Mean Things Happening Here: the Southern Tenant Farmers Union

by Stuart Elliott

In the summer of 1934, a remarkable interracial union of tenant farmers was founded. Mean Things Happening, a 1993 PBS documentary on the Southern Tenant Farmers Union (SFTU) and depression-era organizing of the steel industry, has been much praised and is presented here.

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Hospital Union Claims Victory in Johns Hopkins Contract Fight

by Bruce Vail

1199SEIU President George Gresham (right) protests low wages with fellow union members in a three-day picket line outside Johns Hopkins Hospital in April.   (Jim McNeill/1199SEIU)

1199SEIU President George Gresham (right) protests low wages with fellow union members in a three-day picket line outside Johns Hopkins Hospital in April. (Jim McNeill/1199SEIU)

(July 11) A bruising four-month fight between healthcare workers’ union 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and Johns Hopkins Hospital is coming to an end: Members voted on Thursday and Friday to ratify a new agreement covering about 2,000 medical center employees.

The battle has been unusually intense compared with negotiations in the past, featuring a three-day strike in April and a voracious media campaign shaming the wealthy hospital for abandoning its lowest-paid workers. And though the new contract falls short of initial demands that would have more widely boosted wages among staff, local 1199SEIU leaders still view its ratification as a welcome victory after months of struggle.
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Long Island Rail Road workers reluctantly set strike start date

by Laura Clawson<

Workers on the Long Island Rail Road say they have been forced to set a strike date by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s refusal to bargain. Two Presidential Emergency Boards have sided with the workers, and the union asked the MTA to extend a cooling-off period so that a strike wouldn’t hit Long Island during its peak tourist season. However, the MTA is refusing that offer, saying it would hit schoolchildren instead of tourists.
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Port truck drivers’ strike continues

by Laura Clawson

Port truck drivers on strike in California.

More than 120 truck drivers continue their strike at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The drivers are targeting three companies that they say misclassify them as independent contractors when they are effectively employees, denying them minimum wage and overtime protections, Social Security and workers’ compensation, and other benefits. Additionally, workers say they’ve faced retaliation and intimidation over their activism. So far, the strike’s impact on the two massive ports remains small, though Tuesday:

In a brief escalation of the day-old strike, dockworkers walked off the job at the Evergreen, APL and Yusen terminals in Los Angeles around 9 a.m., and at the Long Beach Container Terminal an hour later, port officials said.But an arbitrator quickly ruled that the dockworkers’ contract didn’t allow them to leave the job in sympathy with the drivers strike. A similar ruling was issued during a 48-hour trucker strike in April.

Los Angeles port spokesman Phillip Sanfield said the port was operating “near normal” despite minor disruptions from the protests.


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10 July – UK public sector workers strike

PSI (Public Service International)

Striking UK workers demonstrate in London, 2011

On 10 July, up to two million public sector workers in the UK will hold a 24-hour strike. PSI affiliated unions GMB, FBU, PCS, Unison and Unite the Union, together with NIPSA and the teachers’ union NUT, will be striking against the government’s decision to offer a 1% salary increase and against government policy.

As a result of a government pay freeze and pension policy, real-term earnings have decreased by 20% since the government came into power in 2010.

PSI has sent a letter of solidarity and support to its affiliate unions whose members will be on strike.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “These workers care for our elderly, clean our streets, feed and educate our school children and keep our libraries running, but they receive no recognition in their pay packets.

“They are mainly low-paid women workers, stressed and demoralised, and they deserve better from their employers and from this government.

“This is the group that has borne the brunt of the government’s austerity agenda.”
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‘Rosie the Riveters’ Storm National Zoo

by Bruce Vail

newRosiePresident Barack Obama is facing a coordinated pressure campaign to take additional steps to improve labor protections and basic benefits for workers employed indirectly by the federal government. The campaign—backed by the Change to Win labor federation and the Congressional Progressive Caucus—is an extension of an earlier push that led up to Obama’s Feb. 12 executive order raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for the employees of federal contractors.

A small group of Washington, D.C.-area workers punctuated the campaign this week with demonstrations at the National Zoo and several other sites. As in the previous demonstrations over the past year, the workers called attention to the low pay and meager benefits offered at the fast food outlets and cleaning services that operate at federal installations nationwide. The latest iteration of the campaign puts special emphasis on how female workers suffer disproportionately from such labor conditions, with some National Zoo strikers adopting “Rosie the Riveter” costumes in an effort to link contemporary employment issues with patriotic themes from the past.
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Philadelphia Community Teach-In to Explore Jewish Law & Workers’ Rights

RabbiJillJacobsThe Perelman Teacher-Alumni-Parent Partnership presents “Work & Workers in Jewish Law – A Community Teach-In” with Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Executive Director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights and author of Conservative Judaism’s Teshuva “Work, Workers and the Jewish Owner.”

The program is Wednesday, June 18, at 7 p.m. at the Ludington Library, 5 South Bryn Mawr Ave., Bryn Mawr, PA. It is open to the public.

Rabbi Jacobs, Executive Director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, will explore where Jewish Law (Halakha) stands on the issue of work, workers and union rights. Continue reading


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