New York City, New York - Workers at the New York City Starbucks Reserve Roastery in the Meatpacking District have been on strike since the beginning of last week against unsafe work conditions and the multi-billion dollar corporation’s refusal to bargain in good faith with the union for a first contract. The striking workers note how managers at one of Starbucks’s flagship stores refuse to address work conditions that are proving to be health hazards: the store had a recent outbreak of bedbugs in the break room and there has been black mold in the ice machines for months. Two workers who spoke with Left Voice under conditions of anonymity described how management instructed them to discard any ice with mold in it and carry on, without addressing the root of the problem.
California - The three UC unions under the United Auto Workers (UAW) — Student Researchers United (SRU), UAW 5810 representing both postdoctoral and academic student researchers in separate bargaining units and UAW 2865 representing teaching assistants (TA), graduate student instructors, tutors and readers — each Organized strike votes across their four bargaining units from Oct. 26 through Nov. 2. If passed, the votes would give respective unions the power to call a strike should they choose, but would not guarantee they will. UAW 2865’s recording secretary, fourth-year UC Santa Barbara history Ph.D. candidate and TA Janna Haider is one of two representatives from UCSB on the union’s bargaining team.
Cottonton, Alabama - “On the morning of Oct. 1… almost 500 union members from three United Steel Workers (USW) locals at WestRock’s Mahrt Mill paper mill in Cottonton, Alabama, voted to reject a second contract offer from the company,” Jacob Morrison recently reported for The Real News Network. “The refusal to ratify WestRock’s ‘last, best, and final’ offer came as a result of the company insisting on removing contract language pertaining to what the workers there call ‘penalties’ for long hours. Members resoundingly rejected this contract, even though it included an unheard-of $28,000 ratification bonus — increased from an already staggering offer of $20,000, which workers already rejected on Sept. 21.” Workers at WestRock’s Mahrt Mill paper mill have been locked out by the company since early October and say they can’t be bought off with bonuses for signing a contract that will ensure they have even less time for life outside of work.
Spare a thought for new PM Rishi Sunak – or don’t, if you’d prefer. Either way, he’s only hours into the job of prime minster and already facing a new wave of strike action. This time, it’s coming from the University and College Union (UCU). However, we already know Sunak’s views on strikes – and they don’t bode well for workers. UCU members have been striking across 2022 over pay and conditions. As Bywire News previously reported, the industrial action earlier in the year: centred around universities inflicting a 25% real-terms cut to staff pay since 2009. But UCU members have also been striking over their pensions. The pension fund that runs higher education staff’s retirement pots put in a cut of around 35% to members’ final pay-outs. So, tens of thousands of staff at dozens of universities repeatedly walked out in the first part of the year. But there was a catch. Because the UCU initially couldn’t reach the legal threshold for industrial action nationally, members did ballots at individual universities. So the action wasn’t totally coordinated. However, that’s just changed.
This week, two Teamster locals won new contracts with the behemoth food distributor Sysco, ending a nearly monthlong strike that drew national support. More than 200 workers for Sysco — America’s largest food distributor — went on strike in Syracuse, N.Y., on September 27. Days later, more than 300 drivers for Sysco Boston went on strike in Massachusetts. Workers in Arizona also reportedly struck in solidarity. On October 17, workers at a Syracuse distribution center ratified their new contract with Sysco — one that Sean Miller, a warehouse worker and shop steward with Teamsters Local 317, says involved “zero concessions to the company.” In one key victory, Sysco agreed to limit the grueling six-day workweeks and the 16-hour days some drivers spoke of, and dropped a plan that would prevent new employees from taking consecutive days off.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - The Philadelphia Museum of Art and the PMA Union, an affiliate of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, District Council 47, reached a three-year agreement, union leaders and PMA museum director Sasha Suda announced Friday. The PMA’s board of trustees and the union’s executive committee approved the deal’s terms on Friday. The union’s 180-worker membership voted overwhelmingly in favor of the contract on Sunday. The vote was 99 percent in favor. “I feel good about the terms. They met everything that we asked for,” Adam Rizzo, PMA union president, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “The museum caved on every single issue that we were fighting for. We won everything we asked for,” Rizzo added.
An estimated 80% of prisoners from Alabama’s “major male facilities” went on strike on September 26th, in response to a wide range of conditions and grievances. Inside organizer Kinetik Swift Justice stated, “Basically, the message that we are sending is, the courts have shut down on us, the parole board has shut down on us. This society has long ago shut down on us. So basically, if that’s the case, and you’re not wanting us to return back to society, you can run these facilities yourselves.” The strike has now entered its third week, and at least five facilities, each with around 7,000 prisoners, continue to participate. Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) has punished prisoners by drastically reducing their meals, essentially attempting to starve them off the strike.
Montgomery, Alabama – On the 19th day of the statewide prisoner work strike on Friday, about 100 people gathered in front of the Alabama State Capitol Building in support of the thousands of prisoners currently striking. On Oct. 7, the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) confirmed that five facilities remained at a standstill due to the historic statewide work stoppage. Posts to a private Facebook group run by family members of striking prisoners confirmed that prisoners at five facilities continued to strike as of this week. The ADOC admitted the ongoing strike has caused significant disruptions to the functioning of the prisons. “All facilities remain operational,” the department wrote in a press release on Sept. 28, 2022.
Psychologists, social workers, therapists, and chemical dependency counselors are in the ninth week of an open-ended strike at Kaiser Permanente in Northern and Central California. The 2,000 mental health care workers walked out August 15; their contract has been expired since September 2021. They’re members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which split from SEIU in 2010. NUHW says Kaiser has failed to provide the staffing and wages to retain adequate and diverse staff—yielding unsustainable workloads and dangerous understaffing. After a mental health intake visit, even patients in crisis may wait weeks or months for a second appointment. Clinicians also report managers pressure them to prescribe next appointments when an appointment is available, rather than when they think the patient needs it—a practice that’s dangerous for patients and demoralizing for mental health workers.
At four sawmills, two log export facilities, two statewide log truck operations, and seven logging camps, 1,100 Weyerhaeuser workers have been on strike since Sept. 13 over a basic union principle, fairness. Weyerhaeuser, after reporting record profits of $2.6 billion last year, proposed that its workers make concessions: accept wages that lose ground to inflation, and start paying a share of health insurance premiums. Weyerhaeuser is one of the rare employers that pays the entire health insurance premium, a benefit that used to be standard, and workers think if they give that up, it may never get better. Northwest Weyerhaeuser workers already agreed to concessions in their most recent contract, including a two-tier set-up which terminated the pension for new hires.
Four of 12 rail labor unions already have ratified tentative agreements with the National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC), which bargains on behalf of most Class I railroads and many smaller ones. Seven other rail labor unions are currently conducting ratification votes. All provisions of existing wage, benefits and work rules agreements will remain in force as contracts negotiated under the Railway Labor Act have no expiration date and are changed only by ratified amendments. A work stoppage by BMWED—or any of the other seven unions that have yet to ratify—is not anticipated before late November, if at all. A work stoppage by any of the rail unions, however, can be expected to cause a nationwide rail shutdown. Carriers also could trigger such a shutdown by locking out the work force—as it did in 1992—if a work stoppage is initiated against just one railroad.
A somber bell toll broke the silence outside the West Brookwood Church in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama. The white-gloved hand of Larry Spencer, International Vice President of Mine Workers (UMWA) District 20, solemnly struck the Miners’ Memorial bell as the names of victims of mine-related deaths were read aloud. “As we gather this evening for our service, it is appropriate that we remember in the past twelve months over 2021 and 2022 there has been tremendous heartache as the result of mining accidents across this country,” Thomas Wilson, a retired UMWA staff representative, announced from the podium. “Twelve coal miners’ lives have been snuffed out—also, 19 metal and non-metal miners—for a total of 31 fallen miners since we last gathered.”
Across the state of Alabama, where the state’s longest-ever strike is currently ongoing at Warrior Met Coal after over 18 months, another historic labor stoppage is in its second week. Thousands of incarcerated people at every major male prison in Alabama have refused to report to their work assignments. “The message that we are sending is, the courts have shut down on us, the parole board has shut down on us,” a strike organizer who goes by Swift Justice told a reporter for independent news site Unicorn Riot. “This society has long ago shut down on us. So basically, if that’s the case, and you’re not wanting us to return back to society, you can run these facilities yourselves.” “It makes no sense for us to continue to contribute to our own oppression,” Kinetik Justice, another striking prisoner, told Unicorn Riot.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Since Sept. 26, almost 200 workers have been on strike — not reporting for work in person or virtually — at one of the oldest and largest art museums in the U.S. with over 240,000 works of art from around the world. Members of the Philadelphia Museum of Art Union, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 397, affiliated with AFSCME District Council 47, voted for union representation in a landslide, 89% “yes” vote in August 2020. Since then, the PMA Board of Trustees and executive management have refused to come to an agreement with the PMA Union. After over two years of fruitless talks, after filing a lengthy Unfair Labor Practice charge against museum management, after a strike authorization vote of 99% and after holding a one-day warning strike Sept. 16, workers finally walked off the job Sept. 26.
Unionized nurses at Howard Brown Health, a Chicago network of LGBTQ-affirming healthcare clinics, are set to go on strike Monday, Oct. 3 after what workers say are months of stalled contract bargaining negotiations. The union is comprised of 30 nurses across 10 clinics, who are bargaining for their second contract, the first of which expired in August. The nurses’ union, the Illinois Nurses Association, says that since June they have been negotiating with management on a weekly basis and have reached tentative agreements on more than 30 items, including staffing levels and a commitment to vaccinate workers against monkeypox. But, the union alleges, these conversations — now daily — have failed to progress to securing workers’ chief demands: Increased pay competitive with other nurses in the city, and retention bonuses.