Lost Ground :The Decertification in the Chino Mine

Weeden Nichols

20em

20em (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently, the workers of the Chino open-pit copper mine east of Bayard in Grant County, New Mexico, voted to decertify United Steelworkers Local 9424-3, successor to International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Local 890. During the period 1950-1952 workers of an Empire Zinc underground mine north of Bayard struck due to unsafe working conditions and oppressive and discriminatory practices by the company. Management practices had created the greatest hardship for the Hispanic workers and their families, and it was the Hispanic workers who led the strike. When the men were removed from the picket line as a result of a court order, the women took over. Not only did the striking workers endure economic hardship to win justice, there was physical danger involved. Collective action won from Empire Zinc improved pay and working conditions, which never could have been won by a single worker opposing Big Business. The strike was immortalized by the film “Salt of the Earth,” which was made in 1954 by filmmakers who had been blacklisted during the Joseph McCarthy era.

The Empire Zinc mine workers of Local 890 lived at Santa Rita, which no longer exists. Santa Rita has long since been removed for expansion of the Chino open-pit mine.

I initially over-reacted to the news of decertification in thinking that individual and institutional memory must have been lacking regarding what had been won, and at what cost. It may have been that United Steelworkers Local 9424-3 had insufficient institutional memory of the sacrifices and risks endured by their predecessors in Local 890. It may have been that the present workers are too young to have personal memory, and that there were an insufficient number of persons who themselves remembered. (Insufficiency could obtain in two forms – insufficiency of numbers or insufficiency of current passion – most likely a combination of the two. Perhaps also the present workers inferred, because “the company” paid bonuses to workers in non-union mines, that they too would receive bonuses if they decertified the union. Perhaps very few involved in the decision had ever seen the film “Salt of the Earth.” Also involved in my initial reaction was a jumping to a conclusion that decertification had been inadequately resisted. I do not know that to be so, and on further thought, I believe it cannot be so. I can mentally place myself in the back of the union hall and hear in my mind some really impassioned speeches in favor of sustaining certification. Continue reading

Millionaires Try to Defeat Teachers’ Unions in California

by Duane Campbell

VergaraSlider-24If you believe in public education, if you think preparing students to live and work in a democracy is an important role for state government- then this election is important. The election will set the direction of school improvement for the next four years.

California voters have a choice.  It is not a perfect choice, but the options are stark. We can continue with the current improvements in k-12 education (Torlakson), or we can move the state down the road of test driven, corporate neoliberal model of schooling (Tuck). Wisconsin, Indiana, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Kansas, Louisiana, Texas, are following this route- and their schools are failing.

Incumbent  Tom Torlakson is a former teacher and is  supported by both major teacher unions.  He supports extension of Prop. 30 taxes passed in 2012 which have restored funding to California schools after the devastation of the national  economic crisis when over 30,000 teachers were dismissed in the state.

The corporate right wing failed in 2012 in their attempt to take away union rights in California Proposition 32 while neoliberals were successful in 2010 and 2012 in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and elsewhere. These anti labor campaigns have severely weakened unions in the nation as described by Harold Meyerson in the new issue of the American Prospect. http://prospect.org/article/seeds-new-labor-movement . The question in this election is whether California’s teachers will be similarly defeated. Continue reading

Propelled By ALEC, ‘Right-to-Work’ Assault on Unions Reaches Pennsylvania

by Bruce Vail

Pennsylvania labor is primed for the fight: An April 11, 2011 Teamsters rally against previous right-to-work legislation drew some 400 protestors to the state Capitol.   (The Rick Smith Show / Flickr / Creative Commons)

Pennsylvania labor is primed for the fight: An April 11, 2011 Teamsters rally against previous right-to-work legislation drew some 400 protestors to the state Capitol. (The Rick Smith Show / Flickr / Creative Commons)

Backed by powerful national business interests, conservative legislators in Pennsylvania announced last week a new push to bring so-called “right-to-work” laws to the Keystone state. State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe said January 22 that he and five other Republican legislators would introduce a package of bills aimed at crippling the ability of labor unions to collect dues from members.

Pennsylvania labor leaders say the package is part of a broad assault on labor that began in 2010 when the GOP won control of the governor’s office and both houses of the legislature. Continue reading

Exploited Student Workers Fight Back at Hershey

Editorial Note: We are reposting this article with permission of the author from the Working in These Times blog.

Talking Union has been covering stories about the struggles of immigrant workers over several years. In 2008 we extensively documented the uprising of pipe-fitting “guest workers” from India at the shipyards of Signal Industries in Mississippi and Texas. We applaud the initiative and courage of the students from many countries in fighting back against their exploitation by a whole daisy chain of sub’contracted employers and bureaucratic minions that culminates in the global confectionery giant Hershey. Hershey has been steadily whittling away at its union organized workforce in and around Hershey, while exploring every channel to locate cheap and exploitable workers. Despite their linguistic and cultural differences the student workers, with help from the Guestworkers Project and Pennsylvania unions, overcame every barrier to their self-organization. They deserve all our support, in particular when the employers, backed by government authorities as they always are, retaliate against uppity guest workers by threats and actual expulsion from the USA.

by Mike Elk

State Department lacks expertise and manpower to oversee J-1 visa program

In Palmyra, Pa., about 400 guest workers from a variety of countries staged a
strike
on Wednesday to protest their working conditions and pay at a
warehouse run by a Hershey subcontractor. Guest workers presented a petition to
management and then marched out. Three labor leaders—Pennsylvania AFL-CIO
President Rick Bloomingdale, SEIU President Healthcare Pennsylvania Neal Bisno
and SEIU Local 668 President Kathy Jellison—were arrested after staging a
sit-in at the warehouse’s entrance.

The guest workers were students who signed up to work in the United States on a
four month cultural exchange visa. Students pay fees and travel ranging from
$3,000-$6,000 to work on a temporary contract and then travel freely in the
United States.
Continue reading