Guatemala: Coke Union STECSA and Coke Bottler FEMSA sign new collective bargaining agreement

from the Coca-Cola Workers Alliance

IUF (Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers Worldwide)

Stecsa2016

[Ed. note – Paul Garver:  This may sound like a routine story abut a contract settlement between a local union and management.  Except for one thing.  The initial creation of the STECSA union in Guatemala City in the 1970s cost the lives of several assassinated Guatemalan union leaders, plus a large-scale protracted global labor solidarity campaign.  Nearly forty years later Coke unions around the world remain engaged in a global coordination through the IUF that has resulted in a flexible and evolving framework of contention and dialogue with the giant corporate Coca-Cola empire.  The Guatemala Coke union has always remained on the IUFs global labor solidarity agenda.  In this case therefore what seems on the surface to be a routine event is actually a further manifestation of a heroic history of workers’ struggle.]

On the night of March 3, after 14 months of difficult negotiations and a suspension of nearly five months of negotiations, the Union of Workers of Embotelladora Central SA (STECSA) and Coca Cola FEMSA reached an agreement and signed the new collective bargaining agreement that will be valid for two years.

On March 2, the two negotiating committees signed an agreement that actually gave way to the completion of this difficult negotiation.

“Solving the conflict and finalizing the negotiation were the most important targets for the new Board of STECSA” Carlos Luch, the General Secretary of STECSA told the IUF Latin America region.

The agreement allowed us to ensure a retroactive wage increase of 4 percent from 1 March 2015 and provided a wage increase of 4 percent from 1 March 2016.

This percentage applies to all items that have economic impact, in that case also with retroactive effect from 1 March 2015.

“While we are not entirely satisfied with the salary adjustment reached, we believe that the agreement consolidates job stability in Central Bottling Company S.A. (Coca Cola FEMSA) and maintains the structure of our collective agreement unchanged guaranteeing the acquired rights” Luch added.

STECSA General Secretary thanked the members for their unconditional support given throughout the duration of the negotiations, and called on them “to continue with that commitment and conviction of struggle.”

He also urged all members to remain alerted “to defend the gains that were achieved through the struggle”.

United Electrical Workers Endorse Sanders

sanders_cwa

 

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday welcomed an endorsement by the 35,000-member United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America.

Peter Knowlton, the union’s national president, called Sanders “the most pro-worker pro-union presidential candidate I have seen in my lifetime” and said electing Sanders “is a unique opportunity that workers and unions must not pass up.

“We are proud to endorse Bernie Sanders and support his campaign,” he added.

The endorsement was approved unanimously by rank-and-file local delegates from the union’s three regions over the past six weeks.

Knowlton said the labor organization and Sanders have longstanding ties in Vermont. “As more of our members around the country have seen and heard Bernie over the past few months,” he added, “they’ve seen that his policies and priorities match our own. So, there has been a groundswell of support for Bernie with members volunteering for the campaign.

Sanders welcomed the news while he was campaigning in Rhode Island ahead of Tuesday’s presidential primary elections here and in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland.

“I thank the 35,000 members of the United Electrical Workers for their endorsement,” Sanders said. “During my 25 years in Congress, I have been proud to stand side by side with the UE fighting to increase the minimum wage to a living wage; to guarantee health care to every man, woman and child as a right; to make it easier for workers to join unions; to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure; to transform our nation’s energy system; and against disastrous trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement and normalized trade with China which have destroyed millions of decent-paying jobs in America.”

Altogether, more than 100 national and local unions, representing over 1.5 million workers, have endorsed Sanders. They include the Communications Workers of America, the American Postal Workers Union, the Amalgamated Transit Union, National Nurses United, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the United Electrical Workers.

University of Colorado Should Give Nike a Swift Kick

by Dave Anderson

Buffs Nike.jpg

USAS Activists at UC Boulder

A university should be a critic and conscience of society, according
to an old-fashioned view. There are lofty goals on campus plaques and
universities should certainly provide a unique space for dissident
views.

Nevertheless, if you scratch the surface, you realize that
universities are increasingly knowledge factories subordinate to
corporate America.

Progressive student activists challenge universities to live up to
their ideals. United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) is a
nationwide, grassroots group organizing solidarity with workers who
face grievous conditions locally and abroad.

They have focused their activism on the reckless business practices of
university-branded sports apparel brands. As students attending
colleges and universities with multimillion-dollar apparel programs,
USAS has conducted campaigns to force apparel brands like Nike to
respect workers rights. University of Colorado has a huge contract
with Nike.

On April 5, the CU Boulder chapter of USAS hosted a talk by Noi
Supalai, former union president and Nike factory worker from Thailand.
She described her struggles while working for a sub-contracting
company in Thailand called Eagle Speed, which produced clothing for
brands such as Nike, Northface, Columbia and Puma.

Accompanied by a volunteer translator, Supalai explained that after
the 2008 world economic meltdown, these brands began to order less
clothing from Eagle Speed.

Supalai said that, “it was at that point that Nike took advantage of
the situation and made a deal with the factory trying to order in
higher quantity, and they pressured for greatest quality, and we had
to produce it within a shorter time frame and in lower costs.”

Supalai said that Nike threatened to terminate Eagle Speed’s contract
if they didn’t agree to the new conditions. The 2,000 Eagle Speed
workers were unable to keep up with the high demand. As a result, Nike
placed a fine on the factory and refused to pay for any of the
clothing produced.

The workday was elongated from 8 a.m. to midnight or 1 a.m. Management
placed devices on their bodies to track their working pace to ensure
consistency. The workers didn’t get paid for two months and couldn’t
even go home.

In desperation, the workers went on strike. When Supalai and 24 of her
fellow co-workers attempted to meet with Eagle Speed management, they
were directed to a room where they were immediately locked up.

She said Eagle Speed’s response when questioned about the detention
was, “You are too radical, stirring up workers.”

The Eagle Speed workers contacted the Thai government’s Department of
Labor Protection who refused to help them. The workers directly
contacted Nike and got the run-around.

Finally, they reached out to the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC), an
independent labor rights monitoring organization.

Within one week, the WRC was able to reach an arrangement with Eagle
Speed that successfully allowed former workers to go back to work with
a promise that they wouldn’t be discriminated against and that those
who wished to resign would be granted full compensation.

The WRC attempts to combat sweatshops around the globe and protect the
rights of workers who make apparel and other products. It was founded
in 2000 by university administrators, labor rights experts and student
activists. The group’s primary focus is the labor practices of
factories that make university-related apparel.

The WRC conducts independent, in-depth investigations; issues public
reports on factories producing for major brands; and aids workers at
these factories in their efforts to end labor abuses and defend their
workplace rights.

Nearly 200 schools are WRC affiliates. CU is one of them. For many
years, WRC and Nike have had a reasonably cooperative relationship.
However, the situation changed recently. Late last year, workers at a
Nike supplier’s factory in Vietnam held a pair of strikes over working
conditions. The WRC wanted to inspect the factory but Nike stopped
them.

WRC director Scott Nova was “surprised and concerned” by this change.
He said, “What it boils down to is Nike prefers not to be accountable
to an independent investigative body. They want to police the working
conditions themselves. The reason there are mandatory standards is
it’s not prudent to allow companies to police themselves.”

Nike has a lengthy history dealing with labor watchdogs and student
activists. In the 1990s, the company was embarrassed over a number of
sweatshop scandals. Since then, Nike has polished its pubic image and
has changed its behavior.

The USAS is leading a national campaign to force Nike to go back to
allowing WRC to inspect factories producing Nike shoes, clothes and
athletic equipment. The company is violating codes of conduct in
contracts with many schools.

Recently, hundreds of college faculty members around the country
signed onto a letter criticizing Nike for not assisting the WRC in
investigating the situation at the Vietnamese factory.

The president of Rutgers University, Robert Barchi, said that if Nike
didn’t help the WRC access the Vietnamese factory, the company would
be taking “a step backward” on its labor rights record. “Rutgers feels
that it is essential that all companies producing Rutgers-branded
products not only adhere to all applicable labor codes of conduct but
also be perceived as maintaining the highest standards of labor
rights,” Barchi wrote.

Parker Haile, an undergraduate in economics and chemical engineering,
says the CU Boulder chapter of USAS is asking the CU administration to
be as assertive as Rutgers. The student activists need our help. Check
out their Facebook page: http://tinyurl.com/hbywglr.

This opinion piece originally appeared in the April 21 edition of Boulder Weekly.

After the New York Primary: Analysis from a Bernie Volunteer

by Chris Horton

chris horton

What I heard on the phone calls to New York State was heartening, even amazing.   We saturated New York State in an absolutely unprecedented national volunteer phone-bank operation – our goal was 2 million calls on Saturday and Sunday and we hit 3 million – and huge numbers of doors were knocked by volunteers, including many from Worcester County.  Bernie supporters in New York were lit up!
 
Hillary won (or captured) New York State, 58%-42%. I’ll admit to being very disappointed, but not discouraged. The New York State Democratic Primary was rigged against us from the start. 
 
  • Polls in most of Upstate New York where Bernie was expected to run strongest opened at 12 Noon, while polls in New York City and suburbs, Buffalo and a few other cities opened at 6am.
  • Only registered Democrats could vote in the primary. Voters registered in another party or no party needed to have changed their registration by last October (!), long before many voters had even heard of Bernie thanks to the corporate media blackout!
  • Hundreds of thousands of people (over 100,000 just in Brooklyn!) reported their voter registrations changed without their permission or lost.
 
Bernie won big in Upstate New York, winning in every county except Erie (Buffalo), Monroe County (Rochester) and Onondaga County (Syracuse) and nearly broke even in those, losing Erie County by less than 1000 votes. He won in Albany County and every other upstate county, rural or urban, some by nearly 3 to 1! Three cheers for the many Worcester volunteers who travelled to Albany and Poughkeepsie to knock on doors! (See  http://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/new-york)
 
The Sanders Campaign is alive and well, … But there’s still the disastrous issue of the urban Black and Latino vote.
Looking at the election results of New York City precincts, nearly every Black-majority precinct and most of the Latino-majority precincts were won by Clinton. This is important,  but this is where the corporate media stops. Luckily, the Times also provides a breakdown of precincts by income (http://goo.gl/la7KdW).  I spent some time scanning over these, comparing them to the results by race and ethnicity.
 
  • -Not surprisingly, precincts with average income over $100,000 nearly all went to Hilary, the wealthiest, such as Central Park East and lower Park Ave., by margins of nearly 10 to 1.
  • Precincts with incomes under $50,000 – including nearly all the Black and Latino precincts – overwhelmingly went for Clinton, with a few clusters of white- and Latino-majority and a very few Black-majority precincts that went for Sanders.
  • Bernie showed considerable strength in precincts with incomes between $50K and $100K – roughly, the stable but struggling working class – winning about half. Most of his wins in Black and Latino majority precincts were in this income group.
 
So how do we account for Clinton’s strength among the urban poor – black, brown, Latino and white?  This is critical for us to understand if our Political Revolution is to build a coalition strong enough to confront the billionaire class.  

  

Here are some of my thoughts:
The people of the Bronx, Harlem, northern Brooklyn, eastern Queens – and Main South, Quinsigamond Village and South Worcester – are already organized in
  • Churches and other religious institutions and charities
  • Grant-funded movements around anti-foreclosure work, ex-prisoners rights and criminal justice reform, immigrant rights, anti-repression, civil rights, public safety and health, education, job training, welfare rights and many more.
  • Union-sponsored low-wage organizing through SEIU, the AFL/CIO and Jobs with Justice, such as Fight for 15.
  • Small businesses and their customers, everything from bars and taverns to black-market distribution systems.
  • Clubs and lodges.
  • Schools and parents groups.
 
Also:  
  • the system of elected officeholders providing constituent services – mostly fixing problems, a kind of institutionalized corruption – and their campaign organizations, 
  • many who would have been active in a movement like the Sanders Campaign in bygone eras now work for government and government-funded agencies.
 
Some of these groups are already working and fighting for Bernie’s program – but won’t touch the Sanders Campaign. Their struggles need to continue – with our support – regardless, but we have to solve the problem of drawing them into the political revolution. They, or at least their members and activists, naturally align with us, but nearly all are blocked from supporting it by:
 
  • tax laws forbidding political activity by non-profits and churches.
  • laws forbidding political activity by government employees and government-funded agencies.
  • the unspoken but very real agendas of foundations and their wealthy donors, and of wealthy board members.
  • the institutional ties, relationships and commitments of political and labor leaders.
  • the blind-spots of many top leaders who live in other communities and don’t share their members’ experiences.
  • fear of being targeted by police, regulators and inspectors of all sorts.
 
These constraints are widely internalized as the belief that politics is dirty and divisive – fed by the media’s constant pushing of hot-button issues – and a widespread belief that only local efforts can make a difference.
Of all the ways poor communities are organized, perhaps the one least walled off by these barriers may be small businesses such as variety and liquor stores, auto repair and tire shops, barber and beauty shops and more. Their owners are independent-minded, deeply connected to their communities and often opinion leaders.  It’s certainly worth exploring.
 
This tension, this disastrous division in the progressive forces in the US at this critical moment of political and economic crisis, must be solved, and quickly, because only a political revolution with Black, Latino and working class leadership can fully take hold, last and win!
 
Back to the bright side: my calls to New York voters, as with my calls into Wisconsin two weeks ago, uncovered truly remarkable evidence of a self-organization process underway, such as we would expect in the early stages of a revolution.  Whenever I spoke to someone who said they had voted for Bernie or definitely would, I asked them if they had any friends, family or relations who they knew wanted to vote for Bernie, who might possibly forget until too late, who maybe could use a reminder call.  Most, regardless of their age, apparent ethnicity or what part of the state they lived in, insisted that they had already talked to all their family and friends and were confident they felt strongly enough to be sure they would vote.  Some said they had all gone to vote together!  Some said their friends had called them to remind them!
 

We need to continue working toward knitting this process together into a movement that can endure and continue despite the inevitable setbacks we will face, confident in the power of a united and determined people!

 
Chris Horton is a volunteer for  We Want Bernie – Worcester and the Worcester Unemployment Action Group.  He can be reached at chris44horton@gmail.com.
 
 
 

300 CWA Members Join Democracy Awakening Protest in DC

Communication Workers of Americ
CWA Press Release

  • democracyawakens

    WASHINGTON, DC — More than 300 members and activists from the Communications Workers of America (CWA) are participating in Democracy Awakening, a mass mobilization of thousands of Americans calling for a democracy that works for all — not just the 1 percent. They rallied, marched, attended teach-ins, and lobbied, and today, are engaging in civil disobedience outside the U.S. Capitol.

    CWA President Chris Shelton is among the CWAers standing up for a democracy where every voice is heard and every vote counts. “We know that on our own, CWA cannot restore workers’ rights or win the financial reforms we need to put working families back on track. The same is true for the critical issues facing environmental groups, consumer advocates and social justice activists. We can’t go it alone. But when we join together, as we have in the past, we can move our democracy forward. We know this. When every organization makes restoring our democracy at least its second most important issue, we can succeed,” Shelton said.

    Shelton and nearly 80 CWA activists are engaging in civil disobedience, risking arrest to spotlight public attention on the call to restore our democracy.

    CWA joins more than 260 organizations in this landmark event coordinated by the Democracy Initiative and calling for strengthened voting rights, campaign finance reform, getting big money out of politics and filling the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. This is a broad coalition of organizations representing the labor, green, student, racial justice, civil rights and money-in-politics reform communities.

    PRESS CONTACT:
    Candice Johnson
    (202) 434-1168

Bernie and Beyond 2016

by Peter Olney, for Labor for Bernie

labor for bernie

Now is the time to unite in a new force for a democratic economy.

The Sanders’ campaign has been a roaring success in igniting the passion of the American people for a progressive, anti-corporate agenda. It has resonated deeply with the working class because Bernie “walks the talk” that union members hear between elections. While many primaries still remain and the July Democratic convention looms, it is not too soon to start planning beyond Bernie, win or lose.

The cardinal question remains: Can the progressive left in the United States coalesce around a strategy that develops a permanent and ongoing presence in the political arena at the national, state and local level. Yes we can!

Unions, political organizations, community groups, worker centers, immigrant rights groups and organizations advocating for people of color, women and LGBT rights that consider the following statements to be true have an opportunity to come together around a common strategic vision:

1. America suffers from too great a concentration of wealth and power that is corrupting our democracy.

2. As a nation we must proactively address the historical and pressing problems of
discrimination based on race, gender and sexual orientation.

3. Our permanent war economy and militarized foreign policy is not bringing us closer to genuine “national security.” Our national priorities must shift to new investments in education and infrastructure, the expansion of Social Security, and Medicare for all.

4. Global climate change requires a massive shift in energy and employment policies. We are currently frittering away our opportunities to develop energy sources and new jobs that won’t further degrade the planet.

5. Unions and other worker organizations are crucial bastions in the fight against inequality and essential to any viable political initiative. Therefore the defense of the right to organize and of labor’s right to promote working class interests in the political sphere must be central to any progressive project.

Unity around the aforementioned general principles could provide an opportunity to work together on a common political strategy during national, state and local elections. One crucial component of such a strategy is to run or support candidates who support these principles in primary races (usually, but not exclusively, in the Democratic Party).

As the Sanders’ campaign has shown, the best antidote to the political corruption now allowed by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision is to “unite citizens” and support candidates who stand for these principles and campaign without the Wall Street support that dominates both major parties.

This primary strategy would be complementary to other political strategies like issue oriented initiatives and referenda, independent campaigns in “nonspoiler”
situations or nonpartisan elections, fusion, recall or “insurrectionary” movements a la Chicago. All these strategies are geared to the goal of eventually having a “party of our own.”

Labor unions will be central to moving this political project forward. The labor movement provides a base in the working class and the necessary savvy and resources to drive a “primary strategy.” However, labor, under relentless assault from the same corporate interests and billionaires that pollute our political process, cannot do it alone. It must share leadership with other dynamic social movement organizations, especially those representing immigrants and communities of color. There is also room to learn from organizations like the Working Families Party, National People’s Action and Progressive Democrats of America, etc. These groups (and many others) should be enlisted to share their experience, embrace the strategic approach to be a coordinated force in electoral primaries and other political arenas and “sign on” in unity with the five basic principles.

To continue supporting the political revolution and work constructively in broader coalition groups, the five national unions and over 90 local unions that have endorsed Bernie Sanders could form the core of a new and coherent union political formation. Once formed, other national unions and many locals would undoubtedly be attracted to it.

Most importantly, such a formation could play a leading role in the broader grouping that Sanders and the tens of millions of his supporters rightly expect to emerge from the campaign to carry on his vision and much needed change.

To move this vision forward it will be necessary for the unions that have embraced Bernie and the call for political revolution to stick together and agree to provide sufficient resources to coordinate our work. It will require union leadership forming a coordinating body and staff to begin implementing a unifying program in selected campaigns at the state and national level.

We are in a unique political moment. Our movement can’t afford to miss this opportunity. The whole world is watching!

Peter Olney retired from serving the International Longshore and Warehouse Union as Organizing Director. ILWU has endorsed Bernie Sanders for President. Peter is now working with the Labor for Bernie organization.

Organizing for a Sanders endorsement from an SEIU Local

by Russ Weiss-Irwin

seiu for bernie

I just wanted to share a hopeful little story from my hopeful little SEIU local, tucked away in Central NJ. I’m a food service worker at Princeton University, and together with 425 or so other blue collar Princeton workers, I’m part of SEIU Local 175. I’m pretty new on the job; just moved to the area from NYC in August, only started working in my current position in November, while many of my coworkers have been here for years or even decades. However, I’m a socialist, a big-time fan of Bernie, and I’ve never been one to be shy about my politics, so a lot of people on the job have heard me talk about him. Nevertheless, I’ve been a little nervous to try to push my local to endorse him, because I’m so new and don’t know how everything works yet.

Last weekend, however, I went to the Labor Notes conference in Chicago and attended the Labor for Bernie session and heard a report from an IBEW member, Carl Shaffer, who talked about how one of the most politically important endorsements Bernie has gotten from a union so far was from the IBEW local in Kansas City, MO, because it was decisive in helping prevent a national IBEW endorsement of Clinton, which in turn helped block a national AFL-CIO endorsement. And apparently the push for the KC endorsement was led, improbably, by a 27-year-old woman apprentice. The message that even a very junior person in the union can make a difference hit home. So I thought to myself, “If she can do it, I should at least try!”

Then, just a couple days after I got back to work, I was taking my break with some coworkers and we were talking about various things, and the topic turned to retirement. One of my coworkers, who grew up in Haiti, was asking how the Social Security system works. We began to explain it, and I started to say how unfair it is that millionaires are all taxed as if they make only $118,000 for the purposes of SS, while everyone else is taxed for every dollar we earn. Before I even finished, another coworker, a middle-aged white woman, said “That’s Bernie’s whole thing, right? Get rid of the SS tax cap?” And she started to talk about how much she supports Bernie. The Haitian coworker who started the conversation concurred, and then we went around the table, as each of my coworkers in turn– white and Black, immigrant and US born, Millennial and middle-aged, woman and man– expressed why we are supporting Bernie (and how much we don’t like Trump). It was like one of Bernie’s ads. I thought, “Here’s my chance!” I said, “Well, since we all feel this way, do you think we should try to get our union to endorse him?” People all agreed it was a good idea, and several said it hadn’t occurred to them before that our union was a space in which we could push for a politician who we support.

Only half an hour later, our local union president came into our cafeteria to get his own lunch (he works upstairs in the same building where we do), and my coworker urged me to talk to him about the endorsement idea. He told me that, with the NJ primary coming up in June, he was actually just getting ready to start the endorsement process– he had to discuss things with the International, then with the state leadership, and then poll the local membership to make a decision. Well, I know what that means: we need to get all the Bernie supporters in our local organized so that the results of that poll are overwhelmingly pro-Bernie and then convince the local leadership that the membership’s opinion should count more than the International’s. This will be hard, but not impossible! I know that SEIU members at Dartmouth and Columbia Universities have already bucked the International and endorsed Bernie, and the giant public workers local in New Hampshire as well.

So, SEIU sisters and brothers, here in Local 175, we’ve got our work cut out for us, but there’s a glimmer of hope. I wanted to share that story with all of you, hoping that inspires you the way the IBEW sister’s story inspired me, and also to ask for your advice and support. And can anyone put us in contact with the leaders of the locals in New Hampshire and New York that have already endorsed Bernie? Thank you in advance!

Solidarity from the heart of New Jersey,
Russell Weiss-Irwin
Local 175, Princeton University

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,612 other followers