By Harry Kelber | The World of Labor | September 15, 2012

The 26,000 Chicago teachers had many grievances to induce them to go on strike — the first time the union had taken that action in 25 years. They felt that reliance on "test scores" was a poor way to evaluate a teacher’s performance; they objected to the class size, which could number more than 40 students; they were frustrated at not receiving ordered educational materials, and they felt they deserved a pay increase.

But what infuriated them most was being treated with disrespect, as though they didn’t know their job. Criticism came from education authorities, whose comments radiated through to the public. The union had to contend with Rahm Emanuel, the tough guy who had been chief of staff to Obama.

Fortunately, the union president, Karen Lewis, was as tough as Emanuel. Lewis called Rahm a "bully" and said, at an open rally, "The only way to beat a bully is to standup to the bully."

Schools were shut down for the week and will open Monday. The union will discuss the issues in the contract before making any public announcement.

Brussels Drops EU Plan to Limit the Right to Strike

The European Commission (EU) has withdrawn proposed legislation limiting workers’ right to strike, amid a furor from trade unions and EU lawmakers in Parliament, who waved a "yellow card" to Brussels for stepping over national sovereignty. Lazlo Andor, EU Employment Commissioner announced the decision to abandon the proposal to members of Parliament on Sept. 12.

Critics had condemned the so-called Monti II regulation over its implication for European social rights and because it "restricts the right to take collective action." This was the first time that national parliaments had triggered the so-called "yellow card" principle, enshrined in the 2009 Treaty of Lisbon.

"The Lisbon Treaty is far from perfect, but the yellow-card rule is an important counterbalance against the EU’s powers, This is the first time it has made its mark and we welcome the Commissioner’s acknowledgement of it," said Conservative Employment spokesman Anthea McIntyre, member of Parliament.

Millions of Low-Wage Filipinos to Get Pay Rise This Year

Millions of Filipino who earn a minimum daily wage in 11 regions of the country will get an increased minimum daily wage this year. Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz announced on Sept. 14. Baldoz said the 11 Regional Wage and Productivity Boards have already approved their respective new wage orders, granting to minimum wage earners either in the form of basic pay or cost of living allowances (CLA).

Baldoz said the new wage system took into consideration that of ensuring more effective protection to vulnerable workers and reducing inequality, while encouraging productivity growth in the region. The new wage-fixing tool is beneficial to both the enterprises and the workers. It encourages worker productivity, good performance and competitiveness favorable to business, Baldoz said.

While addressing a host of unintended outcomes like inflation and unemployment, Baldoz noted that in some regions, the minimum wage was below the poverty rate, and that was what the new wage system is designed to correct.

Death Toll at Karachi Factory Rises to 289

The death toll from a fire at a garment factory in Karachi rose to 289, as more bodies were recovered from the gutted building, the city’s top administrative official said Sept. 12. Karachi’s chief of police, Iqbal Mahmood, said that rescue teams were still trying to gain access to parts of the factory, which caught fire late the night before.

"We found dozens of people dead in a large room of the factory’s basement. It was totally burnt and parts of it were smoldering, which we put out before shifting the bodies to hospitals." said Karachi fire chief Ehtesham Salim. The factory made plastic utensils and under garments.The blaze was the biggest fire in Karachi in terms of deaths in decades. Undoubtedly, there will be an investigation of the causes of the fire.

IPhone Manufacturer Responds to Accusations

The company that manufactures Apple’s IPhones has responded to an accusation that vocational students are forced to work in its Chinese factories by saying that its agreement with their schools allow them to leave.

China Labor Watch, a Hong Kong group, said that Foxconn, which employs 1.2 million people in China, employed students in its factories, aged 16 to 18. It cited employees a saying some wanted to leave, but were compelled by their schools to stay.

Foxconn, owned by Taiwan’ Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., takes interns from vocational schools who work from one to six months in its facilities. Students receive the same wages as entry-level employees and are accompanied by teachers who monitor them throughout the program.

Foxconn makes IPhones and IPads for Apple Inc. and also assembles products for Microsoft Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. It has factories in the southern city of Shenzhen.

Tyson Poultry Workers Wait 12 Years for Back Pay

After a 12-year legal struggle, more than 12,000 Tyson poultry workers in 41 plants in 12 states will receive their payments from the largest settlement against a major poultry company at $32 million. Thanks to the tenacity and dedication of thousands of workers from across the country and the support of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, workers involved in the suit will receive payments averaging $1,200 in lost wages.

The success of the Tyson’s settlement for poultry workers is just one in a series of actions where workers continue to fight and take a stand for workers’ rights around the country in poultry and meatpacking plants and to make sure that standards are upheld.

THE lawsuit charged Tyson with violating the Fair Labor Standards Act and cheating their poultry plant employees of wages for the time they spent putting on and taking off their protective clothing

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