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I originally posted this diary on Jan. 16, 2012.   I felt that with the Black Friday controversies going on, and heavy-handed tactics being used by many companies recently, this would be a good time to re-publish.  Thie group "Retail and Workplace Pragmatists" in now mostly defunct with the departure of Lightbulb, but if there is enough interest it may be a good idea to revive the group, and change the name so it is welcoming to people in ALL types of workplaces.

An individual worker, and even a small group, can feel isolated and powerless.  This diary will try to do something about that by providing a list of some resources that you and your co-workers might be able to call upon.  I have made a few changes to the original diary and will edit as necessary.

Probably the best thing you can do is get together with like-minded co-workers.  If you do this first, you will be in a better position when you contact some of the resources listed below.  This is called "concerted activity" and, at least in theory, is protected by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) or various state and provincial boards.  Your group need not be an "official" union to be covered under the NLRB.  A rough analogy would be the GI coffehouses and unofficial shipboard councils many of us remember form the '60s and '70s  which were quite effective, and not even authorized by law.

Proceed cautiously.  Remember that many retail locations have cameras or microphones, and managers can pop up unexpectedly when workers get together.  They are also very skilled at using the tactic of divide and conquer.  It was stated this way in one of the greatest books ever written.  (The context is different but the principle is the same):


"Keep these two squatting men apart.   Make them hate, fear, suspect each other." -  John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
Doing something about workplace problems can be complex and daunting.  Finding an effective lawyer is not as easy as you would think, government agencies can seem like a hopeless maze, their "protection" can be weak, and creating a union is extremely difficult. . Furthermore, many workers can be quite naive about what rights they do or don't have.  
 I hope that this guide can get you started.  Many of these links contain further links that you may wish to follow.  This guide is tailored mostly to retail workers, but those from other sectors can use it as well, modifying it as necessary.

Jobs With Justice  A coalition with branches in many major cities that advocates and organizes campaigns on behalf of workers.  JWJ can proivide assistance or steer you to someone who can.  An online site with a wealth of information about employment and the workplace.

OUR Walmart  An organization of Wal-Mart workers, which is affiliated with, but not part of, UFCW (see below).  Dues are $5.00 per month.

Interfaith Worker Justice  A group that unites worker and religious groups, and has many local affiliates.

Working America  A virtual on-line site that advocates for worker rights and favorable laws.  A community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, there are no dues.

National Lawyers' Guild  Can provide referrals to worker-oriented attorneys in your area.  This can be important because many lawyers, although well-meaning, do not see things through your eyes.

State and provincial agencies  Many "nuts-and-bolts" workplace regulations, such as wage-and-hour, come under the authority of these agencies.  Enter the name of your jurisdiction plus "Department of Labor" or some similar phrase into a search engine and you will usually get addresses and phone numbers that you can contact.  Keep in mind, however, that how well these agencies enforce such regulations can vary widely, and often there are long delays which can lead to frustration.

College and university labor studies departments  These can provide information and training and many of them can tailor it to your specific needs.

Warehouse Workers for Justice    Limited at this time to warehouse workers in Illinois, WWJ can provide support to those of you in the warehouse sector.

Safety and health issues:  (Thanks to Clio2 who commented on my original diary)


Safety complaints: (3+ / 0-)
OSHA has a toll-free hotline for reporting workplace emergencies or safety hazards that are immediately life-threatening.    1 (800) 321-OSHA.

If it's not as imminent as that, go  here for the details on how to file a complaint with OSHA by telephone or over the Web.

The OSHA website states:

If you think your job is unsafe and you want to ask for an inspection, contact us. It is confidential.

In the mining industry (coal, metals, stone quarrying, sand and gravel, other solid minerals), employees or family members can report any on-the-job hazard, whether or not it is immediately life-threatening, to MSHA, at 1-800-746-1553. That's a sister agency to OSHA.

The MSHA website states:  You do not need to identify yourself!

by Clio2 on Mon Jan 16, 2012 at 06:12:42 PM EST


United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW)   The largest union of retail workers in the U.S. and Canada

Industrial Workers of the World    This union, also known as the "Wobblies", is a union for all workers and is a proponent of what they call "solidarity unionism" and can help you start your own affiliate.

UNITE HERE    This union includes food service workers, a sector in which some of you have commented that you work.

Another word of caution.   Watch out for faux websites that have similar names to the real thing but are simply a ruse.  These may place cookies on your computer to divert you.  

Using these resources, step by step you can increase your confidence.  Remember to be proud of yourself for what you are, proud but not arrogant.  Don't let yourself be defined by the boss's values.  You need to have your own definitions of such terms as a "good work ethic", "loyalty", etc.  When other co-workers become aware of this, it will be easier for them to go along.  Back to Steinbeck:


"...for two men are not as lonely and perplexed as one." - The Grapes of Wrath
Knowledge is power.   I hope this dairy will be of some help to people.

Originally posted to In Support of Labor and Unions on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 10:24 AM PST.

Also republished by Retail and Workplace Pragmatists - Members and Editors and Income Inequality Kos.

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