On the picket line

Thousands march for immigrant rights
and citizenship

All across the country, in 183 cities in 40 states, thousands upon thousands of workers of all nationalities, including immigrants, the unionized, the underemployed and the unemployed, marched for comprehensive immigration reform on Oct. 5. The National Day for Dignity and Respect was called by national and local immigrant rights groups and supported by many unions, and state and local affiliates of the national AFL-CIO.

The workers and their families brought to 3-D life slogans like “Citizenship now,” “Keep families together,” “Protect workers,” “Safeguard civil rights” and “End deportations now.” Chants of “¡Sí, se puede!” and “The time is now!” ricocheted from coast to coast.

The national protest, which drew large rallies in all major cities, was called to pressure Congress to pass an immigration bill that provides a clear, easy, quick path to citizenship, not like the one passed by the Senate or the one stalled in the House. Will this strong, multinational, united outpouring have any effect on the millionaires in Congress or their billionaire backers? (blog.aflcio.org, Oct. 7) La lucha continúa.

Support Gerawan workers’ fight
for UFW contract

About 6,000 workers who pick peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines and table grapes for Gerawan Farming Inc. in California voted months ago to be represented by the United Farm Workers. After months of fruitless negotiations, Gerawan was ordered by the state farm board in April to engage in mandatory mediation.

The board issued a formal complaint on Aug. 15 accusing Gerawan of coercing workers to sign a petition to decertify UFW. It followed that on Sept. 25 with “a blistering 12-page dismissal notice document[ing] Gerawan’s illegal … drive to get rid of the union and … widespread forgeries of signatures on the decertification petition.” The UFW is calling for supporters to sign a petition at ufw.org demanding that Gerawan stop stalling and implement the contract immediately! (ufw.org, Sept. 30)

NYC transit workers fight for ‘fair’ contract

President John Samuelson, of the Transport Workers Union Local 100 in New York City, issued a video statement summarizing the Sept. 30 opening contract negotiations with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Noting that this was the first time Local 100 had met with the MTA in more than a year, Samuelson applauded the heroic way TWU workers got the city moving so quickly after the incredible devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy.

But even after the workers showed such competence and dedication, and the MTA announced that it had “found” savings of $2 billion over the next four years, it “was still demanding [to pay the workers] three zeros [$000] over the life of the contract.”

After denouncing the MTA offer as “a political decision,” Samuelson announced that Local 100 had its own plan: “We adamantly refuse to take three zeros. … If the MTA gets its way, the contract will do significant damage to our livelihoods and our ability to take care of our families.” He urged all TWU workers to attend a contract rally at MTA offices at 2 Broadway on Oct. 29. All out for all New York City unions and community activists, too! (twulocal100.org, Sept. 30) Stay tuned.

Federal shutdown: lockout of 800,000 workers

One disastrous side effect, among many, of the federal shutdown is that nearly a million federal workers will not be paid starting Oct. 1. American Federation of Government Employees President J. David Cox called it exactly what it is: a lockout. Even though H.R. 3223, providing retroactive pay, was introduced Oct. 2, eventual passage of the bill when Congress resumes will not help workers who depend on paychecks to pay mortgages and rent, dental and medical bills, credit card minimums, and for food, utilities and music lessons. No wonder AFGE members and other unionized federal workers have protested all over the country to end the lockout, which some are calling an “attempted coup.” (afge.org, Oct. 1)