As more and more workers report that Inter-Con is keeping workers on temporary or “on-call” status for months or years, it’s still unclear whether Inter-Con is misleading Kaiser or if Kaiser is simply turning a blind eye to these tactics which short-change workers.
And their families are not provided with health insurance at all. The security guards — paid as little as $10.40 an hour — are supposed to buy it. The result is that 41% of the officers who responded to a survey cannot. And without paid sick days they cannot afford to take the time off to see a doctor anyway.
So here we are with a company finding ways around a promise by changing the classification of the workers to “on-call.” This points out yet one more problem of workplaces that do not have unions. How many people are classified as “temporary” or “contractors”? This is one of the bigger scams that is going on these days. One reason companies do this is because if someone is not an employee the employer doesn’t have to pay their share of the Social Security payroll tax. (There are other reasons as well, including avoiding paying promised benefits.)
How do you know if you should be called an employee or an independent contractor? For a quick guideline, let’s go to the IRS. They say that by-and-large you are an employee,
if the organization can control what will be done and how it will be done. This is so even if the organization gives the employee freedom of action. What matters is that the organization has the right to control the details of how the services are performed.
Yet most of us see examples of people in this situation who are called “temporary workers” or “contractors” all the time.
Companies are not supposed to do this to us, but here’s the thing: What can you do about it? You and I are individuals, alone. But corporations have the ability to amass immense power and wealth and influence. You and I as individuals must stand alone against this power and wealth. What can you or I or anyone else do on our own? The average person in our society has very little ability to stand up against this kind of power and wealth.
Over time people discovered that there are some things they can do that will work. One of these has been to form unions. By joining together the workers in a company can amass some power of their own. The company needs the workers in order to function so the workers — if they stick together — have the ability to make the corporation obey employee/employer laws, provide decent pay, and all the other benefits that the unions have brought us. This is why they are also call “organized labor.” By organizing into a union and sticking together people have the ability to demand respect and compensation for their work.
This is what the security guards at Kaiser are trying to do. This is what you should do.
I encourage you to visit StandForSecurity.org.
I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike.
Yesterday I wrote about the security guards who are striking at Kaiser Permanente because their contractor-employer is engaging in illegal tactics while trying to block them from forming a union. The guards work for Inter-Con Security Inc., which is contracted by Kaiser to provide security services.
You can read articles with details about what happened with the strike yesterday here and here. (There is close to zero coverage of this strike in newspapers. But you wouldn’t expect a corporate-owned media to provide information about labor, now would you?)
Please visit the site Stand for Security for background and details about the security guards’ fight to form a union.
While this strike is about violations of workers’ rights, there are very good reasons for their three-year effort to form a union.
In Oregon, the state just north of California, Kaiser Permanente security guards are employed by Kaiser, not by a contractor. They are unionized and here is a short chart of just some of the difference this makes.
In-House Union (ILWU) Kaiser Security Officers
Inter-Con Officers at Kaiser
$15 – $18 per hour (Oregon has a much lower cost of living)
As little as $10.40 per hour
$.70 – $1.45/hour annually,
depending on seniority
(Guaranteed in writing!)
No schedule, no guarantee
Free Family Health Care
Health Insurance Elegibility
20 hours worked
“Full-time”, which for many
officers means 1-2 years of
working 40 hours a week before
qualifying for health insurance.
3 days paid time off
1.6 hours per pay period
Paid off as needed
This chart is an example of the difference that a union makes. The column on the left — the one with better pay, health care, sick days, pension and other benefits — is the workers who are in a union. The column on the right is these security guards. So this is why these security guards have been fighting for three years to join a union. The employer, Inter-Con Security won’t even give sick days! For people working in hospitals! What are these workers supposed to do? And they won’t even pay when the workers have jury duty! (Shouldn’t a company be concerned about the greater public good, like a court system that works?)
But this chart is also representative of other workplaces, showing the difference that forming a union can make for other workers. How else are workers going to get back their rights, get health care, get pensions, and get paid? If you see a better idea out there, please let us all know because this strike and the things happening to these security guards shows that it is very very difficult to form a union. In today’s environment where workers are afraid of employers moving their jobs overseas – or even just laying them off and telling everyone else to work harder – and then giving their pay out as raises to the executives and multi-million-dollar bonuses to the CEO, this is a very brave action to take.
On top of that, the Republican government has stacked the labor Department and the National Labor Relations Board to side with the big corporations. So it is even harder to form a union than ever. Which is, of course, why wages are stagnating and CEO pay is off the charts.
This is why these workers are striking — to demand that their civil rights be honored and to demand that their right to form a union be honored. These security guards are placing everything on the line — and doing this for all of us. If they win this fight, all of us are a step further toward our rights being honored, and toward our own jobs paying more and giving benefits.
I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike.
There is a three-day strike starting today at Kaiser Permanente hospitals in California. 1800 security guards are striking for three days in an “unfair labor practice” action. This strike is not against Kaiser and is not to ask for money or benefits; it is not even to form a union in the first place. This strike is just to ask that our laws please be enforced. This may be a lot to ask for in today’s corporate-dominated system, but they’re asking for it anyway.
Here is some background:
Rather than directly employ security guards Kaiser contracts with a company called Inter-Con Security Systems, Inc. Inter-Con hires and manages the security guards for Kaiser, paying them very little and giving them few benefits – not even sick leave. So these security guards, even though they work at Kaiser, (some for many years), are paid far less than other security guards at Kaiser facilities in other states, and receive few benefits. Kaiser is one of the more responsible, unionized companies for its workers, which makes this situation even worse for these workers.
The AFL-CIO, AFSCME, SEIU, MoveOn.org, Americans United for Change, USAction, and True Majority are going to spend millions of dollars running an ad against targeted Republicans urging them to override President Bush’s veto of SCHIP, the child health coverage bill. The ad says the candidates are targeted because they support “Billions of Dollars for Iraq War, But Veto for Children’s Health Care”
My problem with the ad is that it does not teach a larger lesson. This is “a teachable moment.” People are upset that President Bush is vetoing this bill, but they do not understand the deeper ideological principals behind what is happening to them. This is an opportunity to teach people that conservatives believe in a you-are-on-your-own, dog-eat-dog philosophy and progressives believe we are all in this together for each other.
The ad says “George Bush and his backers would rather send half a trillion to Iraq than spend a fraction of that here to keep our kids healthy.” Even by changing “and his backers” to “and the conservatives” they could have let people know that it isn’t just Bush and it isn’t about particular politicians, it’s the conservative ideology that is hurting them. This issue is about differences in philosophy between conservatives and progressives.
But instead of teaching the public a lesson about what is happening to us all, this coalition will spend millions running this ad against individual politicians, and in the end the money will literally just go up in the air(waves) and nothing will remain behind.