Labor Notes #390, September 2011

Three hundred student-workers from overseas went on strike last month at a Hershey plant in Pennsylvania. Some have returned to work, while others have hooked up with the National Guestworker Alliance to publicize exploitation of student-workers.

New York is a tough town for education advocates. The mayor is a corporate operator with a privatization agenda. The city’s teachers union offers meager resistance. Rank and filers are building a no-cuts coalition, showing activists they shouldn't wait for permission.

The Amalgamated Transit Union is educating local leaders around the country about what’s wrong with the economy, helping bus drivers and mechanics who’ve seen transit funding slashed to understand some ugly truths. Squarely in the center is the impact of military spending on public budgets.

The confrontation between West Coast longshore workers and an anti-union exporter exploded as pickets massed on railroad tracks by the hundreds yesterday to block grain shipments. Today they dumped the grain on the tracks.

At a Detroit Labor Day rally, Teamsters President James Hoffa created a firestorm. But Sandy Pope, his chief opponent for election next month, says it’s all hot air, from a guy who’s been missing in action for the fights the union should be having, with employers and politicians.

Auto worker dissidents are claiming progress in their campaign against the two-tier system that pays new hires half a wage, as UAW President Bob King now says a pay boost for these workers is his top priority.

Job growth is zero, but Congress is fixated on deficits, with a bad case of austerity fever. Now labor leaders are making noises about turning their backs on Democrats.

Fear is the main thing stopping retail workers from organizing for better treatment at Walmart, said several employees who are doing just that. They lost their fear, they said, after they stood up for themselves and marched on Walmart headquarters.

Still smarting from the beating they took in the media when GM and Chrysler went bankrupt two years ago, auto workers are adamant that they earn every penny. They challenge critics to try working the assembly line for just one day.

As the unions at Verizon enter the uncharted waters of what could still be an intermittent strike, continued mobilization is needed to keep maximum pressure on Verizon.

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