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UAW Thinks Six Years Is A Real Long Time To Be A 'Temporary' Worker
Also, 75,000 Kaiser Permanente workers have walked out.
Back in olden times, people would very often finish school, get a job, and then just stay with that same company for decades, often climbing the ranks to the top. These days, the median tenure of any employee is only about four years — and the median tenure for someone working in manufacturing is about five.
Thus, it is pretty surprising that someone who has been working at an auto manufacturing plant for, oh, six years, or even 10 years, would be considered a “temporary employee.”
But that is exactly what is happening at many of these plants and it’s one of the issues the UAW is striking over. These “temporary workers” do the exact same work as the permanent workers do, but they are paid significantly less and have fewer benefits and erratic work schedules they can’t count on from one week to the next. One week, they may work six days and be told they have to stay after permanent employees can go home for the night, and another they may only work one day. Many have to take flexible second jobs in order to get by.
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Stellantis, where 12 percent of all workers are “temps,” is the biggest offender here. To start, they make $15.78 an hour, which the Associated Press noted is less than some fast food joints pay these days, and their pay gets capped at $19.28 after four years.
But hopefully that will be changing soon.
Under contracts negotiated in 2019, temporary workers reach full-time status at GM after 19 months of continuous employment and at Ford after two years. At Stellantis, maker of Jeeps, Rams and Chryslers, they get preferential hiring but no guarantees.
In the current negotiations, GM and Stellantis have made offers to increase temporary worker starting pay from $16.67 to about $20 per hour. Ford raised its offer to $21 per hour with profit sharing and said it would make temporaries full-time workers after 90 days of continuous service.
Once temporary workers become full time, they start on a higher pay scale that eventually would reach the top assembly plant wage of $32 per hour.
Ford’s solution sounds reasonable, given that only 3 percent of their workers are temporary. The other two … clearly have a way to go until it doesn’t look like they’re scamming anybody.
This shouldn’t need to be said, but insecure work situations are not just bad for employees (though they are very bad for employees), they are bad for the economy. If people don’t know when they will be working, if they don’t know how much they are going to make from week to week, they’re going to be extra careful with how they budget their money. Ironically, this kind of economic instability is going to make people less likely to do things like “lease cars.”
Two temporary employees, both parents, at the Jeep assembly plant in Toledo, Ohio, cited “healthcare” as the main reason they stay with the job. This is very understandable given that if they left and got a new job, they’d have to wait up to 90 days to have health insurance (or pay a hell of a lot of money for COBRA), and that is a pretty difficult choice to make when you have kids.
But both say that there isn’t much reason to stay, beyond the healthcare, if things don’t change.
Meanwhile, 75,000 Kaiser Permanente Workers Walked Out On Wednesday
In what is now the largest walkout in the history of US healthcare, 75,000 Kaiser Permanente health care workers walked out after contract negotiations with their employer failed. Clearly, Kaiser Permanente didn’t get the message that this is what’s happening now and failed to get with the program.
Kaiser Permanente is sort of a combination nonprofit health insurance company and health care provider — employers buy memberships for their employees, and their employees then go to their hospitals and doctor’s offices to access their services. However, despite being a nonprofit, the company rakes in billions of dollars a year from these memberships and the workers are alleging that they are not reinvesting that money back into the company as they are supposed to do, but rather hoarding it all on the side. In the first six months of this year, the profits were around $3 billion.
Nonprofits are allowed to keep a certain amount of profits for an emergency or rainy day, but they are supposed to put the majority of what they earn into the company to pay workers and take care of other costs.
The workers, 40 percent of whom are represented by a coalition of unions, say they want an increase in pay and a commitment to hiring more workers, because they are still overwhelmed and burnt out from the COVID pandemic.
They also say the increase in pay the company offered was not commensurate with the cost of living, particularly in California, where Kaiser Permanente has the largest presence.
Rocio Chacon, a striking Kaiser worker who serves on the union’s negotiating committee, said many employees cannot afford to live in the cities where they work due to the rising cost of living, and some workers resort to sleeping in their cars.
“As we speak there are nurses that are sleeping in their cars because of two reasons. One, they can’t afford cost of living here so they have to move two, three hours (away) and then because of short staff they’re working 14, 16 hours so they’re tired,” Chacon said. “So, their best choice is to be Monday through Friday in their cars.”
Oh, the joys of late capitalism! People literally cannot afford to live near where they work anymore and are sleeping in cars as a result. Is that bad? It seems bad. If your employees can only afford to live two or three hours away from where you are located, that is kind of a problem.
These are healthcare workers. They are responsible for people’s health and well-being. We do not want them to be overworked or overtired or burnt out, because that is how people die. That is how the wrong limbs get amputated. We, as consumers, deserve to have well-staffed medical facilities and workers that are not burnt out or exhausted or sleeping in their cars.
What makes this strike particularly hard-hitting is that Kaiser Permanente membership only covers medical care done by Kaiser Permanente hospitals and medical offices, except in emergencies. So they better get it together soon and offer these workers a much more fair contract.
Have You Seen The Department Of Labor’s Yearly Guide To Child Labor And Forced Labor?
Didn’t catch this earlier, but late last month the Department of Labor released its yearly guide to child labor and forced labor around the world, detailing which industries in which countries are using child labor, forced labor and forced child labor. There’s both an informative PDF pamphlet and a searchable list that shows not only the products that are made with child labor or forced labor, but actually details what is going on.
In Thailand’s garment industry, for example:
There are reports that mostly girls as young as 11 are forced to produce garments in Thailand. Migrant children from Laos and Burma are particularly vulnerable. The ILO, media, trade unions, government raids, and NGOs report forced child labor in garment factories in Bangkok and along the Burma border in Mae Sai and Mae Sot. Many children live at the worksite, and their freedom of movement is sometimes restricted through confiscation of identity documents and threats of arrest. Children are often forced to work long hours and overtime, and are paid little, if at all. Some are not provided sufficient food and are physically abused. Mistakes made during the course of work are sometimes penalized with wage deductions.
Well … that is certainly horrifying.
Remember when it was a big giant scandal that Kathie Lee Gifford had her products made by children in sweatshops, but then companies just continued having their products made by children in sweatshops and everyone just kind of got okay with it? Because there’s just so, so much bad in the world that it feels really freaking overwhelming?
That was not a great trajectory for us.