Labor Notes #394, January 2012

Verizon fired 40 union members in December for picket-line activity. Aren’t members protected in legally sanctioned strikes? Not always. But unions can prevent firings for strike conduct by mounting massive and disciplined activity that doesn’t allow the boss to target a few troublemakers.

New York’s Medicaid redesign will privatize the state's home care network, costing 700 city jobs and tossing 40,000 low-income elderly and disabled into managed care agencies that a union says cut corners. AFSCME says SEIU 1199 OK'd the deal.

It’s been an exhilarating year, with people finally moving into resistance after decades of misrule. The new-found energy is rejuvenating, making it easy to forget that we haven’t won most of these battles yet. Still, we’re way ahead of where we were this time last year.

In the wake of the November Teamster election, top officials are calling for stripping members of their right to vote for president and international officers.

Rahm Emanuel, whom Occupy Chicago dubbed Mayor 1%, fired a shot at the city’s public schools this month. He proposed to close schools, fire teachers and staff, and hand over space to charter schools. A transformed teachers union is fighting back.

Retail employees expect the holiday season to be hectic, but workers at big-box stores report a galling combination: unpredictable shifts but not enough hours to pay the bills or qualify for health coverage.

Steelworkers locked out at a Cooper Tire plant in Ohio are raising the alarm as scabs move in to start building tires. The union is incensed by the lockout, which comes after big concessions and a USW-backed tariff.

Wisconsin unionists say a copycat attack on Machinists is one more reason to recall Governor Scott Walker. Petitioners have gathered 507,000 signatures ahead of a mid-January deadline, almost enough to force a recall vote.

When leaders of the Occupy movement’s most reliable labor ally, the Longshore Union (ILWU), declared the union would not participate in Monday’s shutdown of West Coast ports, they illustrated a great weakness plaguing our unions.

Every ILWU officer and international staffer reiterates the union’s solidarity with the Occupy movement and its goals. But the December 12 action annoyed many. Members and officials questioned why occupiers called for action without consulting the people that action would affect most.

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