Occupational Health News Roundup

At the Guardian, reporters Oliver Laughland and Mae Ryan report on working conditions inside Donald Trump’s Las Vegas hotel. Right away, the article notes that while the presidential candidate tours the country selling his job-creating skills, workers in his hotel say they get paid about $3 less an hour than many of Las Vegas’ unionized hotel workers, who also enjoy better health and retirement benefits. They write:

Earlier this month, following a protracted dispute with Trump and his co-owner, casino billionaire Phil Ruffin, the National Labor Relations Board officially certified a union for over 500 staff at the hotel. Workers argue they have been subjected to surveillance, intimidation, and unlawful dismissal as they have sought to organize.

Hotel management has so far consistently rejected calls to sit down and negotiate a new contract and appear likely to appeal the certification. It is estimated by the Culinary Workers Union that 98% of casinos and hotels on the strip and in downtown Las Vegas are unionized, making the company’s stance a near total outlier. Meanwhile, the billionaire’s campaign filings reveal he values his stake in the hotel at $50m, with a generated income of more than $27m.

The article profiles a number of workers involved the fight to unionize, including Maricella Olvera:

Olvera left her impoverished hometown in Central Mexico in 1987. She trekked for three days on foot to cross the U.S. border, eventually making it to Salinas, California, where she immediately started work on the fields. She picked broccoli, lettuce and berries for 14 hours a day, seven days a week. Only 14 years old, she started sending money back to her family straight away.

Twenty-nine years on, Olvera is now a permanent resident of the U.S., with two sons about to graduate from medical school. Like almost 70% of unionized workers at the Trump hotel who are also immigrants, she worries about job insecurity while suffering the indignity of a boss running for president on an aggressive immigration platform that leaves the staff themselves feeling targeted.

“He has said bad things,” she said stridently. “I know my people. My people work in the fields, my people [are] kitchen workers, my people [are] landscaping – honest people, working hard to make money. Nobody give you nothing for free.”

To read the full article, visit the Guardian.

In other news:

The New York Times: Marc Santora reports that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced he supports collective bargaining rights for the state’s 60,000 farmworkers, and that the state rejects a loophole in federal labor laws that leaves farmworkers without a protected right to organize. The governor’s statement came just after the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint in court arguing that not allowing farmworkers to organize violates the state constitution. Santora quoted Cuomo as saying: ““We will not tolerate the abuse or exploitation of workers in any industry. This clear and undeniable injustice must be corrected.”

Reveal: Andrew Donohue writes about Reveal’s in-depth investigation into the lack of women coaches in collegiate sports. Today, men run most athletic departments and get a majority of coaching jobs in women’s sports. The investigation found that women coaches say they continue to be retaliated against for speaking up about discrimination, and coaches who do speak up are often accused of abusing players. The story illustrates the problem with events that unfolded at the University of Iowa, where the athletic director forced out five women coaches in six years, replacing two with men who got paid 25 percent more than their female predecessors. The three who were replaced with other women got paid 13 percent less. Read the full investigation, authored by Annie Brown, here.

Bloomberg: Jing Cao and Eric Newcomer report that Uber has agreed to start a guild for 35,000 New York drivers that will help workers negotiate with the cab company, though the guild will have less power than a traditional union. The new worker group will be known as the Independent Drivers Guild and will be an affiliate of the International Association of Machinists District 15. The reporters write: “The New York guild’s power to resolve some of drivers’ main gripes with Uber is limited. The group, which is partially funded by Uber, won’t be able to turn to the National Labor Relations Board, for instance, to intervene on issues. The guild will have little power to negotiate over fares. Independent contractors are legally prohibited from collectively bargaining.”

Huffington Post: Dave Jamieson and Cristian Farias report that the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a constitutional challenge to Seattle’s gradual minimum wage increase to $15. The challenge was brought by the International Franchise Association, which argued that the new minimum wage law discriminates against small business. The two reporters write: “The court’s refusal to take the case didn’t note the justices’ rationale, but it is possible that the potential for a 4-to-4 split along ideological lines — as a result of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death — might have played a role in the decision. The challenge to the Seattle law was significant because more and more cities are likely to pass similar ordinances.”

Kim Krisberg is a freelance public health writer living in Austin, Texas, and has been writing about public health for nearly 15 years.

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