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This is a personal project by @dellsystem. I built this to help me retain information from the books I'm reading.

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3

THROUGHOUT MARY COLEMAN’S six years as a cook at a Popeyes restaurant in Milwaukee, she remained stuck at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. One afternoon, when she arrived for her shift after an hour-long bus commute, her manager told her to go home without even clocking in. Business was slow, he said, and she wasn’t going to be paid for the day.


For ten years, Keith Barrett worked as a behind-the-scenes software engineer at Disney World in Orlando, helping monitor computers that handled ticket sales and hotel reservations. One day, Barrett and 250 fellow tech workers were stunned to receive layoff notices—Disney was replacing them with guest workers from India on temporary work visas. Many of the laid-off workers grew even more upset when Disney told them they wouldn’t receive any severance unless they agreed to train their replacements.


Jamie Workman became pregnant while working as a CVS cashier in Rocklin, California, northeast of Sacramento. Her eight-hour shifts soon became tiring and painful because she had to stand the whole time; her feet and legs became swollen. At one point, her shift supervisor gave her a stool to sit on for a few hours, but then the store manager ordered her to stop using it, telling her that cashiers weren’t allowed to sit.


Most mornings Jorge Porras reported to his car-wash job in Santa Fe at 8:15 A.M., as instructed, but his boss often didn’t let him clock in until 11:00, sometimes not until noon, whenever customers began lining up. Many days his boss paid him for six hours of work, even though he had worked nine and a half. One day, when the heavy chain that pulled the cars forward got stuck, Porras tried fixing it, but the chain suddenly lurched forward and cut off the top of his right ring finger. That injury forced Porras to miss two weeks of work, during which he didn’t receive any wages or workers’ compensation. When he and several co-workers complained about the unpaid hours and unsafe conditions, the car-wash owner fired them.


Patricia Hughes, a licensed practical nurse, came down with severe pneumonia while caring for a paraplegic in Thornton, Colorado. Coughing, vomiting, and with a 103 fever, Hughes called her manager to say she needed to miss work for two days. “I told him I was so weak that there was no way I could care for and move the patient,” she said. “He responded, ‘If you don’t come in tomorrow, don’t bother ever coming back.’ ” Too sick to work the next day, Hughes was fired, and as a result of losing that job, she was evicted from her apartment.


John Billington, proud of his 4.9 rating as an Uber driver in Los Angeles, was shocked when Uber suddenly chopped its L.A. fares from $2.50 a mile to $1 a mile. As a result, his average weekly gross income fell from over $1,500 to around $750, and that’s before subtracting the cost of gas, auto insurance, maintenance, and depreciation on his car. “Uber dictates everything,” Billington said. “We don’t get any input. It’s unfair.”


After seventeen years of teaching, Laura Fox, an elementary school music teacher in a suburb of Phoenix, was having such a hard time making ends meet that she took a twenty-hour-a-week job at McDonald’s. Fox, whose school district hadn’t raised pay in a decade, often worked at McDonald’s until 11:30 p.m., arrived home around midnight, and woke up at 6:30 to get ready for school. “Some days I was exhausted,” she said. “I work to teach the people who are going to be the future of society. It makes me feel disrespected that they pay teachers so little.”


A week after graduating from college in North Carolina, Desmond Anthony moved to New York to pursue a career as an actor. To support himself, he took a job as a sales clerk and cashier at the Express clothing store in Herald Square. At first his boss assigned him thirty hours of work each week, but after several months his hours were cut to just twelve or fifteen, and some weeks he was assigned no hours at all. Working fifteen hours a week, Anthony earned around $500 a month, not enough to cover his $800 monthly rent, let alone the several hundred dollars more needed for phone, subway, and food. Some days he went hungry, and some weeks he had to ask his parents for money. Anthony repeatedly urged his boss to assign him more hours, but instead of giving him more hours, the store hired more part-time workers, giving it more flexibility to plug workers into its ever-changing schedule. Anthony quit in frustration.

great opening stories and every single one of them infuriating

new tag for working class stories?

—p.3 Losing Our Voice (3) by Steven Greenhouse 7 months, 3 weeks ago

THROUGHOUT MARY COLEMAN’S six years as a cook at a Popeyes restaurant in Milwaukee, she remained stuck at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. One afternoon, when she arrived for her shift after an hour-long bus commute, her manager told her to go home without even clocking in. Business was slow, he said, and she wasn’t going to be paid for the day.


For ten years, Keith Barrett worked as a behind-the-scenes software engineer at Disney World in Orlando, helping monitor computers that handled ticket sales and hotel reservations. One day, Barrett and 250 fellow tech workers were stunned to receive layoff notices—Disney was replacing them with guest workers from India on temporary work visas. Many of the laid-off workers grew even more upset when Disney told them they wouldn’t receive any severance unless they agreed to train their replacements.


Jamie Workman became pregnant while working as a CVS cashier in Rocklin, California, northeast of Sacramento. Her eight-hour shifts soon became tiring and painful because she had to stand the whole time; her feet and legs became swollen. At one point, her shift supervisor gave her a stool to sit on for a few hours, but then the store manager ordered her to stop using it, telling her that cashiers weren’t allowed to sit.


Most mornings Jorge Porras reported to his car-wash job in Santa Fe at 8:15 A.M., as instructed, but his boss often didn’t let him clock in until 11:00, sometimes not until noon, whenever customers began lining up. Many days his boss paid him for six hours of work, even though he had worked nine and a half. One day, when the heavy chain that pulled the cars forward got stuck, Porras tried fixing it, but the chain suddenly lurched forward and cut off the top of his right ring finger. That injury forced Porras to miss two weeks of work, during which he didn’t receive any wages or workers’ compensation. When he and several co-workers complained about the unpaid hours and unsafe conditions, the car-wash owner fired them.


Patricia Hughes, a licensed practical nurse, came down with severe pneumonia while caring for a paraplegic in Thornton, Colorado. Coughing, vomiting, and with a 103 fever, Hughes called her manager to say she needed to miss work for two days. “I told him I was so weak that there was no way I could care for and move the patient,” she said. “He responded, ‘If you don’t come in tomorrow, don’t bother ever coming back.’ ” Too sick to work the next day, Hughes was fired, and as a result of losing that job, she was evicted from her apartment.


John Billington, proud of his 4.9 rating as an Uber driver in Los Angeles, was shocked when Uber suddenly chopped its L.A. fares from $2.50 a mile to $1 a mile. As a result, his average weekly gross income fell from over $1,500 to around $750, and that’s before subtracting the cost of gas, auto insurance, maintenance, and depreciation on his car. “Uber dictates everything,” Billington said. “We don’t get any input. It’s unfair.”


After seventeen years of teaching, Laura Fox, an elementary school music teacher in a suburb of Phoenix, was having such a hard time making ends meet that she took a twenty-hour-a-week job at McDonald’s. Fox, whose school district hadn’t raised pay in a decade, often worked at McDonald’s until 11:30 p.m., arrived home around midnight, and woke up at 6:30 to get ready for school. “Some days I was exhausted,” she said. “I work to teach the people who are going to be the future of society. It makes me feel disrespected that they pay teachers so little.”


A week after graduating from college in North Carolina, Desmond Anthony moved to New York to pursue a career as an actor. To support himself, he took a job as a sales clerk and cashier at the Express clothing store in Herald Square. At first his boss assigned him thirty hours of work each week, but after several months his hours were cut to just twelve or fifteen, and some weeks he was assigned no hours at all. Working fifteen hours a week, Anthony earned around $500 a month, not enough to cover his $800 monthly rent, let alone the several hundred dollars more needed for phone, subway, and food. Some days he went hungry, and some weeks he had to ask his parents for money. Anthony repeatedly urged his boss to assign him more hours, but instead of giving him more hours, the store hired more part-time workers, giving it more flexibility to plug workers into its ever-changing schedule. Anthony quit in frustration.

great opening stories and every single one of them infuriating

new tag for working class stories?

—p.3 Losing Our Voice (3) by Steven Greenhouse 7 months, 3 weeks ago
12
  • From 1948 to 1973, worker productivity and hourly pay rose in tandem (productivity increased 95.7 percent during that span, while hourly compensation climbed 90.9 percent). But from 1973 to 2016, a period of waning union and worker power, productivity rose over six times as fast as compensation. This means that workers are receiving a far smaller share of the increased productivity that they’re providing to their employers.
  • Hard though it may be to believe, average hourly pay for American workers remains below the levels of 1973, after accounting for inflation.
  • CEOs at the largest 350 corporations make 312 times as much as the average worker, up from 59 times in 1990 and 20 times in 1965.
  • Nearly fifty million American workers earn less than $15 an hour. For a full-time worker, that translates to $31,200 a year.
  • The top 1 percent of households received 22 percent of the nation’s income in 2015, up from 9 percent in 1984. That’s the highest percentage the 1 percent has received since the 1920s. The top 10 percent now receive nearly half of the nation’s income (50 percent in 2015), up from one-third in the 1970s. (That of course leaves less for the bottom 90 percent of households.)
  • Americans average 1,780 hours of work per year. That’s 70 hours per year more than the Japanese, 100 hours (two and a half workweeks) more than British workers, 266 hours (six and a half workweeks) more than French workers, and 424 hours (ten and a half workweeks) more than German workers.
  • For college graduates who entered the workforce in June 2018, average hourly pay ($20.37) was just 2.5 percent higher than seventeen years earlier, after adjusting for inflation. For high school graduates with no college credits, average hourly pay ($11.85 for entry-level jobs) was actually down 1.4 percent from 2001.
  • The federal minimum wage of $7.25 is 37 percent below its 1968 level, after factoring in inflation. Indeed, the ratio of America’s federal minimum wage to median hourly income is the lowest among thirty-six industrial nations—the ratio is just 35 percent in the United States, compared with 61 percent in France and 49 percent in Britain.
—p.12 Losing Our Voice (3) by Steven Greenhouse 7 months, 3 weeks ago
  • From 1948 to 1973, worker productivity and hourly pay rose in tandem (productivity increased 95.7 percent during that span, while hourly compensation climbed 90.9 percent). But from 1973 to 2016, a period of waning union and worker power, productivity rose over six times as fast as compensation. This means that workers are receiving a far smaller share of the increased productivity that they’re providing to their employers.
  • Hard though it may be to believe, average hourly pay for American workers remains below the levels of 1973, after accounting for inflation.
  • CEOs at the largest 350 corporations make 312 times as much as the average worker, up from 59 times in 1990 and 20 times in 1965.
  • Nearly fifty million American workers earn less than $15 an hour. For a full-time worker, that translates to $31,200 a year.
  • The top 1 percent of households received 22 percent of the nation’s income in 2015, up from 9 percent in 1984. That’s the highest percentage the 1 percent has received since the 1920s. The top 10 percent now receive nearly half of the nation’s income (50 percent in 2015), up from one-third in the 1970s. (That of course leaves less for the bottom 90 percent of households.)
  • Americans average 1,780 hours of work per year. That’s 70 hours per year more than the Japanese, 100 hours (two and a half workweeks) more than British workers, 266 hours (six and a half workweeks) more than French workers, and 424 hours (ten and a half workweeks) more than German workers.
  • For college graduates who entered the workforce in June 2018, average hourly pay ($20.37) was just 2.5 percent higher than seventeen years earlier, after adjusting for inflation. For high school graduates with no college credits, average hourly pay ($11.85 for entry-level jobs) was actually down 1.4 percent from 2001.
  • The federal minimum wage of $7.25 is 37 percent below its 1968 level, after factoring in inflation. Indeed, the ratio of America’s federal minimum wage to median hourly income is the lowest among thirty-six industrial nations—the ratio is just 35 percent in the United States, compared with 61 percent in France and 49 percent in Britain.
—p.12 Losing Our Voice (3) by Steven Greenhouse 7 months, 3 weeks ago
23

Wise grew irked about the economics of the job. “We took in $1,200 the other day at lunch hour at my Burger King,” he said. “The six workers there cost them $60 or so for that hour.” To be sure, the franchise owner had to pay rent, insurance, franchise fees, and the wholesale cost of the meat, fries, and other food, but Wise was convinced that the franchise owner could pay his workers considerably more and still show a tidy profit.

Wise was haunted by the enduring frustration that his life was in ways a rerun of his mother’s. He grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, and for years his mother, JoAnn Wise, juggled two restaurant jobs—at Hardee’s and Waffle House. “She went to work every morning, early in the morning,” Wise said. “She was immaculate in her uniform. Sometimes I’d see her at work; I’d see her at the counter. She was very quick and always smiling, and everybody knew her name, and everybody loved her,” he said. [...]

“At the time, I didn’t know, but our parents shielded us,” Wise said, noting that many months they still didn’t have enough to pay the bills. “You’d look at my mom, and you’d think she was just happy and life was great. But sometimes I’d go home with her, and the lights were off because we couldn’t pay the electricity bill. Sometimes I’d sign for the food stamps book at our door when the mailman brought it when she was at work. Some days all there was to eat was the loaf of bread on top of the refrigerator.” His mother worked at Hardee’s for twenty-one years but retired from there without any savings, pension, 401(k), or health benefits.

[...]

He concluded that his life and studies would be easier if he moved out. While in tenth grade, he and an eighteen-year-old friend from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes took an apartment together. To help pay the rent, Wise took two fast-food jobs, at Wendy’s and Taco Bell, while going to high school. “I worked thirty hours a week at each one,” he said. “At Wendy’s, we would close at 2 a.m. and then you clean up. Busy nights, we’d work until 4. I’d just stay up, not going to bed. That’s better than going to bed at 5 and waking up at 7 for school. I took lots of Monster energy drinks.”

Wise quit his exhausting Wendy’s job because he was falling asleep in class and falling behind in school, but he ended up dropping out because he couldn’t balance school with his thirty-hour-a-week job at Taco Bell. He was soon facing eviction. That Christmas, an uncle, a union bricklayer in Kansas City, heard about Wise’s plight and invited him to move in with him.

[...]

After quitting high school, Wise landed his best job ever—at a Red Lobster. As a charming, efficient waiter, he received his highest take-home pay ever: for thirty hours’ work, he made $500 a week, including tips. Myoshia also worked there; that was where they met. She became pregnant, and they moved in together into a nice apartment, but then the Red Lobster closed, and it was back to the fast-food grind. He took a job with Burger King and then one at Pizza Hut, too.

“My thinking was, I’m going to go back to school before I’m thirty,” Wise said. “Me and Moe would make plans: she not work for a year and go back to school. Moe was studying to be an LPN [licensed practical nurse]. She was supposed to go back to KU [the University of Kansas] the next year, but she couldn’t afford it.” They abandoned their plans.

fuck

—p.23 A Worker’s Struggle Never Ends (21) by Steven Greenhouse 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Wise grew irked about the economics of the job. “We took in $1,200 the other day at lunch hour at my Burger King,” he said. “The six workers there cost them $60 or so for that hour.” To be sure, the franchise owner had to pay rent, insurance, franchise fees, and the wholesale cost of the meat, fries, and other food, but Wise was convinced that the franchise owner could pay his workers considerably more and still show a tidy profit.

Wise was haunted by the enduring frustration that his life was in ways a rerun of his mother’s. He grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, and for years his mother, JoAnn Wise, juggled two restaurant jobs—at Hardee’s and Waffle House. “She went to work every morning, early in the morning,” Wise said. “She was immaculate in her uniform. Sometimes I’d see her at work; I’d see her at the counter. She was very quick and always smiling, and everybody knew her name, and everybody loved her,” he said. [...]

“At the time, I didn’t know, but our parents shielded us,” Wise said, noting that many months they still didn’t have enough to pay the bills. “You’d look at my mom, and you’d think she was just happy and life was great. But sometimes I’d go home with her, and the lights were off because we couldn’t pay the electricity bill. Sometimes I’d sign for the food stamps book at our door when the mailman brought it when she was at work. Some days all there was to eat was the loaf of bread on top of the refrigerator.” His mother worked at Hardee’s for twenty-one years but retired from there without any savings, pension, 401(k), or health benefits.

[...]

He concluded that his life and studies would be easier if he moved out. While in tenth grade, he and an eighteen-year-old friend from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes took an apartment together. To help pay the rent, Wise took two fast-food jobs, at Wendy’s and Taco Bell, while going to high school. “I worked thirty hours a week at each one,” he said. “At Wendy’s, we would close at 2 a.m. and then you clean up. Busy nights, we’d work until 4. I’d just stay up, not going to bed. That’s better than going to bed at 5 and waking up at 7 for school. I took lots of Monster energy drinks.”

Wise quit his exhausting Wendy’s job because he was falling asleep in class and falling behind in school, but he ended up dropping out because he couldn’t balance school with his thirty-hour-a-week job at Taco Bell. He was soon facing eviction. That Christmas, an uncle, a union bricklayer in Kansas City, heard about Wise’s plight and invited him to move in with him.

[...]

After quitting high school, Wise landed his best job ever—at a Red Lobster. As a charming, efficient waiter, he received his highest take-home pay ever: for thirty hours’ work, he made $500 a week, including tips. Myoshia also worked there; that was where they met. She became pregnant, and they moved in together into a nice apartment, but then the Red Lobster closed, and it was back to the fast-food grind. He took a job with Burger King and then one at Pizza Hut, too.

“My thinking was, I’m going to go back to school before I’m thirty,” Wise said. “Me and Moe would make plans: she not work for a year and go back to school. Moe was studying to be an LPN [licensed practical nurse]. She was supposed to go back to KU [the University of Kansas] the next year, but she couldn’t afford it.” They abandoned their plans.

fuck

—p.23 A Worker’s Struggle Never Ends (21) by Steven Greenhouse 7 months, 3 weeks ago
26

Eleven weeks into their strike, these workers—780 had walked out initially—were holding strong against one of the world’s most powerful manufacturing companies, a behemoth with more than $45 billion in annual revenues, famed for its mighty yellow tractors. The strikers were furious that Caterpillar, in 2012, when it was crowing about record profits, was insisting on a six-year pay freeze for the factory’s more senior workers, representing two-thirds of the workforce. Caterpillar was also demanding a pension freeze in perpetuity for these workers as well as a hefty $3,800 increase in each worker’s annual contribution for health coverage. If acceded to, Caterpillar’s demands meant that the strikers, members of the International Association of Machinists, would have their take-home pay chopped by 20 percent over the life of the contract, after factoring in inflation.

[...]

For Williams, the walkout had taken a toll. After all these weeks on strike without his regular paycheck, he couldn’t even afford the $40 equipment fee for his eleven-year-old to play Little League. Williams, sporting a bold, thick mustache and a black baseball cap that covered his shiny, bald pate, was both worn down and riled up. Before the strike, he was solidly in the American middle class, earning $26 an hour after nineteen years at Caterpillar, $54,000 a year before overtime. In previous contract fights, Caterpillar, unhappy about blue-collar paychecks that large, had pressured its labor unions into allowing a lower wage tier for newer workers, which started at $12 an hour and topped out at $19. Some of these younger factory workers lived in trailers; some needed food stamps to feed their children. In this fight, Caterpillar was refusing to promise raises to even these lower-tier workers, hinting that it might grant them pay increases, depending on vague “local market conditions.”

[...]

To Williams, Caterpillar’s latest push for givebacks was a galling insult. The company’s record profits that year amounted to $45,000 per employee, nearly as much as his base pay. “It’s ridiculous. They’re giving the CEO a 60 percent pay increase, and the employees who make the product are being asked to sacrifice,” Williams said. “This is part of the climate across the country. Corporations are pushing to eliminate pensions and drive wages down.”

—p.26 A Worker’s Struggle Never Ends (21) by Steven Greenhouse 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Eleven weeks into their strike, these workers—780 had walked out initially—were holding strong against one of the world’s most powerful manufacturing companies, a behemoth with more than $45 billion in annual revenues, famed for its mighty yellow tractors. The strikers were furious that Caterpillar, in 2012, when it was crowing about record profits, was insisting on a six-year pay freeze for the factory’s more senior workers, representing two-thirds of the workforce. Caterpillar was also demanding a pension freeze in perpetuity for these workers as well as a hefty $3,800 increase in each worker’s annual contribution for health coverage. If acceded to, Caterpillar’s demands meant that the strikers, members of the International Association of Machinists, would have their take-home pay chopped by 20 percent over the life of the contract, after factoring in inflation.

[...]

For Williams, the walkout had taken a toll. After all these weeks on strike without his regular paycheck, he couldn’t even afford the $40 equipment fee for his eleven-year-old to play Little League. Williams, sporting a bold, thick mustache and a black baseball cap that covered his shiny, bald pate, was both worn down and riled up. Before the strike, he was solidly in the American middle class, earning $26 an hour after nineteen years at Caterpillar, $54,000 a year before overtime. In previous contract fights, Caterpillar, unhappy about blue-collar paychecks that large, had pressured its labor unions into allowing a lower wage tier for newer workers, which started at $12 an hour and topped out at $19. Some of these younger factory workers lived in trailers; some needed food stamps to feed their children. In this fight, Caterpillar was refusing to promise raises to even these lower-tier workers, hinting that it might grant them pay increases, depending on vague “local market conditions.”

[...]

To Williams, Caterpillar’s latest push for givebacks was a galling insult. The company’s record profits that year amounted to $45,000 per employee, nearly as much as his base pay. “It’s ridiculous. They’re giving the CEO a 60 percent pay increase, and the employees who make the product are being asked to sacrifice,” Williams said. “This is part of the climate across the country. Corporations are pushing to eliminate pensions and drive wages down.”

—p.26 A Worker’s Struggle Never Ends (21) by Steven Greenhouse 7 months, 3 weeks ago
44

In the two decades since the Culinary unionized the MGM Grand, MGM’s Las Vegas holdings have expanded to include such giant casinos as the Bellagio, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, the Mirage, and New York–New York. In the Culinary’s 2018 contract negotiations with MGM, one of the hottest issues was the union’s fear that many workers would lose their jobs to new technologies, like robots that vacuum hallways and make room service deliveries and touch screens where customers place restaurant orders. MGM and the Culinary, which has been one of the most farsighted unions on technology issues, agreed to create a committee that is studying how employees can be trained to harness—and work alongside—new technologies, instead of being replaced by them. The contract calls for giving the union 180 days’ warning before MGM deploys new technologies and for MGM to try to find positions for any displaced workers. “You are not going to stop technology,” Taylor said. “The question is whether workers will be partners in its deployment or bystanders that get run over by it….At the end of the day, [MGM] can move forward, but this gives us time to understand the effects.”

should go further tho

—p.44 Helping Workers Hit the Jackpot (33) by Steven Greenhouse 7 months, 3 weeks ago

In the two decades since the Culinary unionized the MGM Grand, MGM’s Las Vegas holdings have expanded to include such giant casinos as the Bellagio, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, the Mirage, and New York–New York. In the Culinary’s 2018 contract negotiations with MGM, one of the hottest issues was the union’s fear that many workers would lose their jobs to new technologies, like robots that vacuum hallways and make room service deliveries and touch screens where customers place restaurant orders. MGM and the Culinary, which has been one of the most farsighted unions on technology issues, agreed to create a committee that is studying how employees can be trained to harness—and work alongside—new technologies, instead of being replaced by them. The contract calls for giving the union 180 days’ warning before MGM deploys new technologies and for MGM to try to find positions for any displaced workers. “You are not going to stop technology,” Taylor said. “The question is whether workers will be partners in its deployment or bystanders that get run over by it….At the end of the day, [MGM] can move forward, but this gives us time to understand the effects.”

should go further tho

—p.44 Helping Workers Hit the Jackpot (33) by Steven Greenhouse 7 months, 3 weeks ago
50

Lemlich had dreams of becoming a doctor, but for a seventeen-year-old girl with no English and few skills, sweatshops were her only real option. Factory life was far worse than she had imagined. Foremen often rousted workers from the bathroom and hustled them back to work. The apparel workers—much like many low-wage workers today—were often cheated, not paid for all the piecework completed and hours worked. At one factory, a manager tricked the workers by moving the clock’s hour hand to five o’clock when it was already six. At another, the boss required each newly hired employee to post a $25 security deposit that would be forfeited if she tried to unionize or protest the low wages. At many factories, the women complained of groping by managers and catcalls from male co-workers. Lemlich hated that the workers were searched like thieves at the end of each workday—to check that they weren’t stealing any thread or apparel. Some factories locked their exit doors to ensure that workers didn’t sneak away with garments."

—p.50 The Uprising of the Twenty Thousand (49) by Steven Greenhouse 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Lemlich had dreams of becoming a doctor, but for a seventeen-year-old girl with no English and few skills, sweatshops were her only real option. Factory life was far worse than she had imagined. Foremen often rousted workers from the bathroom and hustled them back to work. The apparel workers—much like many low-wage workers today—were often cheated, not paid for all the piecework completed and hours worked. At one factory, a manager tricked the workers by moving the clock’s hour hand to five o’clock when it was already six. At another, the boss required each newly hired employee to post a $25 security deposit that would be forfeited if she tried to unionize or protest the low wages. At many factories, the women complained of groping by managers and catcalls from male co-workers. Lemlich hated that the workers were searched like thieves at the end of each workday—to check that they weren’t stealing any thread or apparel. Some factories locked their exit doors to ensure that workers didn’t sneak away with garments."

—p.50 The Uprising of the Twenty Thousand (49) by Steven Greenhouse 7 months, 3 weeks ago
80

IN 1936, Fortune magazine described General Motors as “not big, but colossal,” “the world’s most complicated and most profitable manufacturing enterprise.” With sixty-nine auto plants in thirty-five American cities, GM had 250,000 employees and produced nearly half of the nation’s automobiles. It was an icon of American industry and the world’s largest company.

In sharp contrast, the United Automobile Workers was, at that time, a proverbial ninety-seven-pound weakling. Founded in 1935, the union emerged from a hodgepodge of other labor groupings that had floundered because of factional feuding and fierce opposition from GM and other automakers. Systematic company-sponsored espionage had badly undermined earlier efforts to unionize autoworkers. GM’s spies posed as workers and joined fledgling union chapters so they could tell managers who the activists were. Inside the factories, these spies helped get union supporters fired by snitching to management whenever supporters broke a rule. Company spies sometimes even took positions as officials in union locals and deliberately sowed tensions to divide and weaken the locals. At times, an astonishing number of spies—two hundred—kept tabs on union activities in GM’s plants, with the famed Pinkerton Detective Agency maintaining an office literally next door to the UAW’s Detroit headquarters. [...]

GM’s spies kept close tabs on union activities in Flint, Michigan, which was one of the auto giant’s production hubs, with fifty thousand workers employed at GM’s Chevrolet, Buick, Oldsmobile, Fisher Body, and AC Spark Plug plants there. In the mid-1930s, GM employed 80 percent of Flint’s workforce, with one writer calling Flint, sixty-five miles north of Detroit, “a shabby shrine to the automobile.” Many of Flint’s autoworkers were transplants from Appalachia and the Ozarks, searching for a better life. In 1930, when a predecessor union to the UAW staged a walkout in Flint, police on horseback rode down the strikers, while other police officers arrested union leaders, seized the local’s membership rolls, and prohibited union meetings within city limits.

GM’s spying was so elaborate that in 1936 five of the thirteen executive board members of the UAW’s Flint local were either GM agents or Pinkerton spies. One union supporter told a Senate committee that because of all the surveillance, many autoworkers were too scared to openly back the UAW. “You don’t know who you’re talking to,” he said. “You never take a chance….You get suspicious of everybody.” According to a Senate committee report, spying and union busting had been so successful that auto union membership in Flint had plummeted from several thousand in 1934 to a mere 120 in 1936.

Flint’s union rolls shriveled even as autoworkers complained bitterly of dehumanizing conditions. One Chevy worker said, “Where you used to be a man…now you are less than their cheapest tool.” A New York Times reporter who visited a GM plant in Flint was shocked to see the beehive-like swarm of workers and the speed and monotony of their labor. That reporter, Russell B. Porter, wrote of “thousands of men…perform[ing] the same operation all day or night, five days a week, the year round.” Completing sixty cars an hour, “they seem to work on strings as a monster jerks them back to begin another car,” Porter added. “Speed, speed, speed—that is Flint morning, noon and night.”

One Buick worker complained, “We didn’t even have time to go to the toilet…if there wasn’t anybody to relieve you, you had to run away and tie the line up, and if you tied the line up, you got hell for it.” A Chevrolet worker said, “The supervisors…were just people with a bullwhip, so to speak. All they were interested in was production. They treated us like a bunch of coolies. ‘Get it out. Get it out. If you cannot get it out, there are people outside who will.’ ”

GM’s foremen had nearly absolute power to hire, fire, and discipline, which led to resentment, favoritism, and kickbacks to keep one’s job. Some foremen fired higher-paid, longtime workers and then rehired them at entry-level pay. “We was only beggars…with no power to demand anything that we asked for,” said James Mangold, a Chevy worker in Flint.

Many autoworkers said they could hardly support their families because of the severe seasonal employment that resulted from GM’s frequent plant closings (usually to retool for new models). While GM boasted that it had the highest hourly wages in the industry, many GM workers complained of meager annual earnings. In a 1936 speech in Detroit, President Roosevelt said one autoworker had told him that he worked just sixty-eight days the previous year, meaning he earned around $680 (about $12,000 today).

—p.80 Standing Up by Sitting Down (80) by Steven Greenhouse 7 months, 3 weeks ago

IN 1936, Fortune magazine described General Motors as “not big, but colossal,” “the world’s most complicated and most profitable manufacturing enterprise.” With sixty-nine auto plants in thirty-five American cities, GM had 250,000 employees and produced nearly half of the nation’s automobiles. It was an icon of American industry and the world’s largest company.

In sharp contrast, the United Automobile Workers was, at that time, a proverbial ninety-seven-pound weakling. Founded in 1935, the union emerged from a hodgepodge of other labor groupings that had floundered because of factional feuding and fierce opposition from GM and other automakers. Systematic company-sponsored espionage had badly undermined earlier efforts to unionize autoworkers. GM’s spies posed as workers and joined fledgling union chapters so they could tell managers who the activists were. Inside the factories, these spies helped get union supporters fired by snitching to management whenever supporters broke a rule. Company spies sometimes even took positions as officials in union locals and deliberately sowed tensions to divide and weaken the locals. At times, an astonishing number of spies—two hundred—kept tabs on union activities in GM’s plants, with the famed Pinkerton Detective Agency maintaining an office literally next door to the UAW’s Detroit headquarters. [...]

GM’s spies kept close tabs on union activities in Flint, Michigan, which was one of the auto giant’s production hubs, with fifty thousand workers employed at GM’s Chevrolet, Buick, Oldsmobile, Fisher Body, and AC Spark Plug plants there. In the mid-1930s, GM employed 80 percent of Flint’s workforce, with one writer calling Flint, sixty-five miles north of Detroit, “a shabby shrine to the automobile.” Many of Flint’s autoworkers were transplants from Appalachia and the Ozarks, searching for a better life. In 1930, when a predecessor union to the UAW staged a walkout in Flint, police on horseback rode down the strikers, while other police officers arrested union leaders, seized the local’s membership rolls, and prohibited union meetings within city limits.

GM’s spying was so elaborate that in 1936 five of the thirteen executive board members of the UAW’s Flint local were either GM agents or Pinkerton spies. One union supporter told a Senate committee that because of all the surveillance, many autoworkers were too scared to openly back the UAW. “You don’t know who you’re talking to,” he said. “You never take a chance….You get suspicious of everybody.” According to a Senate committee report, spying and union busting had been so successful that auto union membership in Flint had plummeted from several thousand in 1934 to a mere 120 in 1936.

Flint’s union rolls shriveled even as autoworkers complained bitterly of dehumanizing conditions. One Chevy worker said, “Where you used to be a man…now you are less than their cheapest tool.” A New York Times reporter who visited a GM plant in Flint was shocked to see the beehive-like swarm of workers and the speed and monotony of their labor. That reporter, Russell B. Porter, wrote of “thousands of men…perform[ing] the same operation all day or night, five days a week, the year round.” Completing sixty cars an hour, “they seem to work on strings as a monster jerks them back to begin another car,” Porter added. “Speed, speed, speed—that is Flint morning, noon and night.”

One Buick worker complained, “We didn’t even have time to go to the toilet…if there wasn’t anybody to relieve you, you had to run away and tie the line up, and if you tied the line up, you got hell for it.” A Chevrolet worker said, “The supervisors…were just people with a bullwhip, so to speak. All they were interested in was production. They treated us like a bunch of coolies. ‘Get it out. Get it out. If you cannot get it out, there are people outside who will.’ ”

GM’s foremen had nearly absolute power to hire, fire, and discipline, which led to resentment, favoritism, and kickbacks to keep one’s job. Some foremen fired higher-paid, longtime workers and then rehired them at entry-level pay. “We was only beggars…with no power to demand anything that we asked for,” said James Mangold, a Chevy worker in Flint.

Many autoworkers said they could hardly support their families because of the severe seasonal employment that resulted from GM’s frequent plant closings (usually to retool for new models). While GM boasted that it had the highest hourly wages in the industry, many GM workers complained of meager annual earnings. In a 1936 speech in Detroit, President Roosevelt said one autoworker had told him that he worked just sixty-eight days the previous year, meaning he earned around $680 (about $12,000 today).

—p.80 Standing Up by Sitting Down (80) by Steven Greenhouse 7 months, 3 weeks ago
83

Workers at the Goodyear tire plant in Akron, Ohio, had conducted several sit-down strikes in the spring of 1936, while French workers had staged a huge wave of such protests that May and June. The sit-down had many advantages over traditional strikes. In typical strikes, workers trudged back and forth in front of their workplace, exposed to cold, rain, and snow. The police often attacked them, and replacement workers could easily take their jobs while the strikers picketed outside. With sit-downs, however, the workers were comfortably indoors, staying at or near their machines so “scabs” couldn’t take their jobs. Management was reluctant to send in the police to oust sit-downers out of fear that the company’s valuable machinery would be damaged or sabotaged. With most workers still too scared to stand up in favor of a union, it often took only a few dozen militant unionists to shut down an entire factory through a sit-down.

[...]

From the very first day, as Sidney Fine explains in Sit-Down: The General Motors Strike of 1936–1937, the strike became a huge story, the lead article in newspapers across the nation. The sit-downers occupied the north end of the giant Fisher No. 1 plant because that section had the cafeteria and many finished car bodies to sleep in. The workers formed a fourteen-member governing council and a dozen committees: for food, education, press, sanitation, recreation, postal services, and more. The governing council banned liquor and established daily cleanup crews and six-hour-long patrols to watch for counterattacks and company spies. The sit-downers even set up a reading room—the chairs were car seats—and invited theater groups to perform. And the sit-downers sang. One song that became popular was this:

When the speed-up comes, just twiddle your thumbs,
Sit down! Sit down!
When the boss won’t talk, don’t take a walk,
Sit down! Sit down!

[...]

America’s corporate leaders condemned the sit-down, with one business group commenting that if workers “can seize premises illegally, hold [them] indefinitely, refuse admittance to owners or managers…and threaten bloodshed [in] all attempts to dislodge them…then freedom and liberty are at an end, government becomes a mockery, superseded by anarchy, mob rule and ruthless dictatorship.”

—p.83 Standing Up by Sitting Down (80) by Steven Greenhouse 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Workers at the Goodyear tire plant in Akron, Ohio, had conducted several sit-down strikes in the spring of 1936, while French workers had staged a huge wave of such protests that May and June. The sit-down had many advantages over traditional strikes. In typical strikes, workers trudged back and forth in front of their workplace, exposed to cold, rain, and snow. The police often attacked them, and replacement workers could easily take their jobs while the strikers picketed outside. With sit-downs, however, the workers were comfortably indoors, staying at or near their machines so “scabs” couldn’t take their jobs. Management was reluctant to send in the police to oust sit-downers out of fear that the company’s valuable machinery would be damaged or sabotaged. With most workers still too scared to stand up in favor of a union, it often took only a few dozen militant unionists to shut down an entire factory through a sit-down.

[...]

From the very first day, as Sidney Fine explains in Sit-Down: The General Motors Strike of 1936–1937, the strike became a huge story, the lead article in newspapers across the nation. The sit-downers occupied the north end of the giant Fisher No. 1 plant because that section had the cafeteria and many finished car bodies to sleep in. The workers formed a fourteen-member governing council and a dozen committees: for food, education, press, sanitation, recreation, postal services, and more. The governing council banned liquor and established daily cleanup crews and six-hour-long patrols to watch for counterattacks and company spies. The sit-downers even set up a reading room—the chairs were car seats—and invited theater groups to perform. And the sit-downers sang. One song that became popular was this:

When the speed-up comes, just twiddle your thumbs,
Sit down! Sit down!
When the boss won’t talk, don’t take a walk,
Sit down! Sit down!

[...]

America’s corporate leaders condemned the sit-down, with one business group commenting that if workers “can seize premises illegally, hold [them] indefinitely, refuse admittance to owners or managers…and threaten bloodshed [in] all attempts to dislodge them…then freedom and liberty are at an end, government becomes a mockery, superseded by anarchy, mob rule and ruthless dictatorship.”

—p.83 Standing Up by Sitting Down (80) by Steven Greenhouse 7 months, 3 weeks ago
89

A week after meeting with Perkins, Sloan told her that he would meet with UAW leaders and Lewis, but Sloan soon reversed himself, saying it was indefensible for the sit-downers to throw so many other GM employees out of work. His about-face enraged Perkins. In a phone conversation, she told Sloan, as she later recalled, “You are a scoundrel and a skunk, Mr. Sloan. You can’t do that kind of thing. That is a rotter….You don’t deserve to be counted among decent men. Decent people don’t do such things….You have betrayed your government. You have betrayed the men who work for you.”

Sloan was appalled, telling Perkins, “You can’t talk like that to me! I’m worth $70 million, and I made it all myself. You can’t talk like that to me! I’m Alfred Sloan.”

love it

—p.89 Standing Up by Sitting Down (80) by Steven Greenhouse 7 months, 3 weeks ago

A week after meeting with Perkins, Sloan told her that he would meet with UAW leaders and Lewis, but Sloan soon reversed himself, saying it was indefensible for the sit-downers to throw so many other GM employees out of work. His about-face enraged Perkins. In a phone conversation, she told Sloan, as she later recalled, “You are a scoundrel and a skunk, Mr. Sloan. You can’t do that kind of thing. That is a rotter….You don’t deserve to be counted among decent men. Decent people don’t do such things….You have betrayed your government. You have betrayed the men who work for you.”

Sloan was appalled, telling Perkins, “You can’t talk like that to me! I’m worth $70 million, and I made it all myself. You can’t talk like that to me! I’m Alfred Sloan.”

love it

—p.89 Standing Up by Sitting Down (80) by Steven Greenhouse 7 months, 3 weeks ago
92

The day of the settlement, the sit-downers marched triumphantly out of the Flint plants, proud that they were not vacating under a sheriff’s order. Thousands of supporters cheered them as the strikers sang “Solidarity Forever.” Outside the plant hung a fifty-foot banner proclaiming, “VICTORY IS OURS.” Roy Reuther described the scene: “I never saw a night like that and perhaps may never see it again. I liken it to…a country experiencing independence.”

Suddenly thousands of autoworkers who had been too scared to support the union or who had doubted that it could succeed flocked into the UAW’s ranks. Its membership nationwide soared from 88,000 in February 1937 to 400,000 in October. By late 1941, it had jumped to 649,000.

—p.92 Standing Up by Sitting Down (80) by Steven Greenhouse 7 months, 3 weeks ago

The day of the settlement, the sit-downers marched triumphantly out of the Flint plants, proud that they were not vacating under a sheriff’s order. Thousands of supporters cheered them as the strikers sang “Solidarity Forever.” Outside the plant hung a fifty-foot banner proclaiming, “VICTORY IS OURS.” Roy Reuther described the scene: “I never saw a night like that and perhaps may never see it again. I liken it to…a country experiencing independence.”

Suddenly thousands of autoworkers who had been too scared to support the union or who had doubted that it could succeed flocked into the UAW’s ranks. Its membership nationwide soared from 88,000 in February 1937 to 400,000 in October. By late 1941, it had jumped to 649,000.

—p.92 Standing Up by Sitting Down (80) by Steven Greenhouse 7 months, 3 weeks ago