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Nice Restaurant

US Restaurant Workers Demanding Livable Wages Amid Reopenings 

America’s restaurant industry has opened up for business, however, a majority of staffers in these eateries are still coping with the hardships of the Covid-19 pandemic, its economic impact, and the responsibility of enforcing health and safety protocols on angry customers for small wages. 

Restaurants all throughout the country have been struggling to find enough workers who are willing to fill open positions for minimum payment. Many industry workers throughout the nation blame the labor shortages on poor pay, unsafe working conditions, disrespect from customers, and concerns over the pandemic in general. 

Iesha Franceis is an employee at a Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers chain in Durham, North Carolina, who recently spoke to the Guardian about why she believes restaurants throughout the nation are struggling.  

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“I currently make $11.40 an hour, employees are still struggling and employers are still not caring, and it’s their own fault these corporations are experiencing worker shortages. We are all still not making livable wages and these companies are still trying to penny pinch any way that they can.”

The leisure and hospitality industry currently has 1.7 million fewer jobs available when compared to before the pandemic. For the food industry, jobs declined by 42,000 in the month of August 2021, and overall has experienced a surge of workers quitting all throughout 2021. 

Francis herself led multiple walkouts at her restaurant over Covid-19 safety concerns and poor working conditions throughout the entire pandemic. This is a common form of protest that many industry workers have turned to in order to show their employers that they should be valued for being an essential worker during a global health crisis, and being paid like they’re working a summer job in high school is not going to cut it anymore. 

Franceis explained “many employees left through the pandemic while operating hours are still reduced, which has left me and my co-workers to deal with increased workloads and work extra hours to try to compensate for staffing shortages.

“Pay me what I’m worth. Because if I can sacrifice myself for your business to keep your wheels turning, then it’s time that you sacrifice yourself to keep my wheels turning. It’s off of our backs that their lives are so easy.”

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A spokesperson for Freddy’s said in an email: “Freddy’s has an uncompromising commitment to safety and expects each of our franchisees to provide a safe working environment for their employees, including following proper cleaning and sanitation protocols. Additionally, as an independent franchisee, the local owner in Durham is solely responsible for setting their employees’ hourly pay and salaries.”

Lily Nicholson is a server at a restaurant in Memphis, Tennessee who discussed the constant harassment and issues workers are facing from customers who refuse to abide by mask mandates and Covid-19 safety protocols. Leading to a much bigger discussion over why low-paid employees are having to deal with verbal abuse from customers when they’re the ones working during a pandemic to provide services. 

“It’s such a precarious scenario. We’ve been the worker who has been deputized into enforcing this rule at the door that you’re supposed to have a mask on, so at the door you already have an altercation,” said Nicholson.

Many fast food employees also had no paid sick leave throughout the entire pandemic, so if they did happen to catch Covid, they were losing money everyday they had to stay home, and in some cases, employees were fired for not showing up. 

Essential workers in every industry are growing tired of not being as valued as the nation has made it seem to be throughout the past two years. Individuals are literally putting their lives on the line to clock into work and make the bare minimum so they can continue to scrap by. Time will tell how much longer the food industry, and others, will be able to last without a proper source of labor. 

Pentagon Announces Vaccine Mandate For Troops Starting In September 

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued a memo this week detailing his request to president Joe Biden to require all US troops to get vaccinated against Covid-19 by mid-September. 

“I have every confidence that Service leadership and your commanders will implement this new vaccination program with professionalism, skill, and compassion.” 

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Austin said that he will be working to make the vaccine mandatory by mid-September or immediately upon the FDA’s full approval. As of right now vaccines in the military are voluntary when under emergency use authorization by the FDA; which all Covid-19 vaccines in America are currently being distributed under. 

President Joe Biden has the ability to waive the rule and make the vaccine a requirement for any government personnel, and in a recent statement Biden claimed he “strongly” supports Austin’s decision to make the vaccine mandatory. 

“I am proud that our military women and men will continue to help lead the charge in the fight against this pandemic, as they so often do, by setting the example of keeping their fellow Americans safe.”

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John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesperson, said the president’s message of support is appreciated but doesn’t necessarily constitute for the approval of a waiver over the vaccine requirement. The Pentagon itself will still have to go through the process of requesting a waiver and receiving approval from the president. 

“You can consider this memo today as what we would call in the military a warning order – a warning order to the force that this is coming, and we want you to be ready for it as well. Obviously we’d prefer that you get the vaccine now and not wait for the mandate,” Kirby explained. 

Military services are already working on preparation and implementation tactics for whenever the vaccine becomes a requirement for military and government personnel. FDA approval for the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine is likely to occur within the next few weeks. 

The Department of Defense released a statement in which they explained that Austin would be consulting with medical professionals and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to best determine how to implement these required vaccines among government groups.

American Airlines

United Airlines Now Requiring All US Employees To Get Covid-19 Vaccinations 

United Airlines will now require all of its 67,000 US employees to get vaccinated against Covid-19 by October 25th or they will risk termination. This is a first for major US travel agencies that will likely ramp up the pressure for rival services. 

Airlines have mainly been offering incentives for vaccinated employees, like extra pay or time off for being inoculated. Delta Air Lines in May started requiring all new employees show proof of vaccination in order to get hired and United followed suit in June. 

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United’s requirements mark the strictest mandate implemented by a travel service in the US so far. Other companies like Facebook and Walmart have announced that they are requiring all corporate employees to show proof of vaccination before returning to the office. 

 United CEO Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart sent out a note to all employees this Friday detailing why this requirement is so important for the future of the company and air travel in general. 

“We know some of you will disagree with this decision to require the vaccine for all United employees. But, we have no greater responsibility to you and your colleagues than to ensure your safety when you’re at work, and the facts are crystal clear: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated.”

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The note detailed that United Airlines employees must upload proof that they received either two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one dose of Johnson & Johnson’s single dose five weeks after federal officials give them approval, or by October 25th, whichever comes first. 

The mandate will not apply to regional airlines that fly shorter express flights for United. 

About 90% of all pilots and 80% of all flight attendants working for United Airlines claim to already be fully vaccinated, according to company officials. So the mandate is more so for employees working on the ground in the airports who see tens of thousands of flyers every day. 

About 60% of all American Airlines pilots are also vaccinated, according to a letter from the company’s union, the Allied Pilots Association, which has been working to get more employees vaccinated. 

The rise in Covid-19 cases last fall combined with the new highly-contagious Delta variant is motivating travel employees to create new ways to protect themselves from future travel. Time will tell what other agencies will follow United’s lead in terms of vaccination requirements.

Money

Billionaires Add $1 Trillion To Their Net Worth As Millions Of Their Workers Struggle For Survival 

Throughout the timeline of the pandemic alone, billionaires in the US have collectively increased their net worth by more than $1 trillion. Many of these billionaire’s US workers, on the other hand, have been struggling to deal with unsafe working conditions that leave them susceptible to potential infection, and without hazard pay or any increase in compensation for working in a pandemic, many have been struggling for survival. 

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO and founder, added more than $70 billion to his new worth during the coronavirus pandemic, bringing his total net worth up to $185 billion. Workers at Amazon and Amazon-owned grocery chain Whole Foods have spent a majority of the pandemic protesting against the unsafe working conditions they’re being forced to work in, and the endless pressures from management to keep up with the overwhelming demand. 

Several workers who have participated or led protests at Amazon over working conditions specifically have alleged that they were fired as a result of their efforts to receive basic level safety. Profits and stockholder shares for the company have increased by billions of dollars throughout 2020, however, Amazon only provided a small fraction of those extra earnings in hazard pay and bonuses for workers on the frontline actually risking their lives everyday to further fill Bezos’ pockets. 

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In fact, Amazon ended all hazard pay back in June 2020, and instead has provided workers with sporadic one-time bonuses. On average workers have seen about a 99 cent increase in their paycheck during the pandemic, for comparison, Bezos earns about $11.7 million every single hour. 

“It’s infuriating that we live in fear every day because of minimal efforts to protect us, while executives take in tons of money while sitting safely at home.”

An anonymous employee working for Amazon recently spoke with the media about the conditions, and chose to keep their identity a secret out of fear that they would be left unemployed and with no source of income. “What they considered hazard pay was just for show. We couldn’t see a difference unless we were willing to work almost 60 hours a week. Several of us had no choice because we’re the breadwinners of our family.”

Jessica Oneto was a Whole Foods employee in California who quit in October 2020 partially due to the working conditions management was forcing upon its employees throughout the pandemic. 

“They gave us hazard pay for maybe a couple months. It was only $2 and they literally took it away as the pandemic got worse. One of the biggest companies couldn’t afford to keep it up?”

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Elon Musk, owner of Tesla Motors, earned an additional $140 billion throughout the pandemic, making him the wealthiest person in the world with a total net worth of $195 billion. Workers for Tesla have been subject to multiple factory Covid outbreaks, and unsafe conditions brought on by Musk himself, who defied local shutdown orders by reopening his plants and resuming factory production. 

Musk even went as far as to threaten his employees if they didn’t also defy the state lockdown orders by sending out an email that implied they would lose unemployment benefits if they didn’t show up to work and risk infection. At least two workers were fired for not showing up due to the fact that they were immunocompromised and worried about getting sick. 

“While people in cubicles stay home to work, we can’t do that and we don’t get any hazard pay/ Nothing has changed. Musk can afford to do so much more and he doesn’t. I find it sickening to see how much Elon Musk’s wealth has grown while we take all the risks. All we get is a ‘thank you so much’ email,” said a Tesla employee at the Fremont plant who also asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. 

Another Fremont employee cited ongoing mistreatment toward Black workers at Tesla specifically: “Musk has not once addressed this issue in his workplace or supported Black Lives Matter. No hazard pay or bonus. They gave all regular workers their regular raise, but being that I’m maxed out at my position I didn’t get anything.”

As the old saying goes the rich get richer while the poor get poorer, and this global health crisis has truly exemplified that. The only positive that workers have seen come out of these obscene billionaire wealth increases is how much more it’s being discussed now. The power of social media has created a large conversation over how America specifically runs, and why it allows this handful of white men to hoard so much wealth while millions of Americans are on the brink of complete homelessness.

Corporate Google Building

Google Illegally Spied On And Fired Employees, According To Legal Complaint

According to a complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Google violated US labor laws when it surveilled and fired workers who were involved in organizing employee protests. The complaint was filed this past Wednesday after a year-long investigation launched in 2019 by two fired employees who filed a petition with NLRB. 

This initial petition filing occurred after hundreds of Google employees carried out internal protests and public demonstrations against Google’s work with US Customs and Border Protection. In 2018, however, is when one of the larger initial employee walkouts occurred and that was in relation to the company’s mishandling of multiple sexual harassment allegations. 

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The recent complaint filed by the NLRB absolved the two terminated employees of any wrongdoing and found that “Google repeatedly violated US labor law by using terminations and intimidation in order to quell workplace activism.” Part of the complaint also found that Google was unlawfully spying on its employees by accessing their personal calendars and other internal documents that they shouldn’t be granted access to without at least asking the employee. 

Laurence Berland is one of the fired workers involved in the complaint who recently spoke with the press about how it’s important that these major tech companies that run the world be held accountable for the way they treat their employees. 

“The NLRB’s move is significant at a time when we’re seeing the power of a handful of tech billionaires consolidate control over our lives and our society.”

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Berland specifically was fired while organizing a protest that would expose Goggle for their continuous effort to work alongside IRI Consultants, a firm that is known for union-busting. “Google’s hiring of IRI is an unambiguous declaration that management will no longer tolerate worker organizing. Management and their union-busting cronies wanted to send that message, and the NLRB is now sending their own message: worker organizing is protected by law,” said Berland.

Kathryn Spiers is the other employee who was named in the complaint, and she was terminated after creating a pop-up message that informed Google employees that they had a right to protest whenever they visited the IRI website. Google surprisingly was public about their accusation against Spiers of violating security policies; a statement which she claims is now hurting her reputation in the tech community. The NLRB agrees with Spiers and has found Google’s firing of her unlawful. 

“This week the NLRB issued a complaint on my behalf. They found that I was illegally terminated for trying to help my colleagues. Colleagues and strangers believe I abused my role because of lies told by Google management while they were retaliating against me. The NLRB can order Google to reinstate me, but it cannot reverse the harm done to my credibility,” Spiers said, continuing on to claim that these massive tech companies with billions of dollars never realize the actual damage they’re inflicting on the workers that keep their platforms afloat. 

The case itself is expected to be heard and decided by an administrative law judge within the next couple of months. The NLRB and Google have both remained relatively quiet regarding the case since it’s ongoing, however, Berland claims that he and his former colleagues will be appealing regardless because the board neglected to add several other worker allegations made within the past year in its filed complaint.

Disney

Disney To Lay Off 32,000 Workers As Theme Parks Continue To Struggle During Pandemic 

The Walt Disney Corporation announced this week that they would be increasing the number of employee layoffs projected for the beginning of 2021 by 4,000. Most of these layoffs are occurring within the theme parks themselves, as most parks throughout the nation are greatly struggling to keep up with the economic loss the Covid-19 pandemic has brought on. 

This increase in layoffs brings Disney’s projected total of employment layoffs to 32,000. The company filed with the SEC this week revealing the extended layoff plans, which will largely take place in Disney Parks, Experiences, and Product sectors. Back in September the entertainment giant announced it would be reducing its workforce by 28,000 employees due to the pandemic. 

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Overall Disney has estimated that the net economic impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on its “full-year segment operating income” was approximately $7.4 billion in losses. The Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products sector accounts for $6.9 billion of those losses as well due to a complete lack in revenue and profit. 

Downtown Disney in California recently reopened some of its shopping and dining facilities, with a slew of Covid-19 restrictions, as a means of making up for some of the loss, however, it’s not nearly enough to make back the billions. 

On October 3rd Disney had approximately 203,000 employees throughout the nation; around 155,000 of those workers were in the Disney Parks, Experiences and Products sectors. The global workforce was made up of around 80% full-time employees and 20% part-time, meaning a lot of these individuals’ livelihoods have been completely uprooted and destroyed from this pandemic. 

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Disney’s merchandise licensing business has also taken a hit amid the pandemic due to a multitude of studio entertainment delays. Theatrical releases of certain films have been cancelled and thus the marketing sectors for those films, shows, and characters have been thrown off their projected schedules as well. This has led to stock piles upon stockpiles of merchandise just sitting in warehouses; like many businesses have seen happen with their product throughout this pandemic. 

Advertising sales at the companies media networks have struggled as well, and direct-to-consumer and international segments are also unable to operate to their fullest extent due to a lack of business. Since March 2020, like most entertainment companies have seen, there has been a significant decline in production and availability of content for Disney. 

Production of most film and television content has been suspended indefinitely until the pandemic is brought under greater control in the US. Disney has claimed that some film and television productions have resumed operations with dozens of restrictions and health and safety measures in place.

Amazon Building

20,000 Amazon Workers In The US Have Tested Positive For Covid-19

After activists have been demanding Amazon for months to disclose information regarding Covid-19 and their workers, the company revealed this week that almost 20,000 of its workers in the US have contracted the coronavirus. Throughout this pandemic, however, Amazon as a brand has been succeeding monumentally when compared to other online retail giants. 

Amazon has faced some major criticisms within the past six months of the pandemic in general. Labor campaigners and union leaders have alleged that the company is putting their employees in danger by keeping so many warehouses open despite individuals contracting the virus who’ve worked in some of these warehouses. 

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Amazon posted on their blog an analysis that showed the rate of infection among 1.4 million American workers was 42% lower than the expected rate of infection to come from a warehouse occupation. 

A breakdown of infection rates on a state-by-state level showed that the highest rate of infection of Amazon employees was in Minnesota where 3.2% of the workers were presumed to have gotten Covid-19 at their place of business; for reference that percentage is double the rate of infection for average individuals working from home in the same area. 

Athena is a coalition of US activist groups that work to campaign for large worker groups all across the country. Most recently they’ve been using their resources to focus on Amazon, and call upon the company to be immediately investigated for how strictly they’ve been abiding by health and safety protections for their workers. Dania Rajendra is the director of Athena who recently claimed the group also wants to ensure Amazon has been regularly reporting on the number of employees with Covid-19 as they’re legally required to do so. 

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 “Amazon allowed Covid-19 to spread like wildfire in its facilities, risking the health of tens of thousands of people who work at Amazon – as well as their family members, neighbors and friends.”

Amazon currently has a market value of $1.6 trillion with its founder and chief, Jeff Bezos, owning the most shares making him the world’s wealthiest individual. Bezos has claimed multiple times that Amazon has been investing “hundreds of millions of dollars” into its own covid-19 testing program as well as tracing efforts. The plan is projected to test 50,000 individuals a day at 650 sites all across the US starting in November. However, Rajendra and the team at Athena isn’t as convinced that Bezos will stick to his word based on his already detrimental decision-making and the fact that this multi-trillion dollar company is still paying its warehouse workers little to nothing to help them cope with the pandemics effects. 

“Amazon is, in no uncertain terms, a threat to public health.” 

Within the blogpost Amazon claimed that they would be giving their employees comprehensive health insurance and paid time off for any worker who needs to be quarantined; a policy workers have been trying to get implemented for months now. The tech giant will also be implementing new cleaning regimes and other safety processes to reduce the spread of the virus, however, after dealing with this virus for over six months now, many individuals are quick to criticize Amazon for their lack of concern over employees previously, and believe these new policies are more of a way to appease the public and make up for the tens of thousands of workers that have already been impacted. 

 

Twitter on Phone

Twitter Chief Executive, Jack Dorsey, Raises Concerns Among Employees After Month Of Crisis

Jack Dorsey is the part-time chief executive of Twitter, a position he’s held for many years now. After years of acquiring what’s referred to as “technical debt,” Twitter has been left extremely vulnerable on the back-end.

Amazon Building

Amazon Employees Suing Company Over Covid-19 Negligence

A group of Amazon employees are suing the massive company, alleging that Amazon has mandated unsafe working conditions within one of their fulfillment centers which directly lead to an outbreak of Covid-19 cases among the warehouse workers, resulting in multiple employee deaths from the virus. 

“This case is about Amazon’s failures to comply with New York law and state and federal public health guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic at the JFK8 facility. The company has relied on purposeful miscommunication with workers, sloppy contact tracing, and the culture of workplace fear it has instilled at JFK to ensure it can maintain productivity while reducing costs, even if that means workers come to work sick and cannot engage in proper hygiene, sanitizing, or social distancing while at work in order to stay healthy,” according to the official legal complaint

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The JFK8 facility is located on Staten Island, and at least one worker has died due to contracting the coronavirus; several others are currently sick. Employees received word this week that new cases were still appearing at the facility. According to one of the main plaintiffs, she alleges that after contractiv Covid-19 from the warehouse she “awoke to find her cousin with whom she lived dead in their bathroom after he developed COVID-19 symptoms as well.” 

Originally the plaintiff also claims she requested paid leave for when she needed to quarantine and Amazon refused to pay it; Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, has made $24 billion during the duration of the coronavirus pandemic alone. However, aside from their back pays, employees aren’t actually seeking financial compensation for past errors in company judgement, instead, they want “an order requiring Amazon to comply with public health guidance to prevent more harm in the future.”

You may remember this specific Amazon fulfillment center for being in the news in March when they fired warehouse employee, Christian Smalls, for organizing a protest against the company’s irresponsible treatment of employees during a worldwide health crisis. Further investigation into Amazon’s handling of that firing revealed that senior leadership from Amazon specifically targeted Smalls to paint him as the face of the entire resistance movement. 

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“If possible, make him the face of the entire union/organizing movement. He’s not smart, or articulate, and to the extent the press wants to focus on us versus him, we will be in a much stronger PR position than simply explaining for the umpteenth time how we’re trying to protect workers,”  the company’s general counsel, David Zapolsky, wrote in the memo.

The Office of New York State Attorney General Letitia James began an investigation in April into the health and safety practices of all Amazon warehouses in New York. “The information so far available to us raises concerns that Amazon’s health and safety measures taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are so inadequate that they may violate several provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act,” James’ staff claims. 

Many individuals have been afraid to speak up due to Smalls’ unjust firing, and the several other NY employees who have been terminated for speaking up against management. An Amazon spokesperson recently emphasized how all they want from the company is to have them abide by all the rules put in place by the CDC and WHO. 

For now, the fight continues, Amazon has responded to these multiple claims by donating over $4 billion to Covid-19 related initiatives; which has given the employees even more motivation to sue, as their company has now been shelling out billions for country wide health and safety practices, but they haven’t even fixed anything in their own warehouses. 

To read the entire legal complaint, click here.

Amazon App

Jeff Bezos Returns To Manage Day-To-Day Operations At Amazon During Pandemic

As one could imagine, orders for Amazon have reached some record highs during this quarantine, and as those order numbers are increasing, so is the amount of warehouse staff walkouts/strikes against the trillion-dollar company and it’s billionaire CEO.