Dining Hall Workers at Harvard Win Strike

by Paul Garver

huds-march

Harvard University Dining Hall workers, represented by UNITE HERE Local 26, will return to work in two days following the successful resolution of a 3-week-long strike.and an expected member ratification vote.

The new contract will include a guaranteed annual salary of $35,000 and no increase in health insurance payments.

The workers enjoyed considerable support from Harvard students, from the local community and from other labor unions.   More than a thousand rallied and marched in support on 22nd October.   As a participant, I found the lively and racially diverse support march from Cambridge Common to the Cambridge City Hall to be a most spirited and upbeat labor demonstration.

Members of other UNITE HERE locals from as far away as Philadelphia and Atlantic City took part, as did Boston-area SEIU locals.   Young Democratic Socialist (YDS) members like Tom Dinardo from Philadelphia accompanied UNITE HERE delegations.

Spencer Brown,  a member of the Young Democratic Socialists at Wesleyan University, stated that he was also there to support food service workers organizing at Connecticut universities.

The Harvard-based Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) played a leading role in strike support, organizing large-scale student walkouts from classes and a 250 student occupation of the lobby of the Harvard administration building where contract negotiations were in their final phase.

As a long-term labor organizer, with whom the concept of an alliance between students and campus workers was first discussed during the Harvard strike of 1969, I observe that the strength and depth of alliances between students, even at elite universities, with campus workers of many types (even contingent faculty members!), is becoming more natural and organic as many students expect to be also subjected to precarious employment.

And the dining hall workers have are crediting the success of their struggle in part to the support they received from students, community members and other labor unions. But, of course, the workers themselves, their families, and their UNITE HERE local remain the bedrock.

Pennsylvania Faculty on Strike

The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, the union that represents 5500 faculty and coaches at Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities took to the picket lines this morning, Oct. 19.

APSCUF President Kenneth Mash wrote to reporters, “At 11:35 p.m., we made a last attempt to negotiate through back channels. We waited until 5 a.m. We are headed to the picket lines, but even on the picket lines, our phones will be on, should the State System decide it doesn’t want to abandon its students.”

He added, “They’ll know where to find me at 5:30 a.m. I’ll be outside the chancellor’s office at the Dixon Center on the picket line.” Continue reading

The Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor

by Jeremy Brecher

Labor Network for Sustainability

dakota-pipeline-solidarity-poster

As United States Energy Transfers Partners began building the Dakota Access Pipeline through territory sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, the tribe began an escalating campaign against the pipeline. By this summer nearly 200 tribes around the country had passed resolutions opposing the pipeline and many hundreds of their members joined nonviolent direct action to halt it. Amidst wide public sympathy for the Native American cause, environmental, climate protection, human rights, and many other groups joined the campaign. On September 9, the Obama administration intervened to temporarily halt the pipeline and open government-to-government consultations with the tribes.

The Dakota Access Pipeline has become an issue of contention within organized labor. When a small group of unions supported the Standing Rock Sioux and opposed the pipeline, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka issued a statement discounting Native American claims and urging that work on the pipeline resume. Other constituencies within labor quickly cracked back. Why has this become a divisive issue within labor, and can it have a silver lining for a troubled labor movement?

Continue reading

Dining Hall Workers Strike at Harvard

by Brandon J. Dixon and Hannah Natanson

harvardstrike

Hundreds of Harvard’s dining service workers began picketing early Wednesday morning, commencing a historic strike precipitated by months of tense—and thus far fruitless—negotiations with the University.

The workers’ strike marks the first time they have walked off the job during the academic year, according to Brian Lang, president of UNITE HERE Local 26, the Boston-based labor union that represents HUDS. The strike is the first walk out Harvard has seen since 1983, according to Lang.

HUDS workers picketed outside of dining halls and stationed four RVs in the Harvard area as “mobile strike centers.” At 9 a.m., roughly 600 workers rallied in the Science Center Plaza, according to Local 26 spokesperson Tiffany Ten Eyck, eventually marching to Massachusetts Hall, where University President Drew G. Faust’s office is located.

According to Lang, around 500 dining service employees checked into picket lines across the campus as of about 8 a.m. using strike identification cards. There are about 750 total HUDS workers.

Lang and Ten Eyck also confirmed that as of about 8 a.m. they were not aware of any dining services workers that had reported for work.

Local 26 negotiator Michael Kramer gave opening remarks at the rally, calling for an increase in HUDS employees’ wages. “At this, the richest university in the world, no worker that is here and that is ready work should be making less than $35,000 a year,” he said.

Anabela A. Pappas, a HUDS worker stationed in Pforzheimer and Cabot Houses, followed Kramer. She said that HUDS employees would rather be “in the dining hall feeding the students” than outside rallying, and that Harvard had forced workers into striking.

“All the money they have, and they still want to squeeze every bit out of us,” she said. “You greedy people. This is what you caused, not us. We didn’t want to be here.”

Over the course of the months-long bargaining—which began mid-June—Harvard and union negotiators have faced a stalemate over wages and health benefits.

Continue reading

Dump the Racist Trump

Continue the Political Revolution Down Ballot: Build Multiracial Coalitions
DSA’s Electoral Position for 2016

DSADemocratic Socialists of America believes that the Left must balance two crucial tasks in the November 2016 elections. On the one hand, the progressive movement must roundly defeat Donald Trump’s racist, nativist, Islamophobic and misogynist presidential campaign, as well as isolate and delegitimize the far-right hate groups that his campaign has strengthened. On the other hand, the Left must sustain and expand the independent electoral and social movement capacity built by the insurgent Sanders campaign, while broadening it out in an explicitly antiracist and multiracial direction. Thus, through November, DSA will prioritize two goals:

Building an independent “Dump Trump” movement, primarily in swing states where we have the capacity to make an impact, and
Developing local multiracial coalitions and campaigns that can build independent socialist organizing capacity and challenge neoliberal, pro-corporate Democrats in November
As an organization primarily oriented towards social movement building, DSA does not normally endorse presidential candidates. We decided to encourage Bernie Sanders to run for President — and then proudly participated in his movement — because he offered a political program that genuinely advances the democratic socialist vision. Hillary Clinton’s politics are quite different, and therefore DSA will not offer her our endorsement. Continue reading

Unions and the White Working Class Vote

Harold Meyerson

MT. PLEASANT, SC - DECEMBER 7: (EDITORS NOTE: Retransmission with alternate crop.)  Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the crowd at a Pearl Harbor Day Rally at the U.S.S. Yorktown December 7, 2015 in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. The South Carolina Republican primary is scheduled for February 20, 2016. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

MT. PLEASANT, SC – DECEMBER 7: (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

It is now, as the Post’s numbers in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio (where Trump holds a three-point lead) clearly suggest. The decline of white working-class support for the Democrats has engendered a debate as to its causes: whether it’s due to the declining economic condition (and, indeed, life expectancy) of working-class whites, or to their racial and cultural resentment at the rising number of minorities and the programs the Democrats have championed for the past 50 years to help them. Clearly, the cause isn’t simply one or the other. The sense of abandonment that many working-class whites feel is rooted both in economics and culture. It’s worth noting, however, that even at the height of the United Auto Workers’ power in Michigan, as far back as 60 years ago and more, it could persuade its white members to vote for Democrats for state and federal office, where economic policies were formulated and implemented, but never could persuade them to vote Democratic for Detroit city officials, who held sway over policing, school and housing policies—that is, over the policies with the greatest impact on race relations and discrimination.

Still, the presidential contest is for a federal office with huge power over economic policy. Shouldn’t unions be moving their white members toward Clinton? They probably are: The AFL-CIO released survey data yesterday that showed Trump is polling just 36 percent among its members in five swing states (Florida, Nevada and three in the Midwest: Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin). That, of course, is a survey of all its members, not just its white working-class members, whose level of Trump support is certainly higher than these aggregate totals. But more important than the preferences of these union members is the preferences of non-members who would have been members before the near collapse of private-sector unionism—that is, before corporations abandoned their employees for cheaper labor in China, before American management began to oppose and thwart unionization all across the private sector, and before a number of these states (Wisconsin and Michigan most notably), under Republican government, went right-to-work. In 2015, just 15.2 percent of the Michigan workforce was unionized, just 12.3 percent of Ohio’s, and just 8.3 percent of Wisconsin’s—all states where close to 40 percent of the private sector workforce was unionized in the mid-20th century.

The AFL-CIO’s Working America program, which goes door to door in white working-class neighborhoods to talk with non-union voters, does yeoman work, but there’s no question that unions’ capacity to reach and impact the kind of voters they once had as members isn’t what it used to be. Looking at exit polling since the early 1970s, white working class union members have tended to vote Democratic at a rate 20 points higher than their non-union counterparts—a tribute to the unions’ ability to get its white members to consider economic issues, not just what for some is their racial fear and loathing. Looking at the numbers in the Post’s poll, then, one explanation for the surprisingly high level of Trump support in the Midwest—beyond the purely economic or racial—is the declining level of unionization.
Continue reading

Why Labor and the Movement for Racial Justice Should Work Together

by Maurice Weeks and Marilyn Sneiderman

fixla

Labor should work alongside the Movement for Black Lives, a coalition with more than 50 organizations, to usher in a radically new economic and social order. The path won’t be easy. But recent history has shown that one of the ways to get at this new reality is through union bargaining.  

It is exciting to imagine potential bargaining demands major unions could undertake alongside racial justice organizations.

The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) has made tremendous strides in exposing and challenging racial injustice, and has won real policy victories. The policies, while often imperfect, are a testament to the strength of the organizing and activism of the moment. Not coincidentally, this uprising comes at a time when income and wealth inequality are at peak levels and the economy for most black people looks markedly different than the economy for their white counterparts.

Just as we are in a critical moment in the movement for racial justice, we are in a critical moment for the right to unionize. Unions, which have been a major force for economic justice for people of color in the past 50 years, have been decimated to historically low levels.

Labor should work alongside the Movement for Black Lives, a coalition with more than 50 organizations, to usher in a radically new economic and social order. The path won’t be easy. But recent history has shown that one of the ways to get at this new reality is through union bargaining. Consider the example of Fix L.A.

Fix L.A. is a community-labor partnership that fought to fund city services and jobs alike, using city workers’ bargaining as a flashpoint to bring common good demands to the table. The coalition started after government leaders in Los Angeles drastically cut back on public services and infrastructure maintenance during the Great Recession. The city slashed nearly 5,000 jobs, a large portion of which had been held by black and Latino workers. Not only did these cuts create infrastructure problems—like overgrown and dangerous trees and flooding—but they also cost thousands of black and Latino families their livelihoods.

Fix L.A. asked why the city was spending more on bank fees than on street services, and demanded that it renegotiate those fees and invest the savings in underserved communities.

What was the result of this groundbreaking campaign?

The creation of 5,000 jobs, with a commitment to increase access to those jobs for black and Latino workers, the defeat of proposed concessions for city workers and a commitment from the city to review why it was prioritizing payment of bank fees over funding for critical services in the first place!

Continue reading