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Labor Omnia Vincit: This week in labor news

We're breaking down everything that happened with unions and labor across the country

by Chelsey B. Coombs
May 21 2018, 3:26pm

Hey there! I’m Chelsey Coombs and I’m taking over the VICE News newsletter. This week, we’re going to talk all things labor.

I’ve been covering the teachers’ movement speeding across the U.S. as underpaid educators in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Colorado, and Arizona walked out of the classroom as part of a larger effort to secure better pay and benefits. This week, we followed along as North Carolina teachers joined the movement, gathering en masse at the state Capitol in Raleigh last week.

But in a new twist, the North Carolina Education Association is also asking for the state General Assembly to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

“We think that that's not only the correct and the moral thing to do, but as educators, our students' well-being and their literal health comes first,” Todd Warren, president of the Guilford County Association of Educators, said.

North Carolina’s taxpayers are currently paying more than $1 billion a year to fund the program while other states reap the benefits. But the majority-Republican General Assembly says it won’t expand Medicaid unless work requirements for coverage are included.

FUN LABOR FACT FOR THE WEEK: The Oklahoma state motto is “Labor omnia vincit,” which means “labor conquers all.” While the state passed a right-to-work law in 2001, Oklahoma actually has a really fascinating pro-union history. Organized labor was first officially listed in in August 1883 when miners in “Indian Territory” were logged as organized by the Knights of Labor.

And elsewhere:

The Wall Street Journal reports that players’ associations and unions are squaring up in court against fantasy sites like FanDuel and Draftkings that use players’ names and likenesses without paying for publicity rights. Three former college football players filed the suit, which is now being heard by the Indiana Supreme Court. The case became even stickier since the Supreme Court ruled this week that states can legalize sports betting if they want. Players may miss out on the proceeds, even if their pictures and stats are used.

The Guardian had an exclusive report on the strategies right wing groups are using to launch a nationwide anti-union drive. They obtained copies of documents from the State Policy Network, which is made up of 66 think tanks. The Guardian reports SPN is funded in part by the Koch brothers and the Walton Family Foundation, of Walmart fame. One of the documents stated that “Well run opt-out campaigns can cause public-sector unions to experience 5 to 20% declines in membership, costing hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in dues money.”

Related to those opt-out campaigns, the Missouri state legislature just passed a bill that requires public sector unions to get permission each year to take union dues from members’ paychecks. The unions would also have to run recertification elections every three years. Those elections could only be held if more than half of employees agree to have one. As the icing on the anti-labor cake, it would also make public union picketing a fireable offense. Those statutes don’t apply to police officers, firefighters, corrections workers and other “public emergency personnel.” It’s headed to embattled Republican Gov. Eric Greitens’ desk for a signature.

And finally, a new study by United Way found that 43 percent of U.S. households don’t make enough to pay for basic necessities like housing and food. That’s 50.8 million households. “It is morally unacceptable and economically unsustainable for our country to have so many hardworking families living paycheck to paycheck,” John Franklin, CEO of United Way New Jersey said in a press release. As a reminder, the federal minimum wage is $7.25.

That’s it for this week in labor news. If you or someone you know is a teacher who works a summer job and would be interested in appearing in a potential VICE News video, feel free to DM me on Twitter or send me an email at chelsey.coombs@vice.com.

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