The courageous Durham, North Carolina, sanitation workers, members of United Electrical Workers (UE) Local 150, ended their six-day strike Sept. 12 amid threats from the City Council to suspend them without pay. Despite these union-busting tactics, the workers will continue their struggle; a rally is set for Sept. 18 at Durham City Hall. This is an all too familiar scenario where essential workers continue to be mistreated by their bosses. The sanitation workers have legitimate concerns around hazardous conditions due to the nature of their work and severe understaffing.
The heat was scorching in Louisville, Kentucky, last Thursday. But what the windless day lacked in gusts, it made up in guts. The union-made placards read: “United for a Strong Contract.” That resonated with auto workers at Ford who hadn’t been part of a contract rally for as long as anyone can remember. And the picket line came alive when they broke away from the tedious repetition of “Who’s got the power? We’ve got the power!” and used their own chants. “We ready, we ready, we ready for a strike…” An auto worker led a syncopated chorus, breaking the monotony of the boring chants printed on the back of their placards.
Unions representing more than 85,000 healthcare workers have held pickets at 50 facilities across California, Washington, Oregon and Colorado amid new contract negotiations as their current union contracts are set to expire on 30 September. The negotiations at Kaiser Permanente are the third largest set of contract negotiations in the US in 2023, behind the 340,000 workers at UPS who will be voting on a tentative agreement this month that was reached days before planned strike action, and 150,000 autoworkers at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis whose contracts are set to expire on 14 September.
The clock is ticking on the August 1 strike deadline of 340,000 UPS Teamsters. It would be the largest strike at a private employer in decades. “People are actually paying attention,” said delivery driver Kioma Forero, a Local 804 shop steward in New York City. Customers along her route stop her to say, “I hope your negotiations go well.” The hosts are talking about it on Hot 97, the city’s top hip-hop station. A deal could still avert a strike—as we went to press, the Teamsters announced UPS had reached out to resume negotiations. The union bargaining team had dispersed to members’ home locals after talks broke down July 5, for practice picketing that has put on display just how ready to strike UPSers are.
On July 14, 300 workers turned out for the latest practice picket and rally at the UPS Jefferson Street Hub on the Near West Side of Chicago. International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Local 705 and Local 710 organized this event, which was the largest of many practice pickets in the Chicago area that occurred throughout the week. Flyers promoting the event read, “Chicago Teamsters stand up to UPS greed!” The event comes as contract negotiations between the IBT and United Parcel Service remain halted. The Teamsters already negotiated a major win for full-time drivers with the end of the two-tier classification system, known as 22.4.
Brandi Diaz was at a customer’s door in Palmdale, California, delivering stuff for Amazon, when the customer asked her, “What’s the difference between you and UPS drivers?” “He said the difference is UPS is union, Amazon is not. He referred to us as ‘Jeff’s Bozos.’ “I am no longer Bezos’ Bozo!” Diaz said over honks and chants from 200 Teamsters from six different locals and some labor allies at a picket line outside an Amazon warehouse in northern New Jersey July 6. Diaz and her co-workers voted to join Teamsters Local 396 in April. They are Amazon delivery drivers, but they were nominally employed by an Amazon contractor, the Southern California company Battle-Tested Strategies.