Debtors Prisons, Return of in Mississippi

The Mississippi Department of Corrections runs the modern-day debtors prisons it calls restitution centers. But not very well.

The agency doesn’t keep close track of how much people sentenced to the program earn and owe, according to dozens of current and former inmates interviewed by Mississippi Today. That makes it hard for them to figure out how long they need to work at mostly low-wage jobs to make enough money to earn their freedom.

Mississippi prohibits the workers from handling their own earnings and gives them little documentation of their debts. Where their money goes and whether it reaches the victims of their crimes remains a mystery to most inmates we talked to.

Anna Wolfe And Michelle Liu, ‘Something seems fishy’: Bad bookkeeping and poor oversight plague a Mississippi inmate labor program, Mississippi Today

Should Coal Miners Learn To Code? Slashdot discusses

During a campaign event on Monday, U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden “suggested coal miners could simply learn to code to transition to ‘jobs of the future,'” reports Newsweek:
“Anybody who can go down 300 to 3,000 feet in a mine, sure in hell can learn to program as well, but we don’t think of it that way,” he said… “Anybody who can throw coal into a furnace can learn how to program for God’s sake…”

Many Twitter users criticized Biden’s comments as reductive. “Telling people to find other work without a firm plan to help them succeed will never be popular,” communications professional Frank Lutz wrote… Congressional candidate Brianna Wu tweeted that she was “glad to see the recognition that you don’t need to be in your 20s to do this as a profession,” but also called Biden’s suggestion “tone-deaf and unhelpful.”

Long-time Slashdot reader theodp notes the response this speech got from New York magazine’s Sarah Jones: “Please Stop Telling Miners To Learn To Code.” And in comments on the original submission, at least two Slashdot readers seemed to agree. “Not everyone can code and certainly not every coal miner or coal worker,” wrote Slashdot reader I75BJC. “Vastly different skills.”

Slashdot reader Iwastheone even shared a Fox News article in which rival presidential candidate Andrew Yang argued “Maybe Americans don’t all want to learn how to code… Let them do the kind of work they actually want to do, instead of saying to a group of people that you all need to become coders.”

But is there something elitist in thinking that coal miners couldn’t learn to do what coders learned to do? It seems like an interesting question for discussion

Slashdot

Thousands of Google’s cafeteria workers have unionized

The workers who voted to unionize earn wages that start at around $35,000 a year, according to a source familiar with the matter. And they say they don’t receive all the same benefits such as retirement plans that are standard for full-time Google employees. Their move to organize represents a symbolic pushback against the status quo of growing economic inequality in Silicon Valley, where all but the top 10 percent of income earners have seen their wages decline from 1997 to 2017.

 

Shirin Ghaffary, vox

How I Get By: A Week in the Life of a McDonald’s Cashier – VICE

Cierra Brown estimates her commute to work would only take about 25 minutes if she had a car. That’s part of the reason she returned to McDonald’s in January: Her car had broken down and she needed money. But at McDonald’s, Brown only earns $9.50 per hour as a cashier, which barely helps cover rent and is far from enough to solve her vehicular woes. Without a car, one of Brown’s main headaches is getting to work. Her typical bus commute to McDonald’s takes as long as two hours each way.

By the time she starts work, she’s already tired. When she gets home, she’s exhausted.

“That is where a lot of my headache comes from,” she told VICE.

At 29, Brown works approximately 40 hours a week, splitting her time between a McDonald’s in Durham, North Carolina, and a food-service gig a local hospital. “It’s still not enough,” she said. Both jobs are part-time, and she doesn’t receive health insurance through either employer. She can’t afford insurance on her own, either. That’s a problem since Brown is diabetic, and she has to pay for her medical expenses out of pocket. She’s trying to do all she can on her own—she receives no food stamps or other assistance, she notes—but it rarely feels like she’s doing enough.

“It’s really rough right now,” she said.

vice

Low Wages in an Economic Boom Time

Today:
* 2.2 million working people are paid the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour or less.
* Approximately another 23 million people are paid between $7.25 and $11 an hour.
* Nearly half (42.4 percent) of working Americans make less than $15 per hour.

 

The productivity of American workers has roughly doubled since 1968 (the peak of the minimum wage in inflation-adjusted dollars), but workers making the minimum wage today make 25 percent less than they did in 1968, once adjusted to today’s dollars. Even though unemployment has dropped precipitously, sitting well below 5 percent for the last three years, it has not been until recently that wage increases for workers in lower-paying occupations have occurred.2 And much of that growth at the low end of the distribution has come from action on the minimum wage at not the federal level, but the state and local level.

Making the Economic Case for a $15 Minimum Wage
THE CENTURY FOUNDATION

Gig economy – on demand restaurant work

Gig workers are nothing new in the restaurant world. Every day, contractors on bikes and scooters deliver food for Uber Eats and DoorDash. But in a growing number of kitchens, contract workers now make the food, too.

With the restaurant industry facing its worst labor shortage in decades, Pared and a rival app, Instawork, are filling a growing void, as managers who have struggled to recruit permanent employees turn to the on-demand services for workers trained as dishwashers, servers, line cooks and even oyster shuckers.

Among them is Mr. Mortenson, who said he could not imagine going back to a full-time restaurant job. “I’m making more money than I have ever made in this industry,” he said. “This is crazy.”

Part of the appeal, he said, is that the app exposes him to new experiences, whether icing gingerbread cookies at Bouchon Bakery or cooking short ribs for Twitter employees at the cafe in the company’s New York office.

“It doesn’t make me a better cook,” he said. “But it’s so amazing to go into a new restaurant every day.”

Cooking Eggs in the Morning and Shucking Oysters at Night, Thanks to an App

Working conditions of movie theater janitors

The major chains — AMC, Regal Entertainment and Cinemark — no longer rely on teenage ushers to keep the floors from getting sticky. Instead, they have turned to a vast immigrant workforce, often hired through layers of subcontractors. That arrangement makes it almost impossible for janitors to make a living wage.

Alvarez got hurt on the job, and a doctor recommended a lighter workload. When she made that request in April 2015, she was fired. The following year, she filed a California Labor Commission claim for unpaid wages, including overtime. The hearing officer awarded her $80,000 in back pay and penalties. But Alvarez could not collect. She did not work directly for AMC or its janitorial contractor, ACS Enterprises, which shielded them from liability. Instead, she worked for a couple — Alfredo Dominguez and Caritina Diaz — who had not even shown up to the hearing.

Even Dominguez and Diaz didn’t consider her an actual employee. In their minds, she was a contractor of a contractor of a contractor of AMC Theatres. AMC and ACS did send an attorney to fight her wage claim. In the end, the companies agreed to pay her $3,500 to go away.

Over the last eight months, Variety has investigated wage complaints from movie theater janitors across the country, reviewing class-action lawsuits, state labor commission records and investigations by the U.S. Department of Labor. A clear pattern emerged: AMC and other theater chains keep their costs down by relying on janitorial contractors that use subcontracted labor. Those janitors typically have no wage or job protections, toiling on one of the lowest rungs of the U.S. labor market.

After Rob Winters was barred from California, ACS took over many of his accounts, including the Regal theater at L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles. Working conditions remained much the same, says Georgina Hernandez, who was a janitor there. She worked seven days a week, sometimes 10-11 hours a day, and was paid $400 a week. She quit after two years and took a job cleaning offices.

How America’s Biggest Theater Chains Are Exploiting Their Janitors, Variety, GENE MADDAUS

Marriott strike SF

Nearly 2,500 workers walked off their jobs Thursday morning from seven Marriott hotels in downtown San Francisco to demand higher wages, workplace safety and job security.
Picket lines formed outside the Courtyard by Marriott Downtown, the Marriott Marquis, the Marriott Union Square, the Palace Hotel, the St. Regis, the W and the Westin St. Francis, according to Unite Here Local 2, a union that represents 89 percent of the workers.

via sfchronicle

Labor Day podcast episode on where the labor movement is now

http://radioopensource .org/a-new-labor-movement/

It’s Labor Day week 2018, and “The American Worker” doesn’t fit any single poster shot. Is it the Uber driver – working flex time in the ‘gig’ economy, for a magic dispatcher of taxis around the world? Is it the brainiac Google engineers insisting to their CEO that “we need to know what we’re building?” In a gilded, globalized, unequal economy of work today, the old industrial unions are almost gone. But suddenly non-union professionals feeling dealt out of pay and power are shouting, we’re workers, too, and forming unions: graduate students at great universities, magazine writers at the ritzy New Yorker. Prisoners, too, and sex workers, coming out of the shadows to claim rights, and respect, as workers, with skills, thank you. Plus hospital nurses and public school teachers coast to coast.

The midterm measure of the American mood in Trump-time may well turn out to be not – or not just – the off-year House and Senate election scorecard, but the work-place turbulence all over the map this year. Workers who never organized before – in grad schools, in media, in sex work, in prisons – are talking solidarity. And notice the word “strike” is back in circulation, inspired maybe by the furious telemarketers in the seriously funny fantasy film, Sorry to Bother You. In the movie they shout “Phones down!” In real Boston, this week, housekeepers in three Marriott-owned hotels downtown could soon be shouting “Mops down!” in their fight for a new contract.

We’re in the work-place, not the political arena, this hour, though of course they’re connected as soon as workers say it’s all about the power of the corporate class, a fight about places at the table and restoring an idea of people-power democracy.

 

Zhengzhou / iPhone City

It all centers on Zhengzhou, a city of six million people in an impoverished region of China. Running at full tilt, the factory here, owned and operated by Apple’s manufacturing partner Foxconn, can produce 500,000 iPhones a day. Locals now refer to Zhengzhou as “iPhone City.”

A 32-gigabyte iPhone 7 costs an estimated $400 to produce. It retails for roughly $649 in the United States, with Apple taking a piece of the difference as profit. The result: Apple manages to earn 90 percent of the profits in the smartphone industry worldwide, even though it accounts for only 12 percent of the sales, according to Strategy Analytics, a research firm.

They file steadily into dozens of factory sites, spread out across 2.2 square miles. At the peak, some 350,000 workers assemble, test and package iPhones — up to 350 a minute.
Apple’s labor force, the size of a national army, relies heavily on the generosity of the Zhengzhou government.
As part of its deal with Foxconn, the state recruits, trains and houses employees. Provincial officials call townships and villages to ask for help finding potential worker


NY TIMES December 2016