Nurses and other health care workers across the nation are rising up in a growing wave of strikes and protests against understaffing, lack of crucial supplies, exhausting workloads and the erosion of their living standards by the sharp rise in inflation. Conditions for health care workers around the world have been greatly worsened by the response of the ruling class to the pandemic. Many are leaving the profession, further deepening the crisis. According to a March 24 report in Healthcare IT News, 90 percent of US nurses are considering leaving the profession. Not only must nurses handle inhuman levels of stress at work, but they are also facing criminal prosecution as they struggle to perform their duties safely under impossible conditions.
Members of the Aslef union, the 150 workers rejected a 3 percent pay offer from operator First Group and voted almost unanimously to strike, on a turnout of 86 percent. With inflation at 11.7 percent RPI, the company’s offer amounts to a deep pay cut. Services were severely disrupted, affecting the Wimbledon tennis tournament, with no trams running between Croydon and Beckenham Junction, Elmers End or New Addington, and only at 20-minute intervals between Croydon and Wimbledon. A second round of strikes is planned for July 13-14. First Group has a contract to run the service on behalf of Transport for London until 2030. It receives a fixed fee from TfL, pegged to November’s RPI—7.1 percent in 2021. The company has a market capitalization of over £1 billion and is listed on the FTSE 250.
There’s lot of nonsense flying around in the establishment media about the rail strikes. Curtis Daily explains why the strikes and unions are an essential line of defence against the destructive capitalist system the press and politicians are fighting to uphold.
Worcester, Massachusetts - The COVID-19 pandemic and the corresponding failure at every level of government to prevent its spread dealt a devastating blow to healthcare workers. Nurses, doctors, and other medical workers faced increasingly dangerous conditions, along with employers more concerned with increasing profits than saving the lives of their patients or employees. At St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts, nurses fought back against their corporate employer by organizing a strike of over 700 workers that lasted for 10 months. Filmed by TRNN contributor Gino Canella, these interviews with St. Vincent nurses comprise an oral history of a ferocious labor battle that became the longest nurses’ strike in Massachusetts state history.
The protest held on the eve of ahead of this week’s national rail strikes by 50,000 rail workers on June 21, 23 and 25. Seeking to maintain control of an emerging strike wave, the union bureaucracy pulled out all the stops. Even so, while the demo was somewhat larger than the annual TUC protests in recent years, it was much smaller than that held in 2011 of around 200,000, called after the Conservative government came to power and first launched a savage austerity offensive. Organized amid a powerful sentiment among workers for taking on the Johnson government and the employers, the turnout testifies to the decline in the authority of the trade unions after decades of betrayals—that a necessary turn to more militant rhetoric cannot conceal.
The formidable truckers’ strike in South Korea came to an end after a tentative agreement was struck after late-night negotiations on Tuesday, June 14. Truck drivers returned to work on Wednesday after the deal approving the key demands put forward by the union was approved by the nation’s transport ministry. Organized by Cargo Truckers Solidarity Union, thousands of truck drivers were on an indefinite strike from June 7, bringing all ports and movement of crucial industrial goods and major exports to a standstill. Truckers were demanding government intervention to arrest the rising fuel prices and inflation. They had also demanded a significant pay hike and a guarantee towards continuance of the minimum wage rule that was introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rail workers across London spoke to campaign teams from the World Socialist Web Site ahead of the largest national rail strike since 1989. 50,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union will strike on June 21, 23 and 25, against wage, job and pension cuts. The government is planning an historic attack on the industry under its “Great British Railways” scheme. RMT and Unite members on the London Underground and train drivers represented by the ASLEF union are also due to walk out. Reporters found a widening demand for united strike action to confront this threat in transport and throughout the working class. The rail strikes are part of a broader movement of workers across the UK and internationally, driven by spiraling inflation and the impacts of the pandemic and NATO-Russia war in Ukraine.
Hyundai Motor is struggling to move finished cars so it can make more cars, while more than half of the country's ready-mix concrete factories have suspended operations due to a halt in the shipment of cement. Unionized truck drivers have been on a strike since Tuesday demanding higher wages and an extension of support measures, which expire at the end of this year. They blocked gates at distribution centers and refused to transport cargo. Cargo Truckers Solidarity, a union, is leading of strike, and more than 7,000 people are participating, according to local media reports. About one-third of all unionized truckers have joined in, though the number varied by the day. The truck drivers and the government have been negotiating all weekend but have so far failed reach a compromise.
Registered nurses picketed outside 11 Twin Cities hospitals Wednesday, calling on health care executives to put patients over profits in contract negotiations with their union, the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA). Talks covering 15,000 nurses in the metro and Duluth began in March. Twin Cities nurses, who work at Allina Health, Children’s Hospital, M Health Fairview and North Memorial hospitals, saw their contracts expire Tuesday. On a combined picket line outside United and Children’s hospitals in St. Paul, nurses said the crisis facing their profession demands urgency and bold action to keep nurses from leaving the bedside. “I think a lot of our co-workers are waiting to see what happens with this contract to make determinations about what they’re going to do next, if they’re going to stay at the bedside,” United emergency department nurse Brittany Livaccari said.
Two thousand northern California Kaiser Permanente mental health practitioners, members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) have voted to strike the giant California health maintenance organization (HMO). The result of the late May balloting was 91% in favor of walking out – the date yet to be determined. The vote follows a three-day strike in Hawaii. In May, Hawaiian psychologists, social workers, psychiatric nurses and chemical dependency counselors walked picket lines on Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island to protest Kaiser’s severe understaffing at clinics and medical facilities. Staffing, patient loads, working conditions, these issues are the same right throughout the Kaiser’s vast system. The wealthy and powerful corporation that self-advertises as non-profit and patient centered cynically refuses to meet minimal staffing requirements (mandated by state regulations and the law) while enforcing working conditions that demoralize clinicians and place mental health patients in danger (often severe, even fatal)– all in the name of the bottom line.
Minneapolis, Minnesota - On Tuesday May 24, over 500 mental health workers will walk off the jobs at three hospitals in the Minneapolis metro area. The striking groups include mental health coordinators and psych techs, along with other job classes that perform mental health work. All three of the groups have organized and joined SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and Iowa (SEIU HCMNIA) in the last eight months and are fighting for their first contract. They work at Allina Health’s Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, Allina Health’s Unity Hospital in the Twin Cities suburb of Fridley, and MHealth Fairview Riverside Hospital in Minneapolis. While they work for three different hospitals, each with their own separate contract negotiations, the mental health workers are coordinating across the three locations and two health systems as they see the fight for a first contract with real improvements to working conditions and for safety in their jobs as a shared fight throughout the hospital industry.
Starbucks workers at a location in Eugene, Oregon went on strike on Tuesday to protest the union busting at their location and the unlawful firing of three organizers. The workers at this Starbucks store voted 17-0 in favor of unionizing. They are part of the massive Starbucks unionization wave, with 70 other stores nationwide winning union elections and over 250 stores filing to unionize. Starbucks, however, is doing everything it can to stop this wave. As Starbucks Workers United described in a statement: “Starbucks has continued to cut workers’ hours, coerce them into voting against union representation by mischaracterizing the law and preemptively refusing to engage in good faith bargaining… Starbucks has failed to recognize their union despite having no good-faith reason not to.”
Workers in America’s fast-food and retail sectors who worked on the frontlines through the dangers of the Covid-19 pandemic are continuing a trend of strikes and protests over low wages, safety concerns and sexual harassment issues on the job. The Covid-19 pandemic has incited a resurgence of interest and support for the US labor movement and for low-wage workers who bore the brunt of Covid-19 risks. The unrest also comes as corporations have often reported record profits and showered executives with pay increases, stock buybacks and bonuses, while workers received minimal pay increases. Workers at billion-dollar corporations from Dollar General to McDonald’s still make on average less than $15 an hour while often being forced to work in unsafe, grueling conditions.
Hundreds of child care providers in 27 states and Washington, D.C., went on strike Monday to remind policymakers how essential they are, not only to families but to the nation’s economy. Early childhood professionals – and the parents they serve – said they’re fed up with the lack of progress on policy promises such as better wages and expanded subsidies. “I’ve never met a family who has said child care is affordable,” said Allyx Schiavone, a member of the Ideal Learning Roundtable, a national group of developmental early childhood education experts. Schiavone helped organize a Connecticut-specific day of activism this year. Few providers make much of a profit, and many are in the red: Teaching and caring for young children is as expensive as it is essential.
Buffalo, New York - On Thursday, workers at a downtown Starbucks in Buffalo, New York went on strike after the company announced it was planning to withhold proposed wage increases and benefits from employees at newly unionized stores. The one-day strike, which shut down the entire store, was a direct response to the announcement by CEO Howard Schultz that proposed raises and benefit increases at corporate-owned Starbucks cafes would not apply to locations that had already unionized or which are planning to unionize. Schultz, who founded the company and now has a net worth of almost $4 billion, claimed that his hands were tied and that Starbucks is legally unable to make changes to wages and benefits at stores that have organized or which are currently involved in collective bargaining. But this is a lie.