Workers’ Resistance Bulletin: October 15

Workers’ Resistance Bulletin provides an overview of workers’ resistance, as well as the repression of workers, taking place all across the US, from small workplaces to large factories. The growing wave of worker mobilizations makes clear that the general crisis of imperialism will be met with greater struggle from the proletariat. If you have a tip or suggestion for worker coverage, or you are a worker interested in becoming a worker correspondent, please reach out to us at tribuneofthepeople@protonmail.com.


John Deere Workers Begin Strike

A sign posted outside of a school where John Deere workers voted to reject a contract on Sunday.

Ten thousand workers at John Deere’s factories and warehouses in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Colorado, and Georgia walked off the job Thursday, marking the largest private-sector strike in the US in two years. On Sunday, the workers, represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW), rejected a six-year contract that failed to increase wages and cut benefits for new employees. The workers voted against the contract and to strike by an almost 9-to-1 margin. A worker in Davenport, Iowa told Tribune that workers are demanding a $10-per-hour raise, healthcare coverage with no premiums, and overtime pay after eight hours a day.

John Deere has reported record profits of over $4.5 billion this year. One worker in Des Moines, Iowa told Tribune: “We work hard making the machines, and our incentive plan is very bad. People are fed up with us doing all the hard work, and [CEO] John May and his cronies are reaping the benefits of it. We are tired of the company getting all the big bonuses, and we get nothing. [John Deere] would have no income if it wasn’t for us.”

Entertainment Workers Prepare to Strike, Union Leaders Push Conciliation

Sixty thousand members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) overwhelmingly voted to strike earlier this month and are preparing to strike this coming Monday if no agreement is reached. This is the first time the workers represented by the union have gone on strike since its founding in 1893. The workers demand higher pay, a minimum of 12 hours’ turnaround time between shifts, and meal breaks.

Contrary to workers’ demands, the union is trying to push a 10-hour turnaround between shifts on its members, signaling the union’s willingness to concede. Chris Woodard, a member of IATSE Local 80, told entertainment media outlet Variety: “It would be a waste of this historic mandate to even consider a 10-hour turnaround. If a contract with a 10-hour turnaround is sent to the membership for ratification, it must be voted down as strongly as we voted to strike.”

Kaiser Permanente Faces Nationwide Strikes

Kaiser Permanente, the largest healthcare employer in the state of California, is facing a strike from over 52,000 workers in eight different states. Over 24,000 registered nurses and other healthcare workers in California and Oregon have voted overwhelmingly to strike. The workers demand increased pay and better working conditions. Strike votes in Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia are pending.

Kaiser Permanente has a history of abusing and exploiting its workers. About 750 operating engineers at Kaiser’s northern California locations recently went on strike after negotiations with the company reached a stalemate.

City Employees in Minneapolis-St. Paul Reject Contract Offer

A St. Paul public works vehicle

Public workers in St. Paul, Minnesota have rejected a two-year contract offer from the city after a year of negotiations, which failed to increase wages with inflation and the rapidly rising cost of living. The workers are represented by the International Union of Operating Engineers, the Teamsters Union, and the Laborers Union. Minneapolis Public Works employees voted to strike after rejecting a similar contract in September.

Electricians Protest outside Contractors’ Trade Show

On Monday, a group of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) electricians protested outside a trade show put on by the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) in Nashville. NECA is a contractors’ syndicate that all IBEW local unions negotiate their contracts with. The workers gathered from across the country to protest seven-day workweeks, low pay, and poor working conditions. Despite their grievances, the workers are unable to strike without permission from the union’s highest body, which rarely authorizes strikes.

ExxonMobil Attempts to Remove Union from Beaumont Refinery

An ExxonMobil worker on the picket line in July

ExxonMobil is attempting to decertify (remove) the United Steel Workers local union from its Beaumont, Texas oil refinery and lubrication plant. The workers at these facilities have been locked out since their contract expired on May 1. They have not ratified a new contract.

The National Labor Relations Board announced that it received a petition calling to remove the union, signed by 30% of the workers. In April, the union filed a complaint against Exxon with the National Labor Relations Board for providing an employee with decertification material.

Mercy Hospital Strike Enters 15th Day, Workers Reject Compromise Deal

The strike of over 2,000 healthcare workers at Mercy Hospital in Buffalo entered its third week today as workers continued to raise their demands for better pay and a safer staff-to-patient ratio on the hospital floor. Nurses and other hospital staff at Mercy originally struck in the early hours of October 1 after negotiations stalled between Catholic Health, which owns the hospital, and the union local as workers refused to accept ownership’s newest contract offer. This past weekend workers rejected another compromise offered by Catholic Health which, while raising wages, only made a small dent in the unsafe and strenuous staff-to-patient ratio which is one of the key grievances of the workers at the hospital.

Nurses also emphasized to local monopoly news outlet 7 WKBW Buffalo that these issues are not new and were present before the pandemic began, “This was pre-COVID. [The pandemic] just makes it more illuminated… how poorly we are staffed to care for our patients within this building.”

Kellogg’s Brings in Scabs as Striking Workers Hold Picket Lines

Kellogg’s told monopoly media outlets this week that it planned on continuing to hire scab workers in an attempt to break the 1,400-strong strike that has disrupted and shut down the cereal maker’s plants across the country. In a video published on YouTube, a Kellogg’s spokeswoman stated that the company “is ready, willing, and able to continue negotiations at any time. In the meantime, we have a responsibility to our business, customers, and consumers to run our plants despite the strike.”

This conciliatory rhetoric masks the real purpose of replacing the striking workers with scabs, which is to break the will of workers and make them give up their resistance to the health care and retirement benefit cuts proposed by the company. Nevertheless, more than a week on from the beginning of the strike, workers remained determined and continued their picket lines outside all four of the company’s cereal production facilities in the US. In a video posted to social media on Thursday, a group of bikers on motorcycles is seen pulling up to the picket line in Omaha to block scabs from entering.

Transit Company Offers Striking Bus Drivers Deal on Live TV, Doesn’t Inform Union

In an apparent publicity stunt, the private transportation contractor employed by Reno County to oversee their public transit system, Keolis Transit, announced a new contract proposal on air that offered a 3% raise to all city bus drivers in Reno, Nevada, who are now on their fourth week of a strike. However, the new “contract proposal” was never communicated to union officials or brought forward at the bargaining table.

“[They] need to bring a proposal during negotiations for us to have it considered, not give it out to the news media,” said the vice president of the Teamsters Union local that represents the striking bus drivers.

This is the Reno bus drivers’ second strike in three months as negotiations have once again stalled with Keolis. The key sticking points in negotiations remain that Keolis wants the union to withdraw all NLRB complaints that have been made about the company’s bad-faith bargaining and illegal actions during the strike. Workers are demanding better wages and a more humane shift scheduling system.

Pennsylvania Ironworkers Strike over Pay, Dental Plan

Ironworkers at the Erie Strayer plant in Erie, Pennsylvania have been on strike for nearly two weeks now as ownership refuses to offer the workers a dental or vision plan, or propose a wage increase that keeps pace with inflation. A union officer explained to local news publication Go Erie the difference in wage scales between the current proposals: “We proposed a three-year deal with (yearly) raises of 5%, 3%, and 3%, and a dental and vision plan which the (workers) don’t currently have. The company wants a five-year deal with raises of 5 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, and 15 cents in each of the last two years.”

Striking workers on picket lines held signs that included slogans such as “A nickel is not enough!” and “We want dental.” The lack of a dental plan for workers remains a key sticking point in the negotiations, with one worker testimonial on the union’s website describing a situation where a “guy asked for my needle nose pliers and pulled his own tooth in front of me. […] It’s inhumane.”

Strike at Kentucky Bourbon Distillery Continues

Workers at the Heaven Hill Distillery in Kentucky have been on strike for over a month now after workers rejected a contract that would drastically increase health insurance premiums, cut overtime pay, and increase the amount of flexibility that management has with workers’ schedules. As one striking worker described to Salon, “basically, [the proposed contract’s] going to end up making us work seven days a week with no overtime.”

While the strike continues, workers have explained that community support has remained strong and that solidarity between workers remains firm despite the financial hardships many are currently facing while on strike. A worker explained to a local media outlet WDRB that: “the way we are being treated, it’s a punch in the gut, [but] I need to stand up for my kids. I need to set an example for them, that they need to fight for what is right.”

Barbers at Virginia Military Bases on Strike since Fourth of July

Barbers at the Fort Lee and Fort Pickett military bases in Virginia have been on strike since the Fourth of July. Workers are on strike for not being paid the wages owed to them by their current contract. The barbers are supposed to receive 55% of each haircut, but according to a worker interviewed in a video from LIUNA Local 572’s website, “the contractor is not paying us the posted price of $13.75, but we are instead getting paid [55% of] the previous price of $11.25,” which was the posted price for a haircut in 2017.

The strike, which now is over 100 days long, shows no signs of ending anytime soon.

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