DISHING IT OUT
CHARLEEN POKORNIK DOESN’T FEEL LIKE HER OWN BOSS. If she can prove it she’ll be a lot better off.
Charleen is a delivery driver for the Skip the Dishes online food delivery service franchise in Winnipeg. They call her an “independent contractor.” She says she’s not. She wants to go to court to prove it.
Charleen is seeking class-action certification for her lawsuit. She alleges the company misleads its workers by telling them they are private contractors. It’s a claim the company uses to deny its workers all that is due them under the law.
BAM! YOU’RE UNIONIZED!
Aaron Doncaster lead union drive at Calgary Hilton hotel
FIRING AARON DONCASTER WAS A BIG MISTAKE. The managers of the Hilton Garden Inn in Calgary thought it would bust a United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) organizing drive. It lead to instant certification of the union instead.
Hilton management fired Aaron last September. They claimed his work schedule showed signs of tardiness. The Alberta Labour Relations Board (ALRB) wasn’t buying it.
THE GIG IS UP
Uber driver Sami: I had to force myself to stop the car
SAMI SOMETIMES FELL ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL. Not so good when you are an Uber driver. But it’s the kind of thing that can happen when you work in the so-called “gig economy.”
Sami needed the Uber gig to make ends meet. He could clock off after an eight-hour shift at his day-job in a supermarket, hop into his car and log straight on to the Uber app.
BARS ARE A GREAT PLACE TO VISIT, BUT YOU WOULDN’T WANT TO WORK THERE. That’s the story all across Canada.
It's certain the work in bars and restaurants will be hard. Everything else about the work is uncertain: hours are erratic, pay unpredictable, working conditions stressful, management overbearing or inept, job security non-existent.
KATE SMITH IS WORKING HERSELF OUT OF A JOB. She doesn’t seem to mind. It's all part of our love/hate relationship with automation.
Kate (not her real name) works as a cashier at a Home Depot store in Ottawa. She’s happy there: working her cash, and often helping customers trying to navigate the automated self-checkout machines.
She says it’s fine with her if some cashiers prefer to stay at their stations. But she’s happy to join those who welcome the opportunity to “bop around” at the self-checkout.
THE DEMAND FOR DECENT WORK IN ONTARIO AIN’T OVER TILL IT’S OVER. That was the message thousands flooded into downtown Toronto to deliver to the brand new Doug Ford government in Ontario, just nine days after his June 7 victory.
The rally put Ford on notice: there would be no backsliding. The important labour law reforms in 2018 that came with the passage of Bill 148: Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act must be honoured.
“The people of Ontario expect a $15 minimum wage on January 1, 2019 and you can see from the crowd that I am not alone,” said Yvette LeClair, a Toronto worker.
PHOTO: Jasmin Ngan
Worker action ends Trump use of airlines to separate families
FLIGHT ATTENDANTS JUST SAID NO. They simply refused to be part of Donald Trump’s plan to separate immigrant kids from their moms and dads. There was no way they could justify it: not as flight attendants; not as human beings.
They took to Facebook to express their anguish and anger about being drawn into Trump’s scheme. They drew a line. They said it was work they could not, should not, and would not be forced to do. They vowed to refuse to work on future flights carrying little kids away from their parents.
Their personal posts on Facebook went viral. There was massive public support for their stand. The airline companies told Trump they would no longer let him use their planes to tear families apart.
On June 18 Trump cancelled his family separation program. All because workers stood together and spoke out from the heart.
It all began with an anonymous Facebook post
In mid-June 2018, flight attendant Anika Lodzinski re-posted a text from another unnamed flight attendant reporting on a flight he had recently worked.
“...nothing prepared me or my crew for 16 passengers. Sixteen. All dressed in black and gray cheap Walmart sweat suits, quietly boarding the 12:30am flight.
“...Children! Thirty-two scared eyes looking straight forward dazed. We try to speak, yet none speak English.
“...During the beverage service, one of the crew comes to me in tears. They can’t face these children that have been ripped from their families.
“...We are trained yearly in hundreds of possible scenarios as attendants. Something like this isn’t remotely one of those. I had only met one of my crew a few years earlier, the rest never. Thank God, we had one another to lean on to not only get through the flight, but also maybe some glimmer of hope for those babies.”
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA) confirmed that the Facebook post was real, and written by a flight attendant.
AFA-CWA International President Sara Nelson, said: “As aviation’s first responders flight attendants are charged with the safety, health, and security of the passengers in our care. ...When we see someone in distress we are moved to help them. ...Some flight attendants are struggling with the question of participating in a process that they feel deeply is immoral.”
WORKING AS A BUILDING MANAGER IS NO DREAM JOB. The responsibilities are high, the pay is low, overtime is almost never paid. Complaining about any of it is a good way to get fired. And, worst of all, evicted.
But more and more building managers are complaining and often winning—like Lily.*
Lily works in property management in western Canada. She successfully won six months of overtime pay by taking her bully boss to the labour board. She told us: “I kept track of the hours and days I worked. Even when I was answering the phone at 11 p.m.”
Lily is not alone. She told us she knows of at least six other workers who have stood up to property management companies by taking them to the labour board to secure the overtime pay they’re entitled to.
How building management works
Large property management companies typically expect building managers to work 12-hour days, seven days a week, for an annual salary of just $17,000. They often offer it along with rent-free housing to sugar the bitter pill of long hours and low pay.
YOU CAN ALWAYS GET MORE LIVES. All video game players know that. Video game developers can’t. They’re stuck in the real world with just one life and it’s often a killer. So, often that many of them are working to form a union.
Life on the job for developers is a lot like factory work from the industrial era: suffering memory loss or being physically paralyzed from stress, with “The Boss” pushing, pushing, pushing till you feel your soul is pushed into the machine, or the screen.
But developers are beginning to push back with an effort to form a union.
The online road to unionization
The US video game industry is one of the nation’s fastest growing economic sectors, providing more than 220,000 jobs, with $36 billion in annual revenue. Hollywood is the next biggest entertainment sector. However, Hollywood has unions to represent and protect all the workers who make movies and has had these unions for decades. Game developers don’t.
A game developer who goes by Emma has been working behind the scenes to make the idea of unionizing a reality. Working alongside other developers, Emma has helped to create Game Workers Unite, an advocacy group for developers. “It’s really important to unionize because workers have literally no representation or rights when it comes to negotiating with their companies or negotiating with their employer,” said Emma.
“If you’re working in games, there’s a 99 percent chance you’re being exploited as a worker. We’re trying to start that conversation because it’s really taboo.” Emma won’t give her first name for fear of harassment and retaliation from her employer, but the group has been working on online zines and handing out fliers to support unionization.
Fear the ‘crunch’
Web development is a relatively new line of work but there is nothing new about how developers get treated at work. The pressure to produce is relentless. The hours are punishing. Rewards are few. Job security non-existant. It’s the way worklife was before unions.
Developers live with the fear of mass firings. Gaming studios typically hire numerous developers for a project, make them work like dogs, and then once the project is done, lay them all off. So not only do these studios burn the developers out, they dump them into limbo, crawling out of the office to find their next gig with little money and no time to recover.
Worse still is what the web development industry calls a “crunch”. A crunch is a time when developers go into production mode non-stop. They often have to work up to 20 hours a day and sometimes more than 100 hours a week with no time off. It all takes a heavy physical, psychological and emotional toll on game developers and designers.
Crunches have become a normal part of every developer’s work life. Marcin Iwinski thinks crunches are “pure evil.”