On the picket line

SuperShuttle drivers in Denver fight for their jobs

SuperShuttle drivers in Denver were told they had to reapply for their jobs in March. After the company announced that it had stopped bargaining with the Communication Workers union, it also imposed a new contract, cutting wages by 30 percent.

The immigrant workers’ long battle for union recognition began in 2011, when 95 percent of the drivers voted to join CWA, but a “final offer” from SuperShuttle in 2012 was rejected by 93 percent. CWA’s challenge to the company-imposed contract went to the National Labor Relations Board, but no resolution was reported. To sign a CWA-sponsored petition supporting the drivers, visit tinyurl.com/qxdpno3. (aflcio.org/blog, May 16)

SuperShuttle is a subsidiary of Veolia Transportation, a division of the French multinational corporation that picked a fight with the Boston school bus drivers, United Steelworkers Local 8751, last October and then fired four leading organizers. SuperShuttle drivers in Baltimore are also struggling for better wages and rights. For coverage of those struggles, see workers.org.

UConn grad workers win union

Graduate employees at the University of Connecticut won a victory April 17, when the state Board of Labor Relations verified that more than half the 2,100 graduate students who work as teaching or research assistants had signed cards authorizing the Graduate Employee Union, United Auto Workers Local 2110, to represent them. Among the top concerns the new union members plan to address with the UConn administration are recent increases in health insurance co-payments and student fees. Grad assistants at Yale and several other U.S. campuses are seeking union representation. (aflcio.org/blog, April 22)

San Francisco teachers oppose construction of new jail

Delegates of United Educators of San Francisco, representing nearly 6,000 city teachers and paraprofessionals, voted nearly unanimously at a General Assembly meeting May 21 to oppose construction of a proposed new city jail. “As teachers, we know that education can work, but incarceration does not,” said Kathy Rose, teacher at Five Keys Charter Schools serving incarcerated and formerly incarcerated adults. UESF leaders plan to take a similar resolution to the Central Labor Council to galvanize more opposition to a new jail. (curbprisonspending.org, May 22)

Anti-worker laws defeated in Missouri

Several hundred union workers turned out on March 27 to protest two anti-worker bills before the Missouri Legislature. With help from faith-based and community groups, the unions spent the next six weeks working to defeat a right-to-work-for-less law as well as the misnamed “paycheck protection” bill. The measure, which workers rightly called the “paycheck deception” bill, would bar public employee unions from automatically deducting dues from workers’ paychecks without written consent. After strenuous lobbying against the bills, both had been defeated by the time the Missouri Legislature adjourned May 30.

U.S. rated one of worst places for workers

Are you surprised the U.S. lags far behind other nations in protecting workers’ rights, according to a new survey from the International Trade Union Confederation, “Global Rights Index: The World’s Worst Countries for Workers”? The rankings are based on 97 internationally recognized indicators and standards assessing where workers’ rights are best protected in law and practice.

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow noted: “Countries such as Denmark and Uruguay led the way through their strong labor laws, but perhaps surprisingly, the likes of Greece, the United States and Hong Kong, lagged behind … [because they did not respect] basic rights to bargain collectively, strike for decent conditions or simply join a union.”

Ranked on a scale from 1 (few violations) to 5 (no guarantees for workers), the U.S. received a 4. According to the ITUC system, workers in countries rated 4 “reported systematic violations. The government and/or companies are engaged in serious efforts to crush the collective voice of workers putting fundamental rights under continuous threat.” Along with the U.S., 29 other nations received a 4, including Argentina and Thailand. Belgium, Finland and South Africa were among the 18 nations receiving a 1, while 24 countries were rated 5, including Bangladesh, Egypt, Guatemala and Qatar.

The report found that in the past year governments of at least 35 countries who resisted demands for democratic rights, decent wages, safer working conditions and secure jobs have arrested or imprisoned workers. In at least nine countries, murders and disappearances were used to intimidate workers. The poll also showed nearly two-thirds of respondents want governments to do more to limit corporate power.

Meanwhile, the World Bank’s “Doing Business” report advocated that governments reduce labor standards. La lucha continúa. (aflcio.org/blog, May 22)