On the picket line

Thousands honor César Chávez, march for immigration reform

Thousands of undocumented farmworkers and their U.S.-born children, unionists, community and religious activists, and students on spring break marched behind the banner of the United Farm Workers in seven California cities and one in Washington state over the March 23-24 weekend. At the same time they honored UFW founder César Chávez, who was born on March 31 and died 20 years ago, they demanded immigration reform that guarantees a path to legalization for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country. The Fresno Bee reported March 24 that several thousand marchers created a red sea there, with their UFW flags and T-shirts, while shouting “¡Sí, se puede!” along the three-mile route. The UFW has also launched a drive to have Chávez’s birthday made a national holiday. Sign the petition at ufw.org.

Paid sick days passed in Philly, Portland, Ore. — on to NYC!

March 14 was a banner day for low-wage workers in Portland, Ore., and Philadelphia. The City Council in both cities passed bills guaranteeing workers paid sick time that can be used to take care of their health needs or those of sick family members, or respond to domestic violence issues. In Portland, the bill, passed unanimously, will benefit more than 121,000 workers, while in Philadelphia, it will aid nearly 115,000 workers. Passage of these bills has only added fuel to the fire for passage of a similar bill in New York City. The March 22 edition of the New York Times reported that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has held up the vote on a similar bill, was called out for stalling the vote by three of her Democratic rivals for mayor during a public hearing on paid sick time. To sign a petition demanding that Quinn call the vote, go to tinyurl.com/bmkskwz. (Note: The petition states that 145 countries guarantee workers paid sick time — but the U.S. is not one of them!)

Help Cablevision workers get first contract

On Jan. 30, Cablevision/Optimum illegally locked out and fired 22 members of Communication Workers Local 1109 in Brooklyn, N.Y., who were seeking a meeting with management to discuss grievances and demand their first contract. As the union website notes, this was “the worst incident of corporate anti-union outlaw activity in decades of labor battles in New York City.” (cwa1109.org, Feb. 6) As of March 15, all workers except one have been rehired, thanks to the solidarity of more than 100,000 people who emailed Cablevision demanding justice. But the workers are still struggling to win their first contact. Now they’re asking supporters to send a message to Cablevision to negotiate a fair contract by clicking on “Like” at facebook.com/cablevision99. (cwa-union.org, March 15)

New struggle of immigrant restaurant workers in NYC

On March 13, after years of alleged wage theft, abuse and exploitation, immigrant workers at Dishes, a popular, upscale Midtown restaurant in New York City, delivered a letter to their boss listing their grievances and demanding justice. In an illegal, cowardly act, the owner retaliated by firing two of the workerswho stood up for their rights in the workplace. On March 15, a noonday protest demanding the immediate rehiring of the two and justice for all the workers, called by 99pickets, was supported by activists representing labor, community, Occupy Wall Street and religious allies.

Truck drivers win first contract at L.A. ports

Truck drivers of 80,000-pound container rigs who haul goods from Los Angeles ports to big-box warehouses of Walmart and JC Penney have been enjoying their first Teamster contract since January. The contract, negotiated by Local 848, is the first in the deregulated, union-adverse drayage (short-haul) industry in 30 years. The haulers, all Latinos, who barely made $30,000 a year and had to rely on food stamps and church donations to feed their families, fought for two years for union representation. With this contract they get a raise of more than $6 an hour; paid overtime, sick days and holidays; guaranteed shift hours and other job security provisions; a pension plan; and a more affordable health care plan with no change in coverage. These “standard-setting” terms are viewed as a potential game-changer for U.S. port drivers, who are the most underpaid workers in the trucking industry. To learn more, visit grimtruthattollgroup.com.