On the picket line

Kansas Machinists strike and win better contract

After Machinists (IAM) Local Lodge 639 members in Wichita, Kansas, got a load of the draconian contract terms proposed by Bombardier Learjet on Oct. 1, they voted overwhelmingly to strike on Oct. 8. The Fortune 500 Global conglomerate based in Montreal sells combat and business jets as well as NASA Challengers and claims a record of “social responsibility” — which obviously does not extend to the workers. The company offered an eight-year contract (instead of five-year), no raises for the first three years and 1 percent the remaining years, no cost of living raises, replacing the pension plan with a 401(k) and replacing the health care plan with one that would increase costs by double-digits every year. “They want you to work harder and harder, for less and less,” concludes the flyer posted on 639iam.org.

But after the union agreed to mediation on Nov. 2, the negotiating team came back with a much-improved five-year contract, which the membership voted to accept on Nov. 10. Though there is only a signing bonus of $2,500 for the first year and 1 percent raises the next four, the major improvement was, surprisingly, a 10 percent reduction in health-care costs, with another 5 percent savings if workers participate in a wellness program. Compared with the company’s pre-strike offer, workers with single coverage will see a $700 annual reduction in health-care costs, while workers with family coverage will see a $2,300 annual savings. That just proves, even in this economy it pays to strike.

Support Coke 16 workers’ struggle vs. racism

In January, 16 African-American and Latino/a workers filed suit charging that Coca Cola bottling plants in the New York City area are “a cesspool of racial discrimination.” The Coke 16, who are both women and men who worked in three plants on Long Island and one in New Jersey, charge that people of color receive biased work assignments and hours and unfair discipline and retaliation while laboring in a toxic work environment. Since then, they’ve taken their struggle for economic and social justice to the streets, with strong contingents at the Colombian Day Parade on July 22, the Dominican Day Parade on July 29, the March for Peace in Harlem on Aug. 25, and the NYC Labor Day Parade on Sept. 8. To show support for their struggle, click on “Like” on Facebook.com/TheCoke16. For updates, check out stopCokediscrimination.org.

Victory for patient and nurse safety in Washington State

Patient and nurse safety was affirmed on Oct. 30 in a unanimous decision by the Washington State Supreme Court. It upheld nurses’ statutory rights to be paid overtime when their duties prevent them from taking rest breaks.

Research has shown that nurses working long hours have decreased alertness and vigilance that can lead to fatigue-related errors. That’s why the Washington State Nurses Association brought a suit in 2007 on behalf of 1,200 registered nurses to recover unpaid wages for denied rest periods against Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane.

“Ultimately, our goal is to have hospitals make safe staffing a priority,” said WSNA Executive Director Judy Huntington. “We are hopeful that the decision will also have a chilling effect on other hospitals and their efforts to avoid paying nurses for missed breaks and serve as an incentive to them to give nurses the breaks they so deserve!” (The Stand, Oct. 30)

Collective bargaining affirmed for Missouri home care workers

It only took four years after voters passed the Missouri Quality Home Care Act in 2008, by a 75 percent majority, that 13,000 home care workers in that state will be able to negotiate their first union contract. Big-business anti-union forces sued to stop the workers after they voted to form the Missouri Home Care Union in 2010. (MHCU is a joint local organized by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and Service Employees unions.)

Studies have shown home care that promotes independent living not only cuts state costs for nursing homes, but also provides much more humane, compassionate care for the elderly and the disabled. The Missouri State Supreme Court affirmed the workers’ right to collective bargaining on Oct. 30. Such issues as living wages, training, and measures to reduce turnover and protect clients will be on the table. (PR Newswire, Oct. 30)