Last updated: August 7, 2012
|National Nurses United|
"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.
|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.
|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.
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.
"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."
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.
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.
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.
|Striking "holders of the light" took a BOYCOTT PALERMO'S message over I-43 for Wisconsin drivers to see.|
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.|
“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.
"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."
"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.
|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, MoveOn.org, 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.
|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.
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.
|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.
"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.
Solidarity Center's Alexis DeSimone said one answer to the dilemma is to win rights for domestic workers, since women make up the overwhelming majority of this workforce In the United States and globally. The Solidarity Center is trying to get countries to adopt the International Labor Organization's guidelines for the rights of domestic workers. But while Uruguay has already ratified those rights and Costa Rica and South Africa are planning to do so, the U.S. is sitting on its hands.
Since the U.S. excludes domestic workers from collective bargaining and Social Security, guaranteeing domestic workers their basic rights would address these issues and more. DeSimone said the veil of invisibility will be lifted from this workforce when they organize, with support from unions.
Brenda Carter, from Unite Here, brought up the Hyatt hotel chain as one of the worst offenders of women's rights. Its housekeepers are still forced to scrub bathroom floors on their hands and knees, while Hyatt keeps fighting legislation that would make their work safer and less grueling.
Silvia Fabela, organizer with Making Change at Walmart, also spoke out about the huge impact Walmart has on women, since it's the largest private employer in the world and two out of three of its employees are women. Making Change at Walmart is active in 45 states and develops campaigns such as "Our Walmart," and "United for Respect."
Panelists encouraged NOW delegates to "fight shoulder to shoulder" and "live our feminism." NOW has joined the coalition calling for a boycott of Hyatt Hotels and NOW President Terry O'Neill participated in Berger-Marks' 2010 summit meeting that led to our “Stepping Up Stepping Back" report on young women and the labor movement.
"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.
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.
"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
|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|
|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.|
|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.
“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 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:
"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
"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.
“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
"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
“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
|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
"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
“[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
|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.”