Labor Notes # 482

Retail janitors organizing with a Tennessee worker center got Target to drop a crooked cleaning contractor at all the state’s stores. Now they're pressing Target to stop using Diversified Maintenance nationally.

“Diversified is a contractor that specifically targets the immigrant community,” said Cruz (a janitor who prefers to use a single name) through an interpreter. “It offers us these jobs and then abuses us and does not pay us our fair wages.”

School bus

(Editor's Note: A version of this article first appeared in Labor Notes #67, August 1984.)

Our local keeps the company on the defense by fighting many grievances with direct action, membership involvement, group stewarding, and an uncompromising demand for respect.

Steelworkers Local 8751 represents 550 school bus drivers working for a large conglomerate (ARA Services) under contract with the City of Boston. Our workforce is divided between three geographically separate yards and our contract calls for one working steward per 25 drivers.

Stamford Sheraton hotel workers march on the boss.

One union’s member-centered model prepared it for a fierce anti-union campaign that would have broken many others.

UNITE HERE Local 217, which represents 3,000 workers in hotels and university cafeterias, has been on an organizing sweep through southern Connecticut, winning union elections at the Hyatt in Greenwich in 2015 and the Hilton in Stamford in 2017. Building off that momentum, workers at the nearby Stamford Sheraton began to organize.

Protesters picket against the January 2019 federal shutdown.

How do you springboard organizing momentum from one issue fight into another? Federal workers in New York City did it when they harnessed members’ energy from a government shutdown solidarity campaign to push back against cuts to their own childcare subsidies.

The 35-day government shutdown began in December 2018, locking out hundreds of thousands of federal employees and contractors and forcing others to come to work without pay.

UIC GEO picketers call attention to unfair treatment of graduate employees.

Of the 1,600 members of University of Illinois at Chicago Graduate Employees (GEO) Local 6297 who struck for three weeks in March and April, almost half were international workers. Though we often feel vulnerable, given that we’re in the U.S. on visas, we were fed up with the UIC administration ignoring our financial needs and grievances.

L.A. Times employees gather as NewsGuild members wearing bright yellow shirts around a plaque that says LA Times.

A flagging union has found new hope in a flurry of organizing victories. Now in the union’s presidential election, members are mulling what’s the best way to keep growing—stick with the incumbent, or replace him with a young leader from last year’s biggest organizing drive?

Jon Schleuss, 31-year-old challenger to head the 20,000-member NewsGuild, led the 2018 drive at the Los Angeles Times. The landslide there was a breakthrough for the union, kicking off a banner year of growth.

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