Hollywood, Florida - Weeks after a big strike vote, 450 hotel workers at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida, have reached a tentative agreement on a four-year contract that boosts minimum hourly pay to $20, halts subcontracting, and restores daily housekeeping. “This is an incredible victory for workers in South Florida,” said Wendi Walsh, secretary-treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 355, in a statement. “This was possible because workers decided to fight back, willing to risk it all. Hospitality workers are the backbone of South Florida’s economy and finally the value of their contribution is being recognized with wages they can live on.” Like their counterparts across the country, hotel workers in Florida have been on high alert as management has tried to clobber their union in a cost-cutting bonanza while raking in record profits.
Workers Rights and Jobs
For months, 140,000 union railroad workers have been stuck at an impasse with their employers, who are united under the banner of the Association of American Railroads. The terms of the dispute should be familiar to most workers: attendance policy, staffing, and wage increases. Despite record profits, rail employers have cut staffing, placing enormous burdens on workers that aren’t reflected in their pay. By all accounts, railworkers are in a militant mood. An attendance policy prompted rail unions to attempt to strike earlier this year. In July, 99 percent of union members who cast ballots voted to authorize another strike, prompting President Joe Biden to intervene in August. In order to avert a strike, Biden appointed a presidential emergency board (PEB) to reach a compromise and settle the dispute.
After 19 days of an open-ended strike demanding their human and labor rights, Palestinian workers at Yamit have suspended their strike. The workers’ committee has reached this decision following an agreement with the company to meet their demands. The agreement, which still needs to go through legal procedures in Israeli courts states the following: The workers get back to work and continue the negotiations with Yamit for a period of three months. During this period, the workers receive an increase of around 200$ on their wages. The Palestinian workers are paid a holiday usually given to Israeli workers in July on an annual basis. Workers who finish work at Yamit should receive an end of service benefits based on the number of years they have been working for the company.
Minnesota - About two dozen Amazon employees in Shakopee walked off their jobs Thursday night to support a colleague whom they said was unjustly fired earlier this week. The former employee, Farhiyo Warsame, also showed up at the walkout as her colleagues chanted her name. The employees chanted, clapped, and confronted a manager about Farhiyo’s termination for two hours, through chilly temperatures and darkness. As Farhiyo spoke to the crowd in front of the building, an operations manager with the company, flanked by a pair of other employees wearing neon vests, came out the front door.
Organizers of a national workers strike say tens of thousands are walking off the job today in more than two dozen U.S. cities to protest systemic racism and economic inequality that has only worsened during the coronavirus pandemic. “We are…building a country where Black lives matter in every aspect of society—including in the workplace,” said Ash-Lee Henderson, an organizer with the Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of over 150 organizations that make up the Black Lives Matter movement.Dubbed the “Strike for Black Lives,” labor unions, along with social and racial justice organizations from New York City to Los Angeles, are participating in a range of planned actions. Where work stoppages are not possible for a full day, participants are either picketing during a lunch break or observing moments of silence to honor Black lives lost to police violence, organizers said. “The Strike for Black Lives is a moment of reckoning for corporations that have long ignored the concerns of their Black workforce and denied them better working conditions, living wages, and healthcare."
Think of the clarity that this moment has provided you with who sustains you. Who sustains us. The farmworker. The health worker. The delivery worker. The cleaners. The grocery store workers. Can you hold on to this clarity as we step through the portal? That what sustains life is not those that choose profit, but those that ensure care. And can you remember that it is those that sustained us who were forced to keep on working? Can you remember once we are through this portal that we lived through once a period where almost all inessential travel was stopped. Where people chose to stay home, and often consume less. And yet climate change marched on. That individual action is not enough to stop the climate catastrophe. Can you remember that in this moment, it was not corporations or privatization that protected us? But social services and mutual aid.
The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred multiple crises in our country including a public health crisis and an economic one. The need to protect the health of Americans and the need to protect their livelihoods might seem to require disparate approaches. But, as unlikely as it may seem, we believe that rewriting the rules of how workers can act collectively is a key solution to both. Why? COVID-19 poses particular and grave challenges to working people, and, in the context of the pandemic, threats to workers’ health are a threat to public health. As has become painfully obvious, moreover, the costs of the pandemic are being borne disproportionately by low-wage workers, a population made up primarily of workers of color. As they work to keep the economy moving, these workers are being asked to put their lives on the line in ways that are both unacceptable and unnecessary, especially as the country faces the many facets of our nation’s structural racism.
Chief executives the nation over have spent this past spring scheming to keep their pockets stuffed while their workers suffer wage cuts, layoffs, and even death by COVID-19. The personal fortunes these execs have pocketed have corrupted our politics and turned our legislatures into dysfunctional chambers that can seldom accomplish anything that doesn’t involve enhancing the financial well-being of already wealthy people. Wealthy execs, in their haste to become ever wealthier, are even privileging their own financial futures over our health. The factories and plants they run are forcing workers to labor without adequate protections or social distancing. The pharmaceutical firms they manage are refusing to share research clues on possible coronavirus cures for fear of losing out on incredibly lucrative patents for vaccines and treatments.
This week, a group of Whole Foods workers in Cambridge, Massachusetts, walked out after being told they couldn’t wear Black Lives Matter masks because they weren’t part of “the company dress code.” Prior to the incident, wearing masks with other symbols or logos, including ones that featured the New England Patriots, were reportedly acceptable. This is according to a report in the Boston Globe, which details how Whole Foods worker Savannah Kinzer and a few of her colleagues wore BLM-themed masks on Wednesday. A manager told them they either had to remove the masks or go home. Seven of them walked out. On Thursday, Kinzer showed up and passed out more masks, but they were met with the same fate. Dozens of workers were sent home again.
The families of three workers who died after contracting the coronavirus in an Iowa meat plant outbreak sued Tyson Foods and its top executives Thursday, saying the company knowingly put employees at risk and lied to keep them on the job. The lawsuit alleges that Tyson officials were aware the virus was spreading at the Waterloo pork processing plant by late March or early April but kept that information from employees and the public. As the outbreak grew, the company failed to implement safety measures, allowed some sick and exposed employees to remain on the production line, and falsely assured workers and the public that the plant was safe, the suit alleges. “Tyson intended by these false representations to deceive workers in the Waterloo facility ... and to induce them to continue working despite the uncontrolled COVID-19 outbreak at the plant and the health risks associated with working,” according to the lawsuit.
Two months into the pandemic-induced crisis at Rutgers University in New Jersey, the unions representing 20,000 of the university’s workers came together and held a car caravan to the university president’s house to protest layoffs. Protest signs reading #WeRNotDisposable and calling on the university to “protect the most vulnerable” decorated car windows; inside the cars, union members and their supporters wore red and their face masks. The coalition of unions includes AAUP-AFT, the Part-Time Lecturer Faculty Chapter of Rutgers AAUP-AFT, AFSCME Local 888, and the Union of Rutgers Administrators-AFT; together, the unions have proposed a work-sharing program where some workers would accept furloughs, allowing them to replace their income with CARES-Act mandated expanded unemployment benefits, in order to prevent layoffs. But so far, the workers say, the university hasn’t listened.
From Fairbanks to San Juan and from Bangor to Honolulu, workers nationwide turned out June 17 in car caravans, at press conferences, and in call-ins to lawmakers to demand solons “Put Workers First For Racial And Economic Justice.” Their top demands are additional economic aid during the coronavirus pandemic, for workers, not bosses, and for racial justice and economic justice and to force the federal government to order employers to provide anti-coronavirus protective gear. To make their views heard, at least 1,000 cars, festooned with posters and flags, honked their way to Capitol Hill from two sites in the D.C. suburbs, then descended on the Mall to its west. Their point, and those of hundreds of other caravans in every state, D.C., and Puerto Rico, was to force the GOP-run Senate to approve a $3 trillion coronavirus pandemic economic aid package the Democratic-run House passed late last month.
Never underestimate US business community's capacity for hypocrisy. That’s one of the lessons to be drawn from the explosive reaction to George Floyd’s murder. As demonstrators began flooding streets, corporate PR departments flew into rapid response mode, issuing a flurry of agonized, apologetic pledges to do more to combat racism and inequality. Such statements may, on a personal level, be sincere: the depth of righteous pain and anger expressed by African Americans has induced widespread soul-searching, even in executive suites. Yet this high-profile hand-wringing is used to uncouple the outpouring of outrage from capitalist practices that are now, and always have been, at the intertwined roots of racial and economic injustice.
With the unconscionable murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis this past week, we’re reminded of the importance that the fight against racism plays in our struggle. We’ve seen admirable solidarity in those who have taken to the streets to protest police brutality against African Americans in this country. If you’re able, please consider making a donation towards legal aid for those Minnesota protesters working to advance civil rights and police reform: https://www.gofundme.com/f/g2xas-gs2020-legal-aid-for-minnesota-protesters?utm_medium=copy_link&utm_source=customer&utm_campaign=p_lico+share-sheet With the economic turbulence we are all experiencing, we are seeing an exponential growth in working class consciousness throughout the world.
On Saturday, the health secretary of Northern Baja California announced that 432 of the 519 people who have officially died from the virus in the state were maquiladora workers. In Baja cities like Tijuana and Mexicali, as well as other border cities like Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua and Matamoros, Tamaulipas, doctors report that their hospitals are overflowing with sick maquiladora workers, some of whom are dying in their work uniforms. Mexican maquiladora workers make between US$8 to $10 per day. Hospital officials say the government’s official death toll and the total number of positive cases nationwide—5,177 and 49,219 respectively, as of yesterday afternoon—vastly understate the real impact. They claim that hundreds or thousands more maquiladora workers are dying than is officially acknowledged and that the Mexican government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador is obscuring the real toll in an effort to force workers back to work.