Over Five Thousand Union Activists Support Sanders Candidacy

Labor for Bernie

For immediate release: July 27, 2015

Labor for bernie

 

AFL-CIO delay on endorsement provides more time to build broader union support

The national AFL-CIO’s decision on July 24 to delay an early endorsement is a reflection of the growing union support for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ bid for President. The delay gives the Sanders campaign more time to firm up labor support which is continuing to surge at the grassroots.

Labor for Bernie 2016 was kicked off in late June with 1,000 supporters and has quickly grown to a national network with more than 5,000 union supporters who have signed an on-line statement embracing Sanders as the only declared candidate, in either major party, “who challenges the billionaires who are trying to steal our pensions, our jobs, our homes, and what’s left of our democracy.”

Larry Cohen, past president of the Communications Workers of America and now a volunteer working on the Sanders’ campaign said, “Our strong and growing grassroots movement shows that Bernie shares our values and beliefs.  Workers are fed up with business as usual. This campaign is about putting a stop to the corporate assault on our kids, our country and working families!”

Sanders’ union supporters are taking an active role in thousands of grassroots organizing parties taking place on July 29. Labor for Bernie 2016 has produced a new leaflet highlighting Sanders long track record of support for workers’ rights. It has also upgraded its website to provide better networking tools for supporters to build member-to-member relationships within their unions and in their communities.

A recent Utility Workers Union of America poll of 400 elected delegates to their national convention in Hollywood FL supported Bernie Sanders with 65 percent of the vote, Clinton had just 23 percent, with Martin O’Malley taking only 7 percent and the combined Republican field winning 5 percent

Since early June, Sanders has received support from the Vermont AFL-CIO, South Carolina AFL-CIO, Teamsters (Lithographers) Local 1 in New York City, IBEW Local 2222 in Boston and IBEW Local 159 in Madison, WI.

On July 11, the American Federation of Teachers national executive board voted to endorse Clinton with little membership input. The endorsement caused an uproar on social media and led to a major spike in sign-ups by teachers on the Labor for Bernie website. Today, nearly 700 members of the AFT or the larger NEA have joined the network.

Members of other unions are also showing strong support for Sanders. More than 575 IBEW members who have signed up make it the largest supporter, followed by AFT (374 members) and NEA (312 members), then CWA (308 members) Teamsters (301 members), and the UAW (266 members). Nearly 18 percent of the Labor for Sanders 2016 initiative are from Building Trades unions with IBEW and the Carpenters (203) members showing the strongest support.

With more endorsers signing up every day, the Labor for Bernie network is urging the AFL-CIO, its affiliated national unions, and major unaffiliated labor organizations (NEA, SEIU, and IBT) to sponsor candidate forums and debates, at the grassroots level, before making any presidential endorsement decision of their own.

Labor for Bernie 2016 is a volunteer effort neither funded nor directed by the Sanders for President campaign. To join this grassroots mobilization, download useful organizing materials, or learn more about Bernie’s past and present support for workers and their unions, go to: www.laborforbernie.org

For more information, contact: laborforbernie@gmail.com or call Larry Cohen 202-215-1118; Steve Early 617-930-7327; or Stewart Acuff; 202-701-0180

Friedrichs v CTA – A Potential Union Killer

Supremecourt

Harold Meyerson.

About a month ago, the Supreme Court closed out its term in a blaze of nonpartisan glory. Or nonpartisan obloquy, depending on one’s reaction to the court’s legalization of same-sex marriage and its upholding of Obamacare — but nonpartisan either way. A court with a Republican-appointed majority upheld a Democratic president’s health insurance program and a marital policy that most Republican officeholders felt obliged to oppose (even if most Republican political consultants felt relieved to see gay marriage rendered a fait accompli).

But that was then. In the term that will begin this fall, the court has a splendid opportunity to deliver the most partisan decision it has rendered since Bush v. Gore. When the court rules in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association , which will be argued in the coming months, the Republican-appointed justices will be able, if they so choose, to create a long-term advantage for their party over the Democrats.

Friedrichs is a case brought by a California teacher who objects to paying dues to the union that has bargained the contract that secures her pay and benefits. The union does not collect any money from her to support its political activities, but, by virtue of the court’s 1977 Abood decision, and hundreds of later decisions based on Abood, she is obliged to pay that portion of her dues that goes to bargaining and administering her contract. That obligation, the court ruled in Abood, is essential if public employees are to have an effective right to collective bargaining. If employees can benefit from union representation without funding the union, the court reasoned, the union could be weakened to the point that it couldn’t represent those employees adequately, if, indeed, at all. Continue reading

National Nurses United Statement on Black Lives Matter

nnu image

NNU Statement on Black Lives Matter and the Health Impact of Societal Racial Disparities

National Nurses United Press Release, 7/23/15

National Nurses United joins with the AFL-CIO and activists across the United States in urging all presidential candidates to address the pervasive problems of racial and economic justice that have so stained our nation.

For nurses, the national dialogue this week about structural racism is a reminder that health, which includes personal safety, is a broad thematic that affects all corners of the national debate – from police shootings to the courts to incarceration, and racial disparities in healthcare, housing, job opportunities, and education.

Systemic racism also contributes to additional race-based violence, such as the horrific massacre that claimed nine lives in an African-American church in Charleston, S.C.

While there are clear correlations between structural racism in the criminal justice system and economic and social justice, each area is also a clear and present danger to life and health, as well as an infringement on the human rights of those affected and on American democracy. As nurses, we are dedicated to preventing all forms of illness, protecting health, and alleviating human suffering.

  • Black lives matter.  According to a Washington Post database, more than 500 people, a disproportionate number of them African-American, have been shot dead by police this year.  Others, such as Sandra Bland, who died in a Texas jail cell under suspicious circumstances, have died while in police custody.  Harassment based on race remains evident in too many routine police matters as well, evidenced by “stop and frisk” practices. All have serious health consequences from loss of life to serious injuries to exacerbating physical and mental health problems.​
  • Inequity in incarceration. With 5 percent of the world population, the United States has 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. Though only one-fourth of the U.S. population combined, African-Americans and Latinos comprise 58 percent of the prisoners.  One in three African-American males born today is likely, under current trends, to spend time in prison. Arrests for drug offenses and minimum sentencing laws disproportionately affect African-Americans. In addition to the disparate treatment based on race, inadequate health services are common in prison settings and, the NAACP notes, infectious diseases are highly concentrated in prison settings.
  • Racism remains a significant public health issue. Even with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, racial disparities continue in access to health services and health outcomes. African-Americans, for example, have shorter life expectancies, higher infant mortality rates, and higher rates of chronic illness, such as higher blood pressure, that can lead to strokes and diabetes than whites. Overall racial discrimination significantly contributes to stress and other adverse health factors.
  • African-Americans and Latinos have higher jobless rates than white Americans, and have been disproportionately affected by cuts in public-sector jobs, long a key area where ethnic minorities, who face greater racism in private employment, have traditionally had greater opportunity. A result is lower incomes and a wealth gap, which are significant factors in higher rates of medical bankruptcies, lack of health insurance, failure to seek timely medical care, malnutrition, and stress-related health disorders.

Each one of these areas, as well as racial disparities in other walks of life, such as education, housing and homelessness, and environmental racism, deserve attention and systemic solutions from candidates for elected office and other institutions of our society.

NNU supports efforts at comprehensive solutions including, but not limited to:

  • Comprehensive criminal justice reforms, including national standards for greater public oversight, accountability, and prosecution for rights violations, improved racial bias training, and diversity in hiring.
  • Systemic prison and sentencing reform to reduce mass incarcerations and disparities, and improved prison and jail health services.
  • Genuine, universal guaranteed healthcare based on a single standard of quality care for everyone, best achieved by an upgraded and expanded Medicare for all that would help reduce racial disparities and discrimination in healthcare.
  • An end to austerity economic policies that disproportionately affect minority populations. Focus on increased revenue, not budget cuts, such as could be achieved by a tax on Wall Street speculation that could raise hundreds of billions of dollars annually for living-wage job; increased funding for healthcare, housing, and education; and robust action to combat climate change and environmental devastation that also hit low-income and minority communities in higher percentages.

So Close to $15/hour for New York Fast Food Workers!

fight for 15

Fight for $15

Governor Cuomo’s wage board recommended that all New York fast-food workers deserve $15 an hour. Now, his administration could make it happen and raise the wage for 180,000 New York workers.

The governor needs to hear from you about why YOU believe fast-food workers deserve $15 an hour.

To send him a message, go to

http://fightfor15.org/s-petition/nys-wage-board-comment-petition/

Immigrant workers and Justice for Janitors

We posted a fine piece on Justice for Janitors (below) by Peter Olney and Rand Wilson with suggested lessons for organizing.  Here is a well informed supplement by labor journalist and activist David Bacon.

David Bacon,

jforjr-1This article makes some excellent points, and shows the importance of the way the existing base of membership was used to reorganize building services and start Justice for Janitors. Its point about the market triggers was very interesting – I hadn’t really heard this discussed before, and it does show that putting this in the contract gave workers a concrete reason to support reorganizing the non-union buildings. As it says, ” it was not a ‘blank slate’ campaign disconnected from the sources of SEIU’s membership and contract power.”

Many of the janitors and leaders who fought in Century City were the Central American immigrants coming into LA from the wars. Their experience in their home countries was very important in their willingness to fight, and the use of the tactics of mass demonstrations and even CD in the street. They’re one of the best examples of the way migration, for all the pain it causes migrants, has benefited our labor movement enormously and given us leaders from Rocio Saenz to Ana Martinez to Yanira Merino. This is a big reason why there was an upsurge of organizing in general in LA in the 90s. Without this wave of migration I don’t think the best of strategies would have produced the results we saw. The article credits Gus Bevona with a role in getting the contract in Century City, but by comparison, this seems less important to me, and more like the mechanism than what actually forced the contractors to settle. Continue reading

New Zealand Fast Food Workers Win Minimum Hours Guarantee

by Mike Treen, National Director, Unite

indonesia fast food nz

[Ed. note: Fast food industry workers in New Zealand have been organized by the Unite union for over a decade. Their relative strength has enabled their union to play an active role in the international campaigns to organize the fast food industry, both giving support to the Fight for $15 in the USA and receiving support from fast food workers in other countries through the IUF for their own campaigns. The photo shows a support demonstration from workers in Indonesia.-pg]

Workers in the fast food industry in New Zealand scored a spectacular victory over what has been dubbed “zero hour contracts” during a collective agreement bargaining round over the course of March and April this year.

The campaign played out over the national media as well as on picket lines. The victory was seen by many observers as the product of a determined fight by a valiant group of workers and their union, Unite. It was a morale boost for all working people after what has seemed like a period of retreat for working class struggle in recent years.

Workers in the fast food industry have long identified “zero hour contracts” as the central problem they face. These are contracts that don’t guarantee any hours per week, meanwhile workers are expected to work any shifts rostered within the workers “availability”. Managers have power to use and abuse the rostering system to reward and punish, without any real means of holding them to account.

This year, all the collective agreements with the major fast food companies (McDonald’s, Burger King, Restaurant Brands) expired on March 31. We were already in dispute with Wendy’s, as their agreement remains unresolved from last year. Unite Union was determined to end the system of zero hours and get guaranteed hours included in the new collective agreements. We had no illusions that this was going to be easy. We knew this would be a tough battle and we needed to prepare for that reality if we were to have a chance of success. At organising meetings I would sometimes use a phrase that appealed: “If you want peace, prepare for war”. I was told later it is taken from a Latin adage: “Si vis pacem, para bellum”. Whoever coined the phrase, it is a wise strategy.

Continue reading

Justice for Janitors: A Misunderstood Success

by Peter Olney and Rand Wilson

Los Angeles, CA. 15 Ap. 08:  The first day of the labor sponsored 3 day march

Los Angeles, CA. 15 Ap. 08: The first day of the labor sponsored 3 day march “Hollywood to the Docks”.

Part two of a series looking back on the 20th anniversary the AFL-CIO’s New Voice movement

John Sweeney, his officers, and their staff team came into office with high expectations and great optimism. A good part of their inspiration was drawn from SEIU’s Justice for Janitors campaign that many had directly participated in or saw as a model of success. After all, Justice for Janitors had succeeded in mobilizing members, winning better contracts and organizing thousands of new, mostly Latino members while garnering broad public support.(1)

Founded in 1921, the Building Service Workers was a Chicago-based janitors, window washer and doormen’s union. George Hardy, the predecessor to John Sweeney as International President, was a San Francisco native and organizer who took his comrades from Hayes Valley to Southern California after World War II to organize janitors in Los Angeles. From his base at Local 399 in Los Angeles, Hardy launched the campaign to organize Kaiser and health care that would transform the Building Service Workers into the Service Employees International Union.(2)

By the 1980s, much of the union’s market power among urban janitors had eroded as the industry restructured to a cleaning model that relied on outsourced contract cleaners instead of permanent staff. When Justice for Janitors was launched in the late 1980s however, the union still retained tremendous power and thousands of members in its traditional strongholds of New York City, Chicago and San Francisco.

In these cities, the union had excellent contracts with good wages and benefits for doormen and cleaners. These were the “fortresses” that played such a crucial role in the success of the janitor’s campaigns in Los Angeles, San Jose, Oakland, Denver and San Diego where the battle was to reorganize weak and degraded bargaining units and organize thousands of new members.

The early janitor organizers in Los Angeles recognized the importance of first rebuilding and re-energizing their base. One of the first campaigns undertaken was the contract campaign for downtown janitors. Cecile Richards(3) skillfully directed a winning contract fight for the approximately 1,000 janitors in the core market of LA. The contract struggle gave the union a new core group of supporters; many of whom became the front line soldiers in the campaign to organize the vast non-union market outside of downtown.

A key to the membership mobilization was “market triggers” that Local 399 inserted into its collectively bargained agreements. The triggers provided for automatic increases in wages and benefits if the janitors union succeeded in organizing 50 percent or more of the commercial buildings in mutually agreed upon geographic areas. Thus, when rank and file union janitors marched for “justice for the unorganized janitors” it meant marching to increase their own wages and benefits and to gain a more secure future.

In Los Angeles long-time union signatory contractors like International Service Systems (ISS) were operating non-union or in the case of American Building Maintenance (ABM) double breasting by creating new entities like “Bradford Building Services” to clean non-union in LA.(4) On May 29, 1990 the SEIU janitors boldly struck non-union ISS buildings in the entertainment high rise complex called Century City. When the Daryl Gates-led police department brutally attacked the striking Los Angeles janitors on June 15, the shocking news footage traveled around the country.(5) With some prompting, SEIU Local 32 B-J leader Gus Bevona threatened ISS with a shutdown in New York City if the company didn’t settle in LA. That strategic solidarity contributed to victory and the nearly immediate organization of thousands of new members for SEIU Local 399.

Most successful organizing is not done in a vacuum, existing members have to be front line apostles.

The campaign even had a movie made about it; “Bread and Roses” directed by the Scottish filmmaker Ken Loach.(6) It did a fine job of presenting SEIU’s strategy to organize industry-wide and build a campaign that resonated broadly in the community particularly among Latinos. It also portrayed the challenges organizers always face in holding the unity of the working class. The deep divisions and contradictions among workers are often the biggest obstacle that needs to be overcome in order to have a shot at beating the boss.(7)

The Justice for Janitors campaign was often showcased by New Voice supporters as a premier example of “new” organizing. But what many union leaders and key staff strategists have missed is the fact it was not a “blank slate” campaign disconnected from the sources of SEIU’s membership and contract power. As we have shown above, it was a campaign (as William Finnegan also pointed out in an excellent New Yorker article) deeply rooted in the existing power, base and history of SEIU.(8)

Herein lies an important lesson: It takes members to organize members! While obvious and hardly a new concept, it was embraced as part of the New Voice strategy of “bargaining to organize” in 1996. But sadly the importance of worker-to-worker organizing, building strong committees and using our bargaining power with employers got lost. As a result, we’ve seen a multitude of costly “Hail Mary” passes being thrown in the labor movement with little chance of success because there is not the power of the market or the members in play.
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