By Joe Richard and Ruth Hurley for Socialist Worker – The biggest US strike in years has entered its third week, with 39,000 Verizon workers walking the picket lines and holding fiery protests across the Northeast US. Involving the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the Verizon strike is the nation’s largest since the last walkout at Verizon almost five years ago. And the stakes couldn’t be higher — not only for Verizon employees, but all workers.
By Sophia Tesfaye for Salon and Alternet. According to one of the unions organizing Verizon workers out on strike this week, two Verizon employees were struck by the passing luxury sports car of one of the corporation’s attorneys on Thursday. In their newsletter to members, “Report from the Front Lines,” the Communications Workers of America (CWA) reported that two striking union members of Local 2108 in Maryland “were hit by a Verizon management attorney driving his Porsche.” A photo accompanying the union’s report features an image of a black sports car as well as what appears to be a local police patrol vehicle and at least one man with signage in hand. “One member was not seriously hurt, but the second was taken to the hospital,” the CWA reported. The CWA’s report also mentioned that another union member on the picket line, from Local 2108 in Silver Spring, Maryland, “was hit by a management vehicle.”
By Jonathan Rosenblum for AlterNet. Millions of workers across the country have won wage hikes under the banner of $15, and this week many more in California stand poised to join the parade. But three and a half years after the first picket sign was hoisted demanding $15/hour and union recognition, very few minimum wage workers are actually getting paid that much. That’s because among those crafting wage legislation, it’s become an axiom that increases must be phased in over time for the sake of business and economic stability. California Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez reflects a prevailing establishment view that what’s needed is “a reasonable, measured approach that would prevent sticker shock for businesses.” Newly adopted $15 minimum wage laws have been unveiled with great fanfare and media coverage. But lost in the headlines is the reality that because of phase-in schedules, workers won’t actually see $15/hour in their pay for three, five or even seven years.
By Alana Semuels for The Atlantic – CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — Women and men, more than 70 of them, were fired on December 9th from the factory on the Mexican side of the Mexico-Texas border where they made printers for the American company Lexmark. They say they were terminated because they were trying to form an independent union. The company says they were fired because they caused a “workplace disruption.” Now, the workers protest by occupying a makeshift shack outside the factory, still advocating for a raise and for a union, even though they no longer have jobs.
By Environmental Justice League of RI for RIFuture.org. The EJ League is interested in big picture, long term, real solutions to interlocking crises that impact communities of color, marginalized communities, and planetary ecosystems. We are members of three national coalitions of grassroots, membership based organizations: Right to the City, Grassroots Global Justice, andClimate Justice Alliance. Together, and lead by our members and our communities, we are developing and sharing solutions that address these intersecting crises from the grassroots. These community based solutions are in opposition to the corporate top down false solutions that pretend to address a single symptom while reinforcing the underlying root causes of the problems. True solutions are rooted in the work of grassroots internationalism, and using the framework of a “Just Transition”. We are collectively building a different context and a different system, an economy for people and the planet. The Just Transition framework emerged from partnerships between environmental justice and labor organizations.
By Flush the TPP. According to the Federal Register, the Office of the US Trade Representative announced on Dec. 28 that it “is seeking public comments on the impact of the TPP Agreement on U.S. employment, including labor markets.” The open comment period extends until January 13, 2016. It is critical that as many people as possible write to them about this. (In 2014, millions of public comments pouring into the FCC saved the Internet) We make it easy with step-by-step instructions, information about the TPP’s impact on labor with links to places where you can read more and a sample comment that you can copy and paste. This only takes a few minutes to do. Please share this with others. Let’s flood the USTR with comments opposing the TPP!
By John Westmoreland for Counterfire.org. The Dignity of Chartism is a book of great relevance for today. In the years 1839-42, at the height of the Chartist struggle, capitalism was in its youth. Today it is in its dotage. The neoliberal free-market doctrine was and is the dogma of both eras. The mass eruptions we see today, as with Chartism then, are a result of the relentless pursuit of profit in a mad competition that generates poverty, war and environmental destruction. Read Dorothy Thompson’s marvellous book. Be inspired by the Chartists, and learn how they built a mass movement, through education, agitation and struggle. Then build a mass movement that finishes the job that the Chartists started.
By Linda Gordon for Portside. Movie Review – An industrial laundry in 1912 London, the steam infusing the air, the sweat on the workers’ faces so vivid the viewer herself feels the heat. These laundries were not only literal sweatshops, but surrounded workers with burning toxic lye. This opening scene in Sara Gavron’s new film, Suffragette, is as powerful as any that follow. It is intended to surprise-not what one expects from a film about the British woman suffrage movement, because the history books have mainly told us about its elite leaders, Emmeline and her daughters Sylvia and Christabel Pankhurst.
By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese for Popular Resistance. Washington, DC – On Monday, Nov. 16, as part of the Flush the TPP days of action, hundreds of people marched to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) on 17th Street NW to protest and shut it down. The demonstration was planned to occur during protests in Manila, Philippines over the Asian Pacific Economic Coordination (APEC) meetings. The leaders and trade ministers from countries participating in the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) were present in Manila. The theme of the march and action in Washington was that the TPP betrays all that the people hold dear. Large images displayed family farmers, patients, youth installing solar panels and workers.
By Jessica Lynn for the Daily Californian – UCPD issued a final admonishment about 8 p.m., and eight students whorefused to leave were forcibly removed and cited with trespassing and disrupting a business. The students were given a Nov. 30 court date. Performance First has been under investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor after its employees alleged that the company underpaid workers who clean campus athletic facilities and refused to pay them for overtime. Zuniga, who has worked for Performance First for four years, said through a translator that she was told by her manager that Thursday was her last day. She said she was only offered an opportunity to transfer to the Simpson Center, a campus athlete-training facility, where her workdays would be cut to three a week. She added that as a single mother of three children, with one daughter entering college this year, she would not be able to support her family working less than 40 hours per week.
By Sarah van Gelder for Yes Magazine – Back in the day, factory workers at the Chicago-based Republic Windows and Doors were simply told what to do. That wasn’t unusual. Workers might have seen ways to improve the production process, but at Republic their supervisor wasn’t interested, said former employee Armando Robles. “Whatever the bosses want, we do it. We’d say, ‘Look, this is a better way,’ and they say, ‘No, we say you have to do it this way.’ Even when they make a mistake, they just continue,” Robles explained. “We try to do the best for everyone.” Things are very different today. Employees of what is now called New Era Windows and Doors are also the owners.
By Lorraine Chow for EchoWatch – Two separate U.S. agricultural workers have slapped lawsuits against Monsanto, alleging that Roundup—the agribusiness giant’s flagship herbicide—caused their cancers, and that the company “falsified data” and “led a prolonged campaign of misinformation” to convince the public, farm workers and government agencies about the safety of the product. The first suit, Enrique Rubio v. Monsanto Company, comes from Enrique Rubio, a 58-year-old former field worker who worked in California, Texas and Oregon. According to Reuters, he was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1995, and believes it stemmed from exposure to Monsanto’s widely popular weed killer and other pesticides that he sprayed on cucumber, onion and other vegetable crops. Rubio’s case was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Sept. 22.
By Danielle Sweeney in Baltimore Brew – The funeral sendoff was staged New Orleans style with a Dixieland band, Mardi Gras beads, boas and parasols. The deceased was “poverty wages,” symbolized by a black casket and eulogized by a Unitarian minister at a funeral yesterday in front of City Hall organized by Maryland Working Families. A majority of workers don’t earn enough to live with dignity was the take-away message of the afternoon. Their explicit message – Baltimore won’t prosper and move ahead unless wages rise at large institutions like the Johns Hopkins Hospital. About 80 people, many from Service Employees International Union, AFSCME, Casa Baltimore and other organizations, paraded around War Memorial Plaza and listened to speakers who called on city government to support higher wages. A few shared their experiences as low-wage full-time workers who struggle to live in the Baltimore area.
By Samuel Davidson in World Socialist Website – On Monday, bankrupt Patriot Coal Company asked a federal bankruptcy judge to end health care for its 969 retired non-union employees. The company is saying that no one will buy its assets while taking on the health care costs for them. Such a decision will devastate the miners and their families. Years of working in the coal fields bring an array of health problems, from back and spinal injury to black lung. The cost of health care will quickly drive these retirees to use up any savings they may have and to sell their homes, and many will end in bankruptcy themselves. The following day, the company announced that Blackhawk Mining was named the winning bidder for a majority of its mines and operations in Kentucky and West Virginia. In August, Patriot agreed to sell most of its holdings in Virginia to an affiliate of the Virginia Conservation Legacy Funds for $400 million. The VCLF says it plans to reclaim most of the company’s sites.