Harvard Will Bargain with Grad Students Union, Other Boston Area Students Encouraged

by Paul Garver

Harvard University will recognize and bargain with the Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Automobile Workers.   The union is now electing its bargaining committee and will base its demands upon in-depth surveys of the members of the bargaining unit. By creating a broad bargaining committee representing all sectors, the union hopes to overcome its relative weaknesses in some fields and professional schools.

The HGSU/UAW won the representation election on 18-19 April. Of the ca. 5000 eligible Harvard graduate students/research assistants and teaching fellows 1931 voted for union representation to 1523 against.

The union had narrowly lost a previous election held in November 2016.  The election was rerun in response to an appeal to the NLRB from the UAW because Harvard had violated the Excelsior rule by failing to supply with union with accurate eligibility lists.

The No vote remained constant between the two elections, but the Yes vote gained 500.   According to an extensive exit poll conducted by the staff of the Harvard Crimson, most new voters voted yes.

The exit poll revealed results that were both expected and surprising.

The strongest pro-union votes came from graduate students in arts and humanities (91% in favor), social sciences (88.5%), and the professional schools of government (91%), education (90%), public health (89%), law (88.5%) and design (81%).

Fewest yes votes came from engineering/applied sciences (28%), medicine (38.5%) and sciences (49.7%).   Students from the overall Graduate School of Arts & Sciences voted 66.4%, while those from Harvard College only 48.5%. Older students voted more pro-union than younger ones (83% if 29-33, 66.6% from 23-28, 47.5% from 18-22).

President Drew Faust and Provost Alan Garber announced willingness to bargain with the union over employment-related issues, while maintaining strict control over academic issues.  (In practice these issues are closely intertwined, and by insisting that these employees are primarily “students” Garber indicated the University could be intransigent on most sensitive bargaining issues.)

Nevertheless Harvard is breaking with elite private universities like Columbia, Yale and Chicago who are refusing to bargain with unions of graduate students, in the expectation that the Supreme Court will overturn the 2016 NLRB ruling that graduate students could form a union and bargain collectively.  Successful completion of a collective bargaining agreement at Harvard could set a valuable precedent.

Harvard has bargained decent contracts for several decades with its union of clerical and technical employees, and may choose to follow a responsible course with its graduate student employees as well, even if the Supreme Court rules it does not have to do so.

In early 2018 some national unions trying to organize graduate students withdrew representation petitions (e.g. U Chicago) in fear that the Supreme Court will profit from a challenge to a representation petition by ruling against NLRB protection of student employee organizing.

However other graduate student organizing efforts in the Boston area have redoubled efforts to organize and bargain, correctly assessing that formal law is not their ally.   The Boston University grad school organizing group (BURGER) is promoting mutual support networks with other area student organizing  a concerted push to profit from a positive outcome at Harvard.

Two hundred graduate employees at Brandeis Univ. have joined SEIU 509’s organizing drive. They held a militant May Day March to demand Brandeis bargain in good faith.

kreider

[Ed. note pg – I am particularly delighted by the union victory at Harvard.  50 years ago we formed an association of graduate students and teaching fellows at Harvard to oppose the Vietnam war, and participated in the 1969 strike.  Although we did not demand collective bargaining at the time, Harvard did unilaterally boost our teaching stipends by some 40% in an unsuccessful attempt to resolve our grievances.  I applaud the new generation for following the union organizing model for more lasting results.]

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Purple Bullying: SEIU trustees trample membership rights

by Steve Early

In Chicago this coming weekend, 2,500 rank-and-file activists, from the U.S. and abroad, will be meeting under the banner of Labor Notes to celebrate the revival of union militancy, including recent strike victories like the West Virginia teachers’ walk-out.

This conference—nineteenth of its sort since 1981—will be the largest gathering ever hosted by the now Brooklyn-based labor education project. Labor Notes staff train shop stewards and local officers, promote cross-union networks, and publish books and newsletters about union democracy and reform.

As Labor Notes co-founder socialist Kim Moody explained to Jacobin readers two years ago, “the emphasis has always been on building power in the workplace” and “undermining the conservative consciousness produced by bureaucratic unionism” (“The Rank and File’s Paper of Record,” August 11, 2016).

One particular conference focus this year is how public employee unions can transform themselves to insure that the Supreme Court’s impending decision in the Janus case doesn’t lead to a worker exodus, once payment of union dues or agency fees becomes voluntary.

Among the many Chicago-area trade unionists planning to attend their first Labor Notes conference are members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73, which represents 29,000 government employees in Illinois and Indiana. At a time when public sector labor organizations need to be on their best behavior—and increasingly responsive to the rank-and-file—Local 73 members have been experiencing “bureaucratic unionism” at its most frustrating and dysfunctional worst.

SEIU officials, from out of town, have run the local by fiat, since its elected officers were ousted in August, 2016 due to their “incessant infighting.” Under federal law, such headquarters-imposed trusteeships enjoy the presumption of legitimacy—regardless of their grounds—for a minimum of eighteen months. Time is up on that calendar in Local 73. So two thousand of its dues-payers have signed petitions demanding that their union be returned to membership control via democratic elections for seven officers and 100 executive board members.

Fired For Their Candidacy

To accelerate this process, a group of longtime Local 73 activists formed “Members Leading Members,” a reform caucus with its own slate of candidates. When their names were announced, ten contenders for office were summarily dismissed from their union staff jobs by appointees of SEIU president Mary Kay Henry. Their work is now being done by eight International union staffers, whose higher salaries will be absorbed by the local. Remzi Joas, a member of SEIU since 1986, former head of Local 73’s higher education division and now a candidate for local president, was among those fired. Local 73 members are pursuing a federal court challenge to the trusteeship and the related retaliatory firings.

When Henry recently made a worksite visit in Local 73, workers confronted her directly, presented their petitions calling for an election, and demanded to know when “self-governance” would be restored. Henry claimed that SEIU’s current focus on preparing for the fall-out of the Janus decision and electing a labor-friendly governor took precedence over local union voting in the meantime. But she did promise to refer the matter to her lawyers.

At a restive membership meeting in late February, Eliseo Medina, a Local 73 co-trustee, former SEIU Executive Board member, and long ago hero of United Farm Workers organizing, spent nearly three hours sparring with an equally unhappy crowd of 100. Those who turned up were angry about having no say about the day-to-day operations of their union, staff assignments or salaries, or the conduct of contract negotiations. To divert their attention, Medina showed a film about Martin Luther King, Jr. According to Jaos, “members were so disgusted with the trustees that they just finally left the union hall.”

A former SEIU-represented janitor and doorman in Chicago, Jaos worries that some workers in his current local will stop paying union dues or agency fees if the Supreme Court imposes open shop conditions on the public sector, and they still have no voice in union decision- making. If Local 73 is merged, by Washington, DC headquarters dictate, into a neighboring SEIU affiliate, the rank-and-file reaction could be similar (although some of its diverse bargaining units might prefer, after their recent mistreatment, to be part of SEIU’s mid-western Health Care Workers local instead, AFSCME’s Illinois District Council, or the Chicago Teachers Union).

Purple Déjà vu

SEIU does not approach this Chicago dispute with what lawyers call “clean hands.” Its past use of trusteeships, forced mergers, and top-down restructuring has been costly, counter-productive, and highly political—a way to reward friends of the leadership and punish internal critics. SEIU’s organizational culture of staff domination has led to repeated trampling of membership rights and, recently, embarrassing disclosures about sexual harassment of female members by male union officials in Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, and California.

In the run-up to SEIU’s largest and most disastrous local union take-over—involving United Healthcare Workers (UHW)—some of the first punches where thrown at a Labor Notes conference in Dearborn, Michigan ten years ago this month. Volunteer marshals at that gathering of 1,000 had to fend off several hundred gate-crashers wearing purple-colored T-shirts and bandanas to conceal their faces, who were bussed, in, from two mid-western SEIU affiliates.

Among those drawn into the fray were low-wage home care workers, told by their union, that the progressive labor conference in Dearborn was actually a conclave of “union-busters.” (An African-American SEIU member named David Smith collapsed and died of a heart attack before the heavily policed brawl was over; for a first person account of that senseless tragedy my article, “The Purple Punch-Out in Dearborn,” Counterpunch, April 15, 2008.)

In reality, SEIU’s target was Rose Ann DeMoro of the California Nurses Association, a prominent female union leader and then organizational rival of SEIU, who was scheduled to speak at Labor Notes’ 2008 fund-raising dinner. Protest organizers also hoped to intimidate fellow SEIU members from California who were attending the conference because they opposed the leadership of SEIU president Andy Stern and wanted to reform their national union.

Media coverage of the dust-up in Dearborn was so unfavorable that the AFL-CIO, then headed by former SEIU President John Sweeney, issued a statement declaring there was “no justification for the violent attack orchestrated by SEIU. Violence in attacking freedom of speech must be strongly condemned.”

Sweeney’s successor, Andy Stern, now SEIU President Emeritus, never apologized for or expressed any regrets over this PR debacle. Since leaving the union eight years ago, Stern has served as a corporate-funded Columbia Business School research fellow, drug company director, and paid consultant for gig economy firms like Airbnb and Handy, giving him even more to apologize for. (For all the sordid details, see: “Andy Stern’s Newest Gig: High-Paid Consultant for Billion-Dollar Tech Companies,” Stern Burger with Fries, January 12, 2017.)

A Toxic Culture

In early 2009, before he retired, Stern rewarded Dave Regan, the architect of SEIU’s 2008 Labor Notes protest with a plum assignment in California. Regan and fellow Stern appointee Eliseo Medina were sent to Oakland to seize control of UHW, a well-functioning and widely respected state-wide affiliate of SEIU, whose elected leaders had become critical of Stern’s approach to organizing and bargaining.

To impose that “mother of all trusteeships” on 150,000 workers, the Stern Administration spent tens of millions of dollars. It also dispatched an occupying army of union staffers to block ousted UHW officers, shop stewards, and rank-and-file members from forming a new union, after they were put under trusteeship. As I described in a 2011 book called The Civil Wars in U.S. Labor (Haymarket) the result was many months—and now years—of harassment, intimidation, and bullying of UHW dissenters, whether they are trying to leave SEIU, via decertification votes, or just get post-trusteeship UHW staff to represent them properly.

Regan turned his trusteeship duty into a sinecure, as UHW president, that now pays $250,000 a year, even though his local has one third fewer members than a decade ago. Other higher level Stern operatives involved in the dismantling of UHW include Mary Kay Henry herself, who once, famously called the Walnut Creek, CA. police to help bar Kaiser Permanente shop steward, Lover Joyce, from a post-trusteeship meeting in his own workplace.

After health care organizer Scott Courtney, a right hand man of Dave Regan, helped plan the assault on Labor Notes and, then, UHW members in California, Henry promoted his SEIU career. As president after Stern, she made Courtney Executive Vice President of SEIU and coordinator of its national “Fight for 15” campaign among fast food workers. Others of lesser stature on the SEIU national staff and from various locals also got their ticket punched—and their careers boosted—by running roughshod over UHW members at Kaiser and other California hospital chains, in 2009-11.

Where Are They Today?

The results were not pretty when some SEIU operatives took similar or worse liberties elsewhere, later on. Last October, Henry suspended Courtney from his $250,000 a year position because, as Bloomberg News reported, “people working for him had been rewarded or reassigned based on romantic relationships with him.” Courtney soon quit, before he could be fired, as demanded by the feminist advocacy group, UltraViolet, which deemed his conduct “wholly unacceptable.”

As BuzzFeed News then disclosed, two male SEIU staffers who reported to Courtney were fired or forced to resign in Chicago, based on allegations that he protected them, despite complaints from co-workers about their bullying behavior involving women. (Kendall Fells, “The Organizing Director Of The Fight For 15 Has Resigned Amid Harassment Investigation” Buzzfeed, November 2, 2017.)

A third offender, also fired for the same reason, had spent time in California during the UHW trusteeship. SEIU’s own version of the Harvey Weinstein scandal gathered further momentum, when media outlets, like the Boston Globe, chronicled examples of unwanted sexual advances by long protected officials like Massachusetts SEIU1199 leader Tyrek Lee, or staffers who moved from one SEIU local to another, despite allegations of misconduct trailing behind them. (Priyanka Dayal McCluskey, “Suspended head of health care workers union reportedly engaged in lewd behavior,” Boston Globe, February 14, 2018.)

To Sal Rosselli, the former UHW president and SEIU board member, who dared to criticize the direction of SEIU under Stern, this is clearly a case of chickens coming home to roost. “If you want to understand SEIU’s toxic macho culture, one of the worst expressions was the way its staff and leadership behaved before and during the UHW trusteeship,” he says. “In an environment where dissent must be crushed at all costs, leaders will be emboldened to prey on subordinates—and subordinates will feel intimidated about blowing the whistle.”

Now president of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), the more democratic, independent union created from the ashes of Stern’s scorched earth campaign a decade ago, Rosselli is also coming to Labor Notes in Chicago, with a rank-and-file delegation of fifteen. While UHW, under the installed leadership of Dave Regan, has steadily shrunk, 14,000-member NUHW is growing and thriving. Its members backed Bernie Sanders two years ago, while Henry pushed SEIU into the Clinton camp, despite Sanders’ far superior labor record.

The Kaiser Partnership Frays

NUHW members at Kaiser and other employers have waged creative contract campaigns and militant anti-concession strikes. Kaiser mental health clinicians and other healthcare professionals are preparing for bargaining that begins in July. Like the CNA, NUHW operates outside the SEIU-dominated Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions (CKPU), because the coalition’s embrace of labor-management partnering can inhibit much-needed public advocacy of patient safety and quality care.

Meanwhile, UHW’s Kaiser Division is in disarray. That’s because Regan appointee Marcus Hatcher had to be fired for—guess what?—alleged sexual misconduct with three members of the union’s Executive Board! Regan’s own mounting leadership failures just triggered a more significant departure. Twenty-one unions representing 45,000 out of the 121,000 workers affected by CKPU’s joint bargaining have just quit the Coalition.

As Denise Duncan, leader of the AFSCME-affiliated United Nurses Associations of California explained: “we cannot be derailed by the leader of a single local,” referring to Regan. According to Duncan, at a pre-bargaining meeting in March, SEIU-UHW “once again engaged in disruptive tactics designed to assert [its] control over the coalition, making it clear to us that this behavior will never stop.” Under Regan, she charged, SEIU-UHW has “continually fractured our unity and our ability to focus on bargaining.”

Bullying, disruption, capitulation to management, and no accountability to members or union allies—that pretty much sums up the post-trusteeship MO of SEIU-UHW, thanks to Andy Stern and Mary Kay Henry. Is it any wonder that, halfway across the country from California, SEIU Local 73 members want to choose their own local leaders? The alternative is continued domination by a national union with a history of hiring people later in need of discipline because their personal behavior not only harmed SEIU members, but also damaged the reputation of all unions at a moment of great political peril.


Steve Early is former national staffer for the Communications Workers of America and a longtime supporter of Labor Notes and the National Union of Healthcare Workers. In two books for Monthly Review Press—Embedded with Organized Labor and Save Our UnionsEarly reported on SEIU-related conflicts that weakened and divided the progressive wing of labor. Early can be reached at Lsupport [at] aol.com

This article is reposted from MR Online with the permission of the author.

Why Unions Embraced Immigrants – And Why It Matters for Donald Trump

David Iaconangelo
Christian Science Monitor

After seeming to debut a more forgiving stance on immigration last week, Donald Trump arrived in Phoenix on Wednesday brandishing a resolutely hardline plan, warning of an undocumented criminal menace and promising deportations on an unprecedented scale.

“We will begin moving them out Day One. As soon as I take office. Day One. In joint operation with local, state, and federal law enforcement,” he said, according to transcripts.

As he has in the past, Mr. Trump tied his promise to carry out deportations to anti-globalist economic ideas. But he also drew a direct line between the fortunes of the country’s native-born laborers and the presence of undocumented immigrants – a connection he has rarely made in his remarks on the topic.

“While there are many illegal immigrants in our country who are good people, many, many, this doesn’t change the fact that most illegal immigrants are lower skilled workers with less education, who compete directly against vulnerable American workers, and that these illegal workers draw much more out from the system than they can ever possibly pay back,” he said.

“We will reform legal immigration to serve the best interests of America and its workers, the forgotten people. Workers. We’re going to take care of our workers.”

But the globalization that Trump denounces has also contributed to a decades-long reshaping of unions – a traditional voice for workers, and often vocal opponents of globalization – toward greater inclusion of immigrants, even those without legal status. And the reasons behind organized labor’s shifting stance on immigrant workers, now decades in the making, may undercut Trump’s narrative of foreigners arriving to America to crowd out the native-born. Continue reading

Some of SEIU’s ‘Fight for $15’ workers aren’t unionized — and don’t make $15 an hour

by Arun Gupta

fight for 15

 On Friday evening, just before 7 p.m., in a darkened hall in the Richmond Convention Center packed with more than 1,000 low-wage workers and union organizers, Olimpia Barajas-Ames gave the signal.

A mother of one and an organizer with the Child Care Fight for $15 campaign in Las Vegas, Barajas-Ames stood up, holding a sign that read, “$15 minimum wage and union rights for all means organizers too.” That was the tip-off for other union organizers to slap on stickers and don tee shirts indicating they want a union for employees who work on labor organizing projects spearheaded by the 1.9 million-member Service Employees International Union.

To outsiders, it may seem strange that union organizers are demanding a union of their own. But to Barajas-Ames and others who joined in the protest against SEIU, they are as much part of the precarious, low-wage workforce as workers at McDonald’s and Walmart are.

Jodi Lynn Fennell, also an organizer with the Child Care Fight for $15 campaign in Las Vegas, says, “Many SEIU organizers come from low-wage backgrounds. Childcare organizers come from childcare backgrounds. Fast-food organizers come from the fast-food industry. Many home healthcare organizers were once home healthcare aides themselves.”

For months, organizers in SEIU’s Fight for $15 campaign have been working with the Union of Union Representatives to demand representation. Currently, nearly 100 staff at SEIU are unionized under a contract with UUR that began 30 years ago. UUR launched an investigation of SEIU in 2015 and found it was outsourcing the work of its field organizers in violation of the contract. Earlier this year, many of SEIU’s field organizers formed an organizing committee to gain union representation and in April, 15 organizers submitted UUR membership cards.

The action by the Fight for $15 Staff Union Organizing Committee at the convention in Richmond, Virginia, is the latest tactic to pressure SEIU to recognize the union rights of all its organizers. After Barajas-Ames held up the sign for a $15-an-hour minimum wage and a union for organizers, she started walking toward the stage where SEIU president Mary Kay Henry was speaking.

Fennell, who joined, says, “Nearly 100 organizers and supporters gathered, moving up toward the stage peacefully. Our plan was simply to deliver a letter to Mary Kay Henry because she doesn’t make herself available to speak with us.”

Fennell wrote the letter that was to be presented to Henry. Fennell says last February, during a luncheon with Henry, the SEIU president said that “every worker deserves a union.” The letter called on SEIU to “lead by example” and “embody the movement’s basic principles of $15 and a union.” Fennell pointedly wrote, “If you say all workers must have a union, why is SEIU International denying my union rights and those of the entire Fight For $15 field staff?”

Fennell added that the UUR organizing campaign “is not about negativity. We want to enrich this movement with integrity so that we can strengthen the national Fight for $15.”

But they never got to hand the letter to Henry. Inside sources at SEIU say the union was prepared for such an incident, and sprang into action. Fennell says, “Security prevented us from getting to the stage.” Meanwhile, on the speakers’ platform, Henry stepped back and a group of African-Americans and Latino/as who sit on the national organizing committee for Fight for $15 stepped up.

One woman on stage with Henry grabbed the mic. She berated the staff organizers and their supporters below as cameras broadcast the convention. “Are you serious? Are you going to do this right now? Do you know what it is like to get paid $500 every two weeks? … You guys get paid enough. You have a chance to get a union. I don’t.”

As Henry stood smiling faintly behind the human wall, the speaker continued, “Do you know what it is like to have your kids homeless, sleeping in the back of a van? You will never know what that is like. They will never walk a day in our shoes.”

Fennell said of the accusatory remarks, “Everyone has different struggles, but this is not fighting over scraps. This is a movement about being in solidarity. We are not competing on who has it worse. We are not trying to pull each other down like crabs in a bucket.” She said her struggles include carrying $35,000 in student loan debt and nearly as much in medical debt.

Barajas-Ames says the UUR organizers stood before Henry for 15 minutes. As the speakers on stage led the crowd in chants of “$15 and a union,” Barajas-Ames says, “The security guards became hostile and aggressive, physically pushing us back. We stepped back and stood peacefully. Our signs were grabbed and torn up.”

Two child care workers at the convention who supported the action by the UUR organizing committee felt many in the audience were hostile: “They were all up in our face, chanting, ‘This is what democracy looks like.’ We had to jump over a table to get out.”

But that was just the beginning of the troubles for the members of the UUR organizing committee. Shortly afterward, Barajas-Ames and Fennell were personally called by the national director of the Child Care Fight for $15. The two organizers were told they would not be attending the events and protests on Saturday they had been organizing toward for months. Instead, they were to pack their bags as they were being flown out at 6 a.m. back to Las Vegas. Fennell claims the national director also told them, “We will be expecting you to pay for the cost of the hotel.”

Barajas-Ames and Fennell refuse to pay for the two nights they stayed at the Hilton Richmond Downtown, which would set each back more than $300. Barajas-Ames said that amount of money represented a car payment for her, while Fennell said it would be nearly 40 hours of work, as she often makes only $9 an hour given 60-hour workweeks and after out-of-pocket gas expenses. A total of five Fight for $15 organizers who support UUR were shipped home for trying to bring attention to their cause.

Fennell says, “This represents the exact same type of retaliation that corporations do to low-wage workers.”

A UUR representative claims this is part of a broader pattern. “SEIU has been fostering anti-union sentiment for months among the national organizing committee. We think they are creating divisions between the workers and the staff organizers’ campaign.”

UUR estimates more than 100 SEIU organizers who have been outsourced should be covered by its contract, although it has only identified 40 to 50 of them. Of this group, UUR says about 10 have left in the last six months because of the difficult working conditions or retaliatory actions by SEIU. UUR has already filed one “unfair labor practice” charge with the federal government and plans to file a second on August 14.

The outsourcing is blatant, the staff organizers claim. Fennell says her job is determined solely by SEIU. “I was hired by a regional director for SEIU. All my communication is with SEIU. I work in an SEIU office.” But her paycheck, like Barajas-Ames’s, comes from the “Ardleigh Group.” One former employee calls it a “faceless, shadowy” corporation that acts as a pass-through to hide employer responsibility. SEIU documents appear to show it using paper outfits to funnel money to the Ardleigh Group, which then pays workers on SEIU projects who say they are being denied their legal union rights.

UUR president Conor Hanlon told the Raw Story, “The treatment of the Fight for $15 Organizers fits the same pattern that we see from private-sector employers across the country which turn to franchises, temp agencies, and so-called independent contractors rather than hire employees directly. We believe that rather than participate in the disastrous race to the bottom SEIU should commit to its organizers who, like all workers, deserve a career path, fair treatment, and good pay and benefits.”

In addition to accusing SEIU of “evading responsibility of its employment practices,” UUR alleges that SEIU engages in discriminatory employment practices. These include “women are paid less than men, Black staff are paid less than non-black staff, and Latina/Latino staff are more likely to be hired as temporary employees rather than full-time employees.”

Fennell says SEIU’s habit of overworking and underpaying organizers leads to “extraordinarily high” turnover, which harms labor organizing and the goal of improved social services. “We feel passionate about creating affordable child care for all. We can serve our community better when we have the same worker rights as the child care workers who we are fighting for.”

Arun Gupta contributes to The Washington Post, YES! Magazine, In These Times, The Progressive, Telesur, and The Nation. He is author of the forthcoming Bacon as a Weapon of Mass Destruction: A Junk-Food Loving Chef’s Inquiry into Taste from The New Press.

This article is reposted from Raw Story [http://www.rawstory.com/2016/08/exclusive-some-of-seius-fight-for-15-workers-arent-unionized-and-dont-make-15-an-hour/] with permission of the author.

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

Jobs, Justice and Climate Rally and March to Defend New England’s Future

by Paul Garver

jobsjusticeclimate

By 12th December the Paris climate talks will have ended.  Political leaders will have made promises to voluntarily reduce carbon emissions. Whether these promises are kept or not kept over the coming decades depends upon us.

We know what we need: real climate solutions that create secure union jobs and strengthen community power and resiliency.

To get there, we must build an unstoppable grassroots movement that unites workers and  labor unions with immigrant rights. racial justice and climate justice movements.

Representatives of these movements are calling for a rally and march in Boston on 12th December to Defend New England’s Future. Organizers include 350 Mass for a Better Future and Jobs with Justice.  Endorsers include labor unions [Vermont State AFL-CIO, SEIU Locals 1199 and 509, Mass. Nurses Association/National Nurses United, Boston Musicians, Local 3844 American Postal Workers Union], worker centers from Vermont, Southern Maine and New Bedford, and numerous community and social rights groups like City Life/Vida Urbana, the Migrant Center and Interfaith Workers Justice.

They will join with a broad network of climate justice and environmental groups including numerous 350 MA nodes, campus divestment groups, Mass Peace Action and the Sierra Club in rallying in Boston Common and in front of the Mass. State House.   The march will also take support for organizing low wage workers at McDonald’s and Primark.  Flyers are being prepared in Spanish and Portuguese as well as English to help reach out to immigrant communities.

Although social movements have been gathering momentum and winning specific legislative victories in Massachusetts and other New England states in the years since the Occupy movement, they have been somewhat isolated into separate “silos.”  Organizers of the 12th December Rally and March hope to help spark a more inclusive and unified grassroots’ movement that reaches broader mass constituencies beyond their organizational leaders.

For some background on how the 12th December actions being organized throughout the world relate to the Paris talks, see http://www.religioussocialism.org/global_climate_justice_a_new_great_awakening.

SEIU Mourns Members Killed in San Bernardino

by Paul Garver

Ten of the fourteen killed and many of those wounded in the shootings in San Bernardino were County environmental health specialists who were members of SEIU Local 721, which represents public-sector workers in southern California.

The local’s president, Bob Schoonover, noted that its members regularly worked at the Inland Regional Center, the health care facility where the massacre took place. The state facility serves people with developmental disabilities, offering work programs and social services. Employees of the county environmental health department were gathered there for a semi-annual meeting when Farook and Malik opened fire.

The union hosted a candlelight vigil with other labor groups on Monday to mourn the victims.

Mary Kay Henry, the international president of SEIU, said that she’d spoken with union leaders from around the country on Friday and heard “expressions of grief and outpourings of support.”

“The SEIU family suffered a profound and terrible loss Wednesday in San Bernardino,” Henry said. “Our hearts are broken from this tragedy. The victims taken from us too soon leave behind a legacy of lives dedicated to service and a deep commitment to upholding public health.”

Henry added, “We will unite to demand that our nation does everything possible to ensure that no more families have to feel this pain, sadness and loss ever again.”

Refusing to join in anti-Muslim hysteria, SEIU encouraged its members instead to sign a petition organized by health care professionals to demand that Congress allow the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate gun violence. To sign the petition go to http://act.drsforamerica.org/sign/end-cdc-ban/#.VjpXSrerQdV.