The Berger-Marks Foundation logo Organizers discuss ideas at Berger-Marks conference

Dedicated to helping women organize into unions

Organizers involved with Berger-Marks

August, 2012 News

Last updated: August 7, 2012


Animated group of nurses celebrate union win
National Nurses United



Nurses enjoy big union victories
In Chicago & California

Registered nurses overcame vicious anti-union tactics at Sutter
& Loretto hospital

"This is a dream come true. It's been very oppressive since 2005 when Sutter came in to this hospital," said Clarissa Concepcion, a registered nurse who works in the medical surgical unit at Sutter Tracy Community Hospital in Sacramento, CA.

In March, she and other nurses defied intense anti-union repression, as administrators tore down union election materials, grilled nurses on their union opinions, and were charged with other illegal acts. Patient care was uppermost in the minds of nurses who voted to be represented by the California Nurses Association. They want the hospital to hire nurses to cover patients while they are on meal breaks, so that patients are safely cared for at all times. They'd also like bonus pay for required certification, and adequate sick leave, among other issues.

Sixteen out of 26 hospitals run by Sutter, one of the biggest and wealthiest hospital chains in California, are now union, with around 6,200 nurses represented by the California Nurses Association.

Read more


Spotlight on grant recipient


Bay News Rising

Budding reporters in 'Street Action Laboratory' spotlight social action

Supported by Berger-Marks grant

Young women in lively discussion of information on their computers
Luke Thomas, Fog City Journal

Did you ever wish that you could get a reporter to tell it like it is and show how and why working people fight against injustice? If you live in the San Francisco area, you could get your wish sooner than you think.

Right now, 16 students from San Francisco-area journalism schools are taking advantage of Bay News Rising, a program that could be the first opportunity ever for students to get top-notch training on how to report on news and movements related to economic and social justice. The 8-week program's theme is “Street Action Laboratory — Tracking Democratic Trends Through Social Movement Coverage." Project Director Kat Anderson, Executive Editor of Fog City Journal, has crafted this exciting program with the help from a Berger-Marks grant.

The students — 10 novice reporters and 6 photojournalists — are getting guidance from top journalists who volunteered to serve as mentors. Most, like Anderson, are members of the Pacific Media Workers Guild and/or its freelance unit. The mentors help each student put together a personalized education plan, critique their work and offer them a chance to see professionals in their working environments.

One of the gems of the program is the beautiful Bay News Rising Reporting Resource Guide that was created just for this group.

Read more


Outpouring of community support for staff choice

Charter school board learns a union lesson in Chicago:

Attempt to close school after staff voted union gets failing grade

Diverse group of people standing & sitting, intently watching Board action
Parents, students & community group Arise Chicago joined teachers in protesting the school closing.
Shelly Ruzicka, Arise Chicago

Charter schools are supposed to be the champions of "choice." Yet this May, when the teachers and staff at Youth Connection Leadership Academy, an alternative charter school in Chicago's south side, told administrators they had unanimously decided to unionize, they were in for a shock. The next day, the charter school managers abruptly told them by overnight mail that they would close the school.

Up until that moment, there was no hint that that the YCLA campus was threatened with closure. In fact, the charter school had just sent letters to most of the staff renewing their employment for the 2012-13 academic year. A month earlier, its chiefs had convinced the Chicago Board of Education to renew its charter. Youth Connection Charter School runs 22 campuses in the city, serving at-risk high school students.

Read more


850 St. Louis nurses go union

Landslide 3-1 union vote at University Hospital,
plus 2-1 vote at Des Peres

By a landslide 76 percent, registered nurses at Saint Louis University Hospital voted in June to join the National Nurses Organizing Committee-Missouri (NNOC-Missouri), an affiliate of the 175,000-member National Nurses United (NNU).

NNOC-Missouri/NNU will now represent the more than 600 registered nurses at the Saint Louis hospital, which is part of the Tenet Healthcare system. NNU affiliates represent around 4,000 RNs in nine Tenet hospitals in Florida, Texas, and California.

Big gain for safe patient care

"This is a game changer for nurses and patients throughout St. Louis and the region," said NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro, a St. Louis native. "Wherever nurses have won a collective voice through NNU, they have been able to make a substantial difference in the delivery of safe patient care and to elevate standards for themselves and their families."

Read more


Let them vote!

Will agents be allowed to vote union at bankrupt American Airlines?

Appeals Court to decide, clock is ticking

Taken in part from PAI articles
Graphic: American Airlines is being very un-American

Why is American Airlines trying so hard to keep passenger service agents from voting on whether to unionize with the Communications Workers union (CWA)? The 10,500 agents were supposed to get a chance to vote on unionizing this summer — until a Texas judge agreed to a management plea and called off the election scheduled for July.

More than 30% of the agents had signed cards asking for the union vote back in December. Then the airline filed for bankruptcy and launched lawsuits to tie up the process. That kept the National Mediation Board, which runs union-management relations at airlines, from calling for a vote right away.

By the time the vote was first set for May, Congress had changed the election rules. It decided rail and air unions must get cards from an absolute majority of the workers they want to represent, before the NMB can schedule a vote. But since the cards at American were submitted before the rules were changed, the NMB ruled the election would go on.

Judge uses outrageous claim to cancel union election

But a Republican district judge in Texas not only cancelled the vote based on rules that Congress changed after the fact, but also made the unprecedented decision that holding a union election could cause "irreparable harm" to the company.

American Air wants to use the bankruptcy to fire thousands of its 55,000 workers and to dump its pension plans, among other things. Pundit Matthew Yglesias pronounced on that the conflict “could spell the real end for America's unions. .. Everyone on both sides of the fight recognizes that either unions will win the right to represent more private-sector workers or else will wither and die."

On July 25, 121 lawmakers wrote American's CEO, urging him to drop the legal maneuvers and let the election go forward. They said they never intended to make the rule change retroactive. Meanwhile, a federal appeals court in New Orleans agreed to review the case.

'Drop everything... take a minute to help'

The CWA union has launched a public campaign for a vote. “The longer the company can delay the election, the better chance the airline has of killing jobs as it moves ahead in its bankruptcy proceedings," the union warned.

“Thankfully, the Department of Justice saw through American's maneuvers and… filed an appeal to make the case move faster. But the clock is still ticking for the 10,000 passenger service agents who are stranded without a voice to protect themselves as the airline attempts to gut their jobs, benefits, and working conditions."

American Rights at Work urges people to “Please drop what you're doing and take one minute to help keep the pressure on American." First step is to add your voice to their web site.


Spotlight on grant recipient


Compelling report shows why

'Women in the Honduran Melon Industry' need our support

Conditions never before documented

Cover of report with sliced melon picture

What is it like to be a woman working on a plantation in Honduras, growing and harvesting the delicious melons that many of us enjoy? You can't imagine? Well now you can, thanks to a beautifully done report published by the International Labor Rights Forum and funded by Berger-Marks. It's called “Women in the Honduran Melon Industry," and you can read it here and now.

Why should you? This is the first investigation to not only expose the harsh conditions suffered by more than 25,000 workers in the melon sector, but to also focus specifically on women. Women leaders from COSIBAH — the Honduran Banana Workers Union — have been working with ILRF investigators to document and raise awareness in the U.S. and Honduras about the struggles of women workers in the remote plantations.

As one of the stronger union federations in the country, COSIBAH acts as a labor rights watch dog; its melon program is spearheaded by Iris Mungia, a respected leader of COSIBAH's Women's Issues Programs who currently serves at the Secretary General of the Latin America-wide banana workers' union.

Read more


Don't you wish you knew what they're talking about?

Economics 101 for the 99%

It's free online!

Taken from a blog by Tula Connell in
Cover of book Economics for the 99%

How did Wall Street get away with crashing the U.S. economy? Well for one thing most of us had trouble understanding what they were up to, because the financial elite talked a language the rest of us didn't understand.

Now a new booklet, “Economics for the 99%" serves as an economic translation dictionary, clarifying such concepts as the role of the Federal Reserve and the so-called austerity war. Produced by the Center for Popular Economics for the Occupy Wall Street movement, the 36-page booklet is a helpful tool for people trying to make sense of what's going on in our economy and to help the “99%" make a coherent argument for why we need to change our economic course.

You can get a free electronic version to download here.

Read more


Striking "holders of the light" took a BOYCOTT PALERMO'S message over I-43 for Wisconsin drivers to see.


Palermo's fired immigrants who were organizing, workers strike for rights

ICE backed off so immigrants can exercise legal right to organize

Palermo's, one of the nation's biggest makers of frozen pizzas, may have thought it could get away with mistreating factory workers because many are immigrants who might not have proper papers. But workers like Esperanza Garza could no longer stand it. After working on the production line for 10 years she earned just $9.30 an hour; few workers could afford the company health insurance, many got injured, and managers often belittled workers.

Strikers & supporters on bridge see their protest on laptop.
Occupy Riverwest

“We want something better," she told the New York Times.

On May 27, about 150 Palermo's workers — representing three-fourths of the factory workforce — capped a year of organizing by signing a petition saying they wanted to unionize, and they then presented it to management.

Was it a coincidence that Palermo's suddenly delivered letters to 89 immigrant workers, demanding that they show documents saying they had the right to work in the United States? Ten days later the company fired almost all those immigrants.

Read more


Alabama auto supplier goes union

Women workers were key to victory

"You should have seen the expression on management's face when the vote was counted," smiled Stephanie Wilson, who said she was “ecstatic" at the 2-1 win for the UAW at the Cottondale Faurecia plant where she works. “Having this plant become union means so much to us."

Some 135 employees at Faurecia's Cottondale, Alabama plant are now represented by the UAW autoworkers union. Faurecia is a big automotive supplier with manufacturing plants worldwide, and its Cottondale plant makes seating for Mercedes-Benz sport utility vehicles.

While Wilson was looking forward to winning “the pay and benefits we deserve," her co-worker Jacqueline Kynard was most concerned with getting fair treatment. “We get disrespect, cursed at and are expected to work long hours in that environment," she said. “It has been so stressful."


Spotlight on grant recipient


Hong Kong domestic worker has come a long way

From victim to organizer — and to Solidarity Center exchange backed by Berger-Marks

"Domestic workers have become the backbone of [Hong Kong]," says Sringatin, chair of the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union (IMWU) in Hong Kong. “And yet, we have no rights."

Sringatin (like many Indonesians, she uses only one name) is an impassioned and educated woman fighting that injustice. Under the rallying cry, “We are workers. We are not slaves!" migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong are organizing to win full legal protections from the Hong Kong government.

Sringatin recently came to the U.S. to share such experiences with other fighters for domestic workers' rights, thanks to a Berger-Marks grant. The exchange program was set up by the Solidarity Center, in cooperation with the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) and AFL-CIO.

Read more


Fed up workers & groups call for a boycott

Why Hyatt got voted the worst hotel

In Los Angeles and other cities, people came out for the Hyatt boycott

The National football Players Association refuses to patronize Hyatt hotels. So do a host of other
groups, including the AFL-CIO and member unions, the National Organization for Women,, National Black Justice Center, Netroots Nation, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Medical Professionals, etc. etc.

More than 71,000 people have gone online to vote Hyatt the worst hotel employer in America. And at the end of July, Hyatt hotel workers and their allies took to the streets to promote the call for a boycott in 12 cities, including London, San Antonio, Texas, Scottsdale, Arizona, Baltimore, Chicago, and Honolulu.

Read more


We're honored!

We join Teachers Union activists in getting kudos from CLUW

Two women acccepting award
Kevin Burton & Carolyn Jacobson

Berger-Marks Board members Kevin Burton (l) and Carolyn Jacobson were pleased to accept a special Appreciation Award from the Coalition of Labor Union Women, on behalf of the Foundation. It happened at CLUW's annual Awards Celebration, and we were in very good company. See who else got awards.

In a year when teachers are being scape-goated by right-wing politicians for just about everything that's wrong in our world, the American Federation of Teachers also got well-deserved recognition. Danielle Kamai Newsome, a member of the Philadelphia CLUW Young Women's Committee who has been helping charter school teachers organize was honored with the Rising Star award. The president of her national union, Randi Weingarten not only accepted the Olgar Madar Leadership Award but also inspired the crowd with her remarks.


Merck workers give big okay to merging into OPEIU union

While other drug workers dissed by Supreme Court

Information taken from PAI

Administrative workers at the drug giant Merck, Sharp & Dohme voted overwhelmingly to merge the independent union they've had since 1937 into the AFL-CIO-affiliated Office and Professional Employees union. The June 14 vote, with only 4 dissenters, brings 287 workers at Merck's West Point, PA facility into OPEIU as Local 1937.

“Our affiliation with OPEIU will give us more strength in representing members as part of the 108,000-member OPEIU and the support of the 13 million members of the AFL-CIO and organized labor," said MIU President Dottie Miller.

Read more


Two out of three of lowest paid workers are women

And people wonder why women need to organize?

Chart showsmany mor ewomen than men are paid the minimum
Center for American Progress Action Fund

It's bad enough that today's minimum wage job pays just $7.25 an hour — guaranteeing that many full-time workers will live in poverty. That wasn't always true — If the federal minimum wage had kept up with the rising cost of living over the past 40 years, it would be $10.52 an hour today.

“Stunning as that is, it gets even worse when you realize that the majority of those paid the minimum wage are women," says the AFL-CIO. Nearly two out of three minimum-wage workers — 63% — were women last year, reports the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Slightly more than 2.5 million women earn the minimum wage or less, while approximately 1.5 million men do.

Read more


'Women workers of the world: Unite to fight'

NOW invites labor activists to run panel on working women

"Women workers of the world: Unite to fight for our dignity and our rights!" If that sound good to you, you would have appreciated the panel that the National Organization for Women (NOW) held, inspired by that theme, at their 2012 National Conference in July.

"Why can women be the backbone of many local economies, yet are discriminated in all sectors of the economy?" was the question that the panel, moderated by Jobs with Justice field organizer MacKenzie Baris, set out to address.

Read more


Spotlight on grant recipient


Berger-Marks helped make it happen:

Teamster Women run first-ever Women's Conference

Connecting strong women; mentoring between young and old

Two young women under sign: The Young Are at the Gates
Teamster Women

"We Were Not Born To Follow." That's the feisty message of the first-ever Teamster Women conference. It brought women from 8 states and 25 local unions together. One goal was to show how “organizations connect strong union women from across the globe" and to inspire mentoring between young and old members. Delegates learned how brave women fought for voting and other rights they had been denied. The new mentoring handbook Berger-Marks funded was put to very good use.

The Teamster Women hope the upbeat video they created will inspire other women to organize and host their own motivational meetings.


Dairy, Birdseye workers nourish union movement

More Dannon yogurt is made by Teamsters

This spring the Teamsters celebrated the first organizing wins among dairy workers in years. In May, 37 workers with Stonyfield Farm, a division of the French company Danone, voted to join the union in Northern California. Then in July, 45 workers at a Danone subsidiary in Oregon, YoCream International, also voted union. The new union members make Dannon products.

The Teamsters Union is affiliated with the International Union of Food Workers (IUF), a global federation of trade unions that got Danone to agree to meet each year with a union representative from each Danone facility worldwide.

Read more






The latest news

More news

2011 news

Back to top


The latest news

More news

Jackson Park nurses celebrating victory

"These two successful organizing campaigns are the first union victories for private-sector nurses in Chicago-land in almost 20 years – and couldn’t be more timely given the threat to health care in low income communities posed by recent cuts in Medicaid and other state programs.”

Elfenbaum Evers & Amarilio
law firm, writing about union victories at Loretto Hospital & Jackson Park Hospital



Photo of smiling young woman
Street Action Lab student reporter Mariana Barrera was inspired by her own experience to cover wages and job conditions of agricultural workers.
Luke Thomas, Fog City Journal


Group of women at table discussing handbook
Berger-Marks officers Carolyn Jacobson & Linda Foley (2nd & 3rd from l.) brought our Mentoring Handbook to women in D.C. at two luncheons we hosted with the AFL-CIO in June.
Women discussing mentoring book
Cynthia Hess, study director of Institute for Women's Policy Research & author of the Mentoring Handbook gives highlights.

"We need a sister-to-sister mentoring network so a new generation of fired-up union staffers and activists can make the most of all our talents and experiences."

From invitation to one of the Washington D.C. luncheons featured in above photos. Women came from a variety of unions & worker-friendly groups.



Union leaders and students holding ACTS banner

“The YCLA teachers’ decision to form a union shows their dedication  to their students and school.”

–Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff Local 4343 President, Brian Harris


"We are so happy that we RNs will now have a vehicle to negotiate for improved patient care, salaries, and benefits that can recruit and retain the best nurses for the best patients in St. Louis.

“We have no illusions about the work ahead but with unity and resolve, we look forward to a bright future.”

Lesa Dustman, intensive care Registered Nurse  at Saint Louis University Hospital


"If you don’t have happy nurses, you don’t have happy patients...

"I do love Loretto Hospital. But there needs to be increases in wages and we need to be respected as the professionals that we are."

Kora Fields, Registered Nurse at Loretto hospital in Chicago, who voted to unionize in June,
as quoted by WBEZ



"Many of us want a union because we want a voice in our future. We have no say in our future. American Airlines does to us whatever it sees fit."

Rosemary Capasso, American Airlines passenger service agent for more than 30 years:


Photo of Martinez

"I have worked with the company for 15 years and in all that time, the company has never paid us the minimum wage nor afforded us the rights established by the labor code.

"I suffered an accident at work.... My hand became trapped in the bars of the truck bed and my right-hand middle finger was dragged away with the truck until it broke off.

"None of the thousands of Suragro-Fyffes workers, including myself, have a right to medical care in the Honduran Institute
of Social Security (IHSS)...

"Once they had treated me [at a clinic], the head of Human Resources... told me that the obligation of the company ended here."

Agustina Alvarez Martinez, worker in Honduran melon fields



Huge crowd marching with signs, banners

"Walmart’s chief product is poverty. Walmart gets rich by keeping its employees poor... Until Walmart stops selling poverty, we don’t want it in Los Angeles."

Maria Elena Durazo,secretary-treasurer of L.A. County Federation of Labor. In July thousands of California union members, families & community leaders marched to protest Walmart’s plan to open a store in historic Chinatown.


Boycott Palermo graphic

“It’s simple why we’re on strike: We want better pay and benefits, a safer work environment, and we want to be listened to on the job.

“What we really want is to be able to work hard to achieve our dreams.”

Orlando Sosa, Palermo’s Pizza worker since 2002


“We've seen co-workers suffer injuries from machines. We've had to come into work sick because we feared getting fired. And we've missed work under this same fear because our children were sick.“

– Jorge Becker,
Palermo’s worker jsonline



The Atlantic magazine logo

"Apple's retail sales force should unionize -- for their own sake, and maybe the country's."

Jordan Weissmann, associate editor at The Atlantic magazine, in a story exposing how Apple's non-union workforce is exploited.




"Do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000 a day... tell you... that a wage of $11 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt,
U.S. President, 1932-1945





Housekeeper lookingsad but determined

“I work hard and take my job very seriously, sometimes skipping lunch to get the job done right. Sometimes though, we’re asked to do the impossible…

"As a result of the strain of this work, I have chronic pain in my arm that goes from wrist to my elbow. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night in pain… Sometimes I can’t even hold a glass of water.”

Elvia Claudio,
hotel worker at non-union Hyatt




Workers holding up paper airplanes with messages demanding their rights
Marilyn Bechtel/ People's World

"Every day we see other workers who have benefits we deserve, too, because we are working just as hard."

Rachel Penelton, one of 200 people who picketed outside the Oakland Airport terminal on July 6, to tell the flying public that concessions workers need a fair process for joining a union.

Regency in San Antonio, TX



Woman child-care worker with big smile hugging 2 kids

"Public-sector unions are not the problem; they are the solution. They are the only organized people who can face up to the organized money that is taking over our government and economy…

"These workers represent our neighbors, our first responders and our teachers; the people we know and trust to maintain our social structure. We cannot abandon them without abandoning ourselves to organized money."

– Paul Heise, professor emeritus of economics at Lebanon Valley College, Lebanon Daily News




Woman in video talking over title, Knowledge is Power

“[The conference] helped me to grow as a union member…  It’s also helped me to grow as a womanand to appreciate other women. Mentoring other women is so important.”

Lori Mize, delegate to Teamster Women's  conference,
speaking in video they created


Group of women in solidarity action
Kelly Leigh Andrew Facebook page

"To this group, to the Teamsters and to my Sisters: I believe in the union way, so I will show up every day. I am committed.”

Kelly Leigh Andrew,
Chattanooga TN, posted on Teamster Women’s  Facebook page.

Grantee spotlight

News on this page