Barbara Madeloni

Whatever Happened to 'Eight Hours for What You Will'?

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When Frank Carrico talks about why he and his co-workers at the Heaven Hill distillery went on strike, he talks about family. “I missed out on my kids’ activities” because of forced weekend shifts, he says. “I missed out on a lot, and I don’t want the young people coming behind me to have that happen to them.”

When we spoke, the distillery workers had just come off a six-week strike demanding to maintain a 40-hour week, Monday-Friday, with overtime pay beyond that.

In mid-October six fights broke out in one day at Lawrence High School in Massachusetts. Police were called and arrests made. For those inside the school, this was shocking, but not surprising.

“The unrest is the students’ way of screaming out, ‘We need help,’” said high school English teacher Kristin Colucci. “Their social and emotional needs are not being met.”

It was a long time coming, but when 400 members of the Scranton Federation of Teachers marched out of the school board meeting Tuesday night singing “Solidarity Forever,” they were strike-ready.

Whose Safety? Our Safety!

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The safety of the community as a whole requires vaccines and vaccine mandates. But conversations about mandates have stumbled over questions about the power of employers and the rights of workers.

When unions avoid taking a stand for vaccine requirements (or even support resistance to mandates) they fall into three traps.

Trap one says our priority is to represent the rights of individual workers. Trap two says we cannot abide conflict or strong disagreement among members. Trap three says only the boss can exercise the power to require safety on the job.

“This is not the agreement you deserve.”

So said Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey, announcing that members had voted to accept a plan to return to school buildings.

Chicago teachers began returning to schools on February 11 after contentious negotiations over whether they would be forced to teach in person. While their district’s animosity was exceptional, many similar struggles for safety are being fought across the country.

We Need Democracy on the Job and in the Union, Too

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Democracy is on everyone’s mind, after the presidential election and transition we’ve just weathered.

There’s the democracy we had to defend. Union members participated in all kinds of ways—from postal workers making sure the ballots were delivered, to UNITE HERE members canvassing Arizona and Georgia, to central labor councils calling for the results to be respected.

Then there’s the democracy we don’t have yet. The struggle to vote and have your vote counted has a long legacy in this country.

UPDATE, January 25: Chicago teachers announced the vote results yesterday: With 86 percent of members voting, 71 percent voted to work remotely, defying the order that would have sent K-8 educators back into schools today (a week ahead of their students). The vote also authorized a strike if the district should retaliate by locking educators out of access to the remote learning system through Google Classroom.

Today 915 of the 1,000 union educators in Brookline, Massachusetts, took part in a sickout demanding a six-foot distance between people in classrooms.

The district previously agreed to this safety requirement in a memorandum of understanding. But now it wants to allow the superintendent to change it.

“When they tried to give the superintendent unilateral control to change the distance, they tore up the MOU,” said Brookline Educators Union President Jessica Wender-Shubow.

It’s election eve and anxious voters are wondering not only who will receive the most votes, but also: Will those votes be counted? Will the people or the Supreme Court select the next president? Will Trump supporters move beyond intimidation to violence to suppress the vote?

Will we face a president who refuses to accept the results of the vote? Will we have to defend against a coup?

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