On the picket line

Nurses hold global day vs. austerity

Nurses and health care workers in 14 countries petitioned, marched and rallied on Sept. 17 to stop the harmful effects of austerity and cuts in health care services, to improve patient care, and to promote economic healing and recovery. This was the first event organized by Global Nurses United, founded in San Francisco on June 26, which represents leading nurse and health care unions on all continents. Actions ranged from the Philippines and Australia to Brazil and the Dominican Republic, Ireland and Canada. For example, on the second anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, actions calling for a Robin Hood tax — which would raise hundreds of billions of dollars from a tax on bank and stock market transactions to be used for health care — took place in Seoul, south Korea; Cape Town, South Africa; Guatemala City; and New York City. (nationalnursesunited.org, Sept. 18)

Home health care aides get raise

For the more than 2 million home health care aides, personal care aides and certified nursing assistants — 90 percent women and 50 percent people of color — federal Labor Department rules issued Sept. 17 go a long way toward correcting longtime injustice. Now these workers, who sometimes toil 100 hours a week, are supposed to receive overtime pay and at least minimum wage. This change has been advocated by unions, workers’ rights and women’s rights groups for years. (Union City, online weekly newsletter of Metro Washington Council AFL-CIO, Sept. 23) Now the federal minimum wage needs a boost from a stagnant $7.25 an hour to a livable wage of $15. All out on Oct. 24, the 75th anniversary of passage of the minimum wage law, for what is called “Workers demand a raise day.” (peoplespowerassemblies.org)

New laws help low-paid California workers

During the last week of September, two bills were signed into law that will help low-paid workers in California. On Sept. 25, Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 10 that will raise the state minimum wage to $10 an hour in 2016, up from the current $8 an hour. While the bill was opposed by such big-business bullies as the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Restaurant Association, it was widely hailed by unions and workers’ rights groups. (Los Angeles Times, Sept. 25) The next day, bill AB 241, the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, was signed into law after seven years of lobbying and two vetoes. Promoted by the National Domestic Workers Alliance, it stipulates that housekeepers, child care providers and caregivers must receive overtime and have regular meal/rest breaks and adequate sleeping conditions for live-in workers. It is only the second bill of rights for these workers in the country. (blog.aflcio.org, Sept. 26) Now the struggle will be to enforce it.

Cablevision workers take on CEO

For the last 18 months, the 300 Cablevision workers in Brooklyn, N.Y., have been demanding their first union contract after voting to be represented by the Communication Workers union. On Sept. 24, CWA launched a fightback strategy at a City Hall press conference. It seems that Cablevision CEO James Dolan, who also owns Madison Square Garden, receives a $17 million annual property tax break for MSG going back to 1982. To stop such corporate welfare and force Dolan to the negotiating table, CWA has lined up 40 legislators who have signed on to a state bill ending this permanent, one-of-a-kind tax giveaway. A number of City Council members also support the bill. Meanwhile, on Sept. 25, the workers held yet another demonstration at their Canarsie worksite demanding Cablevision offer a decent contract. (CWA press release, Sept. 24; report from Anne Pruden)