton Workers Fear Permanent Layoffs As Recall Rights Expiration Nears

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This is one of two articles from Hawaiian hotel workers. Read the other, “At World’s Largest Hilton, Workers Fight for Jobs, Daily Cleaning,” here.

“Did you see Hilton is getting rid of workers permanently?” Jungmin Kim, my co-worker, came running to ask me before I could even get to the front desk. Hilton’s CEO had told investors that when the pandemic is over, Hilton will operate with fewer workers.

My blood was boiling. “They cannot do that!” But she explained that our employer had refused to extend our union contract’s recall rights past two years. Workers who have been laid off since the start of the pandemic now have just 10 months left to win our jobs back.

‘I DON’T WANT MY FAMILY TO BE NEXT’

As Covid-19 started to reach Hawaii in March 2020, more than 2,000 workers received a letter announcing management was closing the Hilton Hawaiian Village (one of the largest hotels in the world, with 3,800 rooms) and Doubletree by Hilton Alana Hotel. We hoped the pandemic would pass and we would return to work in a month. It became more terrifying when months passed and there was still no word.

More than a year later, though Hilton-managed hotels are finally open, only a few of us have been recalled. The rest are scared: of when they will be able to return to work, how they will afford their rent or mortgage, and what they will be feeding their kids should the situation remain the same.

At the Hilton Hawaiian Village, management recently reopened the Wiki Wiki Market, Starbucks, and Starlight Luau after months of workers fighting for union restaurants to reopen. Some food and beverage workers were finally able to return to work.

Unfortunately, there are still workers like Earl Kono, an employee at Tree’s, who was told by his general manager that there are no plans to reopen Doubletree by Hilton’s only in-house restaurant.

“Losing my recall rights frightens me,” said Kono. “I am a single father taking care of my kids and my grandson. Every night, I’m on the verge of breaking down thinking about our future. I’ve been hearing stories on the news about people going homeless, and I don’t want my family to be next.”

The engineers in the maintenance departments are also anxious. Jesus Ragasa, an engineer at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Alana, is working full-time again. Many of his colleagues, however, remain furloughed. He anticipates double the workload if there continue to be only three full-time engineers, instead of the eight engineers pre-pandemic.

FIGHTING FOR EXTRA TIME

An extension of recall rights would give the furloughed workers extra time to fight for their jobs back, especially when hotels return to full occupancy. If workers who were laid off in the beginning of the pandemic are not recalled by March 2022, Hilton might end these positions permanently.

Meanwhile, workers at other union hotels represented by UNITE HERE Local 5—such as the Ala Moana Hotel, Modern Honolulu, and Waikiki Beach Resort—fought for and already won one more year of recall rights.

Jason Maxwell, a bartender at the Modern Honolulu, organized his co-workers to demand an extension from Diamond Resorts, the timeshare company that owns and operates his hotel.

“When we would get management to Zoom meetings, we would load the call with about 40 workers,” he said. “We made sure they listened to the concerns of workers directly.”

“Management tried to hide their anger, but the Diamond Resorts guy began panicking and hung up because of the number of workers on the call. The meetings lasted hours, because we brought up other issues like workplace safety.

“We also passed out leaflets to guests and conducted safety inspections to make sure management was implementing the proper safety procedures in the middle of a pandemic,” added Maxwell. “At some point, management tried to block us from coming onto property. We stood firm and kept going.”

Maxwell said he was close to achieving his dream of buying a home for his family pre-pandemic. “[Winning] the recall rights extension gave me hope. It gave our union a chance and time to fight. If they do bring jobs back, then the same workers come back,” he said, relieved that the pandemic was not the end of his dreams.

WE WANT OUR JOBS BACK

There is a false narrative that workers are living comfortably off unemployment and do not want to return to work. In reality, we are struggling and on the edge of our seats, frightened for the future. We desperately want our hotel jobs back.

“We have to stick together and fight for our jobs,” said Kono. “We have to organize and push our managers to do something about this.

“Extending isn’t going to cost them a penny, so why is it so hard for them to agree with us and give us peace of mind?”

This blog originally appeared at Labor Notes on July 29, 2021.

About the Author: Aina Iglesias is a front desk worker at the DoubleTree Alana by Hilton and a member of UNITE HERE Local 5.


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Arizona and Many Other States Begin Legislative Process to Protect Employees Against Discrimination Based on COVID-19 Vaccine Choices (US)

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Daniel B. Pasternak

Currently pending before the Arizona legislature, Senate Bill 1648 would prohibit discrimination in the workplace (and elsewhere) against individuals who have not received or who refuse to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. As proposed, the bill would prohibit any employer from requiring a person to receive or disclose whether they have received a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of being hired or remaining employed. The bill additionally would amend not only Arizona’s state statutes devoted to employment matters, but also would prohibit nearly any business or public space from limiting access to a person on the basis of their receipt or non-receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine to any indoor or outdoor spaces or buildings, places of public accommodation (as defined by A.R.S. § 41-1491), spaces that are owned, leased, operated, occupied, or otherwise used by a public body (as defined by A.R.S. § 39-121.01), and places that are generally open to the public.  This partisan bill, sponsored by seven Republican Senators, is not yet set for a vote.

Arizona is just one of many U.S. states that have seen legislation introduced targeted at protecting employees (and persons in general) who choose not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. However, the protections in these bills, and to whom they apply, vary significantly from state to state. For example, some proposed bills would regulate only public employers (see below). Others don’t prohibit vaccine requirements, but impose limitations on them. For example, Montana’s proposed law allows employer vaccine mandates, but requires that any accommodations provided by an employer for individuals who refuse to obtain a vaccine due to medical or religious reasons must also be offered to any employee who refuses to become vaccinated, for any reason.

The list of states with currently pending vaccine anti-discrimination legislation, and links to the pending bills, includes: Alabama (here and here), AlaskaArkansasCaliforniaColoradoConnecticutGeorgia (public employers), IllinoisIndiana, Iowa (here and here), KansasMarylandMichiganMinnesotaMissouri (public employers), Montana (accommodations to employer mandated vaccine policy), New MexicoNorth CarolinaOhioOklahomaOregonPennsylvaniaRhode IslandSouth CarolinaSouth DakotaTennesseeTexasUtahVermont,  (public employers), Virginia (public employers), Washington, Wisconsin (here and here).  These bills are at various states in the legislative process.

For the most part, these bills would seek to override recent federal guidance from agencies such as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that employers may require employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment, provided that employees may be entitled to reasonable job accommodations in the event that a disability or sincerely held religious belief prevents them from being vaccinated. What a reasonable accommodation would be in such cases could vary dramatically on an employer- and employee-specific, case-by-case basis.  Further, where allowed, when seeking proof of vaccination or administering vaccinations themselves, employers must be mindful not to violate other applicable laws prohibiting disclosure of genetic information (Genetic Information Nondisclosure Act) or improper or overly broad medical inquiries (Americans with Disabilities Act). Whether these bills, if they become state laws, may be challenged on various bases, including possible preemption by any federal law, remains to be seen.

This blog originally appeared at Employment Law Worldview. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Dan Pasternak works with employers to solve workplace problems. Sometimes that involves helping develop, implement and enforce effective and business-sensible employment and traditional labor relations policies and practices. Other times, it involves representing employers in high-stakes litigation matters.


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What Your Boss Doesn’t Want You to Know, and Where to Find It

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Tom Juravich | Labor Center | UMass Amherst

Given the wealth of information available online, conducting research on your employer is more possible than ever—and more important than ever, as firms become more complex and globalized.

There’s no reason we should ever begin bargaining or start an organizing campaign without a strong sense of who the employer is, how it generates its profit, where it is growing, who its decision-makers are, and where it is most vulnerable. This information is much easier to find than most people think.

More information is available on companies that trade on one of the stock exchanges, but there is still plenty of information on privately held firms and nonprofits. And this approach is relevant for firms both large and small, across a wide variety of sectors.

General Internet searching is not enough.

The mistake that many first-time researchers make is to jump onto Google and start looking for information about the company.

While general Internet searching can be helpful, it’s not a very efficient way to do corporate research. It’s easy to drown in all the information that’s out there, and what you’re finding is what the search engine has indexed for you. Plus, companies manipulate what shows up first on a general Internet search. Often you have to weed through hundreds of pages of marginal information before you get to real substantive information on your company.

You need a framework to direct your research.

To avoid getting overwhelmed and quitting, you need to know what questions you are trying to answer. And rather than hunting around, you also need to know the best places to find those answers.

That’s why we built the Strategic Corporate Research website (strategiccorporateresearch.org), a free resource to help labor, community, and environmental activists take a look inside the corporate world. It starts by providing a framework to direct your research.

The site lays out 24 questions to guide your investigation into the command and control of a firm, its operations, and its outside stakeholders. These include: Who are the stockholders? Who is on the board of directors? Who are their major suppliers and customers? What is their health and safety and environmental record?

Focus on primary documents.

For each of these questions we provide the key websites where you can find answers. Whenever possible, we focus on primary documents.

It might be tempting to rely on a website that gathers the information for you, for instance on CEO salary, but you are going to find the most accurate and up-to-date information in the primary documents that the company files with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). We provide a number of videos with screenshots that help first-timers navigate through websites including the SEC, OSHA, OpenSecrets (which provides information on the political donations of your employer), and many more.

Build a diverse research team.

Build a diverse team in your local or your workplace to conduct research on your employer. Include people from different shifts and different jobs; make sure women and people of color are represented. You want to demonstrate that the research team represents the whole union, not just a select few. This is critical for other members to see the information you gather as credible and actionable.

If one or more individuals have some prior research training, it’s great for them to step up—but they should take a mentoring approach so that everyone on the team is learning new skills. The more people we can bring along with us, the more capacity we have. This is a great way for rank-and-file members to become more involved in the union.

Adopt a brainstorming attitude.

It is critical to adopt an inclusive brainstorming attitude when conducting your research. We provide a Google document on the website (bit.ly/SCR24questions) which allows you to create your own copy of the 24 questions to guide your research. Break up the questions, work in small teams, and put all the information up there.

You never know how what you find out might connect with other pieces of information or how it can be used in the future. There will be time later to sort out contradictory information.
This process encourages everyone on the committee to participate and is critical in building your capacity as a team.

Analyze as you go along.

Don’t just gather information, but analyze it as you go along. Look for connections and for information that confirms what you’ve found.

For example, you may have found that two new board members come from a sector which you have already identified as a growth area for the company. This confirms that your research is correct and that the company is moving in this direction.

Work through what might be inconsistent or contradictory. This often comes up when looking at financials that get reported over several years. Make sure you are using the most up-to-date numbers.

Keep your campaign in mind.

It is easy to get excited about all the information you are gathering. You may have discovered that the company was fined by the Environmental Protection Agency or a key board member has been named in a number of lawsuits and judgments.

But the goal of strategic corporate research is not just to gather information, but to use this information to build a strong campaign and win. Be careful not to get sidetracked. You may have found some juicy information on the CEO, for example, but remember campaigns are rarely won by focusing on one issue. Keep researching and develop multiple points of leverage.

Our website provides a number of charts and resources to help you make your research actionable and plan an escalating campaign to bring pressure on the strategic targets you identify.

For example, you may have discovered that one division of your employer is the most profitable, so you shift the focus of your campaign to that part of the firm. Or you may have identified a highly vulnerable board member, so you design tactics to escalate against him. Take the time and work collaboratively to shape a multifaceted campaign building on all that you have learned.

Build new muscles.

If this kind of research is new to your local, it will take some time to build the skills and integrate them into the life of your union. But with some careful attention and teamwork you will be surprised how fast rank-and-file members and leadership can gather and use basic corporate information in both bargaining and organizing.

It’s not enough just to put this research team together as you prepare for contract expiration. Once it’s operating, the team should continue to grow and build its capacity between contracts to put the local in an even stronger position for the next round of bargaining or your next organizing campaign.

This blog originally appeared at Labor Notes on May 24, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the author: Tom Juravich is a professor of labor studies and sociology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.


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Trump plan to politicize key civil service jobs has run out of time

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It looks like one of Team Trump’s last-minute efforts to destroy the civil service has fizzled. With less than a day to go, the plan to strip protections from tens of thousands of career federal employees hasn’t been put into effect at any federal agency. 

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Personnel Management had rushed to list many of their jobs in the new Schedule F, a new classification for jobs involving policymaking. That means that career civil servants who have served under both presidents from both parties would be more like political appointees, vulnerable to being fired for insufficient loyalty. It’s a plan that would gut expertise in the federal government and remake it into Donald Trump’s loyalty-obsessed image.

But it’s a plan that, fingers crossed, isn’t going into effect anywhere. The Office of Personnel Management’s list of positions to move into Schedule F didn’t move forward, The Washington Post reports, and Budget Director Russell Vought reportedly told staff that there wasn’t time to put the changes into place at the OMB.

“It logistically was never going to be possible for this to be put into effect,” a senior administration official told the Post. The prospect was scary enough, though, that a lawyer for a federal workers union said, “I’m holding my breath until we’re out of the woods”—as in, when Trump is officially and finally out of office.

lf workers aren’t shifted into Schedule F before noon on Wednesday, then President-elect Joe Biden inherits an executive order calling for those changes, but nothing concrete to undo or be stuck with. It’s just a really good thing that Team Trump hasn’t been as competent as they have been evil—they’ve done enough damage as it is.

This blog originally appeared at Daily Kos on January 19, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson has been a contributing editor since December 2006. Clawson has been full-time staff since 2011, and is currently assistant managing editor at the Daily Kos.


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