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Worker Rights and Jobs

Alabama Prison Strike Enters Seventh Day

Huntsville, Alabama - On Monday, Sept. 26, incarcerated workers at all major Alabama Department of Corrections prison facilities began a labor strike. The strike is focused on both improving the living conditions of prisoners and demanding changes to Alabama’s draconian parole and sentencing laws and practices. A 2020 Justice Department lawsuit found that the Alabama prison system “fails to provide adequate protection from prisoner-on-prisoner violence and prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse, fails to provide safe and sanitary conditions, and subjects prisoners to excessive force at the hands of prison staff.” TRNN contributor Michael Sainato returns to Rattling the Bars to discuss the issues at play in this prison strike.

Staten Island Amazon Workers Stage Work Stoppage After Fire At Warehouse

At least 100 unionized employees at an Amazon fulfillment center on Staten Island refused to return to work for several hours on Monday evening after a fire broke out at the facility. Chris Smalls, president of the Amazon Labor Union, said 500 workers refused to return to work, after a fire blazed on a shipping dock beside the warehouse. “Amazon refuses to let night shift be excused with pay,” Smalls said. “Amazon management is threatening time deductions and written warnings for not returning back to the floor. The dock smells like burnt chemicals.”

Alabama Prisoners Organize A System-Wide Shut Down

Alabama - “The state of Alabama is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis,” begins a demand letter authored by Alabama prisoners, who on September 26 went on strike across all major correctional facilities in the State. The letter continues, “This crisis has occurred as a result of antiquated sentencing laws that led to overcrowding, numerous deaths, severe physical injury, as well as mental anguish to incarcerated individuals.” In a country where over 80% of incarcerated workers are tasked with maintaining the prison itself, either through cooking, cleaning, laundry, or other essential needs, work stoppages can mean that the entire prison system shuts down. The strike is ongoing as of September 30 according to reports from inside prison walls.

Catalyzing Worker Co-ops And The Solidarity Economy

So, some quick things, and I'm going to go through some examples actually for everything on this list. Co-op workplaces: you can soft launch a co-op workplace as a pop up business while building community support. So you don't have to actually get a building together, you know, there are ways to do it. So you don't need to be renting a big expensive building downtown in the beginning. And many co-ops also use crowdfunding or even grants to get off the ground. And there's different kinds of funding available, so you can kind of think about, what your  business model looks like and and how you might approach bringing in outside funds, if that's the route that you want to or need to take. And I should say, as you can see, pretty much most people under 40 at this point are going to need a level of financial help, and that's that's okay. That's just kind of part of where the economy is for our generation.

Saladin Muhammad Presente!

Our dear brother, leader, confidant, mentor and model servant of our people, Saladin Muhammad, joined our revolutionary ancestors on September 19, 2022 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Saladin was 76 and had been battling illness for a while. When our revolutionary elders leave this material world, we often say another giant has fallen as a testament to their contribution and the love that we have for them. But sometimes, that characterization is just not enough. This is one of those times. Brother Saladin occupied a category that only a few have occupied. As one of only a handful of strategic thinkers and organizers of our movement that had not retired (how does a member of an oppressed nation and class retire from revolution?) Saladin continued to provide the leadership that he had given for well over five decades.

Employers’ Productivity Standards Are Not Real Science

Whether you’re working in a warehouse or piano factory, processing insurance claims, or taking care of patients, the use of worker productivity monitoring continues to expand. Workplaces where jobs are monitored and measured—and workers required to meet certain performance metrics—pose a particular set of challenges for stewards. Most historians recognize Fredrick Winslow Taylor and his 1911 book The Principles of Scientific Management as the genesis of these schemes. Taylor’s technology was basic by today’s standards: clipboards and stopwatches. Frank and Lillian Gilbreth (of Cheaper by the Dozen fame) expanded on this by using frame-by-frame film study of workers performing tasks with a specially calibrated “microchronometer,” documenting worker micro-motions and the time they took.

Non-Tenure-Track Skidmore College Faculty Votes To Unionize

Saratoga Springs, New York - In a major milestone for an organizing effort that began in 2018, full-time and part-time, non-tenure-track faculty and other Skidmore College staff voted this month in favor of unionizing. The National Labor Relations Board conducted two separate mail-in elections – one for full-time staff and one for part-time staff – and 65% of full-time staff voted to join with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Local 200United, while 67% of part-time employees voted in favor of joining the union, according to an SEIU news release. The votes, announced Sept. 27, affects approximately 215 full-time and part-time non-tenure-track faculty, librarians and accompanists who make up nearly half of Skidmore’s total faculty, according to SEIU.

Incarcerated Workers Go On Strike In Alabama’s Correctional Facilities

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.

Before Your Strike Vote, Consider A Practice Strike Vote

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.

Airline Workers Striking At Dozens Of Airports In The United States

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 Teachers Vote To Ratify New Contract

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.

As Public Hospitals Crumble, French Health Workers Demand Action

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.

Tampa Bay Teachers Share Horrendous Working Conditions

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.

Florida Letter Carriers Won Back Our Sunday Breaks With Direct Action

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.

Stop The Uberisation Of Royal Mail

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.
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