Forum Communications newspapers in Fargo and Grand Forks report that lawmakers in Minnesota and North Dakota are listening to workers locked out by hardball management. Meanwhile, in a cruel twist, workers cleaning Target stores overnight were locked in, a violation of OSHA law.
Both are signs of breaking bad management that will do anything for the bottomline.
The Fargo Forum notes that “Unlike a worker strike, a lockout is when an organization’s management locks out union workers, often over pay disputes.” Workers–sugar refinery employers, classical musicians, and professional hockey players–have been locked out in both states.
Forum Communications political reporter Don Davis writes in Minnesota Legislature: Crystal union supporters join anti-lockout bill debate:
Committee Chairman Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, said in an interview that he plans two lockout provisions in bills still being written.
One would require organizations that lock out employees to pay unemployment insurance through the lockout’s duration. The other would restrict lockouts by organizations receiving state funds. . . .
. . . Atkins’ committee heard Durand, a Minnesota State Community and Technical College instructor, say “the social fabric has been weakened” in Moorhead.
She said the contract the employees worked under would not allow them to strike during sugar beet harvest, but allowed management to lock out workers.
Costs to communities along the Red River and elsewhere in Minnesota, she said, include paying unemployment insurance for locked out workers, higher taxes to cover health care for those who lost coverage but were forced to seek emergency room care, increased substance abuse and overcrowded homeless shelters. . . .
Under North Dakota law, locked out workers received no unemployment benefits. State senator Phil Murphy (D-Portland) wants to change that, the Grand Forks Herald reports in Proposal may be too late to help American Crystal workers. GFH staff writer Christopher Bjorke reports:
A Portland, N.D., Democrat has introduced a bill that would extend unemployment benefits to workers locked out of their jobs, but is not sure if American Crystal Sugar workers would qualify.
“I just see it as a situation that doesn’t seem quite right to me,” said Sen. Phil Murphy on his proposal to add an exemption for anyone who “has been locked out by that individual’s employer and prevented from working” to the section of state law disqualifying striking workers from unemployment benefits.
. . . Like Murphy, the other sponsors of the bill are Democrats: Sens. Connie Triplett of Grand Forks and Tim Mathern of Fargo and Reps. Bill Amerman of Forman, Richard Holman of Mayville and Gail Mooney of Cummings.
Murphy, Holman and Mooney all represent District 20, the location of American Crystal’s Hillsboro factory.
Murphy said he had not been in contact with union officials representing American Crystal workers, and he did not want it to be considered to have been written for unions.
“If it’s perceived that way, it could poison the well,” he said. “I would guess it would be an uphill battle.”
The North Dakota Supreme Court is considering the eligibility of employees of the North Dakota factories. Murphy said he decided to introduce the bill because the court does not say when it will announce decisions. . . .
It’s uncertain whether ACS workers, now locked out for 17 months, would be able to receive benefits under the proposed law.
Meanwhile, in a cruel twist on management injustice, Josh Eidelson reports at the Nation in Workers Locked Inside of Target Stores Overnight:
In OSHA charges filed last week, twenty-five workers allege that they were regularly locked indoors while cleaning Target stores in the Twin Cities.
“At 11 at night, I would ring the doorbell to get let in, and then from there, we would be locked in the store all night, until 7 am when they opened the store,” said Honorio Hernandez, who cleaned Target stores for three years before leaving a year ago for other work. “I was scared that something would happen, and I wouldn’t be able to get out of the store…. But I never complained about it because I was scared that I would lose my job.” (Hernandez was interviewed in Spanish.)
Hernandez has worked for all three of the janitorial contractors named in the OSHA complaints: Carlson Building Maintenance, Prestige Maintenance USA and Diversified Maintenance Systems. Currently unemployed, Hernandez is an activist with the Minnesota labor group that organized the complaints, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha. . . .
While the cleaning workers are legally employed by Target’s contractors, CTUL charges that Target management has been well aware that they’re being locked inside its stores. Hernandez told The Nation that there was generally a single manager on site during his shift, and those managers were employees of Target, not of the contractors. He added that in an emergency, workers would have needed to get the manager to unlock a door and let them out of the building, and “you can’t necessarily find them very easily” within the store. . . .
Locked doors contributed to high death counts in notorious workplace fires at a chicken processing plant in Hamlet, North Carolina, and the Triangle Shirtwaist company in New York City. More recently, fire exits were found to be a factor in a garment factory fire in Bangladesh in which 112 workers perished; the company made clothing for Walmart and other retailers.
Both lockouts and lockups illustrate the perils of management gone wild.
Image: Tild’s take on ACS’s lockout.