Above photo: Nurses hold a demonstration outside Jacobi Medical Center to protest a new policy by the hospital requiring a doctor’s note for paid sick leave, Friday, April 17, 2020, in the Bronx borough of New York. AP Photo/Mary Altaffer.
The award-winning director of “Sorry to Bother You” Boots Riley, repeatedly praised Payday Report’s Strike Tracker on The Bad Faith Podcast with Briahna Joy Gray saying, “You could count on one hand the number of outlets, whether mainstream or radical, that pushed this fact.”
So far we have tracked 1,158 strikes since March 1. Keep on submitting tips so we can keep tracking these strikes.
South Carolina Teachers Continue “Sick Out” Strike
Back in 2019, Payday was one of the few national outlets in the country to cover the first-ever statewide teachers strike in South Carolina. Now, teachers in school districts throughout South Carolina are increasingly calling “sickout” strikes to protest unsafe COVID conditions.
A growing sickout strike in the suburbs of the state capitol Columbia is now entering its second week. Our friends at The State have the story:
“Our main thing is to go back to the hybrid model,” said an Airport High School teacher, who asked to remain anonymous. Schools in the district previously operated on a rotating two-day in-person schedule, with students spending part of the week on campus and the other three days learning remotely.
“We’d also like to see the district’s COVID dashboard be updated with the number of students and faculty quarantined,” the teacher said, believing it would more accurately reflect the impact on the district.
A letter from teachers to the board that was forwarded to The State cited concerns about unsafe working conditions amid the pandemic, an inadequate amount of personal protective equipment, and the growing number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in South Carolina.
“Unsafe working conditions specifically include class sizes (as large as 32), which inhibit appropriate social distancing,” the letter reads. “The mask-wearing and type of masks worn by all parties are not consistent with CDC and DHEC guidelines, and this is also alarming as we are in contact with more than 75 people per day.”
For more, check out The State.
Hazard Pay Used to Bust Union Drive at Spyhouse Coffee
At the beginning of the pandemic, many frontline workers were given “hazard pay” as corporations desperately sought to keep workers on the job during the pandemic.
However, many major corporations quickly took back hazard pay when the fear of the pandemic subsided. Now, some corporations may bring back hazard pay to defeat union drives.
The Minnesota Reformer has a truly wild story on how business owners offered hazard pay and threatened store closing to bust a union drive at Spyhouse Coffee in Minnesota:
[Spyhouse barista Matt] Marciniec blamed a steady drumbeat of anti-union messaging coming from Spyhouse management and ownership. Following a one-day worker strike in September, he said the company attempted to “demoralize” its pro-union workers, resulting in around 15 departures.
Former worker Grace Erpenbach told City Pages last month she was called into a meeting and presented with a choice: Stop organizing or lose your job. If true, such a threat would violate federal labor law even if it’s a common tactic. A recent study by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute found employers are charged with illegally firing employees in 20% of unionization efforts. Through a spokesperson, Spyhouse says Erpenbach was a manager and should not have participated in organizing efforts.
Erpenbach opted to quit, as did several of her colleagues in solidarity.
The new hires that replaced them were manipulated with “a hideous smear campaign,” Spyhouse’s would-be union tweeted Tuesday, one intended to “paint the remaining pro-union folks as a small group of fringe troublemakers.”
Roving Strikes to Start at Sunrise Hospital in Nevada
At the Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas, workers are beginning weekly walkouts. The union alleges that the hospital owned by HCA is still denying workers proper PPE during the pandemic.
Workers, members of SEIU Local 1107, plan to start walkouts on Wednesday to protest their working conditions.
“If you are going to call us heroes in public then treat us like heroes in private,” surgical tech Erika Watanabe said. “While all of us are here making a sacrifice HCA CEOs are talking about the profit they’re making because of the high degree of acuity in COVID-19 patients. They need to stop obsessing over profits and make sure hospital workers have everything they need to care for patients.”
For more, check out KVVU-TV in Las Vegas.
58th Anniversary of Robena Mine Explosion that Killed 37 in Western PA
Today marks the 58th anniversary of the Robena Mine Explosion that killed 37 miners in Western PA. In 2012, I went to cover a memorial service on the explosion for Working In These Times. A look back from the 50th anniversary in 2012:
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” 94-year-old retired coal miner Charles Karwatsky told Working in These Times at the ceremony. “I was shaking like this. It was my buddy that blew up. I traded [shifts] with him and I took his place because I liked the boy. He was a colored boy and the white boys were giving him a hard time so I said, ‘Sammy, if none of your buddies will trade with you then I will trade with you.’ The guy I swapped with, Sammy Rain, he blew up….That would have been me. They would have been calling my name out [at the ceremony].”
For many of the miners and for the families of those who died, the memory of the Robena explosion is still sharp. They recall the blizzard of snow that fell that day, and sleeping in tents near the mine in the nights that followed as they awaited news of the fates of the missing miners.
During the ceremony, a union official asked all the family members of the miners who were killed to come forward, and then began reading out the names of the 37 men. A gray-haired man in his mid-60s, struggling to make his way through the crowd, called out, “I am here, I am over here.” As he reached the front, he broke down and began to cry. Fifty years have passed since his father’s death, but the pain is still raw.
Even for miners who were not at the Robena mine on that day in 1962, the accident still strikes a nerve. Many miners I spoke with say they feel just as vulnerable to preventable mine explosions today as miners were 50 years ago. The Upper Big Branch explosion in 2010, which killed 29 miners in West Virginia, was strikingly similar to the Robena explosion. Both were caused by methane and coal dust igniting, a scenario that can be prevented by properly ventilating the mines and washing out coal dust. That coal dust-fueled explosions keep occuring, despite ample knowledge on how to prevent them, leads Karwatsky to wonder whether mine safety has improved at all since the explosion that killed his friend Sammy Rain 50 years ago.
“It’s just about the same. There ain’t no change,” he says.