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‘We went from heroes to zeroes’: US nurses strike over work conditions

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‘We went from heroes to zeroes’: US nurses strike over work conditions Nurses across the US are picketing over severe understaffing issues and inadequate equipment amid the pandemic Michael Sainato Fri 30 Jul 2021 06.00 EDT – Last April people across America came out of quarantine each night to cheer the healthcare workers fighting to […]

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Union advocates rally in New York to support striking Alabama coalminers

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Mining Union advocates rally in New York to support striking Alabama coalminers 1,100 workers from two Warrior Met Coal mines in Brookwood have been on strike since April amid contract negotiations Lauren Aratani in New York Wed 28 Jul 2021 16.05 EDT Last modified on Wed 28 Jul 2021 16.22 EDT Coal miners and union […]

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Video game company Activision Blizzard sued over ‘frat boy culture’ allegations

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CaliforniaVideo game company Activision Blizzard sued over ‘frat boy culture’ allegationsCalifornia’s DFEH files suit after investigation reveals discrimination against women Sarah Betancourt@

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‘My savings were gone’: millions who lost work during Covid faced benefit system chaos

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US news‘My savings were gone’: millions who lost work during Covid faced benefit system chaosAmericans thrown out of work by the pandemic faced months-long backlogs in receiving benefits, if they arrived at all Michael SainatoThu 22 Jul 2021 05.00 EDTLast modified on Thu 22 Jul 2021 08.07 EDTUnemployed workers are pushing for reforms and changes to America’s unemployment insurance system after millions of workers experienced severe problems in receiving benefits throughout the pandemic.Workers across America faced long delays in receiving unemployment benefits as state systems were quickly overwhelmed with the mass influx of applications that caused months-long backlogs. Meanwhile, workers who made errors on their applications, had missing records or had their claims flagged had their benefits stopped – and often had difficulty restarting them once problems were resolved.US food banks brace for demand as Republicans end unemployment benefitsRead moreAbout 9 million Americans are estimated to have lost work due to the pandemic but received no unemployment benefits.Sharon Corpening, 60, a freelance writer in Roswell, Georgia, lost all her work contracts when the pandemic shutdowns occurred throughout the US in March last year.As a gig worker, Corpening’s initial unemployment application was denied by the Georgia department of labor, until the Cares Act provided pandemic unemployment assistance for gig workers a few weeks later. She spent weeks trying to process her application and encountered issues with the unemployment website, and would sit on the phone for hours daily failing to reach a service representative.Like thousands of Americans having trouble with their unemployment applications, Corpening joined a Facebook group and got involved in helping others through the unemployment process, advocating for systemic reforms and countering narratives that try to portray unemployed workers as “lazy” and “not wanting to work”. Corpening took offense at these characterizations and a push from Republican governors to prematurely cancel federal unemployment benefits while unemployment systems remain broken.“We still have people who applied eight months ago who have not received a dime,” said Corpening. “Georgia is one of the 26 states that cut off federal benefits, and a week out I will tell you all my bank accounts are overdrawn.”The impacts were detrimental to workers around the US, who fell behind on rent or mortgage or car payments, experienced utility shutoffs and relied on food banks and assistance programs to feed themselves and their families.In the wake of the mass unemployment caused by the pandemic, several organizations, including the Economic Policy Institute and National Employment Law Project, created a report with unemployed workers outlining reforms needed to fix the widespread issues to unemployment insurance that were exposed by Covid-19.“Fifty-one different unemployment programs don’t work and I think the past 16 months have proven that these different systems are 51 different excuses,” said Chevon Hussey, who waited several months to receive unemployment benefits when her mental health and public speaking business shut down due to Covid-19.While waiting for unemployment, Hussey and her husband, whose work hours were cut due to the pandemic, were forced to place their special needs daughter in a group home until they could become financially stable enough to care for her at home again.“We couldn’t rely on the state to get it together any more,” said Hussey. “The federal government had acted so fast to make these dollars available. The unemployment applications were there, but nothing was happening, and our state was saying everything’s working.”Kelly Johnson, a single mother in Dunedin, Florida, lost both her jobs as a restaurant manager and personal trainer when the pandemic hit.She started organizing protests through social media around Florida over the issues she and other unemployed workers were facing in not being able to receive benefits through Florida’s unemployment system, which the Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, admitted in August 2020, was designed to create pointless roadblocks for the unemployed to limit the number of paid-out claims.Her experience with Florida’s unemployment system, one of the worst in the US, included long delays in receiving benefits, low payouts due to only one of her job incomes being accounted for in determining her benefit, technical difficulties with the website, and the inability to reach any representatives to help[ her.“Six weeks went by still in that phase and all of a sudden my savings were gone and I spent my stimulus on my mortgage and to keep my house running. I was getting really scared, because I was not getting any money coming in,” said Johnson. She returned to work in the restaurant industry a few months ago, but is still working severely reduced hours while caring for her children who are out of school for the summer. Because Florida cancelled federal extended unemployment benefits early, her unemployment benefits dropped significantly, while re-employment services and childcare services are inadequate or non-existent.“My state benefit is $71 a week, and I was working 60 hours a week before the pandemic,” added Johnson. “What we learned going through all of this is we cannot trust the system. We’ve been working our butts off just trying to get our unemployment.”TopicsUS newsfeaturesReuse this content

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Uber and Lyft drivers join day-long strike over working conditions

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UberUber and Lyft drivers join day-long strike over working conditionsWorkers for app companies call for better wages and protections for those seeking to unionize Kari Paul in San FranciscoWed 21 Jul 2021 19.34 EDTFirst published on Wed 21 Jul 2021 06.00 EDTHundreds of Uber and Lyft drivers have joined other app-based workers across the US for a day-long strike to protest against poor working conditions and demand the right to organize.Sign up to Alex Hern’s weekly technology newsletter, TechScape.The workers are calling for better wages and congressional support of the Pro Act, a bill that would provide protections for workers who attempt to unionize, including members of the gig economy. The bill has stalled indefinitely after passing in the US House in March.Uber and Lyft fares surge as pandemic recedes – but drivers don’t get ‘piece of pie’Read more“App-based workers are fed up with exploitation from big tech companies,” said Eve Aruguete a driver from Oakland and member of organizing group Rideshare Drivers United. “Misclassification is like concrete, keeping us underground. The Pro Act is the jackhammer that will break that concrete apart, allowing app-based workers to organize.”The strike began at midnight on Wednesday with workers in California, Boston, Las Vegas, Denver and Austin refusing to take orders. Rallies took place across several cities.Hundreds of workers rallied outside of Los Angeles international airport and at Uber’s headquarters in San Francisco, where drivers blocked the street with cars emblazoned with slogans such as “strike for dignity” and “Uber and Lyft are driving us into poverty”.On the ground below Uber’s towering headquarters in San Francisco’s South Beach neighborhood, speakers at the rally underscored how the pandemic benefited white-collar Uber employees while thousands of drivers were left without work.“Without drivers, there is no Uber – without drivers, there is no Lyft,” said Eddy Hernandez, formerly a senior software engineer at Uber who quit because he disagreed with how the company treated drivers.“Tech workers and drivers need to come together and demand the end to the second-class employment status that restricts workers from having the fair pay and dignity only some are afforded,” he added.Erica Mighetto, who has driven for Lyft for four years and for Uber since 2019, said at the protest in San Francisco that workers fear for their livelihoods as some pandemic-related unemployment benefits are set to run out in September.“We want to get out ahead of that devastation and let our voices be heard,” she said. “We need protections – we need the right to organize.”“When I say worker, you say power” chants at @_drivers_united protest at LAX today pic.twitter.com/JVtVldE8IU— Carly Olson (@CarlyOlson_) July 21, 2021
The strike comes as Uber and Lyft hike prices amid a record driver shortage. That shortage has been driven by a “silent strike”, said Brian Dolber, an organizer and communications professor, as drivers refuse to return to a job they see as exploitative.“This is drivers fighting back and saying they are not going to be second-class workers,” Dolber said. “They are saying they cannot continue to work under the forms of inequality we have seen during the pandemic.”In 2020, the number of Uber rides decreased by 80% in some areas, leaving hundreds of thousands of drivers without work, according to a survey from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Jobs With Justice San Francisco. Some 37% of respondents said they had lost 100% of their income, while another 19% had lost more than 75% of their income.But as vaccinations increased and demand bounced back, many drivers refused to return to their work behind the wheel, said Daniel Russell, a driver for Uber and Lyft for the past four years and an organizer with Rideshare Drivers United.“The pandemic really underscored for us our vulnerability when the market dried up,” he said. “Now is the time to take action.”A spokesman from Lyft told the Guardian that as vaccines had rolled out, it had begun to see the demand for rides outpace drivers but had been adding more drivers in recent weeks. It declined to provide any additional comment on the protests. The strike originally focused on workers in California, where an industry-backed bill called Proposition 22 went into effect in early 2021, exempting some major tech firms from fully complying with labor laws. Under Prop 22, gig companies can continue to be classify workers as contractors, without access to employee rights such as minimum wage, unemployment benefits, health insurance and collective bargaining.Organizers say in the months since Prop 22 passed, Uber and Lyft have raised prices for riders while decreasing the portion of the fare drivers receive. Uber did not immediately respond to request for comment. Lyft denied that claim.“They promised us flexibility, greater control and greater transparency,” said driver Carlos Pelayo. “But since Prop 22 passed, I have less control over where I drive, who I pick up, and how much I make. Prop 22 was the most expensive lie ever told to California voters.”Uber and Lyft: woo drivers with stable pay, not short-term honeypotsRead moreOrganizers say the Pro Act can right some of the failures of Prop 22 but requires more support from Senate Democrats. If passed, it would make it more difficult for gig economy firms to classify workers as independent contractors and allow Uber and Lyft drivers to join together to collectively bargain.“Drivers need the Pro Act because it allows us to form a union and organization that looks out on our behalf and ensures our safety and fair pay,” said Russell, who drives in the Los Angeles area. “We need to be able to have a say.”TopicsUberLyftGig economynewsReuse this content

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‘We’re not animals, we’re human beings’: US farm workers labor in deadly heat with few protections

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Our unequal earthEnvironment‘We’re not animals, we’re human beings’: US farm workers labor in deadly heat with few protections Advocates want Osha to issue federal heat standards, requiring water, shade and rest breaks Supported byAbout this contentMichael SainatoFri 16 Jul 2021 07.34 EDTLast modified on Fri 16 Jul 2021 07.35 EDTThe climate crisis is endangering farm workers around the US who work outside in excessive heat throughout the year without any federal protections from heat exposure in the workplace.“It’s really challenging to work in the heat, but the reality is we have to, we don’t really have a choice, we have to keep working even when it’s incredibly hot,” said Tere Cruz, a farm worker for 15 years in Immokalee, Florida. “The first thing in the morning, you don’t feel it as much but then after 11am your body really starts to feel the heat. You feel like all the energy has been sucked out of you and it’s really hard to keep going.’’Cruz explained workers often will get too hot and vomit from drinking too much water too fast, but they face immense pressure to continue working through heat stress.“It would be really good to have a broad rule so when farm owners see that temperatures are way too high they need to stop and allow people to rest. Things as they are right now, you can see when it’s really hot that by 1 or 2 in the afternoon, people just can’t work any more. But there’s this real pressure to keep working and keep working,” added Cruz. “We’re not animals, we’re human beings, but there’s this feeling that no matter what happens, even when people can’t seem to work any more, the bosses keep pushing and pushing.”An analysis conducted by researchers at the University of Washington in March 2020 found US farm workers will experience an increase from about 21 days of working in unsafe temperatures per season to an average of 62 days by the end of the century – nearly three times as many.Heatwaves have also become more common and intense over the past several decades, as the US west coast has experienced record breaking heatwaves this year. June 2021 was the hottest June on record in the United States.“It’s extremely hot out there and it’s getting worse every year,” said Nezahualcoyotl Xiuhtecutli, general coordinator of the Farmworker Association of Florida. “One of the biggest problems is the way that farm workers are paid. When they’re paid by the piece rate, that encourages workers to exert themselves even more. When they’re part of a crew, the person who slows down because he has to take a water break or use the restroom, then they become the guy who slows down the crew.”Death of a workerThe state of Washington recently announced emergency rules to provide heat protection for farm workers and other outdoor workers, shortly after Oregon issued emergency rules in the wake of a farm worker who died from heat exposure during record high temperatures in the region. Sebastián Francisco Pérez, a 38-year-old from Guatemala who was working at a tree farm in rural St Paul, Oregon, died after collapsing on June 26.California and Minnesota are the only two other states in the US with heat protections for workers, though Colorado has some limited protections.Reyna Lopez, executive director of Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN), said the organization had been demanding Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Osha) issue heat protection rules ahead of the latest heatwaves in the region. Workers had been expressing concerns about the lack of shade or water while working through blueberry and cherry harvesting.“There’s a lot of sacrifice that happens from immigrant workers for us to have food on our table,” said Lopez. “We believe fully that any kind of death on the job is absolutely avoidable. This is the first recorded death in Oregon’s Osha fatalities report that’s specific to farm labor and heat.”According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 53 workers died in the US due to temperature extremes in 2019, and the climate crisis is creating more hazardous conditions for workers, as temperature extremes become more common.Heat stress can cause kidney issues and worsen pre-existing conditions such as asthma and heart disease, as well as cause sudden death on the job. Charts showing the rise in number and duration of US heat waves over the past year 6 decadesAccording to CDC data, farm workers are 20 times more likely to die from heat-related causes than other workers.Farm workers and several organizations have been advocating for Osha to enact federal heat safety standards to guarantee basic protections for workers, including adequate shade, water and rest breaks. Advocacy efforts have also pressured states to enact standards and bills have been introduced to Congress to grant workers federal heat protections.Alfredo Juarez, a 21-year-old farm worker in Skagit County, Washington, wakes up at 3.30am every morning during picking season to be able to get to work by 5am. He works until 4pm or later, seven days a week.“We work getting paid by the pound, so we try to work as fast as we can and it gets really hot as soon as we start picking, even when temperatures are normal,’’ said Juarez.He explained that if workers get a break, they will pile in cars and blast the air conditioning for some relief from the excessive heat, but generally workers are left with water that gets hot very fast from being outdoors. They have no shade and nowhere to sit down to take a break.“Strawberry picking takes a lot of focus. You’re on your knees every day and some of the rows are very hard to pick and your back will hurt from a lot of bending down, looking for berries,” he added. “There’s a lot of pain.” TopicsEnvironmentOur unequal earthClimate changeFarmingfeaturesReuse this content

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