On the picket line

Strong Legal Services strike continues

The 270 members of the Legal Services Staff Association, United Auto Workers Local 2320, who work at Legal Services NYC, have been on strike since May 15. Management has refused to budge from making severe cuts in health care coverage and retirement benefits, even though LSSA has offered some concessions. It’s estimated that monthly health care costs would rise to $450 per month, or $5,400 a year. LSSA has noted that “there is no financial necessity for the benefit reductions demanded by management’s team.” Meanwhile, one LSSA member who needs ongoing medical care for cancer treatments discovered that management has ruthlessly retaliated for the strike by cutting access to LSNYC health care benefits.

LSSA members have been using a variety of tactics to stop management’s obvious union busting and promote their just demands for a fair contract. Not only have they picketed the workplaces and homes of LSNYC board members, they are continuing to picket at LSNYC centers in all five boroughs, where they help the most vulnerable poor and elderly people deal with all kinds of civil issues such as housing.

Local 2320 is receiving significant support from City Council members and NYC-area Congress members and the backing of state and city labor councils and individual unions like the United Federation of Teachers. For the latest news of the strike and a daily schedule of picketing, go to “How you can help” at lssa2320.org.

Janitors strike in Twin Cities for union rights

Janitors who clean 24 of the big-box retail stores in Minneapolis held a 48-hour unfair labor practice strike June 11-12. The first day more than 500 workers and allies marched in picket lines at Target’s Lake Street store. Before they set up the line, they waved off seven fellow workers destined for the Target shareholders’ meeting in Denver. There, they will testify about unsafe working conditions, subpoverty wages and workplace intimidation designed to prevent them from joining a union.

Members of the largely immigrant workforce, organized by Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha, are employed by subcontracted cleaning companies, which in turn are hired to do housekeeping service by major corporations like Target. To sign a petition supporting the workers, visit ctul.net.

Federal workers protest ‘sequestration’

To show the effects of “sequestration” — the fancy name used to disguise U.S. austerity measures — federal workers staged an “eat-in” on June 12 in the Federal Triangle courtyard in the District of Columbia. Representatives of several locals of the American Federation of Government Employees and of the National Treasury union brought brown-bag lunches to demonstrate the financial impact of mandatory layoffs on workers and the businesses they patronize. “Just look around,” said AFGE Local 3331 President Nate James, pointing to the half-empty courtyard, “It’s really having an impact … on us all, families and communities alike.”

AFGE staffers distributed “FedBucks,” bright yellow oversized faux bills that some local vendors, whom the unionists call “Friends of Feds,” are honoring with discounts. Quiznos, Gelastissimo, Quick Pitas, Market to Market and the 14th Street Deli are among the FOF. (Union City, weekday newsletter of the Metro Washington Council AFL-CIO, June 13)

NY farm workers need collective bargaining rights

“The fact that in 2013 farm workers aren’t treated like every other class of worker in [New York] state is simply shameful and should be a cause of embarrassment for all New Yorkers,” said Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO. “We all have a duty to join their fight for the basic rights that the rest of us enjoy.”

For the last 80 years, workers who pick tomatoes, corn, apples, pears and other foodstuffs have not been covered by basic labor laws, which include an eight-hour workday, livable wages, workers’ compensation, unemployment benefits and a day off every week. The New York state Senate is currently voting on the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act. To demand passage of the bill and learn more about this struggle, sign the petition at nysaflcio.com.