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What We're Reading

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 10:12

Homegoing, a novel by Yaa Gyasi, follows 300 years of history through the stories of the descendants of two sisters torn apart by the African slave trade. One sister stays in Ghana and one is brought to the U.S. One memorable character begins working in a coal mine as a prisoner, in conditions not too different from slavery. When he is released he keeps working alongside white workers in the mines of Pratt City, Alabama, and gets involved in the union during a strike over wages and safety. He eventually becomes a union leader. The heartbreaking stories follow U.S.

How 1,000 Nurses in Northern Michigan Went Union

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 09:19
How 1,000 Nurses in Northern Michigan Went Union September 20, 2017 / James Walker<? if(isset($entity->premium) and $entity->premium == 1) { echo "Print Only"; } ?>

Nurses in rural northern Michigan made history August 9-10 when we won labor’s biggest organizing victory since “right to work” took effect in the state in 2013. By a vote of 489–439, more than 1,000 RNs at Traverse City’s Munson Medical Center, the area’s largest employer, will be represented by the Michigan Nurses Association.

310,567 Signatures Block 'Right to Work' in Missouri

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 09:55
310,567 Signatures Block 'Right to Work' in Missouri September 18, 2017 / Judy Ancel<? if(isset($entity->premium) and $entity->premium == 1) { echo "Print Only"; } ?>

The results astounded everyone who thought they knew the Missouri labor movement: more than 300,000 signatures to repeal “right to work.”

Thousands of union members and allies marched through the streets of the state capital August 18 to deliver 163 boxes of petitions signed by 310,567 Missourians. The signers called for a referendum to repeal the right-to-work law passed by the legislature earlier this year.

Harvard Hopes Trump Will Help It Undermine Unions

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 10:34

The richest university in the world, with an endowment of $36 billion, is asking the National Labor Relations Board to change how union elections are run. Harvard University sees itself in the vanguard of resistance to the Trump administration. So why is the university now courting the support of Trump's appointees by challenging an obscure—but far-reaching—labor relations rule? In order to prevent a fair vote by its graduate student workforce on whether to unionize.

Unions and Medicare for All: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 11:04
Unions and Medicare for All: An Idea Whose Time Has Come September 13, 2017 / Mark Dudzic<? if(isset($entity->premium) and $entity->premium == 1) { echo "Print Only"; } ?>

Bernie Sanders is set to introduce a Medicare for All bill today in the Senate, backed by 15 co-sponsors. Jane Slaughter of Labor Notes talked with Mark Dudzic, coordinator of the Labor Campaign for Single Payer, about where things stand in the long fight for health care justice.

Labor Notes: After beating back repeal of the Affordable Care Act this summer, where is the movement to win Medicare for All?

Safe Bet: Your Employer Handbook Contains Illegal Rules

Tue, 09/12/2017 - 08:28
Safe Bet: Your Employer Handbook Contains Illegal Rules September 12, 2017 / Robert Schwartz<? if(isset($entity->premium) and $entity->premium == 1) { echo "Print Only"; } ?>

It sometimes looks like union and non-union employers are competing for the fattest book of employee rules. Handbooks frequently exceed 100 pages. Employees who fail to adhere to a standard—even one that is not explained—can be subject to discipline and possible discharge.

This makes it vital for unions to review National Labor Relations Board cases concerning company handbooks; the Board’s thinking on this topic is known as the Lutheran Heritage doctrine.

What We're Reading

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 14:02

We asked Labor Notes staffers and friends which labor books are on their nightstands these days. Here's a sample.

¡Viva los Troublemakers!

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 12:48

How do you say “troublemaker” in Spanish?

Unions and Worker Co-ops, Old Allies, Are Joining Forces Again

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 14:22

In the 1800s unions and cooperatives were part of the same movement. Today once again, unions are collaborating with cooperatives to save jobs, create new ones, and organize new members.

After Nissan: Can We Organize the South?

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 15:53
After Nissan: Can We Organize the South? September 01, 2017 / Chris Brooks<? if(isset($entity->premium) and $entity->premium == 1) { echo "Print Only"; } ?>

It's a truism that for unions to preserve their gains they must organize the South—but as the recent failures at Volkswagen, Boeing, and Nissan made clear, this is easier said than done.

A Contract Campaign from Virtual to In Their Face

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 11:21
A Contract Campaign from Virtual to In Their Face September 01, 2017 / Dave Staiger<? if(isset($entity->premium) and $entity->premium == 1) { echo "Print Only"; } ?>

When confronted with a concessionary demand at the bargaining table, what if you filled the room with rank-and-file members? What would happen?

Kalamazoo, Michigan, teachers received an urgent message in July from their union's private Facebook account for members: in bargaining, the district was demanding a pay freeze.

Concession Fatigue in Connecticut

Tue, 08/29/2017 - 13:53

For the third time in eight years, public sector workers in Connecticut have voted for concessions. State employees have sacrificed a total of $7 billion to close budget deficits in 2009, 2011, and now 2017.

With Connecticut existing in a perpetual state of red ink, the unions' State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) opened its 2011-2022 agreement and negotiated a new deal that will save the state $1.5 billion in the next two years and $24 billion over 20 years.

Viewpoint: Air Traffic Privatization Hits Turbulence

Mon, 08/28/2017 - 16:23
Viewpoint: Air Traffic Privatization Hits Turbulence August 28, 2017 / Monika Warner<? if(isset($entity->premium) and $entity->premium == 1) { echo "Print Only"; } ?>

Message to the airlines: you can’t have it all. Control of the skies and aviation safety is a public service.

Privatization of the U.S. air traffic control system, its equipment, and the jobs of more than 30,000 workers at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is being debated right now in Congress. Legislation proposed in the House this summer by Republican Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania would put air traffic control in the hands of a corporate board of directors. Shuster is chairman of the Transportation Committee, which has jurisdiction over our aviation system.

Memphis Riders and Drivers Team Up to Win Back Historic Bus Route

Thu, 08/24/2017 - 11:48

When the Memphis Bus Riders Union (MBRU) was just a year old and growing, the transit authority announced the biggest service cut since the 1980s.

On the chopping block was a 40-year-old residential route, the 31 Crosstown, that connected two historically Black and impoverished areas known as North and South Memphis.

Painters Union Fights to Free Member from Immigration Jail

Wed, 08/23/2017 - 09:12
Painters Union Fights to Free Member from Immigration Jail August 23, 2017 / Dan DiMaggio<? if(isset($entity->premium) and $entity->premium == 1) { echo "Print Only"; } ?>

Imagine being arrested and detained for months just for showing up to work.

That’s what happened to construction workers Hugo Mejia and Rodrigo Nuñez on May 3, when their company sent them to work on a hospital inside Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California. A military official at the base held them and called Immigration and Customs Enforcement after the two men showed their driver’s licenses but were unable to provide valid Social Security numbers.

Stickering Up for Paid Sick Days

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 12:56

In July 2016, personal trainers in Toronto at GoodLife Fitness, Canada's largest fitness company, voted to unionize with the Canada Council of Workers United, forming the first fitness sector union in North America. A few months later they were joined by personal trainers at GoodLife in two nearby cities, Ajax and Peterborough, and have since been negotiating a first contract.

Solidarity's No Heavy Lift, Say Fitness Workers

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 12:38
Solidarity's No Heavy Lift, Say Fitness Workers August 21, 2017 / Sonia Singh<? if(isset($entity->premium) and $entity->premium == 1) { echo "Print Only"; } ?>

Last year personal trainers at Canada’s largest chain of gyms became the first fitness workers in North America to unionize, joining Workers United.

Since then, 650 trainers at GoodLife Fitness in Toronto and two nearby cities have been fighting for a first contract, and waging fights for better conditions club by club.

In Wake of Charlottesville, How Can Unions Fight for Racial Justice?

Fri, 08/18/2017 - 15:49

How should unions respond to the chilling events in Charlottesville? As believers that “an injury to one is an injury to all,” what's our special responsibility? Can we survive if our own unions are split along racial lines?

Labor Notes looked through our recent coverage to find examples of unions that are proactively working for racial justice. The excerpts below show steps some locals are taking to help members learn from each other and fight discrimination right on the job. Many began after the recent wave of police shootings of unarmed Black men.

Teachers Union Caucuses Gather to Swap Strategies

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 16:42
Teachers Union Caucuses Gather to Swap Strategies August 17, 2017 / Gillian Russom and Samantha Winslow<? if(isset($entity->premium) and $entity->premium == 1) { echo "Print Only"; } ?>

With teachers facing similar attacks in school districts across the country, it makes sense to share strategies for fighting back. That’s the goal of the United Caucuses of Rank-and-File Educators (UCORE), a growing network of locals and caucuses within the teachers unions.

Seventy-five educator activists met in Los Angeles August 4-6, representing school districts from Philadelphia to Oakland and statewide groups from Hawaii, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

The 1997 UPS Strike: Beating Big Business & Business Unionism

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 11:10
The 1997 UPS Strike: Beating Big Business & Business Unionism August 15, 2017 / David Levin<? if(isset($entity->premium) and $entity->premium == 1) { echo "Print Only"; } ?>

Twenty years ago this month, 185,000 Teamsters shut down UPS and won labor’s biggest victory in decades.

The contract pitted a Fortune 500 company that was accelerating toward a low-wage, part-time future—against a grassroots campaign intent on applying the brakes.

The strike was also a showdown between union reformers and business unionism.

Democracy is power, Labor Notes has always argued. The UPS strike put that proposition to the test.

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