On the picket line

Nurses stage die-in to demand Ebola readiness in U.S.

About 1,000 members of National Nurses United staged a die-in during their conference in Las Vegas on Sept. 24. They protested the lack of readiness in this country to confront the Ebola epidemic sweeping West Africa. Marching through the Planet Hollywood casino, they moved on to the Bellagio Fountain for the die-in. After protesters dropped to the sidewalk, others in hazardous materials gear outlined their “dead” bodies with chalk. Following that was a moment of silence for the thousands who have died from Ebola as well as the international health workers who have died while caring for them. “It’s not acceptable that these people are dying,” said RoseAnn DeMoro, NNU executive director. U.S. policymakers are in denial, she added. “It is going to come here.” Protesters noted that nurses are the first line of defense against all diseases. (Las Vegas Sun, Sept. 24)

Hotel workers rally in Seattle, get raises in L.A.

On Sept. 25, housekeepers and other workers at two Hyatt hotels in Seattle held a rally to demand that the hotel owner recognize their right to join a union. In July 2013, UNITE HERE and Hyatt Hotels corporate management reached a national agreement. Since then, Hyatt workers in Long Beach and Emeryville, Calif.; Greenwich, Conn.; and Baltimore have joined the union. Workers are fighting for dignity and respect on the job, free from management intimidation, harsh working conditions and low pay.

Meanwhile, on Sept. 14, the Los Angeles City Council voted 12 to 3 that big hotels must pay at least $15.37 an hour to workers. This will be one of the highest minimum wages in the country. The wage boost will apply to hotels with at least 300 rooms as of next July and to hotels with at least 150 rooms in 2016. Councilmember Mike Bonin, who sponsored the bill while working with a coalition of unions and community groups, said, “If we can do targeted incentives to help businesses, we can do targeted incentives to help those who are working and living in poverty.” (Los Angles Times, Sept. 24)

Delta CEO confronted by Minneapolis airport workers

On Sept. 23, three airport workers bravely interrupted Delta CEO Richard Anderson’s speech at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Minneapolis. They questioned why Anderson’s salary rose 50 percent to $14 million last year while the workers who assist Delta passengers are struggling to survive on the minimum wage. Delta reported profits of $2.7 billion in 2013. While no longer directly hired by Delta but by a contractor, these workers have been attempting to organize for the last few years like many passenger-service workers across the country. Outside the luncheon, workers and supporters with Service Employees Local 26 held signs reading, “Record profits for Delta, poverty wages for workers.” (Union Advocate, Sept. 25)

USPS must add 9,000 union jobs

Two years ago the American Postal Workers Union filed a grievance against the U.S. Postal Service when the USPS began using part-time, non-union workers instead of union clerks at many lower-traffic facilities. That policy originated as a “compromise” instead of shutting the offices completely. On Sept. 5, an arbitrator ruled that in the next three months the USPS must establish 3,000 full-time union positions at offices open six hours a day, while offices open four hours must have 6,000 union-backed jobs for part-time workers known as postal-support employees. “This is historic,” said APWU official Bob Johnson. “We haven’t had APWU members in most of these offices in decades, and now to have full-time positions in six-hour offices — that’s phenomenal.” (Washington Post, Sept. 23)

CNN must rehire workers

The National Labor Relations Board found against the CNN cable television network in an 11-year-old labor dispute, ordering the network to rehire or compensate about 300 workers and former workers. The NLRB agreed with a November 2008 ruling by one of its administrative judges that CNN had improperly replaced a unionized subcontractor, Team Video Services, with in-house non-union staffers, due to “anti-union” bias. The board gave CNN 14 days to rehire the former TVS employees for “their former positions or, if those jobs no longer exist, to substantially equivalent positions.” The Communication Workers union estimates that CNN will pay tens of millions of dollars to compensate the workers. The network is also required to restore any bargaining unit work it outsourced since previous contracts ended and recognize the employees’ union. (aflcio.blog,org, Sept. 17)