Stand Up to Verizon

Verizon rally lowellBy now you have likely heard about the almost 40,000 Verizon workers who are out on strike up and down the East Coast. They’re striking against corporate greed. Verizon wants to outsource jobs abroad instead of paying their workers here a fair share of the wealth they create with their own hands.

We want to focus on a small segment of Verizon workers, Verizon Wireless store workers, who are striking for the first time ever at six stores in Brooklyn, NY and one in Everett, MA. They’re still without a first contract, two years after they voted to join the Communications Workers of America. They make significantly less than their wireline counterparts and thus have less to fall back on during the strike – plus less experience and historical memory of the previous strikes. And they’ve received much less coverage in the media.

Anything that can be done to support them and strengthen their morale and resolve in this fight is huge, both for them as workers and for the entire struggle with Verizon, since the company would love nothing more than to prevent unions from getting a foothold in the Wireless side.

Contribute to the strike fund for Verizon Wireless workers set up by CWA members at AT&T Mobility.

As democratic socialists, we carry the values that all people, everywhere, should have the rights, recognition, and resources they need to thrive. In contrast to that vision, a non-union workplace is a unique location where we are told to accept that we are not entitled to the rights and privileges we normally enjoy as citizens, because free speech exists for bosses but not for workers, nor are we entitled to enjoy the full fruits of our labor, since our wages are less than the value of what we produce. Continue reading

Sanders Joins Verizon Workers on Picket Line

labor for berniePresidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) boosted the cause of striking Verizon workers on Wednesday, joining them on a picket line in New York City and blasting the telecom giant in a sidewalk speech.

Nearly 40,000 Verizon workers on the East Coast went on strike early Wednesday morning after 10 months of negotiations with the company failed to produce a new contract. The Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers unions represent the workers.

It’s the largest strike in the U.S. in four years, and it’s happening just as the presidential primaries come to New York.

Sanders’ raucous speech aired live on cable news, giving Verizon a taste of the attention it may receive in the coming days. Sanders, a close ally of CWA who received the union’s endorsement, called Verizon “another major American corporation trying to destroy the lives of working Americans.”

“Verizon is one of the largest, most profitable corporations in this country,” Sanders said. “They want to outsource decent-paying jobs. They want to give their CEO $20 million a year.”

See more on the Huffington Post.

Approaching Strike by California Faculty

Part time faculty in the California State University System have the protections of a union contract. However, their lack of a full time positions and permanence, leave many in poverty. The video explains this well.
Strike is scheduled for April 13- 19.
California Faculty Association is a member of the NEA, and SEIU.
More information at http://www.calfac.org

Why the coalfields of Central Appalachia need Bernie Sanders!

Mine helmets and painted crosses sat at the entrance to Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch coal mine on April 5, as a memorial to the 29 miners killed there one year earlier.

Mine helmets and painted crosses sat at the entrance to Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch coal mine on April 5, as a memorial to the 29 miners killed there one year earlier.

by Matt Skeens

For nearly a century the coalfields of Appalachia was a hotbed for union strikes and labor activity. We were at the center of more than a few violent and bloody fights between coal-miners pining for better pay and work conditions and the coal industry that was, and still is, one of the most corrupt and destructive industries in U.S. history. Mining conditions were horrid for those who went miles below into the earth for work to support their family. Tens of thousands of miners were killed and many more mangled in mining accidents or explosions weekly, and sometimes daily, that resembled the Upper Branch mining disaster that killed 29 miners in 2010. Company stores weren’t just lines in a song but real places where families were forced to give back over their pay, or scrip which wasn’t as valuable as cash and could only be used at the stores, to feed their family and survive.

The coal companies owned everything: the land, the stores, the courts, and local governments. The only thing they didn’t own were the people, not completely at least, and their desire for better and for what they deserved. It was because of this burning fire that wars were waged. Real ones. From the largest labor uprising at the Battle of Blair Mountain in West Virginia which also served at the largest armed uprising since the Civil War to the multiple union strikes in Harlan County, Kentucky. The last one I remember was the Pittson Strikes in this part of Virginia right around the time I was born. Since then, however, the battles have been few and far between. The war against the impoverished Appalachian waged by the coal industry has continued without interruption ever since. Continue reading

Mondelez Girds for War against U.S. Bakery Workers

by Paul Garver

mondelezshareholder  2013, BCTGM Members in Chicago Demonstrate Solidarity with Mondelez workers facing oppression in Egypt, Pakistan and Tunisia

You may have never heard of a global snack food conglomerate called Mondelez.   You will be hearing more about it over the next few months.

Through a series of global mergers,  Mondelez became the parent corporation of Nabisco (Oreos, Chip Ahoys, Ritz Crackers, etc.).  Nabisco used to operate dozens of factories in the USA, but has closed all but five of them to improve corporate profit margins. Two  factories in Monterrey and Salinas, Mexico, also produce for the U.S. market. I used to live across the street from a Nabisco factory  producing crackers and appetizing smells in Pittsburgh. This factory closed down despite a long union and community struggle to keep its doors open through new ownership.

The remaining Nabisco industrial bakeries in the USA are located in Atlanta (GA), Richmond (VA), Fairlawn (NJ), Portland (OR), with its largest one located on the southwest side of  Chicago (IL).

The huge multi-story Nabisco factory in Chicago has employed generations of workers.  Currently it employs some 1200 workers, the large majority of whom are African-American or Hispanic, over forty years old, and with many decades of service to Nabisco.

Nabisco workers are members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM), which for several decades had been able to negotiate decent collective bargaining agreements with previous owners of Nabisco.

Mondelez recently sent out pink slips laying off 277 union workers at the Chicago plant, first installment of the announced 600 layoffs.  In advance of the national collective bargaining round that began this month (February 2016), the company demanded $46 million in annual concessions in perpetuity as the price of not moving four major production lines from Chicago to Salinas.  The union calculated that would mean a 60% reduction in union wages and benefits in Chicago, and refused.  Mondelez is now heavily investing at Salinas and the transfer of production to Salinas is now underway.

The BCTGM is trying to organize community and political support in Chicago to protect its members and their community.  However the odds of success appear stacked against them.   Job security has become the key issue in the national negotiations between Nabisco and the BCTGM, in which the company is also trying to eliminate the multi-employer BCTGM pension plan for all plants.

Leading the union negotiating team is former Chicago Nabisco worker Jethro Head, now an International Vice-President for the BCTGM.  He points out that that the company introduced its bargaining position by blaming the workers and their union of hindering the global competitiveness of Mondelez, and thereby standing in the way of the necessary investments in efficiency.

Ominously Mondelez seems to be preparing for a long confrontation with the union.

According to a report in the US union-supported Northwest Labor Press (click here [1] to read), Mondelez has recruited strikebreakers in preparation for national bargaining with the IUF-affiliated BCTGM covering 5 Nabisco biscuit plants and three distribution centers.

Weeks before bargaining formally got underway on February 16, a company called Huffmaster Crisis Response, which provides replacement workers and security and describes itself as “the leading management of strike management solutions”, began posting online advertisements for experienced temporary workers “for a possible labor dispute that may occur on or about February 29, 2016.” That is the date on which the union agreements expire at the Nabisco sites. The advertisements do not mention Mondelez or Nabisco by name but seek to recruit workers in each of the five cities where the production plants are located.

According to the report, union representatives at the Nabisco bakery in Portland Oregon say that strike replacement workers have already been brought into the bakery to observe union members performing their jobs.

Through my previous work with the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF), I got to know the dedication and skill of Jethro Head and of BCTGM General President David Durkee.   They will do whatever they can to effectively represent their union members in Chicago and the other Nabisco sites, even if this brings them into a collision course with the giant global snackfood corporation Mondelez.  The BCTGM has always demonstrated solidarity with workers in other countries when called upon.  The IUF has helped create a Mondelez International Union Solidarity Network that affirms the solidarity of its affiliates to provide mutual support for the BCTGM in this struggle.   But solidarity and support to be effective will require strong labor and community support for the BCTGM Nabisco workers in Chicago, Portland, Atlanta, Richmond and Fairlawn.

We will cover this emerging story over the next weeks and months.

 

 

Trump’s Hotel Refuses to Recognize Workers’ Union

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: (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)

LAS VEGAS, NV — Just 24 hours before billionaire frontrunner Donald Trump took the stage for the fifth GOP debate, the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas launched a legal challenge to its 500-odd workers’ effort to form a union.
After a year of organizing, much of it in secret, a narrow majority of the workers voted earlier this month to join the Culinary Workers Union and Bartenders Union, which are part of the national hospitality workers union Unite Here. The text of the company’s complaint — filed with the National Labor Relations Board in D.C. — is not yet public, and multiple calls to the hotel’s management were not returned by the time of publication. But Trump hotel workers told ThinkProgress that their company is “objecting to the outcome of the vote and want it thrown out.”
“Mr. Trump has said repeatedly that he expects and insists on being treated fairly as he campaigns to be the next president of the United States of America,” said Jeffrey Wise, a food server at the hotel. “I also want to be treated fairly. My coworkers and I participated in a democratic election process, just like the one Mr. Trump is preparing for right now.” Continue reading

Sherwin Alumina Lockout in Second Year

by Mike Elk

SherwinLaborDayPhoto

Ed. note: On October 11,2014, Sherwin Alumina locked out 450 USW Local 235A members at their plant in Gregory, Texas. The lockout came after 235A members overwhelmingly rejected the company’s demands for major cuts in pension and health care benefits for members and retirees, as well as reductions in overtime pay.  The lockout is now continuing into its 15th month

Sherwin Alumina is owned by Glencore, a highly profitable Swiss commodities giant that is the 10th largest corporation in the world, with net income of $4.6 billion in 2013.

Glencore is a company set up by billionaire financier Marc Rich, who was eventually brought to terms by the USW after a lengthy lockout at the Ravenswood aluminum plant in West Virginia.  Rich, then a fugitive from American justice, was notoriously pardoned by Bill Clinton in the last days of his Presidency.

This article was originally written by labor reporter Mike Elk for Politico in July 2015, but did not appear then because of a labor dispute between Politico management and Mike Elk, who was active in the effort by the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild (TNG-CWA Local 32035) to organize POLITICO.

As one with extensive experience in the global labor movement, I regard Mike Elk’s July article as an excellent case study of the difficult realities of campaigning for international labor solidarity.

December 15, 2015

This morning, I found myself wanting to cry as I spoke on the phone to a United Steelworkers staffer about an ugly lockout of 450 at Sherwin Alumna lockout that has gone on for 14 months.  As a labor reporter, I have dealt with PTSD as a result of the suicides, divorces, and bar room brawls that happen during lockouts.  It’s just so awful what happens to people during lockouts and the media even the so called “left media” rarely pay proper attention to them.

Continue reading

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