A Historic Victory for Target Janitors

by Lucas Franco

After four years of struggling for fair working conditions, workers who clean local Target Stores and organizers from the Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL), announced a breakthrough policy agreement that will be implemented between Target and the companies it sub-contracts to clean its stores.

This victory for workers comes after a long and arduous struggle. The sub-contracted janitors at local Target stories have faced poverty wages, rampant wage theft, and health and safety hazards for years. In cooperation with CTUL, workers have led three strikes against cleaning companies. Their organizing efforts pushed Target to the bargaining table. Over the last year the cleaning companies have been in dialogue with the Target Corporation. In the face of this sustained pressure, Target has agreed to unprecedented contractor policies that will provide significant protections for workers.

“This is the first policy of its kind in the retail janitorial industry,” explained Veronica Mendez, co-director of CTUL, in a news release. “It’s a victory not just for the estimated 1,000 retail janitors in the Twin Cities, but for all the low-wage workers of color fighting for a place at the table in deciding the future of work.” Continue reading

Fast Food Workers Organize Globally

by Paul Garver

Strike Closes Burger King in Boston (photo credit Stevan Kirschbaum)

Strike Closes Burger King in Boston (photo credit Stevan Kirschbaum)

The international coordinated actions of fast food workers on May 15th represent a new and unprecedented level of global labor solidarity.

Activists have long called for international labor solidarity to confront global corporations. The global fast food industry presents an excellent example of an industry dominated by a few giant corporations like McDonalds whose chief executives receive 1200 times higher pay than their fast food workers. The industry takes in over $200 billion annually, while employing tens of millions of low paid workers in hundreds of countries.

Continue reading

Seattle’s $15 Minimum Wage Agreement: Collective Bargaining Reborn?

If Seattle’s agreement sticks, SEIU’s David Rolf and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray can claim credit for devising a form of collective bargaining that benefits workers with no ties whatever to unions.

by Harold Meyerson

Activists at an April demonstration demanding a $15-per-hour minimum wage in Seattle  (15 Now Seattle)

Activists at an April demonstration demanding a $15-per-hour minimum wage in Seattle (15 Now Seattle)

We have seen the future of collective bargaining, and it just may work. It should work brilliantly in Seattle if the city council doesn’t screw it up.

Last Thursday—May Day, for the nostalgic among you—Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced that a business-labor task force he appointed had agreed on a plan to raise the minimum wage in the city to $15 per hour, over four years (with annual incremental increases) for businesses with more than 500 employees, and up to seven years for smaller businesses. By the end of the process, tipped employees would have an assured hourly income of $15, not counting whatever tips they received on top of that, and the wage would thereafter be indexed to the rise with the cost of living.

Business, labor and the mayor having agreed, the plan now goes before the city council, whose members, like Mayor Murray, have backed the $15 hourly rate, but who may yet change some elements of the proposal. If enacted, Seattle will have the nation’s highest municipal minimum wage, just as Washington state currently has the nation’s highest state hourly minimum ($9.32). Continue reading

College Adjuncts Union Scores Victory at Maryland Institute College of Art

by Bruce Vail

MICA-Part-Time-Faculty-Celebration_250_187BALTIMORE—Part-time college faculty members at the historic Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) scored an impressive win on Tuesday when they voted overwhelmingly to bring a labor union on campus for the first time since MICA’s opening in 1826.

In secret ballot voting supervised by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the pro-union votes number 160, compared to 75 anti-union ones, reports Katherine Kavanaugh, one of the leaders of the faculty group. This unofficial count has been confirmed by a NLRB spokeswoman, who adds that the agency normally takes about a week to confirm an election of this kind. Once the election is formally certified by NLRB, the part-time college instructors will be represented by Gaithersburg, Md.-based Service Employees International Union Local 500. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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

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