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Worker Rights

New Rail Deal May Still Be Doomed Over Scheduling Issues

Does this seem like a good way to attract loyal, dedicated, satisfied workers? Come work for the railroad. It’s a great job, decent pay. Hours may be a bit long. You’ll spend weeks at a time away from home in cheap motels and miss important family events, kids sports games, birthdays, recitals and vacations, weddings and funerals. You can get called up at any time, so don’t even try to make plans. Stay healthy because you’ll be punished or even fired for an unexpected medical event. Also, great pension…if you live that long. Aaron Hiles, a locomotive engineer, for BNSF didn’t live that long. Aaron Hiles, a locomotive engineer, told his wife he “felt different,” though he couldn’t say exactly how. He made an appointment to see a doctor, his family said. But then his employer, BNSF, one of the largest freight rail carriers in the nation, unexpectedly called him into work.

New ‘Striketober’ Looms As US Walkouts Increase

Thousands of workers around the US are going on strike or threatening to do so heading into October, amid a recent surge of labor action activity in America and just one month before crucial midterm elections. Support for labor unions in the US has grown over the past year, as a surge in organizing has resulted in workers winning union elections at major corporations including Starbucks, Amazon, Apple, Chipotle, Trader Joe’s, Google, REI and Verizon. Union election petitions increased 58% in the first three quarters of fiscal year 2022, compared with 2021. Public support for labor unions is at its highest point since 1965, according to the most recent Gallup poll, with a 71% approval of labor unions in the US. According to the labor action tracker at Cornell University, strikes in 2022 so far have significantly outpaced strike activity in 2021, with 180 strikes involving 78,000 workers in the first six months of 2022, compared with 102 strikes involving 26,500 workers in the first six months of 2021.

1,000 SFO Restaurant Workers Go On Strike

Restaurant workers at San Francisco International Airport declared a general strike early Monday morning after more than nine months of negotiations with their employers.  Unite Here Local 2, the union representing SFO's food service workers, announced in a press release that 1,000 of SFO's cashiers, cooks, baristas, bartenders, servers and dishwashers are participating in the strike. The workers are employed by 84 airport restaurant outlets, all of whom are represented by the SFO Airport Restaurant Employer Council.  "The workers' compensation is currently not enough to live on," Anand Singh, president of Unite Here Local 2, told SFGATE. "[The employers] have not moved nearly enough to get to the place where we can make a deal on a new contract. And that's why we've had to go down this road."

Frontier Strikes Get First Aid Kits Updated, Win Back Work

“Safety first” is a principle you’ll always hear on the job. And it’s true—safety can save your life, if it’s taken seriously. But if action isn’t taken, it’s just an empty phrase. When my co-workers and I took action over safety in our workplace, we were retaliated against. This triggered the most useful tool that we have as workers: a strike. A little background: 2,000 telecom workers from eight locals of the Communications Workers (CWA) at Frontier in California have been working without a contract since last September. We’re fighting for our first non-concessionary contract in 17 years! While bargaining goes on, we’re working under the terms of a contract that Verizon and CWA agreed to in 2016. (When Frontier acquired the areas of California, Texas, and Florida, it agreed to uphold the same contract.)

Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library Workers Move To Unionize

Employees of Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library system have announced their intention to unionize, citing better pay, benefits for all, and greater employee input into working conditions as their chief motivations. Seeking voluntary recognition from Pratt leadership, Pratt Workers United hopes to join AFSCME Council 67, where workers from Walters Art Museum and Baltimore Museum of Art are also seeking representation. TRNN Editor-in-Chief Maximillian Alvarez interviews Pratt Workers United organizers Marti Dirscheri and Antoinette Wilson on the unionization campaign.

Rank And File Rail Workers Group Urges Mass Picketing Today

An ad hoc group of rank and file working railroad workers has come together to call for informational pickets at rail terminals around the country. In the face of the controversial Tentative Agreement (TA) that has been reached by the myriad of unions in various forms, this informal grouping has called on railroad workers to join in the protests scheduled for Wednesday. The group has not identified itself by name. It is an expression of working rail workers who are angry and unhappy with the treatment that railroad workers have endured in recent years. The group posted an announcement on social media Sunday. While not party to organizing the Wednesday actions, Railroad Workers United (RWU) supports these types of efforts and encourages all rail workers to take part in the events at rail terminals where planned.

Joe Biden Thinks A Rail Strike Has Been Averted

Just after 5 a.m. on Thursday, Marty Walsh tweeted that the railroad companies and the railroad unions had come to a tentative agreement, less than 19 hours from a potential shutdown: “Moments ago, following more than 20 consecutive hours of negotiations at [the Department of Labor], the rail companies and union negotiators came to a tentative agreement that balances the needs of workers, businesses, and our nation’s economy. The Biden Administration applauds all parties for reaching this hard-fought, mutually beneficial deal. Our rail system is integral to our supply chain, and a disruption would have had catastrophic impacts on industries, travelers and families across the country.” By 11:30 a.m., Joe Biden was in the White House Rose Garden, declaring victory: “This is a win for tens of thousands of rail workers and for their dignity and the dignity of their work, it’s a recognition of that.”

I’m A Railroad Worker

As I think about generations gone by, the values people held, the moral compasses that guided them, I can’t help but wonder what our ancestors would say about the mess this country is in today. Somewhere along the line, I think, a paradigm shift occurred: We stripped this country down and sold every scrap of society and community to the highest bidder, while the things that we used to hold near and dear withered and rotted like old fruit. We’ve forgotten what the Constitution of this great nation says, we hate each other for our differences rather than embracing them, and our leaders—the purported champions of the oppressed, the self-styled protectors of all things fair and just—have become our enemies. The corporations controlling next to every facet of our daily lives are well aware of this, and they are actively capitalizing on the chaos at our expense.

Bus Workers Are Driving The Fight For Fair Pay

Workers in Britain have experienced the longest period of wage stagnation since the 1800s, and now face further real-terms pay cuts amid the worst squeeze on living standards since the 1950s. Two-thirds of adults in poverty are now in a working household. For Arriva bus drivers like Dan*, from Hertfordshire, things have never been this bad. ‘The cost of fuel has doubled. You have to do extra shifts just to break even. We are working to live,’ he says, explaining how the cost of living crisis coupled with low wages are causing him and his family significant hardship. ‘I used to be able to give my kids a bit of money here and there. Not anymore. I’ve had to cut back on trying to give them a leg up. Everything is going up.’ Everything, that is, except wages. It’s a familiar story among many low-paid workers in Britain, and the Arriva bus strikes taking place in bus depots across Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, and Hertfordshire are the latest in a wave of industrial action being taken by desperate workers struggling to make ends meet.

The Pending Railroad Worker Strike Is A Fight For All Workers

Railroad workers voted overwhelmingly this year to go on strike after more than two years of contract negotiations. The Biden administration prevented a strike by appointing a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to hold hearings. That board released its recommendations recently. Clearing the FOG speaks with Michael "Paul" Lindsey, a railroad engineer and member of Railroad Workers United, about the deterioration of working conditions, workers' response to the PEB and the high likelihood of a national strike this Fall. Lindsey explains why the railroad worker's plight is similar to that of many workers in the United States and around the world and the importance of solidarity if a strike occurs. 

Central American Migrants And US Labor History

Tech workers, warehouse employees and baristas have notched many victories in recent months at major U.S. companies long deemed long shots for unions, including Apple, Amazon and Starbucks. To me, these recent union wins recall another pivotal period in the U.S. labor movement several decades ago. But that one was led by migrants from Central America. I’ve been researching human rights and immigration from Central America since the 1980s. In today’s polarized debates over immigration, the substantial contributions that Central American immigrants have made to U.S. society over the past 30 years rarely come up.

State AGs Are Celebrating Labor Day By Trying To Cut Workers’ Wages

In recent media appearances and press releases, Republican Attorneys General have been talking a big game about inflation and kitchen table pocketbook issues. Over the coming weekend, these same officials will likely be wishing their constituents a happy Labor Day and boasting about their commitment to working families on social media.  Meanwhile, more than a dozen GOP AGs are actively seeking to use the courts to cut workers’ federal minimum wages and wage protections. This hypocrisy should be called out for what it is: an attack on working people. These workers should not be collateral damage in political games to score points against the Biden administration.

Starbucks Worker Militancy Forces Legal Victories

Recently, Starbucks workers achieved some significant wins in the form of National Labor Relations Board complaints and judgments against the company. Workers are waiting to see if these will materialize into meaningful changes in what is now a year-long, union-busting campaign waged by the company. The NLRB filed a complaint Aug. 24 over Starbucks’ illegal withholding of pay raises and other benefits from workers who were unionized or in the process of organizing.  Since the beginning of the union drive, Starbucks has been announcing a number of perks for workers who decide not to unionize, including a pay raise which took effect Aug. 1.

Wildcat Walkouts Hit UK Oil Refineries And Power Stations

A wave of wildcat strikes by subcontracted workers broke out across refineries and power stations in the UK Wednesday, amid continuing walkouts by Amazon workers. Workers are protesting wages falling massively behind the spiraling cost of living. The sites affected are covered by the National Agreement for the Engineering and Construction Industry (NAECI), concluded by the Unite and GMB unions with the Engineering and Construction Industry Association (ECIA) in August 2021. The “Blue Book” agreement was cheered by Jock Simpson, the chairman of the National Joint Council for the Engineering and Construction Industry, as the “means of managing labor relationships to deliver project completions to time and budget” and as the “key to industrial relations stability”.

Fired Up Rail Workers Rally In Galesburg, Illinois

Last month, for The Real News, I reported on the egregious working conditions that rail workers on Class I freight railroads are facing, including punitive and inhumane attendance policies, chronic understaffing (after rail companies collectively laid off 30% of their workforce since 2015), stagnant wages, and dire safety threats as trains have gotten longer and heavier while rail carriers have simultaneously sought to reduce crew sizes down to one person. This long-simmering crisis recently came to a head when a coalition of negotiators representing more than 115,000 rail workers were unable to come to an agreement with the rail carriers, who have left workers without a contract for nearly three years.
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