Labour bites

Sex workers unionise

Scotland’s sex workers will be able to join an official union for the adult entertainment industry for the first time. Strippers, burlesque dancers and porn actors, as well as those working in prostitution, will all be able to unionise shortly through a branch of the GMB union in Glasgow, which is being established.

Running a brothel is illegal in Britain, forcing most sex workers to deal with customers alone, leaving them vulnerable to violence. Prostitution has long been considered one of the most high risk occupations in the world and the United Nations, the World Health Organisation and Amnesty International have called on governments to decriminalise it entirely.

Sex worker Megara Furie, 35, set up the adult entertainment industry branch of the GMB union in Scotland. She argued that sex workers need a union to give them the same protection as someone in a ‘normal’ job.

“Our main aims are to secure workers’ safety and workers’ rights,” she said.

The GMB Union commented “From the trade union perspective, it’s an unusual venture, not because of the work they do but because they are self-employed and that’s not how we typically work.” (Source: The Evening Times)

Amazon increases wages but cuts hours

In response to public pressure over the pay of its warehouse workers, Amazon enacted a $15 minimum wage for all its employees on 1 November, including workers at grocery chain Whole Foods, which it purchased in 2017.

But since the wage increase, Whole Food employees say they have experienced widespread cuts that have reduced schedule shifts across many stores, often negating wage gains for employees.

“My hours went from 30 to 20 a week,” said one Whole Foods employee. The Illinois based worker explained that once the $15 minimum wage was enacted, part time employee hours at their store were cut from an average of 30 to 21 hours a week, and full time employees saw average hours reduced from 37.5 hours to 34.5 hours.

“We just have to work faster to meet the same goals in less time,” the worker said. (Source: The Guardian)

Oakland teachers win big

In Oakland California teachers are returning to their classrooms after seven days on strike and bringing $38 million in pay raises with them.

While the city’s 2000 plus teachers didn’t get everything they demanded during the strike, they got a lot more than the district wanted to give them. Most notably, teachers snagged an 11% pay raise over four years and a 3% bonus — nearly double the pay raise district officials had offered before teachers walked off the job.

The school district agreed to hire more school counsellors, psychologists, and special education teachers to shrink the large workloads those staff members have taken on. The district also agreed to give school nurses generous bonuses and raises, as part of an effort to keep and attract school nurses in an area with a high cost of living.

Teachers were less thrilled by other parts of the deal, though — namely, the modest decrease in class sizes and the district also refused to cancel its plans to close about two dozen schools to pave the way for new charter schools or combine low enrolment schools.

School officials did however agree to hold off on some closures and push for a statewide moratorium on charter school expansion.

The Oakland strike gives new energy to a national trend playing out in states across the country. More than 100,000 public school teachers in six states have walked out of class in the past year, rebelling from years of stagnant wages, crumbling infrastructure, and deep budget cuts to education. (Source: Vox)

Women cannot rise at the expense of men

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he wants to see women rise, but not if it leaves men worse off. In an International Women’s Day address in Perth, Mr Morrison told the Chamber of Minerals and Energy “we’re not about setting Australians against each other, trying to push some down to lift others up.”

“That’s not in our values. That is an absolutely Liberal value, that you don’t push some people down to lift some people up. And that is true about gender equality too.

“We want to see women rise. But we don’t want to see women rise only on the basis of others doing worse.” (Source: SBS)

Compiled by John Quessy