Alabama - Incarcerated workers at all of Alabama’s major correctional facilities have begun a general strike and protest of conditions and legislation that organizers believe have created “a humanitarian crisis” within the state prison system, according to sources within the correctional system and the Alabama Department of Corrections. Last week, sources within the Alabama correctional system told APR that the strike and peaceful protest would begin on Sept. 26. An additional protest of non-incarcerated individuals, many with friends and family in state prison facilities, occurred concurrently with the strike inside. Demands include a repeal of the habitual offender act, an end to life without parole, a reduction of the 30-year minimum for juvenile offenders down to 15 years before parole eligibility, and a more streamlined review process for medical furloughs and elderly incarcerated individuals.
Worker Rights and Jobs
Chicago, Illinois - Leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union were pretty sure they would need to strike the school district in the fall of 2012 to win what students and educators deserved. But they had come into office only two years before, and begun helping members organize themselves from the bottom up. They needed to find out just how willing and able members were to strike. The state legislature had deliberately made it hard for Chicago teachers to walk out. In 2011 it passed a bill requiring CTU to get yes votes from 75 percent of all members (not just of those voting) before calling a strike. This was supposed to be impossible. “In effect they wouldn’t have the ability to strike,” gloated Jonah Edelman of the corporate “reform” group Stand for Children, which pushed for this rule. Edelman’s group had researched past contract votes and found 48 percent was the greatest share of the membership CTU had been able to muster.
Employees at some of the biggest airports across the country are going on strike over staffing levels and pay. In Los Angeles, Chicago and more than a dozen other airports, thousands of United and Southwest airline workers are in uniform — but spending their time off-duty protesting conditions when they’re on. “We are … looking for protection from long, brutal duty days, over 20 hours, being stuck in airports, sleeping on the floors,” Southwest flight attendant Mark Torrez said. At San Francisco International Airport, 1,000 food workers are on strike, which has shut down all restaurants and lounges. Unionized food service employees say they earn about $17 an hour and have been working without a contract since 2019. “We’re shutting this place down and I think that the employers at the airport, the restaurant employers, are going to realize very quickly they cannot run this operation without their workers,” Union President Anand Singh said.
Seattle, Washington - Educators voted to ratify a tentative agreement with Seattle Public Schools (SPS) on September 19, after a powerful five-day strike. The strike mobilized 90% of union members, supported by parents and students, to picket lines and rallies at their schools. The schools were shut down for five days. The Seattle Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators, known as SCORE, was one of the driving forces behind the strike and has grown in membership by 60% since the strike began. Educators went on strike September 7 after the district tried to make cuts to special education and multilingual programs. These programs “desperately need more funding and resources, not less,” said Fidy Kuo, a multilingual educator at Franklin High School.
On September 22, Thursday, health workers and those working in associated sectors in France organized mobilizations and protests as part of a national day of action in different cities across the country. The protesters demanded increased salaries, more staff, improved and safe working conditions, job security, and sufficient funds and other resources for hospitals. The call for the mobilization was given by several groups in health sector, including the Association des Médecins Urgentistes de France (AMUF), CGT Santé Action Sociale, the CFE CGC Santé-Social, Printemps de la psychiatrie and Collectif Inter-Urgences. Mobilizations took place in the cities of Paris, Marseille, Nancy, Tours, Poitiers, Angers, Lille, and Nantes, among others. The French Communist Party (PCF) and La France Insoumise (LFI) extended support and solidarity to the protesting workers.
Members of the Hillsborough County teachers union packed the school board meeting, September 20, to demand a better contract that takes teachers' needs for a livable salary into account. A sea of the union's red shirts confronted the board members and the county's superintendent, who with faux concern, offered nothing but the platitude that he "heard" teachers’ concerns. The crisis could not have been clearer to anyone with eyes and ears, as union members shared stories not just of having to work second jobs for pennies, but unsafe conditions for students. One teacher said that because of understaffing due to a lack of funding, students were left without school counselors, wandering the campus, vaping in bathrooms, fighting and wandering off campus. Teachers emphasized to the school board that it was impossible to be pro-student and anti-teacher. School officials even suggested a plan to train high school students in technical repair and assign them to repair district computers and electronics, owing to a lack of adequate staff.
Naples, Florida - A simple grievance can take many months to get results. But at the post office where I work, we got fast results defending our breaks with a different approach: direct action. I’m a city carrier assistant (CCA)—part of the lower-paid second tier of letter carriers—in Naples, Florida. The retention rate for CCAs nationwide hovers around 20 percent. Letter carriers start each day by sorting the mail and loading it into our trucks. In my post office, Mondays through Saturdays we take our first 10-minute break together inside the office, with the air conditioning, before heading out to start deliveries. We used to take our breaks together on Sundays, too. We would chip in for donuts and coffee, a sign of our camaraderie. But in April, the Postal Service implemented a new way of doing the Sunday package runs.
This morning, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) leadership met with Royal Mail Group’s senior management. We hoped this meeting would begin resolving the ongoing industrial strife that has seen hundreds of thousands of employees take strike action against degrading real-terms pay cuts and the deterioration of workplace conditions. However, they had other ideas. While we waited, managers began being briefed across the country about new plans for the ‘modernisation’ of the company. One of the company’s CEOs, Simon Thompson, handed us two letters.
In 2007, the Bush-era Congress created the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, also known as 20 USC 1087e (m)(1). The premise of the program was simple: student loan borrowers who made their payments would have any remaining educational debts forgiven after 10 years of public service. Through PSLF, lawmakers and advocates intended to make public service a viable option for more borrowers, including graduates carrying large student loan balances. Unfortunately, this intention has not been realized for most borrowers or PSLF participants. Rife with exclusions and plagued by a history of poor communication and logistical failures, PSLF has historically approved very few borrowers for loan forgiveness even though many have applied.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - On September 19, workers filed a petition to organize a union among 276 workers at a Home Depot in northeast Philadelphia. If successful, the independent union would be the first at the home repair chain, the fifth-largest private employer in the U.S with 500,000 employees. Vince Quiles, who’s worked at the store for five years, says the union effort gathered over 100 signatures for an election in just five weeks. At the beginning of the pandemic, Quiles was promoted to supervisor in the plumbing department. Plumbing is the highest-volume section of the store, with around 6,000 sales per day, but the company did little to prepare him. “No training, no staff,” says Quiles. “They said, ‘You’re good with people, go figure it out.’”
Racine, Wisconsin - Back in July, I took a weekend trip to Burlington, Iowa, to visit manufacturing workers at Case New Holland (CNH Industrial), who, along with their coworkers at another plant in Racine, Wisconsin, have been on strike since May 2. When I arrived, the early shift of picketers stood jovially together under the hot morning sun. Even at 10AM, the temperature was already a blistering 86 degrees, with humidity high enough that it made your clothes damp to the touch. The picketers didn’t seem to mind as they made their way slowly past the entrance to the Case New Holland plant, holding up a line of empty vans that had dropped off a shift of scab workers earlier. Workers wore “UAW 807 Solidarity” t-shirts and cracked jokes to one another as the hired security looked on from the other side of the fence, cameras at the ready.
This year has brought a lot of stirring labor victories, a pace of union campaigns and strikes so frenetic that it’s easy to collapse in a puddle of undifferentiated cheering for stuff. The most important trend, though, has been the sudden rise of independent unions — organizing drives at untouched companies led by the workers themselves, not affiliated with any existing major unions. The Amazon Labor Union (ALU) has been the biggest example of those, and an endless stream of others seem determined to follow in its footsteps. An independent union drive succeeded at Trader Joe’s, and they’ve popped up everywhere from Apple to Chipotle to Geico. Geico! The rise of all of these independents is inspiring. It is the flowering of seeds that were planted by 40 years of rising inequality, and by the work of an entire generation of labor movement activists pushing unions as the solution. If we are being honest, though, the story of these independent unions is also a story about the brokenness of organized labor’s existing institutions. If we ignore half of the story, we won’t learn anything from this moment.
Unionized workers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art began a one-day "unfair practices" strike Friday morning amid ongoing negotiations with museum leadership on their first collective bargaining agreement. The decision comes less than three weeks after AFSCME Local 397 members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike and filed eight unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming that museum management engaged in union-busting practices during contract negotiations.
Domestic workers — including people who care for children, tend gardens and clean other people’s homes — have new rights under a state law that went into effect this summer. HB22-1367 officially says domestic workers are “employees,” just the same as those who work for a boss at an office or a factory. It went into effect Aug. 10. That means nannies, gardeners and others are now protected by the state’s civil rights laws, according to employment attorney Rachel Ellis of Livelihood Law.
The ruling oligarchs are terrified that, for tens of millions of people, the economic dislocation caused by inflation, stagnant wages, austerity, the pandemic and the energy crisis is becoming unendurable. They warn, as Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and NATO Secretary GeneraJens Stoltenberg, have done, about the potential for social unrest, especially as we head towards winter. Social unrest is a code word for strikes — the one weapon workers possess that can cripple and destroy the billionaire class’s economic and political power. Strikes are what the global oligarchs fear most. Through the courts and police intervention, they will seek to prevent workers from shutting down the economy. This looming battle is crucial. If we begin to chip away at corporate power through strikes, most of which will probably be wildcat strikes that defy union leadership and anti-union laws, we can begin to regain agency over our lives.