On the picket line

Union rights for grocery workers in Brooklyn, N.Y.

On Sept. 20, it will be a year since Latino/a immigrant workers at the so-called “Golden Farm” grocery in Brooklyn, N.Y., voted to join the Retail, Wholesale union. When owner Sonny Kim began to fire and force out pro-union workers, labor and community groups, led by New York Communities for Change, Occupy Kensington and 99 Pickets, called a boycott and held frequent pickets over the last year to demand that Kim respect the workers’ right to union representation.

A Sept. 10 email from Occupy Kensington noted that after Sept. 20, “Mr. Kim can arrange a challenge to the union and organize a re-vote inside the store. A re-vote he would likely win, as he has fired two of the workers who voted for the union and forced out several others by cutting their hours. Without a contract and without the union, the remaining pro-union workers … will have no protection from Mr. Kim.”

That’s why labor and community activists, joined by the Rude Mechanical Orchestra playing “We Shall Overcome” and a giant inflated rat, rallied at the grocery Sept. 15. Their chants included “Exploitation ain’t the way! Pay your workers better pay!” “What’s outrageous? Poverty wages!” and “What’s disgusting? Union busting!” (Anne Pruden contributed to this story.)

Walmart workers demand living wage in 15 cities

On Sept. 5, hundreds of Walmart workers and thousands of their supporters in more than 15 cities across the country picketed for livable wages and improved working conditions for some of the nation’s lowest-paid workers. OUR Walmart, a union-backed group of Walmart workers, reported that 109 protesters were arrested for acts of civil disobedience in 11 cities. Protesters also called for the reinstatement of 20 employees who were illegally fired after strikes and protests at company headquarters in June. OUR Walmart has filed more than 100 unfair labor practice charges against Walmart with the National Labor Relations Board.

Actions took place in Los Angeles; San Francisco; Dallas; Chicago; Miami; New York; Boston; Sacramento, Calif.; and Washington, D.C. A protest in Raleigh, N.C., drew attention when a video of the flash mob inside the store, organized by Local 1208 of the Food and Commercial Workers union, was posted on YouTube (tinyurl.com/mjurzzz). It shows about a dozen, mostly Black and Brown workers in bright yellow T-shirts (with “1208 Steppers” on the front and “Steppin’ 4 Justice” on the back) doing a well-choreographed, well-rehearsed break dance.

This was the biggest national day of action targeting Walmart since “Black Friday” last November, when 400 workers went on strike. OUR Walmart told The Nation magazine that “widespread, massive strikes and protests [are planned] for Black Friday,” the day after the so-called “Thanksgiving” holiday. (Sept. 6)

Cablevision workers rap for contract at Aug. 24 March

Cablevision workers from Brooklyn rapped at the podium at the 50th anniversary March for Jobs and Freedom on Aug. 24 in Washington about why they’re fighting for a contract. The 280 workers having been struggling for more than 18 months to get multimillionaire Cablevision owner James Dolan to sign a contract with the Communication Workers for union representation. In the process they have endured illegal terminations, threats, illegal surveillance, bad faith bargaining and lower wages than all the other technicians at Cablevision.

To sign a petition addressed to “Dear Mr. Dolan: Where the Papers At?” visit tinyurl.com/mxfnesz. While you’re at the site, check out the link to their militant performance on YouTube. (cwa-union.org, Aug. 29)

Indiana judge rules state ‘right-to-work’ law unconstitutional

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels signed a “right-to-work” (for less) law on Feb. 1, 2012, over the noisy objections of thousands of union workers who took their protest from the statehouse to the Super Bowl Village to bring a national spotlight on the anti-worker move. Local 150 of the Operating Engineers union soon filed a suit stating the law violates the state constitution. And on Sept. 10, a state judge agreed with them. But the Indiana Attorney General filed an appeal on Sept. 12, which means the suit is headed to the state Supreme Court. (Indystar.com, Sept. 12) Stay tuned. n