We know what you’re thinking. Why do I need another newsletter that is just going to take up space in my inbox? Space which you’re just going to ultimately end up paying for now that email storage isn’t free anymore. Which is a really strange concept if you think about it. These companies read our emails, use that information to sell targeted advertisements right back to us, then charge us extra to store more information for them to read and sell right back to us. That’s like if your nosy neighbor went through your garbage and then put a letter on your door with a coupon for wine and an itemized invoice. That’s not the point though. The point is that workers are making waves around the country. We want you to stay involved so you can use their tactics to make a splash in your workplace. In this issue we’re going to highlight:
There are a few things that probably keep your boss up at night. Having to actually read the notes in the employee suggestion box, surprise IRS audits, and trying to explain to corporate how they plan to make everyone more productive while paying them less. At the forefront of their nightmares though, is probably the phenomenon known as The Great Resignation. A lot of think pieces have been devoted to explaining the who, what, why, where, and how of it all - but none of them are speaking about it in frank terms. That’s what we’re here to do. Here’s the cliff notes version: workers have decided to end their toxic relationship with work. Some have interviewed in secret and quietly moved on to better-paying positions. Some had to leave their jobs because it is actually cheaper to quit and take care of their kids than work and have to pay for childcare. Others are just burnt out and need a break. Either way, people are quitting in record numbers.
Make no mistake, it can be scary to leave one workplace for an uncertain future. But this is only happening because our employers are forcing our hands. We can no longer ignore wages that do not pay us enough to afford rent - don’t even get us started on dreams of homeownership - let alone keep up with the pace of inflation. Every company likes to brag about their work culture and “perks” for their employees. Next time they complain about The Great Resignation be sure to let them know: Respect in the workplace begins with respecting workers.
Sometimes you’re lucky enough to get a job that checks off all your boxes. Your employer seems welcoming, the pay is decent enough to afford your living expenses, and you don’t have to actively search for work during your lunch break. You’re content and maybe even happy that the stars aligned and you got this position. Then the stars keep moving and you wake up one day and realize you haven’t gotten a cost of living adjustment, let alone a raise, in years. Healthcare premiums keep increasing in price along with everything else and soon you don’t feel so lucky.
Many of us have learned to just begrudgingly accept this as normal. “If I keep my head down and work harder then my productivity will be rewarded” is a refrain we often tell ourselves. Deep down we know this isn’t working but we see little choice to do anything else. Luckily some workers have begun to take a stand. From John Deere to Kellogg's, and even Harvard University workers have decided to claw back their power.
At John Deere, 10,000 workers won a 20% raise in their new contract and maintained their excellent retirement and no-cost health care plans. The original contract management offered? 11% raise over six years and elimination of the pension for new hires. Management probably softened their stance when they realized the scabs were doing more harm than they could have imagined. There was a similar situation at Kellogg’s when management threatened to move jobs across the border if workers didn’t agree to have their retirement benefits, healthcare plans, holiday and vacation pay all slashed. The workers went on strike and succeeded in winning cost of living increases and no concessions of current benefits. Even graduate students in higher education have begun to push back with the Harvard Graduate Student Union successfully lobbying to get a $20 per hour minimum wage, with salaried workers getting 5% retroactive raises with additional raises through 2024. A significant increase from the 0% raise initially offered by the university. On the map below you can see just a sample of the locations where workers have been fighting against subpar conditions.
Of course, these corporations are working overtime to discredit these organizing efforts. Why would they want to pay us more when they know they have been getting away with paying us less? We know we deserve more and that’s why it is encouraging to see so many workers fighting and winning concessions.
No one wants to go on strike. Unfortunately, the alternative is maintaining working conditions which already push us to our financial, mental, and physical breaking points. If our employers were willing to put our needs before company profits then all of this could be avoided. Companies have made sure there are no incentives for this to happen. What companies fail to recognize is that without workers, they are just empty promises: unable to deliver the goods and services they have invested heavily in. Remember that next time your performance review is around the corner.
By Sebastian Fernandez Giraldo
When I first took on this role I had no idea the impact our work would have on the lives of so many Arizonans. Not just from our groundwork in Phoenix, but from all the workers who shared their stories about how the cancellation of the federal pandemic unemployment compensation affected them. To everyone who shared - I want to express my deepest gratitude. We could not have gotten this far without you.
Are we where we want to be right now? Frankly, no. Despite clearly articulating that Arizona law stipulates the government must “secure all available Federal benefits for Arizona and its citizens,” our claims were rejected. Our legal partners at the National Legal Advocacy Network have already filed an appeal which you can read more about while we wait for the ruling. We knew this would be a lengthy process from the start, but it is still disappointing knowing that relief for struggling workers and their families continues to be denied.
After the initial ruling, a spokesperson for Governor Ducey quipped “the best social program is a job.” This is precisely the tone-deaf mentality we are pushing back against. The same mentality which led to over 100,000 Arizona workers being forced to survive on $240 a week - the second-lowest rate in the nation - when their benefits were ended prematurely.
To this day, the federal funds are still readily available. Sitting untouched while workers who are in dire need of assistance beg for help. It would cost the governor nothing but his pride to release these funds. Somehow, this is a cost he is unwilling to pay.
Did you enjoy this publication? Do you have a critique of our commentary? Were you disappointed by our choice of memes? Let us know by writing to us directly at [email protected] or engaging with us on our social media: Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! Your feedback allows us to keep providing relevant content and a lucky few may even have their submissions featured in the next newsletter.