Sanders Urges Unions to Hold Their Own Debates

Democratic presidential hopeful and self-described socialist Bernie Sanders advocated Sunday for more Democratic primary debates, including some run by labor unions.

 

“I’d like to see the DNC have more debates,” Bernie Sanders told Face the Nation host John Dickerson. “I would like to see labor union groups. I would like to see environmental groups, women’s groups, gay groups … different constituencies, host events and have us debate. So I believe the more debates, the better.” Continue reading

National Nurses United Endorse Bernie Sanders

OAKLAND, Calif. – National Nurses United, the nation’s largest organization of nurses, on Monday endorsed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders for president.

“Bernie has a proven track record of uncompromised activism and advocacy for working people and a message that resonates with nurses and tens of thousands of people across the country,” said RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of the organization. “We are proud to stand with him in his candidacy for president,” she added in remarks before delivering Sanders his first national labor union endorsement.

Flanked by nurses in red scrubs at the union’s Bay Area headquarters, Sanders thanked the 185,000-strong labor organization for providing high-quality health care to Americans. “I am humbled and enormously appreciative of you support,” Sanders said.

He called nurses “the backbone of our health care system” and added, “I want to thank each of you for the work that you do.”

Sanders has worked for years with the California-based national nurses’ group to strengthen Medicare, address the nation’s nursing shortage and ensure collective-bargaining rights and decent wages and benefits. He praised the critical role National Nurses United has played in improving the health care system, working to prevent medical errors and reducing costs.

He also welcomed the nurses’ backing for Medicare-for-all legislation that he will soon introduce to provide better care for more people at less cost. “The time has come for us to end the international embarrassment of the United States being the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care to all people as a right.”

A leading champion for health care reform, the union also stresses social and economic justice issues as a key part of its mission. Continue reading

SEIU Members for Bernie

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The undersigned SEIU leaders, members, retirees and staff urge the International Executive Board not to make an early endorsement in the presidential primary campaign. We are supporters of Senator Sanders and believe his voice deserves to be heard. His campaign is drawing thousands into a movement around the very issues we support in our day-to-day organizing. To make an early endorsement of Hillary Clinton would put our union in direct opposition to this growing movement.

Senator Sanders has an outstanding track record and is building a strong base of working people. Working against Sanders in the primaries will only alienate and confuse many SEIU members who are actively engaged in various movements, including the Fight for $15, immigration and higher education reform, Black Lives Matter, and many more progressive causes. Continue reading

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

by 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.

San Francisco Nursing Home Calls Cops on Peaceful Protesters

By Carl Finamore
 photo by NUHW
NUHW picket
A lively San Francisco picket line of 50 caregivers from the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) began their one-day strike of San Francisco Nursing Center (SFNC) in the very early morning hours of Wednesday, July 22, 2015.

NUHW negotiator Dennis Dugan told me the strike was primarily to preserve union-contract Kaiser Foundation health benefits that were unilaterally eliminated after San Diego-based Providence Group Inc. took control of SFNC long-term care facility in May.

 As a result, workers were dumped into a grossly inferior and more expensive healthcare pool of insurance choices. And, since then, the company has refused to negotiate with the union, limiting themselves to email exchanges through a federal mediator.
 
Nonetheless, despite the disruptions brought upon SFNC by Providence, there were other examples on this day of the warm, compassionate and very human connections in the facility.
 
For example, convalescing patients in wheelchairs and others sitting on comfortable lounge couches crowded the front lobby area to exchange waves and smiles with their favorite nursing assistant now unaccustomedly out of reach and on picket duty.
 
“These sudden cuts to our healthcare will make it difficult to recruit quality caregivers in the future,” says Certified Nursing Assistant Marilyn Aquino, “and that will undermine the quality of care SFNC residents receive.”
 
Several strikers asked of me, “how can we properly care for our elderly and sick patients with our own health in jeopardy because we will be unable to afford full care?”
 
Of course, healthcare is a huge issue for millions of Americans who often delay care because of the expense. This is a matter of record. However, when this reality hit the low-paid workforce at SFNC who previously enjoyed good contract health benefits, they united as never before.
 
All In for First Strike
 
This was the first strike ever at the facility and for almost everyone on the picket line, mostly Latinas and Filipinas, it was their first time too. So, workers reported with great pride their 100 percent participation in the one-day strike.
 
It was a start. Everything was going fine. A 12 noon rally of several dozen community and union supporters lifted spirits and was topped off by pizza, snacks and drinks being spread around.
 
So, when a San Francisco patrol car with two cops showed up at around 1pm, everyone took it in stride. The pickets did not stop moving and the chants did not stop echoing. Everyone assumed it was just a routine check – maybe asking folks to keep the sound down or cautioning us about street traffic.
 
But, it turned out to be anything but routine.
 
These cops were actually called by the SFNC administration to arrest prominent members of a community delegation that had just entered the facility to parlay with the employer.
 
The delegation facing arrest included SF Board of Supervisor John Avalos; top aides of two other city Supervisors; Tim Paulson, Executive Director, SF Labor Council and leaders from SEIU 87, the Filipino Community Center and the Chinese Progressive Association.
 
Incredulously, to make this scene on the inside all the more absurd, San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, a supporter of NUHW workers and the strike, was himself picketing outside.
 
Paulson told me that the company’s security officer told him “you are trespassing” and that you have to leave or be subject to arrest. But Paulson and the others refused to leave before speaking with the onsite administrator and delivering the delegation’s message that “these striking workers and NUHW do not stand alone.”
 
The security guard was told that the delegation had elected officials along with union and community representatives who all believed it unacceptable to “unilaterally scrap existing health benefits and impose other sick day and vacation cuts while refusing to bargain.”
 
And, according to NUHW, this is exactly the record of the new owners.
 
Instead of negotiating with NUHW directly, Dugan continued, the company hires notoriously anti-union Los Angeles attorney Josh Sable who represents another nursing home operator under investigation for poor care and “flagrant disregard for human life” according to the Sacramento Bee.
 
A bad sign indeed.
 
“So, actually,” Dugan commented to me, “while the whole confrontation inside SFNC unfolding before our eyes looked ridiculous and was quite shocking, it is not all that surprising.”
 
The new owners have been stonewalling us from the beginning, he said. “In fact, the community delegation got a dose of SFNC’s new style of bargaining,” Dugan mused.
 
Nothing like this in recent memory has happened at SFNC where good union contract benefits were enjoyed by the workers who, at the same time, maintained SFNC’s state-sanctioned standards at a very high level.
 
“If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Providence has come in and broken it,” an exasperated Dugan told me.
 
Let’s Talk This Over
 
Indeed, the new owners’ old, outmoded command and control style of management was on vivid display for all the delegation to see. But when community representatives refused to budge until they spoke with an onsite administrator, who apparently was holed up in his office, a rapid-fire series of phone calls between company representatives ensued and a semblance of sanity was eventually restored.
 
Delegation members reported to me that, finally, the onsite administrator crawled out of his office to report a phone call from the Providence CEO from Los Angeles “that he did not like the strike, did not want another one and was very eager to begin negotiations with the union.”
 
As a result, a union organizer told me that the whole day was considered by the workers as a big success: “Our message was heard loud and clear – the company’s anti-worker behavior is not acceptable in San Francisco and when it is attempted, we mobilize extensive community outrage against it.”
 
Carl Finamore is Machinist Lodge 1781 delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council, AFL-CIO. He was outside on the NUHW picket line looking on the inside where all the fun was happening. He can be reached at local1781@yahoo.com
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