Labor Notes #451

The last time you organized a petition or voted to strike, were any of your co-workers caught off guard by the way the boss reacted? Was someone disciplined—or promoted? Did the CEO send out a misleading letter, or show up on night shift to shake everyone’s hand?

Whenever we take action at work, we can expect management to fight back—though the tactics vary widely, depending whether they’re trying to scare us, confuse us, deflate us, or divide us.

Bernie Sanders’ campaign this year got many union members excited about transforming our economy and fighting for a “political revolution.” How can unions continue that conversation?

Last year in Brazil, I got to see an interesting example firsthand. The bank workers union there has developed a weekend training on how members’ workplace fights connect to a bigger picture.

How can you force city leaders to confront the effects of privatization? Subcontracted bus drivers in Washington, D.C., did it through their contract campaign.

D.C. Circulator drivers who had been making $8 an hour less than their public sector counterparts came up to par after they shamed their employer for sending out unsafe buses.

Every state has a procurement office. Have you checked what yours is up to?

In Tennessee it was through this office, charged with overseeing the state’s purchases and contracts, that Governor Bill Haslam concocted the biggest privatization scheme you’ve never heard of.

And he would have gotten away with it, too—if it weren’t for a tough campus-workers union that discovered his plans and launched a raucous fight.

The White House is hell-bent on forcing the Trans-Pacific Partnership through Congress during the lame-duck session immediately after the election, when political accountability to constituents is at its lowest.

That’s why it’s critical that workers and unions demand that waffling members of Congress state their opposition to the TPP this October, before the election—while we still have some leverage.

What pushed tea factory workers to their boiling point?

In August the workers who supply Lipton’s entire North American market voted 108-79 to join Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400.

They were fed up with an unrelenting schedule that produces constant fatigue, injuries, and broken relationships.

Lipton brings tea from around the world through the Port of Virginia. At its single 20-acre plant in nearby Suffolk, 200 workers roast, blend, package, and warehouse it, producing over 6 billion bags a year.

After three years of tireless organizing, 500 farmworkers at Sakuma Brothers Farms in Washington state have finally won union recognition.

The berry pickers, mainly indigenous migrants from Mexico, began their fight with a work stoppage in 2013 and never let up.

Update, September 26: The Chicago Teachers Union announced this morning that members have voted to authorize a strike, with 90.6 percent turnout and 95.6 percent voting yes. The union's House of Delegates will meet September 28 to decide the next step. A strike could begin as soon as October 11.

Chicago teachers are voting September 21-23 on whether to authorize another open-ended strike.

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