Today's Fair Shots - April 12th, 2017
1-Under SB 75, Minors Could Work for Kroger Without Telling Parents, But Couldn't Speak Up Together There Without Parental Permission
2-Some Historical Notes on the Role of Unions in Halting Child Labor Abuse
3-Senate Panel Hears Bill That Would Provide Paid Rest Breaks to Construction Workers
4-TSEU Member: Don't Tell Me How to Spend My Money; Stop SB 13
1. Final passage of the bill requiring parental consent for a minor to join a labor union in the Texas Senate yesterday was little more than a formality.
The vote on SB 75 by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, was 20-11, strictly along party lines.
Nelson repeatedly invoked this talking point: "This is not about unions. This is about parental rights."
No. This is about the rights of working people, whatever their age. If parents can exercise moral authority over that decision one way or another, more power to them. But making a law that gives parents the ultimate legal decision is something else entirely.
Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, who opposed the measure, pointed up that a union is far better equipped than most parents to address workplace problems that might arise for teens, including sexual abuse, unreasonable work hours and inadequate wage scales.
Whitmire suggested it would not be unreasonable for unions to consider this Senate to be attacking union membership in Texas. He mentioned SB 13 (the Paycheck Deception bill) and could have mentioned others, including bills that would outlaw Project Labor Agreements that do not exist in any form at this time.
As the Texas AFL-CIO suggested in our news release on this topic yesterday (http://bit.ly/2on3azx), if minors can sign up to work without parental permission, they should be able to speak up together for a better workplace without parental permission.
Whitmire noted a wrinkle in that formulation. Under SB 75, with no parental consent - or even parental knowledge - a minor would still be able to go to work for Kroger legally. Work at Kroger and join the United Food and Commercial Workers? Completely different story.
Need we say more?
SB 75 next heads to the Texas House. An identical companion bill, HB 1987 by Rep. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, has been referred to the House Economic and Small Business Development Committee.
2. SB 75 cannot be considered in a historical vacuum. To understand why union members in Texas and beyond are especially offended by the bill, you need to understand labor's historical role in halting child labor abuses. SB 75 suggests unions are the problem, when in fact they have always been the solution to improving treatment of minors in the workplace.
SB 75 got the attention of Brother Leo Gerard, President of the United Steelworkers union, who featured the bill yesterday during his remarks at USW's convention, Texas AFL-CIO President John Patrick reports. It is not just a Texas issue.
At least as early as 1832, a labor union in New England condemned abuse of child labor, the Child Labor Education Project at the University of Iowa states.
The New England Association of Farmers, Mechanics and Other Workingmen resolved that "Children should not be allowed to labor in the factories from morning till night, without any time for healthy recreation and mental culture," for it "endangers their...well-being and health."
Unions have remained in the forefront of the child labor reform movement. The Project summarizes labor's essential role:
Forms of child labor, including indentured servitude and child slavery, have existed throughout American history. As industrialization moved workers from farms and home workshops into urban areas and factory work, children were often preferred, because factory owners viewed them as more manageable, cheaper, and less likely to strike. Growing opposition to child labor in the North caused many factories to move to the South. By 1900, states varied considerably in whether they had child labor standards and in their content and degree of enforcement. By then, American children worked in large numbers in mines, glass factories, textiles, agriculture, canneries, home industries, and as newsboys, messengers, bootblacks, and peddlers.
In the early decades of the twentieth century, the numbers of child laborers in the U.S. peaked. Child labor began to decline as the labor and reform movements grew and labor standards in general began improving, increasing the political power of working people and other social reformers to demand legislation regulating child labor. Union organizing and child labor reform were often intertwined, and common initiatives were conducted by organizations led by working women and middle class consumers, such as state Consumers' Leagues and Working Women's Societies. These organizations generated the National Consumers' League in 1899 and the National Child Labor Committee in 1904, which shared goals of challenging child labor, including through anti-sweatshop campaigns and labeling programs. The National Child Labor Committee's work to end child labor was combined with efforts to provide free, compulsory education for all children, and culminated in the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, which set federal standards for child labor.
Read more: http://bit.ly/2onjMaq
The legendary labor organizer Mother Jones railed against child labor on soapboxes across the nation, the AFL-CIO reports:
Mother Jones' organizing methods were unique for her time. She welcomed African American workers and involved women and children in strikes. She organized miners' wives into teams armed with mops and brooms to guard the mines against scabs. She staged parades with children carrying signs that read, "We Want to Go to School and Not to the Mines."...
In addition to miners, Mother Jones also was very concerned about child workers. During a silk strike in Philadelphia, 100,000 workers-including 16,000 children-left their jobs over a demand that their workweek be cut from 60 to 55 hours. To attract attention to the cause of abolishing child labor, in 1903, she led a children's march of 100 children from the textile mills of Philadelphia to New York City "to show the New York millionaires our grievances." She led the children all the way to President Theodore Roosevelt's Long Island home.
The History Channel posted an evocative video on labor's role in ending abusive child labor in the U.S.:
3. Speaking of fairness on the job, a Texas House panel yesterday considered a bill that would require paid rest breaks for construction workers in Texas, the Texas Tribune reports.
It's hard to believe, but some employers in this state have no qualms about leaving construction workers out in 100-degree Texas weather for hours at a time, occasionally raising life-and-death issues.
The United Labor Legislative Committee supports SB 473 by Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso. Our friends at the Workers Defense Project were among those testifying for the bill:
Senate Bill 473 would require 15-minute rest breaks for every four hours of work on construction sites across Texas, where heat is typically linked to at least a handful of workplace deaths each year.
"I think this is a simple, fair-minded proposal to keep Texas construction workers safe," Sen. José Rodríguez, who authored the bill with fellow Democrat Sen. Sylvia Garcia, said at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Economic Development.
The bill would seem to be a long shot in a Republican-controlled Legislature that often hesitates to tighten regulations on businesses. A similar proposal drew no hearing during the 2015 legislative session. But members of both parties took interest Tuesday - particularly following the testimony of the 13-year-old sister of a North Texas construction worker who died from an on-the-job heatstroke in July 2015.
"It's not right he had to die like that," said Jasmine Granillo. "Roendy's death was preventable."
Roendy Granillo was installing a hardwood floor in Collin County when the hot summer sun made him sick. The 25-year-old asked his boss for a water break but was denied, his family says. He died hours later.
Granillo's death was among those cited when the Dallas City Council voted in late 2015 to require 10-minute breaks every four hours. Austin is the only other Texas city to mandate breaks at construction sites.
Federal law does not require employers to give such breaks, but laws in 12 states do, said Emily Timm, deputy director of the Austin-based Workers Defense Project. Texas workers across industries, however, are not even legally entitled to meal breaks.
In 2013, a survey by the Workers Defense Project and the University of Texas at Austin estimated that 39 percent of Texas construction workers don't get rest breaks. About 15 percent of those surveyed reported seeing a coworker faint in the heat.
Read more: https://www.texastribune.org/2017/04/11/senate-considers-requiring-rest-breaks-texas-construction-workers/
4. Micah Haley of the Texas State Employees Union published this strong column in the Dallas Morning News in response to a piece by Attorney General Ken Paxton supporting SB 13, which would take away the economic freedom of state and local employees to support labor organizations through payroll dues deduction:
The issue of union dues and payroll deduction for public employees is a subject I know a thing or two about. I have been a state employee, currently a unit supervisor in Texas Department of Criminal Justice parole division, for 20 years. Nineteen years ago, I voluntarily authorized the Texas State Employees Union to deduct membership dues from my paycheck each month.
To join, I filled out a simple membership form that explained exactly how much my dues would be and what I was authorizing and for whom. I also knew full well that if I wanted to cancel my membership and stop having those dues deducted from paycheck, I could do so at any time by simply filling out another form. Contrary to Attorney General Kan Paxton's claims, there were no bureaucratic roadblocks involved.
Through my 19 years of union membership, I have advocated not just for myself and my coworkers, but also for the public that depends on us to keep them safe, and the parolees who we work with every day. The union is how my coworkers and I engage with our elected leaders on the issues we face as state employees and public servants.
This advocacy costs taxpayers nothing, contrary to Paxton's whopper that state funds were financing the collection of dues money. This myth has already been so thoroughly debunked that all other supporters of this legislation have already stopped making the claim, admitting the cost is negligible.
Paxton managed to personally insult me when he claimed first responders should be allowed to keep payroll deduction of dues. As a parole officer, I have worked with ex-felons on a daily basis for the last 20 years. I have spent most of my adult life protecting the public from danger. And parole officers are not unique among state workers in this. Caseworkers with Child Protective Services, employees in state hospitals and state supported living centers, corrections officers in state jails and youth detention centers, we all put our bodily safety on the line every day as we go to work for the people of Texas. Who is Mr. Paxton to say that our voices aren't worthy to be heard in the Legislature? We should have the same rights afforded other public employees.
Another false claim put forward by Paxton is that my dues go to political purposes I am unaware of. Let me set Mr. Paxton straight: union dues are never used for political or campaign contributions of any kind. Our union has a separate fund for that, which I voluntarily contribute to completely apart from my membership dues.
Our union is a grassroots organization controlled by state employees ourselves through a democratic process. I am an elected leader of my union, representing North Texas on our executive board, which is comprised of other full-time state employees and retirees. The leadership of our union, along with our endorsements, and how we spend our resources is all decided on...by our dues-paying members through frequent elections and membership meetings.
When Attorney General Paxton, Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and other politicians attack public employee unions, they are really attacking me and my fellow state employees. We are the union, and no one should tell me how to spend my hard earned money.
Micah Haley represents North Texas on the executive board of the Texas State Employees Union and he is a unit supervisor for the TDCJ Parole Division in Dallas. Website: cwa-tseu.org