Banning BART Strikes Is No Answer to Labor Disputes

On Friday Nov. 2, BART [Bay Area Rapid Transit] employees at SEIU and ATU  ratified the deal negotiated last week and the following day BART’s Board of Directors will likely vote to approve it. Apart from a few crazies on both the left and right who were hoping that the strike or the dispute kept going, most of us BART riders will be extremely glad that it is finally over and hoping that we never have to go through this again. It’s not surprising, therefore, that some politicians have attempted to exploit public frustration. Orinda Councilman Steve Glazer, who is running for the California Assembly, has tirelessly promoted his campaign for change in state law to ban strikes by BART workers. It’s an easy time to call for coercive legislation but a strike ban is the wrong solution for the Bay Area and it wouldn’t work. Continue reading

Demands for Immigration Reform Produce Nonviolent Direct Action at Capitols

 by Duane Campbell

AFL-CIO Executive VP Tefere Gebre

AFL-CIO Executive VP Tefere Gebre

October 8, thousands of people from across the country  gathered  in the nation’s capital to demand the House Republican leadership pass comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. After the rally at the National Mall and march to the U.S. Capitol, two hundred of the attendees – national and local community and labor leaders, impacted immigrants, civil rights and faith leaders, and Members of Congress,  follow the event at the steps of the U.S. Capitol with nonviolent civil disobedience aimed at underscoring the urgent need to vote and pass fair immigration reform this year. Speakers at the rally include Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA), Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Mario Diaz Balart (R-FL), civil rights leader Julian Bond, AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten. Other Members of Congress, national and local community, faith, and labor leaders will be standing on stage during key moments before the march begins.

Some of the national and local leaders participating in civil disobedience  include Tefere Gebre, Executive Vice-President of the AFL-CIO, Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, Bruce Goldstein, Executive Director of Farmworker Justice Fund, Gustavo Torres, President of CASA in Action, Bernard Lunzer, Vice-President of the Communication Workers of America, Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, Abel Nuñez, Executive Director of the CARECEN DC office, D. Taylor, President of UNITE HERE, Maryland Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez, John Stocks, Executive Director of the National Education Association, Maria Elena Durazo, President of the LA County Federation of Labor,  New Haven Alderman Delphine Clyburn, Joslyn Williams, President of the DC Central Labor Council, Jaime Contreras, Vice-President of SEIU 32BJ, Giev Aaron Kashkooli, Vice-President of the United Farmworkers, Terry Cavanagh, Executive Director of SEIU MD/DC State Council, Javier Valdes, Co-Director of Make the Road New York, Lawrence Benito, Executive Director of Illinois Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, and Javier Morillo, President of SEIU Local 26. For more on the Washington events go to www.AmericasVoice.com

These arrests follow the arrests of Women Activists for immigration on Sept.13, and union activists on Aug. 10.

ImageIn Sacramento the California Republican Party headquarters across the street from the State Capitol was the site of a demonstration by Unite/Here and  SEIU members as well as community activists.  The Republican party was confronted with a message of,  “ We will remember your candidates in  November.” Continue reading

Eliseo Medina, Who Reshaped Labor and Immigrant Rights Movements, Retires from SEIU

by Randy Shaw

Medina

Today is Eliseo Medina’s last day as the Secretary-Treasurer of SEIU International. Medina is retiring from his job, though not from immigrant rights activism, after nearly fifty years working for social change. Medina helped expand Latino union membership, and increased Latino voting and political empowerment. He secured SEIU resources to implement Latino voter outreach strategies that effectively changed the course of national politics, and played a leading role in broadening a network of immigrant rights groups into a national labor and church-backed movement.Medina’s activism began in 1965 at age 19 as an organizer with Cesar Chavez and the UFW. He was trained by the legendary Fred Ross Sr., who also mentored Chavez. Seen by many as Chavez’s successor, Medina abruptly left the UFW in 1978 over concern with the group’s direction. His departure began a mass exodus of the UFW’s key organizing talent, whose future endeavors became the subject of my previous book, Beyond the Fields. Medina’s legacy has parallels to Chavez, whose later failures left some to wrongly downplay his historic achievements. In Medina’s case, his support for SEIU President Andy Stern’s takeover of the California-based SEIU-UHW in 2009 and his refusal to publicly oppose Stern’s attempted seizure of UNITE HERE also that year alienated some of his former admirers into adversaries. Yet as with Cesar Chavez, Eliseo Medina’s rich life must be evaluated over the course of his career. Medina is among the most influential social change activists of his time, and his story should be known.In today’s United States, labor unions and Latino voters are two key pillars of progressive politics. Yet when Eliseo Medina worked for the UFW from 1965-1978, the situation was very different. The UFW was the only union that prioritized grassroots electoral outreach, and among the few groups focused on registering Latino voters and getting them out the vote. Continue reading

Who Will Be The Next NUHW 16?

by Steve Early

Steve Early

Steve Early

The price of campaigning for union reform can be high. Dissidents in the U.S. labor movement have been fired, blacklisted, and beaten up. In 1969, one was even murdered along with his wife and daughter. (See Yablonski, Joseph A.) In some unions, critics of the leadership face internal discipline, which can lead to fines, suspension, or expulsion.When rebellious rank-and-filers get dragged into court, it’s usually because officials sued them for libel or “copyright infringement” (involving the union logo) to inhibit free speech or shut down opposition websites and Facebook pages.

But that was before the “NUHW 16.” Their four-year legal persecution has become a case study in how a big labor organization, with deep pockets, can make an object lesson of former loyalists who became dissidents, sided with the members, and dared to disobey the dictates of higher union authority.

Oakland lawyer Dan Siegel, who represents these defendants, has been handling cases arising under the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) since the 1970s. Yet he has “never seen a situation where an international union was using the federal law designed to protect union democracy to sue union dissidents”—until now.

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Strikes, Alliances, and Survival

by Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

(July28) Fast-food workers in seven cities are set to walk off their jobs today [Monday] in one-day actions, escalating what is quickly becoming a nationwide effort to win pay hikes in one of America’s premier poverty-wage industries. Backed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the campaign is succeeding in publicizing the plight of low-wage workers in a growing number of states and cities.

How it goes about actually winning higher wages, however, remains unclear.

For its part, the AFL-CIO is preparing for its biennial convention this September, at which it will begin to hammer out some kind of formal affiliation or partnership with other, nonunion progressive organizations such as the NAACP and the Sierra Club. There are changes afoot within the union’s Working America affiliate—a Federation-run and –funded neighborhood canvass that has expanded from a purely (and brilliantly successful) electoral operation, building support for progressive Democrats among white working-class swing-state voters, to an organization bent on raising the minimum wages in selected states and cities.

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UFCW Expected To Rejoin AFL-CIO in August

 

Mike Elk reports in In These Times that the United Food and Commercial Workers Union will rejoin the AFL-CIO.

High-level sources within the AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions tell Working In These Times that the 1.3-million-member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) is in talks to rejoin the labor federation. These sources say that UFCW leaders have pledged their support for returning to the AFL-CIO and will ask members to vote on the question at the annual UFCW convention in Chicago this August. With the leadership backing reunification, the UFCW membership is expected to approve the motion.

In 2005, the UFCW and several other large unions—the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the United Brotherhood Of Carpenters, the Laborers’ UnionUnite Here and the United Farm Workers of America—split off from the AFL-CIO to form a rival federation, Change to Win. At the time, the unions said they were departing in order to explore new ways of organizing. Continue reading

We All Suffer from the Absence of a Strong Labor Movement

Oren Levin -Waldman

Oren Levin -Waldman

by Oren Levin-Waldman

Several years ago, one of the biggest events in labor history occurred when the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Teamsters decided it was time to withdraw from the AFL-CIO and form a new council. Others, like the United Food and Commercial Workers, UNITE HERE, United Farm Workers, and the Carpenters only followed. It then came as no surprise that The Laborers’ Union representing over 700,000 in the construction industry also followed suit and joined the same coalition as the others: Change to Win where the focus would be on organizing new workers.

At the core of the controversy was the strategy being pursued by the old-line federation. Whereas the old AFL-CIO establishment leadership maintained that more resources should be spent on political activities — attempting to influence public policy — the defectors were arguing something more fundamental, which is more effort and money needs to be channeled into organizing workers. Contrary to the conventional wisdom that would have viewed these defections as further evidence of the decline of American labor, they really bespoke a movement to revitalize the labor movement that has for too long been out of touch with working Americans.
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Kaiser Aftermath: How About Some Competition to Organize Healthcare Workers?

seiu-victory-200x146Little Rock       Probably surprising none of the organizers involved or anyone looking at the campaign, the vote count on the rerun decertification election between the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) produced the same result with a wider margin as Kaiser hospital workers in California overwhelming voted for SEIU by almost a 2 to 1 margin, 58.4% to 40.6%.   In such a landslide both sides had to have known the outcome for many weeks, and the NUHW and its new partner, the powerful California Nurses’ Association (CNA), likely did not pull the petition simply as a talking point for the future as they engage other healthcare workers and try to put a spin on the defeat.  SEIU won this round hands down, but their victory is pyrrhic, if it doesn’t now come with the grace that goes with leadership.

I wouldn’t bet on it, but it would be wonderful, if this closed one chapter for all the unions involved and opened another.   This whole division among unions in California has been a disaster for all involved, undermining the stature and reputation of all of the organizations and their leadership, dividing workers from each other therefore only benefiting employers, costing millions, and reducing the strength of all progressive forces everywhere.  It has to stop now for the sake of the labor movement and workers everywhere, especially in the healthcare industry.

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SEIU Wins Again at Kaiser, But Militant Minority Grows

       by Steve Early

Steve Early

Steve Early

Thirty-one months ago, when the Service Employees International Union first defeated the National Union of Healthcare Workers in a unit of 45,000 service and technical workers at Kaiser Permanente in California, SEIU leader Dave Regan proclaimed that “NUHW is now, for all intents and purposes, irrelevant.”

That obituary proved a little premature. Rank-and-file supporters of NUHW remained alive and kicking, not only at Kaiser but also in other healthcare workplaces around the state. Using member-based internal and external organizing methods, NUHW largely bucked the national tide of concession bargaining in nearly 20 new units composed of previously unorganized workers or SEIU defectors.

With strong financial backing from its new affiliation partner, the California Nurses Association (CNA), NUHW has been gearing up since January for a re-run of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election at Kaiser. SEIU won the first round in October 2010 with 18,290 votes to NUHW’s 11,364.

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Wade Rathke Reads the Tea Leaves on Huge SEIU-NUHW Decert in California

by Wade Rathke

red-vs-purple-nuhw-seiu-a-200x184New Orleans  First come the disclaimers.   I have no stomach for this 5 year saga in California that has created a huge rift in the labor movement as folks picked sides between the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the National Union of Healthcare Workers’  (NUHW).  Depending on how you line up, NUHW is either a principled group of dissidents trying to reform SEIU and the whole labor movement and bring it back to its roots or a band of renegades who broke when they didn’t get everything on their Christmas list from SEIU.

Regardless the ballots are now out to the workers of the huge 45,000 member bargaining unit at Kaiser Hospitals on the question of whether or not to decertify the existing bargaining unit, SEIU, or to certify NUHW.  Starting May 1st the ballots are due and the counting will begin, perhaps to put an end to all of this or maybe to simply open another chapter in his horrible mess.  This is a re-run election.  SEIU won the first round by a large margin, but the election was overturned by the NLRB based on findings of unfair labor practices in the way that Kaiser favored SEIU before the vote.

[Readers may be interested in our recent reports on the upcoming SEIU-NUHW election by Carl Finamore Steve Early,  and Harold Meyerson,  as well as coverage of the  background to this election.--Talking Union]

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