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Leveraging Federal Funds for Employment

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Ever since the passage into law of the American Rescue Plan, Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act, CHIPS Act and Inflation Reduction Act, here’s what I say to friends and family whenever they bring up a problem we all know needs to be fixed right now.

“Do you know there’s money to fix that problem?”

That’s because there is $4 trillion on tap for communities through these programs.

$4 Trillion. On the table. Right now.

That’s more than four times the size of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal that led the country out of economic ruin in the 1930s. It’s also eight times the size of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, which fought racial inequities with jobs and education and offered universal healthcare to the poor and elderly in the 1960s.

Achieving goals on this scale won’t be easy, but at People’s Action, we believe it is worth it. Our Executive Director, Sulma Arias, recently shared why she feels this is one of the best times to be an organizer. I agree.

Unlike during the New Deal, when federal agencies such as WPA & the CCC would show up in towns ravaged by the Great Depression to create jobs, build bridges, and plant trees, it’s now up to communities to claim these opportunities and overcome roadblocks thrown up by Red-State legislatures.

This moment will only become our New Deal if we make it so. This moment needs organizers like us.

That’s where People’s Action comes in, through our Leveraging Federal Funds work. We are well-positioned to help member groups cut through red tape so they can identify and make the most of federal opportunities.

We want to elevate how each opportunity can lead to the next. Together, we advance towards our long-term goal of a democracy that works for all of us, with sustainable jobs in a clean economy.

These federal funds will only reach and make an actual difference in people’s lives if they are administered through local initiatives created by trusted and knowledgeable local organizers.

Fortunately, that’s exactly who People’s Action and our member groups are known for: building trust and laying the foundation for moments such as this one.

This is a segment of a blog that originally appeared in full at Our Future on March 10, 2023. Republished with permission.

About the Author: Ann Pratt is the senior campaign strategist for leveraging federal funds at People’s Action.

Visit Workplace Fairness’ page on unions and collective action.


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Four Signs of a Toxic Workplace Culture

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James Ritter

The importance of culture in a workplace is often overlooked, but it can have a significant impact on employee performance. While a positive culture can foster collaboration and productivity, a toxic culture can do the exact opposite, leading to high turnover rates and low morale. In this article, we discuss four signs that could indicate you’re in a toxic workplace.

Micromanagement

Do you feel like your every move is being closely monitored and controlled? If so, you’re likely being micromanaged. When a manager controls every aspect of your work, it can create an environment of mistrust and anxiety, leading to decreased productivity and job satisfaction.

It’s natural for a manager to keep track of tasks to a certain extent, but scrutinising every aspect of someone’s work is when it becomes unhealthy. This style of management can actually stifle creativity and make employees reluctant to take any initiative in their roles.

Expectations that extend beyond working hours

In today’s culture, particularly in the realm of remote work where the lines between home and work are often blurred, many employees are expected to be available 24/7. This could include responding to emails, texts or phone calls outside of your scheduled working hours, creating an unhealthy work-life balance.

Imposing this kind of workplace environment makes it easy to feel burnt out, leading to decreased productivity and quality of work. It could also cause workers to feel unappreciated and start a job search elsewhere, contributing to high turnover rates.

Lack of opportunities

In any role, it’s important to feel that you have opportunities to grow and develop your skills. Without these opportunities, it can be difficult to stay motivated in a role. Not only does it make workers feel undervalued, but businesses that fail to provide training and career development often end up with a stagnant workforce. It’s important to have a certain element of change in order to bring new ideas to light, and as with anything in life, there’s always room for improvement.

Cliques and exclusion

If your workplace is bringing back memories of school cliques, it could be a sign that your employer has a toxic culture. No one should ever feel excluded or left out, especially at work where collaboration is key. In a workplace where groups stick together, anyone excluded from the group is likely to feel reluctant to participate in any team activities out of fear of workplace bullies.

It’s important that people are approachable, particularly managers or other high-ranking team members. Without this effective communication, employees may feel intimidated and disengaged which can have a significant impact on productivity.

Reach out

If you can relate to any of these four signs, it’s likely a sign that you’re part of a workplace with a toxic culture. Fortunately there are things that you can do to help, such as speaking to a human resources team member or raising any issues directly with your manager. However, if you feel that change is unlikely to happen, remember to put yourself first and find an environment that allows you to achieve your full potential.

This blog was contributed directly to Workplace Fairness. Published with permission.

About the Author: James Ritter is a freelance writer who holds a particular interest in employee welfare, and has created content for established companies based all around the world. He has a degree in
creative writing, and is always eager to expand his knowledge around different subjects.



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Labor Movement Growth: Its Seeds are Spreading

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Hamilton Nolan


In 2015, a group of my colleagues and I decided to try to unionize our company, Gawker Media. This mostly involved an intense, weeks-long process of speaking to everyone we worked with to convince them why this would be a good idea.

As we did that, one thing became clear: Even in a newsroom populated overwhelmingly by outspoken left-wingers, most people didn’t know that much about unions.

How did they work? What were the rules? We encountered not hostility so much as people chewing over, for the first time, something they had never really considered.

There were two obvious reasons for this. First, there were not many unions in our particular industry at the time, so few people had ever been union members before. And second, only one in ten workers in the whole damn country were union members, meaning that, unlike in past generations, few people had grown up with a parent or friend or relative who was a union member.

A consequence of the long term dwindling of union density was that casual contact with unions had also dwindled. Fewer people had a mom who was a shop steward, an uncle who went on strike or a friend who could tell them about a great new contract at their job. Lower union membership meant more widespread ignorance about what unions were all about — which, in turn, meant that every new organizing drive was more of an uphill battle. The decline of unions in the past drove further decline in the present. 

But this dynamic also runs in reverse.

As more and more companies in our industry unionized, unions rapidly evolved from a novelty to a necessity. The people who won a union at one workplace told their friends at the next workplace. It spread. It became less mysterious. For non-union workers, every new union somewhere else was a reminder that they might be missing out on something. After four or five years, it started to be more noticeable when a newsroom wasn’t unionized. The idea, made real, sold itself. 

Here is some good news: This snowball effect that propels the labor movement forward is getting big now.

Big enough to pay attention to. Think about the implications of the fact that tens of thousands of people in higher ed — most of them grad and undergrad workers — have unionized in just the past two years. Tens of thousands more of them, already unionized, have gone on strike.

A characteristic of this particular group of workers is that the vast majority of them are not going to spend their entire careers on college campuses. They will go through these big union drives, contract fights, and strikes, and then they will go out into the world. All over the place. Credentialed in every field, they will go to white collar offices and blue collar jobs and, no doubt, into service and retail jobs.

Each one of them is a seed that can grow another union wherever they end up. Tens of thousands of young people, all former union members, experienced in labor battles, percolating into every crevice of the working world. Tens of thousands of young people who know what unions can do, who know how organizing is done, who are harder to trick with anti-union lies, filtering into countless non-union workplaces. Everywhere. 

This is how it spreads. This is what we need.

Every union is important for its own members, but what is even more important about the current wave of campus union activity is that it has big numbers of people involved, and those people are about to scatter like dandelion seeds blown in the wind. The most vital legacy of these higher ed unions will not be what they do on campus, but what they lead to everywhere else. 

There is another ingredient adding fuel to this fire: attention.

The past decade’s widespread unionization of media outlets did not produce a huge number of new union members, but it did produce a drastic increase in reporters who were interested in organized labor, which led to more coverage. That interest found a home, most notably, in the union drives at Starbucks and Amazon, lending both of those campaigns a national importance that exceeds their raw numbers. 

I spent the past year reporting and writing a book about the labor movement, and everywhere I went, people told me that they were inspired by Starbucks and Amazon.

The increased media focus on labor combined with these name brand campaigns has elevated the idea of unions into the national consciousness.

Every big strike that makes the news helps. If screenwriters go on strike on May 1, as looks possible, Hollywood will shut down, and labor power will grab center stage every time anyone turns on their TV. Even normies have heard of this stuff.

This may seem like a small thing, but it isn’t. It provides people with a reference point — a mental foundation to build on. 

About the Author: Hamilton Nolan is a labor writer for In These Times. He has spent the past decade writing about labor and politics for Gawker, Splinter, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

This is a portion of a blog that originally appeared in full at In These Times on April 20, 2023.


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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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Watch for Employers Using Benefits as Bargaining Chips

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It’s never a bad idea to be suspicious of your boss, especially when they act like they’re doing you a favor. For workers at FrontLine Service, a Cleveland non-profit that serves the unsheltered, distrust of our employer is one of the critical sentiments that binds us.

FrontLine workers, members of Service Employees Local 1199, provide crucial services to some of the most marginalized and neglected people in Northeast Ohio. Every day, we assist folks struggling with mental health crises, substance abuse, lack of housing, and other hardships.

The work is arduous and the pay is low, but we do what we can to serve the communities in which we live and work.

Last June, our contract with FrontLine was ratified by a narrow margin. Throughout negotiations, there was a persistent sense shared by the bargaining committee that management wasn’t telling us the truth. We were continually given vague, cliché-ridden responses to our inquiries.

As the window for negotiations closed, it appeared that a strike was imminent. However, the minor contract gains we managed to achieve were enough to win the approval of a slim majority.

SUDDENLY THEY LIKE IT

Nearly all of our most ambitious demands were rejected. One such demand was for the implementation of a four-day workweek: 32 hours a week, an additional full day off, with benefits and wages reflecting whatever increases were won through bargaining.

As appealing as the idea of a shortened workweek was to us, none of us thought it had a snowball’s chance in hell of getting added to the contract. If anything, we thought that it could be a bargaining chip we’d give up in order to obtain something else.

So, we were surprised when a few months later management requested to meet with us to discuss how a four-day workweek pilot project could be implemented.

The first draft of management’s proposal included stipulations that would lengthen the workday, cut worker benefits by 15 percent, reduce sick, personal, and vacation leave, and increase the daily productivity standard by an hour.

The proposed pilot would involve 25 out of a workforce of 300 people. This small sample for the pilot is, we believe, inadequate for measuring the four-day workweek’s effectiveness and, more importantly, could undermine solidarity and divide workers.

DID OUR HOMEWORK

In our counterproposal submitted to management March 23, we made it clear that we will not accept any modifications or reductions to hard-won gains in our contract.

Members of our bargaining committee conducted extensive research and we had several illuminating meetings with employers who successfully implemented a four-day workweek, both non-profits and for-profits.

All this suggested that FrontLine’s proposed pilot would be a failure. Cutting benefits, lengthening the workday to 9 hours (a 36-hour workweek), and increasing productivity requirements would diminish any advantages a four-day workweek could offer workers.

When we pushed back in our meetings, management offered some version of the same answer we received during negotiations last summer: “We would if we could, but we can’t.” FrontLine’s revenue, which exceeded $28 million in 2022, is mostly acquired through government grants and Medicaid billing.

When we asked if they had made any good faith efforts to obtain increased funding to raise wages, retain staff, and attract new workers, management declined to respond.

DISTRACTION FROM WAGES

As the concept of a four-day workweek becomes more mainstream, we would be wise to consider how employers and their consultants are responding to the idea’s increased popularity.

In the case of FrontLine, it appears that management’s proposal for a four-day workweek pilot is a Trojan Horse.

Once implemented, management could, through a clause in their proposal giving them “unilateral authority” during the duration of the pilot, refuse to negotiate terms and conditions with our union.

FrontLine Service is severely understaffed, so much so that in February they formally asked Cuyahoga County to search for other non-profits that could replace workers in at least one FrontLine building.

According to management, understaffing is why they want to pilot a four-day workweek. If they can retain staff and attract new workers, they figure they might be able to keep their lights on a little longer. It also would allow FrontLine to appear ‘progressive,’ while they continue to neglect our real concerns.

Management’s proposal delivers a two-fold blow to workers: It allows them to manipulate our contract without negotiating with us, and it distracts from the question of higher wages.

Compared to other agencies offering similar services, FrontLine’s wages are deplorable, with some workers making as little as $15 an hour. Prior to the ratification of our most recent contract, the lowest-paid workers made $13 an hour.

During negotiations last summer, our committee repeatedly told management that if they want to retain and attract workers, they need to offer higher wages. “We would if we could,” management told us, “But we can’t.”

We are waiting for management’s response to our counterproposal. Whether the pilot will favor workers or management, or whether there will be a pilot at all, is yet to be determined.

This blog originally appeared at Labor Notes on March 30, 2023. Republished with permission.

About the Author: Adam Barrington is a supportive housing case worker. He is a member of SEIU 1999 and the Industrial Workers of the World.


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We Shouldn’t Have to Work Forever

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We shouldn’t have to work ourselves to death.

In France for the past three months, a million or more people have filled the streets of cities across the country in daily rolling protests and strikes opposing the national pension reform proposed by French president Emmanuel Macron.

The plan would raise the age of eligibility for a government pension — in effect, the minimum retirement age — from 62 to 64. Although nearly two-thirds of the French people oppose this change and the French parliament did not have the votes to approve it, Macron unilaterally pushed it throughHe claimed it was needed to respond to people living longer and the French government’s debt. Macron later narrowly avoided a no-confidence vote in the National Assembly, but protests continued by angry citizens.

French Workers Are Speaking Out

In a story about a protest in the city of Metz, in northeastern France, not far from the German border, the French daily newspaper Le Monde quoted two workers from a nearby power plant run by the giant French electrical utility EDF.

One explained why he was protesting: “I’ve been on shift work there for 31 years, so I’m pretty fed up.” Another said that, “We work all year round in noise, heat, with risks from chemicals and radiation. We won’t let our best years of retirement be stolen.”

Debates over how much a person works for wages are not new. In the United States, the National Labor Union called for an eight-hour workday starting in 1866. It wasn’t until 1940 that an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act gave us the 40-hour work week standard. Of course, there remains consistent pressure from employers to work longer days and longer weeks, although some employers and workers are floating the idea of a four-day work week.

How much work goes into a day or week is one question about work. But perhaps an even greater — and more existential — question is how much work goes into a lifetime? For the French (who seem to love existential questions), the answer found on many protest signs has been “64 years. It’s a No.

Living Longer Shouldn’t Equal Working Longer

For many Americans, 64 seems like a perfectly fine answer. After all, when the U.S. raised its age for full Social Security benefits from 65 to 67 in 1983, there were no protests to mark the occasion. The rationale for the change was similar to France’s: the Social Security fund was projected to run low on money in the coming decades.

Perhaps people didn’t protest because the 1983 law phased in the two-year increase over 22 years. The people affected most were in their 20s and likely weren’t paying attention.

Forty years later, those born in 1960 or after — the oldest of whom today are in their early 60s — are stuck with 67 as the age at which they can collect full social security benefits. If they retire earlier, say at 62, they’d receive only 70% of the full benefit. At 65, retirees get just 86.7% of the benefits they’d be eligible for if they kept working for two more years.

This all may sound very logical — as people live longer, they can work longer and hold off on receiving Social Security benefits they’ve paid into their whole working lives. But as the French protestors understand, working-class people often can’t stay on the job that long. And even if they could, they would have fewer years after their working lives to enjoy retirement.

People may live longer now, compared to decades ago, but it shouldn’t necessarily invite years of more work.

A French study from 2021 found that postponing the retirement age results in more frequent and longer sick leave for older workers, “due to the gradual deterioration in the health status of workers at the end of their careers,” Le Monde reported.

Class Disparities

It isn’t just the physical demands of many working-class jobs. It’s a class issue we can see if we look at the senior citizen country club set. As an extensive study by the Brookings Institution shows, “income is a strong predictor of life expectancy.”

The study explains the income effect in more detail, noting that, “For example, 40-year-old men with incomes in the bottom 1% have an expected age at death of 72 years, while those with incomes in the top 1% have an expected age at death of 87 years — 15 years longer.” The pattern plays out for women, as well.

Working-class people are likelier to live shorter lives, and many have started working full-time earlier than their middle-class counterparts, so they work more years before reaching age 67 and receiving full benefits. Worse, they may need to continue working even after that to survive, since Social Security alone often isn’t sufficient.

Meanwhile, wealthier people may start their work lives later and have more years to draw upon Social Security.

About the Author: Christopher R. Martin is a professor of Digital Journalism in the Department of Communication and Media at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

This is a portion of a blog originally that originally appeared in full at In These Times on April 11, 2023. Republished with permission.


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Intro to the “Remote Working Guide”

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James Ritter

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a massive shift in the way people work, with many companies and employees having to adapt to remote working in a short space of time.

As time has passed, remote working has evolved, making way for a new era of the modern workplace.

While some have found this a challenging adjustment, others have embraced the benefits that come with working from home, including newfound flexibility, increased productivity, and a better work-life balance. As a result, remote working has become more popular than ever before and shows no signs of slowing down.

However, finding remote working roles comes with its own unique set of challenges, so it’s important to equip yourself with the knowledge needed to impress in a remote interview.

Fortunately, to help navigate the challenges in this new era of work, S1Jobs has created a comprehensive guide to remote working which takes you through every stage of securing a remote role — from interviews to settling into your new working style.

The guide covers a wide range of topics, including how to set up your workspace, staying connected with your team, managing your time effectively, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. It also includes advice on how to deal with common remote working challenges, such as loneliness, distractions, and communication issues.

This guide is packed with valuable information that can help you find the perfect remote working experience.

So if you want to learn how to find remote roles, work effectively from home and stay connected with your team once you land your new job, be sure to check out this remote working guide.

About the Author: James Ritter is a freelance writer who holds a particular interest in employee welfare, and has created content for established companies based all around the world. He has a degree in creative writing and is always eager to expand his knowledge around different subjects.


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Which Industries Have the Most Sexual Harassment Reports?

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Sharon Feldman

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the government entity responsible for collecting all types of discrimination claims, including reports of sexual harassment.

Any employee in the United States who feels they have been illegally discriminated against at work can file a charge with the EEOC, who will then investigate the claim and take any necessary action.

Unfortunately, not all instances of sexual harassment get reported.

There are many barriers that stop harassed employees from making a report, such as fear of retaliation and uncertainty of what constitutes harassment.

This means that data from the EEOC cannot possibly reflect every actual instance of harassment, but it’s a good place to start analyzing data and trying to make sense of it. One interesting data point to examine is which industries receive the most sexual harassment reports.

EEOC Data

According to EEOC data from 2005 to 2015, the ten industries with the most sexual harassment reports are as follows. Included is the percentage of total reports that each industry represents. 

  1. Accommodation and Food Services (14.23%)
  2. Retail Trade (13.44%)
  3. Manufacturing (11.72%)
  4. Health Care and Social Assistance (11.48%)
  5. Administrative/Support/Waste Management/Remediation (6.92%)
  6. Public Administration (6.48%)
  7. Professional/Scientific/Technical Services (5.73%)
  8. Transportation and Warehousing (4.94%)
  9. Finance and Insurance (3.98%)
  10. Educational Services (3.98%)

The accommodation and food services industry takes first place, which will come as no surprise to many. The restaurant industry has dealt with sexual harassment issues for years; not only do servers and hospitality workers have to deal with harassment from coworkers or supervisors, but from customers as well.

Because “the customer is always right” in the service industry, some customers are empowered to take advantage of service employees. Many customers also expect their service “with a smile”, and expect service employees to put up with anything in order to get a tip.

The issue is similar in the retail industry. Not only does harassment come from customers, but it’s another service industry which means it typically has many low paid female employees, and mostly male supervisors. An uneven gender ratio may also be the reason that the manufacturing industry comes in third on the list.

This industry typically has much higher amounts of male employees than female employees, creating an uneven power dynamic. One survey found that over 60% of women in manufacturing reported experiencing sexual harassment at work. 

Finally, let’s take a closer look at the industry in fourth place: health care and social assistance. Like the restaurant industry, the nursing industry has been speaking out about sexual harassment for years. Health care workers have to deal with potential harassment from fellow staff, supervisors, patients, and even patients’ family members.

Not only is there another group of potential harassers, but health care workers often need to physically touch their patients, which can lead to blurry boundaries. Just like in restaurants, the customers – or patients in this case – can have a sense of entitlement, thinking they deserve any type of service they desire from the employee.

Interpreting the Data

Based on the industries with the most harassment claims, there are a few factors that seem to be at play. One is the presence of customers or patients in that line of work. We see that restaurants and health care facilities deal with harassment more than others, and other data sources have shown us that both servers and nurses report harassment from these populations.

There are also other factors not seen in the data that may play a role. For one, we don’t see a breakdown of who the harassment stems from; it would be interesting to know the percentage that comes from fellow staff members versus customers or patients. Additionally, these industries may have different amounts of harassment in different parts of the country. We don’t know where exactly these issues are the most prevalent. Oftentimes local laws and company policies dictate company culture and set a precedent for what behavior is acceptable.

The next step is to continue collecting and analyzing data, spreading awareness, and encouraging proper employment laws and policies that protect employees from harassment.

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.

This blog was contributed to Workplace Fairness. Published with permission.


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How to Meet Traveling Workers’ Health and Safety Rights

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Katie Brenneman

People have had to travel for work for decades. Now, however, working on the road is easier, more convenient, and even more exciting than ever.

Thanks to advancements in technology, workers can travel across the globe more frequently and network with people in different countries to improve business relationships and stimulate industry growth.

However, health and safety standards for workers who are expected to travel often are still incredibly important.

Whether you work an office job that requires international travel or you’re a pilot, trucker, or any other professional who has to fly or drive all over, your well-being needs to be prioritized. 

The best way to do that is by understanding your rights and feeling empowered to seek the health and wellness care your job should be providing. Let’s cover some of the health issues often associated with travel-based work and why/how those issues should be addressed. 

The Health Risks of Work Travel

Traveling for work can be a great way to see the world, explore new cultures, and meet interesting people. However, it doesn’t come without a few potential health and safety issues. 

First, working long hours away from home can take a toll on your physical and mental well-being. Some of the biggest issues travel workers often face include sleep deprivation, social isolation, and even malnutrition caused by everything from changing time zones to feeling anxious or depressed. 

Depending on where you’re traveling, it’s also important to consider any potential security threats. Ideally, your company wouldn’t send you anywhere that’s inherently unsafe. But, if you’re unsure of the culture, language, or customs, you could be putting yourself at risk of traveling to dangerous neighborhoods or connecting with people you shouldn’t. 

There are also mental health risks that come with traveling for work. Again, being away from friends and family can lead to feelings of social isolation, which can contribute to serious issues like: 

  • Anxiety;
  • Depression;
  • Greater mortality rate;
  • Heart conditions.

Traveling a lot can also cause extra stress and lead to burnout. Not only will that affect your work productivity, but it can cause fatigue, sleep issues, and much more. Those issues are likely to linger long after you get home from your trip. 

How Can You Advocate for Your Health and Safety? 

Understanding some of the common concerns associated with traveling for work can help to boost your confidence when it comes to addressing your employer. It’s the legal and ethical responsibility of every business to have a plan for every employee they send out on a work trip. This is called duty of care, and it should cover things like: 

  • Health and safety;
  • Adequate nutrition;
  • Discrimination;
  • Stress;
  • Fire safety.

Duty of care also needs to cover any issues that might arise while an employee is traveling. If you get sick on the road, what will your company do about it? If you get injured in an accident, how will they take care of you?

These are important issues to address before you travel, so don’t be afraid to talk to your employer to ensure they have a safety plan in place. Discussing workplace health concerns might feel a bit intimidating, at first, but you have the right to feel safe and valued if you’re traveling for business.

You also have legal rights when it comes to your health. It is legally required for your employer to keep you away from known health and safety hazards. They also can’t discriminate against you if you bring up any concerns. Consider working with your local OSHA office to determine exactly what those rights are so you can be better prepared as you address your employer. 

In a perfect world, traveling for work would come without any risks. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, no matter how exciting it is.

Know your rights and your value, don’t be afraid to speak up, and take personal precautions when it comes to traveling, and you’re more likely to stay safe and healthy wherever you go. 

This blog was originally contributed to Workplace Fairness. Published with permission.

About the Author: Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in lifestyle, mental health, and education When she isn’t writing, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. To connect with Katie, you can follow her on Twitter.


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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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