The inflatable rat is back, as New York City Teamsters strike to say it’s not fair to pay some movers $16-$22 an hour and others—mostly Black and Latino—just $8.
Less than 6 percent of Ascension Health’s 110,000 workers are union members, but apparently that’s 6 percent too many for the country’s largest Catholic health system. Management is on a concerted campaign to bust unions at its hospitals in Michigan, say the Teamsters, the Michigan Nurses Association, and their ally Interfaith Worker Justice, a national organization that works with religious leaders.
GM workers in Saginaw, Michigan, voted down drastic concessions by a big margin June 17. It was the second time in three months that GM workers already working at substandard pay refused to be chopped any further.
As the U.S. Social Forum approaches, here in Detroit, we at Labor Notes have been talking a lot about how unions can work with other movements to pursue common goals. In Brazil last week, I was lucky to meet activists who had a terrific example: a metalworkers union that helped organize a movement of poor people to take over vacant land and build houses for themselves.
International union connections are a kick. Within a few hours of my arrival at a union convention in Brazil, I met a copper miner from Chile whose company wants wage cuts, a union doctor from Spain fighting the imposition of co-pays, a Nestle worker from Colombia, and railroad workers from Japan.
Striking nickel and copper miners in northern Ontario blocked entrances to company property for five days in May, defying a police order to stand down. In what Steelworkers Local 6500 called a protest and their multinational employer Vale Inco called a blockade, strikers and community supporters in Copper Cliff and Levack mounted 24-hour lines complete with RVs and toilets.
What’s weird about the whole health insurance fracas is that Republicans and some insurance company execs fought just as hard against the crappy bill we have before us as if it were really what they claim it is: a vast government “intrusion” into health care.
Electrical utility workers in Mexico called for a national strike yesterday to support their fight against the liquidation of their company, and some of the country’s more militant unions responded—including by blocking highways. Police responded with tear gas and violence.
It was a day like today—60s and sunny, decades ago—when I swung from the top of a telephone pole and thought I had the best job in the world. A few months earlier, in the Detroit winter, not so much. I remember phoning a customer from the pole behind her house and hearing her tell me she could see a man working on the pole back there. When I visited another customer’s home, climbing boots and tool belt and all, she called me “operator.”
When I told friends I was on my way to the Labor Campaign for Single-Payer conference, held last weekend, they all said, “I bet that’ll be a bunch of long faces.” I predicted not—these were people who’d always known the health care reform debate in Congress would come up short. Yet the 124 delegates to the March 5-7 conference in Washington were upbeat.