Workers’ Resistance Bulletin: October 22

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.

Medical Waste Workers in Ohio Strike after Boss Hires Scabs

Source: @timryan/Twitter

Approximately 50 medical waste management workers employed by Stericycle in Warren, Ohio have been on strike for three weeks after their employer hired scabs (non-union replacement workers) during a contract dispute. The workers, represented by Teamsters Local 377, staged a short practice picket after their contract expired on September 30, and returned to work to find multiple scabs doing their jobs. The plant processes 40,000 pounds per day of medical waste from nearby medical facilities. They worked alongside the scabs until October 13, when the union called a strike.

The workers have filed a labor law violation with the National Labor Relations Board, because they are a closed shop (i.e., legally the business must hire only union workers). The workers have been attempting to negotiate an updated collective bargaining agreement for over a year. Other Stericycle locations in Ohio have recently gone on strike for similar contract disputes.

Buffalo, NY Hospital Workers Enter Third Week of Strike

Over 2,000 nurses and other hospital workers represented by the Communications Workers of America have been on strike for three weeks against the Catholic Mercy Hospital in Buffalo, New York. The workers demand higher pay as well as an end to severe understaffing, which jeopardizes patient care and the safety of workers. The hospital is using a staffing service to provide replacement security guards and nurses. Striking workers qualify for only $300 a week in strike pay, which pressures them to drop their demands and accept unfair contracts to return to their normal pay.

Folsom, CA Jack in the Box Workers Demonstrate after Management Threatens Them with ICE

Workers at a Folsom, California demonstrated in the restaurant’s parking lot on October 15 after management threatened to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on workers who aired their grievances. Workers are forced to go without meal or rest breaks, and have accused their managers of wage theft. Twenty workers and supporters gathered in the parking lot with flags and a banner and chanted, “Jack in the Box—pay your workers!”

Maria Hernandez, who has worked at the restaurant for five years, told the Sacramento Bee: “They [management] won’t pay us for the extra hours we work. I would look at my paycheck and see it was short, they would just tell me that everything was there in the paycheck. … They’re scaring us, they’re threatening us. And then they want us to go back to work for them and obey them.”

Taxi Drivers Initiate Hunger Strike for Debt Relief

Source: @NYTWA/Twitter

Cab drivers in New York City have initiated a hunger strike after a month of demonstrations calling for relief from debt caused by the city’s medallion program. In order to operate as an independent taxi driver in the city, drivers must purchase a medallion from the city, which acts as an operational permit. Medallions cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Reports show that the average New York City taxi driver is over $500,000 in debt. Workers have demonstrated against the city’s paltry relief program, which barely eases their struggles. Workers work ten-hour days for take-home pay below minimum wage.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has refused to offer a stronger debt relief program, citing financial concerns for the city’s multi-billion-dollar budget.

Kellogg’s Hires Scabs, Strike Continues

Source: Kellogg Union Members Appreciation Page/ Facebook

Around 1,400 workers at Kellogg’s US-based cereal production facilities have been on strike for two weeks in Omaha, Nebraska; Battle Creek, Michigan; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Memphis, Tennessee. The workers demand an end to the two-tier pay system, which offers new employees lower wages, poor benefits, and no pension plan. The company has posted ads online hiring scabs in an attempt to break the strike and force the workers to drop their demands.

Erin Shaffer, a Kellogg’s worker in Omaha, told monopoly media outlet Newsweek: “People are tired of corporate greed. … There are a lot of passionate people out there who won’t give up easily.”

John Deere Wins Injunction Limiting Strike

In Davenport, Iowa, the State sided with John Deere as a district judge issued a temporary injunction (court order) barring strikers from being on the company’s property, limiting the number of pickets, and limiting where the workers are allowed to picket. The injunction also requires the union to nominate a “strike captain” to monitor the picket lines at all times and prevent workers from rebelling. Workers who violate the injunction face up to six months in jail as well as a $500 fine.

The workers have been on strike for two weeks, demanding an end to the two-tier wage system—which pays new employees less and offers them little in the way of benefits—as well an overall pay increase. The strike began after workers overwhelmingly rejected a contract offer from the company.

Nurses Reject CEO’s Letter Asking for Them to End Strike, Face Retaliation

Tenet Healthcare CEO Carolyn Jackson published a letter this Monday asking striking nurses at St. Vincent’s Hospital to come back to work despite the fact that Tenet’s proposed back-to-work agreement requires that 15% of striking nurses lose their old positions to scabs hired by Tenet during the strike. Nurses on the picket lines rejected the letter, with one nurse telling local media publication Mass Live, “The short answer to Carolyn Jackson’s open letter to nurses is we will not return to work unless and until we [are] allowed to return to our positions, which is the best way to ensure that our patients are provided the care they deserve.”

The strike, which began this past March, is now in its seventh month as Tenet refuses to allow all striking nurses to return to the positions they held before the strike began, which is considered standard practice after a strike ends. The strike began over nurses’ grievances with the scheduling system and the unsafe ratio of nurses to patients implemented by Tenet at the Worcester, Massachusetts hospital, which, according to the nurses, both overwhelmed and exhausted them and put patients’ lives in danger.

Starbucks Uses Repressive Tactics in Push to End Union Drive

This past month Starbucks has used a variety of repressive tactics, including store closures, anti-union letters, mandatory meetings with ownership, and increased surveillance to intimidate workers in preparation for a potential vote on whether or not to formally form a union at three Starbucks locations in the Buffalo, New York area. The union, Starbucks Workers United, would be a first for Starbucks, which has never seen any of its workers formally unionize since its founding in 1971.

Photo credit: Sikander Iqbal

Two of the locations have been temporarily closed according to Starbucks for ‘remodeling’ and ‘training’ purposes, while corporate has deployed new managers from outside of the state to all of the chain’s locations in the Buffalo area to monitor and intimidate the local workers. As one worker told monopoly media outlet Vice News: “Having all these additional people in our store means people are anxious and on edge. They’re in our back room and on our floor with us. It’s changed our ability to talk about the union in a corporate-free environment.”

According to statements on social media, Starbucks Workers United hopes to organize Starbucks workers to demand better staffing, higher wages, and more humane working conditions at stores.

Group Home Workers Strike in Connecticut

Workers formed picket lines and went on strike last Tuesday, October 12, outside group homes across Connecticut run by the company Sunrise Northeast. The workers’ main demands included a pension, higher wages, and healthcare premiums which are not prohibitively high. As one striking worker described to local news publication The Day, “What’s sad is I work in the health care business and I can’t afford health insurance. … It’s unfair and it’s unjust.”

The group workers in facilities owned by Sunrise Northeast primarily house and care for developmentally disabled people, who during the strike have to be cared for by their families. Many families, however, still supported the striking workers’ demands for a pension and lower healthcare costs, with one affected family member telling monopoly news outlet WTNH News 8, “These women are heaven’s angels. They’re doing god’s work. This is really important.”

Heaven Hill Announces It Will Hire Scabs to Crush Strike

On Tuesday, October 18, Kentucky bourbon distillery Heaven Hill publicly announced that it would end its negotiations with striking workers at its plants and go ahead with a plan to unilaterally implement what it calls its “last, best and final” offer on October 25. The distillery ownership also announced that it plans on hiring scabs to replace the workers who have been on strike since September 11.

Both of these measures taken by ownership are attempts to crush the spirit and resistance of the striking workers, who overwhelming rejected Heaven Hill’s proposed five-year contract in early September. Heaven Hill blamed union leadership for the continuing strike: “We’ve heard from our employees in the community that they are in favor of the proposed contract terms and eager to return to work.”

In reality, it is the rank-and-file workers on the picket line who are propelling the strike forward as they refuse to accept proposed scheduling changes in the new contract that would allow for weekend shifts without overtime pay. As one striking worker told local monopoly news outlet WLKY, “they want to take our Saturdays and Sundays away from us. Well, that’s when we have our time for our families.”

Source: @BewleyBuck/Twitter

Maryland and Kentucky School Bus Drivers Stage Sick-Outs to Demand Higher Wages

Bus drivers for schools in Calvert County, Maryland and Bullitt County, Kentucky staged “sick-outs” (when workers unite in calling out sick all together without officially declaring a strike) last week as drivers protested low pay and a lack of benefits, as well as issues arising from a general shortage of school bus drivers which is currently gripping the country as many workers in schools and hospitals leave their jobs due to the conditions and pay. Drivers for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools in North Carolina had similarly planned on walking out this Friday to demand better wages, but their union canceled the walkout when the district promised concessions and began holding new negotiation sessions with them starting on Wednesday.

Bus drivers in Dekalb County, Georgia and Warwick, Rhode Island also called out sick in large numbers last month to put pressure on district administration for higher wages during their current contract negotiations. The measure is a work-around for anti-labor laws present in many states which forbid any and all strikes for public employees, which includes workers like teachers and school bus drivers.

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