Testimony at MN Capitol underscores need for stronger wage theft laws

Workers and business owners highlighted the need for stronger wage theft laws at the Minnesota Capitol on February 6. The hearing before the Minnesota House Labor Committee was the first stop for HF6, a bipartisan bill that would set rules and penalties for employers who fail to pay wages earned by their employees.


Update: Minneapolis school custodians vote to join SEIU 284

A group of 250 Physical Plant Operators (PPOs), Senior Custodians, and Custodians in the Minneapolis Public Schools voted this week to join SEIU Local 284. The workers clean and maintain all 67 of the Minneapolis public schools, ensuring safe buildings and facilities for the tens of thousands of students in the district.


Workers’ to discuss organizing at the University of Minnesota

The East Side Freedom Library will host a discussion and panel, What’s Happening to Labor at the University of Minnesota?, on Wednesday, January 10 at 7:00 PM. Panelists will include representatives from University of Minnesota AFSCME, faculty, Teamsters Local 320, Grads United, and Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL). The event is free and open to the public.


U.S jobless rate lowest since start of Great Recession

The U.S. unemployment rate finished 2017 at 4.1 percent, unchanged for the third straight month and the lowest since the recession that began in 2007, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has reported. That marks a continued improvement with 6.576 million people unemployed at the end of 2017 compared to 7.502 million jobless at the end of 2016. However the overall statistics don’t tell the whole story. At the end of 2017 construction workers were experiencing a much higher jobless rate of 5.9 percent. And some low wage workers lost ground, the BLS reported.


Minneapolis school custodians file for union election

A group of 250 Physical Plant Operators (PPOs), Senior Custodians, and Custodians in the Minneapolis Public Schools filed for a union election to join SEIU Local 284 the week before Christmas. A majority signed cards expressing their desire to have the election. The workers clean and maintain all 67 of the Minneapolis public schools, ensuring safe buildings and facilities for the tens of thousands of students in the district. The effort to unionize follows a July 2017 reorganization by the school district that rolled back working conditions and wages in an effort to deal with a $28 million budget gap. A system of about 100 “engineers-in-charge” and “assistant engineers” was reduced to a contingent of 15 “physical plant operators.” According to the Southwest Journal, 30 of the district’s 54 most senior building engineers were placed into custodian positions with a pay decrease of up to $4 an hour.


EPI Report: $2 billion in stolen wages recovered in 2015 & 2016

A new study published by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) on December 13th finds that at least $2 billion in stolen wages was recovered for workers across the United States in 2015 and 2016. “Wage theft is a growing and pervasive problem that robs workers of billions of dollars every year. Yet little progress has been made to address this epidemic,” stated EPI Labor Counsel Celine McNicholas who wrote the report along with Research Assistant Zane Mokhiber, and intern Adam Chaikof. The findings come from a survey of state labor departments and attorneys general, data from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), and information from class action settlements. In addition the authors estimate that low-wage workers in the United States lost more than $50 billion to all forms of wage theft in 2016 though the exact amount stolen is impossible to determine due to incomplete national and state information.


Locked out Albert Lea healthcare workers resume bargaining with Mayo executives

Albert Lea hospital workers who were locked out by Mayo over Christmas are back to the bargaining table with Mayo executives today. The previously scheduled bargaining session follows a one-day Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) strike by SEIU Healthcare Minnesota members and a subsequent lockout of the workers by Mayo over Christmas. “Today we will see if Mayo actually wants to negotiate with us or if they just said that last week to make themselves look better when they locked us all out over Christmas,” Sheri Wichmann, who has worked in Sterile processing for 18 years. Mayo had indicated new interest in negotiating following the strike and lockout. ”Over the last year we’ve made countless offers and been willing to give and give, but it is never enough for Mayo,” she added.


Mayo Hospital workers blocked from returning to work

Mayo Albert Lea hospital workers were blocked from going back to work by Mayo management and security this morning. Mayo’s retaliation follows a one-day Unfair Labor Practice strike by members of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, called because workers say management has failed to negotiate in good faith for over a year and has insisted on provisions that would eliminate jobs and strip them of their bargaining rights. Mayo made good on a threat to lock out their employees for seven days if they struck, leaving them without work through Christmas. The 79 people denied access to their jobs work as certified nursing assistants (CNAs), housekeepers, sterile processors and in utilities and materials management. Mayo backed down on their lockout threats for the unit of six skilled maintenance workers.