Labor Notes 405, December 2012

Transport Workers Local 100 in New York stumbled upon an enemy so scary, it would unite subway riders and workers to overcome a clear and present danger.

Freight trains used to have five-person crews—an engineer, a fireman, two brakemen, and a conductor. Now almost every freight train rolling across the U.S. is operated by just an engineer and a conductor. Railroaders fear the conductor will be next to go.

How do you build a solidarity-oriented union? Our Graduate Employees Organization has found that looking beyond the campus and using our voice, funds, and organizing skills to help community causes has made us one of the strongest locals in east-central Illinois.

Four endangered Bay Area post offices will stay open after all, and the subcontracting of California postal trucker jobs is on hold. Those victories were the latest in a string of local wins for grassroots activists across the country.

Workers at a Portland laundry were scheduled the same way for 30 years--until the company announced it was switching everyone. The contract was no help, and the plant’s only steward had just been wrongfully fired.

Chrysler’s Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit has just adopted a new schedule that evades overtime pay and ruins weekends. In two stamping plants nearby, workers are pushing their union to resist.

"We do not want to see such incident, which workers return to their home as dead body after they came to work," said the garment workers organization. A fire injured 150 and killed 125 Saturday.

With customers and workers up in arms at his original plan to close nearly 4,000 post offices and half the nation’s mail sorting plants, the postmaster general has responded to pressure by postponing some closings and spreading the pain.

Plans for Black Friday walkouts at Walmart stores have spread dramatically, in what has been dubbed the first “viral strike.” Organizers suggest that protests may hit 1,000 stores, including what the group calls “marquee events” in nine cities.

A familiar cry for the 40-hour week has gone up, but among retail workers the meaning is new. Part-time workers are demanding an end to erratic scheduling and a chance to work enough hours to survive.

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