Alexandra Bradbury

My Quarter-Million-Dollar Baby

Call her our $250,000 baby.

In July my uneventful pregnancy took a turn—I developed a serious condition called preeclampsia and had to deliver a month early. Paloma weighed less than five pounds at birth, and spent a week in neonatal intensive care.

She was one of the larger and healthier babies in the ward; I learned that a stint in baby intensive care isn’t unusual these days. I’m grateful to live in a time and place where babies and mothers can survive what Paloma and I did. A century ago we might not have been so lucky.

Making Buses Safer

After two passengers died in a horrific stabbing on a train in Portland, Oregon, the transit agency upped police presence. But the union is pushing for a different solution.

The May 26 incident began with a man yelling racist slurs at two young women of color. When three passengers defended the women, the man stabbed them.

Postal unions, like all federal employee unions, are open shop. That means workers can get the benefits of union representation while opting out of paying dues.

Yet the postal unions generally maintain high rates of voluntary union membership—and Letter Carriers Branch 82 in Portland, Oregon, does even better than most. From 90 percent membership five years ago, it has “slowly up-ticked,” says Organizing Chair Willie Groshell, to around 95 percent of the 1,200 represented carriers.

A Strike against Squeezing Profits from Kidney Patients

On June 12 Teresa Schloth, a Brooklyn dialysis nurse for 32 years, walked out on her first-ever strike. She and her co-workers are battling a billion-dollar corporation that’s trying to wring greater profits out of kidney patients by skimping on staffing and shifting jobs out of the unions.

People with chronic kidney failure—the technical name is end-stage renal disease—qualify for Medicare regardless of age. Three times a week they go in for dialysis, where they spend hours hooked up to a machine that cleans their blood.

Love These Contract Fights

Contract time is a gift. On an ordinary day, any number of work, family, and personal concerns compete for union members’ time and energy. But when your contract is about to expire, when your wages and benefits are on the table, when there’s a chance of a strike or lockout—that’s when your union has more of its members’ attention than at any other time.

For public-employee unions in Wisconsin, an open shop isn’t even the worst of it. The anti-union Act 10, which Governor Scott Walker forced through in 2011, mandated annual recertification votes and all but eliminated collective bargaining. Some unions gave up on staying certified at all—but not the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association. So far its 4,600 members include 69 percent of the district’s teachers and a narrow majority of educational assistants.

“I think the key is get to them as often as you can, early in their career,” says General President Scott Hoffman. At each new-hire orientation, a representative walks new hires through the benefits the union has won. A week later there’s another chance, at the training session for window clerks. “We ask who still hasn’t joined or had anybody talk to them,” Hoffman says. “Try to get as many bites at the apple as you can in the beginning.”

The key is collective action, says Steelworkers Local 675 Secretary-Treasurer Dave Campbell. His union represents 4,000 workers in California and Nevada, many of them at oil refineries where workers get a window of opportunity to drop their membership each time the contract comes up for renegotiation. In each refinery of 300-600 workers, the union maintains around 90 percent membership.

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