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On the picket line

Published Aug 23, 2008 7:58 AM

Tinker Bell arrested at Disneyland

Dressed as famous Disney characters, 32 workers at three Disney-owned hotels were arrested for blocking a highway outside Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., on Aug. 14. The 2,300 maids, bellhops, cooks and dishwashers, represented by Unite Here Local 681, organized that dramatic action to protest Disney’s latest contract proposal. It makes health care unaffordable for hundreds of employees and creates an inequitable two-tier wage system, including a new category of part-time employees with greatly reduced benefits. “At the other hotels in the same classification, for the same work, the workers get paid $2 to $3 an hour more,” local president Ava Briceno told the Associated Press. (Aug. 14) The workers’ contract expired in February. The protest was supported by community activists and religious leaders.

L.A. mandates day-laborer centers

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Aug. 13 requiring new home improvement stores to build day-laborer centers that provide shelter, drinking water, bathrooms and trashcans for the workers, most of whom are immigrants. “We welcome it,” said Pablo Alvarado of the Los Angeles-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “We need it. The workers deserve it.” (Los Angeles Times, Aug. 14) Though the ordinance only applies to new stores, the bill’s sponsor hopes to extend it to existing stores in the near future. Nonprofit organizations currently run eight such centers in the city.

Two strikes averted

Verizon workers, 65,000 strong from Maine to Virginia, and Qwest workers, 20,000 in 13 states, all represented by the Communication Workers union, voted to strike in August to fight for decent contracts. In both cases, threatening to strike was enough to stop the bosses’ cutback demands and win contracts with wage increases and health coverage. Agreements were reached with Verizon on Aug. 10 and with Qwest on Aug. 17. Qwest workers backed up their strike vote with a big stick: a strike would have shut down both Democratic and Republican conventions. Doesn’t that show a lot about the potential power of the workers? (New York Times, Aug. 11, and CWA release, Aug. 18)

Support American Idol workers

The hugely popular TV show American Idol, produced by FremantleMedia, has begun holding auditions for the upcoming season. But the writers, drivers and other workers at American Idol have nothing to sing about. Because the Fremantle workers receive below-standard wages, health insurance and retirement benefits and report serious workplace violations, the Teamsters and Writer’s Guild East and West launched the American Idol Truth Tour on July 16 to expose the substandard working conditions. To see a video exposing Fremantle’s abuse, go to www.truthaboutfremantle.com. To sign a petition demanding respect for Fremantle workers, go to www.unionvoice/campaign/fremantle. (Jobs with Justice release, Aug. 14)

Nursing home workers win 6-month strike

What did 220 health care workers in New York City do when the boss stopped paying health care coverage? They went on strike Feb. 20. And their union, 1199 Service Employees, filed a suit against the Knightsbridge Heights Rehabilitation and Care Center for many violations of labor law. These included spying on the workers, threatening to fire them if they went on strike, and offering to give them bonuses if they quit the union. A federal court ruled Aug. 14 that Knightsbridge Heights had committed “serious and pervasive” labor law violations and ordered the nursing home to resume providing health insurance for the workers and end its anti-worker practices. (New York Times, Aug. 15)

Labor solidarity with Colombian, Gulf Coast workers

The San Francisco Labor Council, representing more than 100,000 workers in 150 unions, passed a resolution July 14 in support of the Peoples Permanent Tribunal in Bogotá, Colombia, which took place July 21-23. In addition to condemning the deaths of 2,562 trade unionists murdered over the last 20 years and pointing the finger of complicity at such U.S. companies as Coca-Cola and Chiquita Brands, the resolution opposed the so-called Colombian Free Trade Agreement and any additional U.S. aid to Colombia and called for prosecution of those responsible for murdering union leaders.

The 8,000 delegates at the national convention of the Letter Carriers union, representing 300,000 workers at the U.S. Postal Service, passed a resolution July 25 supporting the call for a federally funded Gulf Coast Reconstruction Program. The program would include prevailing wages for workers, the right to organize, the right of displaced residents to return to the Gulf, a Gulf Coast Public Works Program (similar to 1930s’ programs) and national solidarity committees. NALC locals in California and the San Francisco Labor Council passed similar resolutions earlier this year.