On the picket line

Puzder withdraws; Acosta also  anti-worker

Thousands of workers all over the country led the charge against wage-thief, sexist-pig, anti-minimum-wage, multimillionaire-fast-food-owner Andrew Puzder as Trump’s pick for secretary of the Department of Labor. When Puzder withdrew his name from nomination on Feb. 15, it was a great victory for all U.S. workers — and a defeat for sore-loser Trump.

However, Trump’s next appointee for the DOL, announced Feb. 16, is no better — and maybe even worse. The Ivy League-educated R. Alexander Acosta, the only son of Cuban immigrants, clerked for Judge Samuel Alito before Alito was appointed to the Supreme Court, was an anti-worker member of the National Labor Relations Board, is currently a Florida law school dean and might be the first Latinx in the Trump cabinet.

It’s his actions as an assistant attorney general under President George W. Bush that expose him as a virulent racist. In an Ohio voting rights case in 2007, Acosta sided with Ohio Republicans who engaged in a racially motivated, illegal tactic known as “vote caging” — challenging the credentials of 23,000 mostly Black voters. (Rewire, Feb. 16) Time to mobilize once more to expose and defeat this blatant racist tool of the bosses and enemy of the working class.

Momentive workers vote for contract

After striking since Nov. 2, the 750 workers at Momentive Performance Materials in Waterford, N.Y., agreed on Feb. 14 to a three-year contract that did not have massive health care or 401(k) cuts that the hedge fund bosses demanded in their “take it or leave it” offer. Even though the workers put up a strong defense, it was not a victory, despite a one-time signing payment of $2,000 and a 2 percent raise in June and another in June 2018. There were cuts in health insurance and loss of vacation time for current workers and an end to health insurance for retirees. And the agreement did not immediately bring back 27 workers fired during the strike for alleged misconduct on the picket line or for sabotage inside the plant before the strike. Their cases, to be heard by an independent arbitrator, could drag on for a long time. The vote of IUE/CWA Local 81359 (Electronic Workers/Communication Workers) members was 317-211.

While Dennis Trainor, CWA District 1 vice president, who helped negotiate the pact with Gov. Cuomo officials, issued a statement recognizing that “some members felt they didn’t achieve everything they wanted or deserved,” he noted the workers and their families “can be proud of the battle they waged, and … for the amazing support they received from the labor movement, the community and elected officials.” (timesunion.com, Feb. 14)

W. Mass Workers Center sets up “Sanctuary in the Streets”

The Pioneer Valley Workers Center just initiated an action network, called “Sanctuary in the Streets: the Rapid Response Team of Western Massachusetts,” to support immigrants and stand against hate and deportation. The center, which works with other labor groups in Western Massachusetts, including Pioneer Valley Jobs With Justice, Pioneer Valley Central Labor Council and the ­UMass ­Labor Center, will provide Sanctuary Responder trainings. After filling out a form on its website (pvwc.org), the organization will contact volunteers via email or text to join public actions in support of immigrant communities.

Labor organizations and progressive groups are setting up similar rapid response teams around the country. Taking action showing solidarity is a vital way the labor movement can put the long-standing labor slogan, “An injury to one is an injury to all,” into practice.

21,000 AT&T Mobility workers begin contract fight

Members of the Communications Workers rallied around the country on Feb. 11 in solidarity with 21,000 AT&T Mobility workers represented by CWA in California and Nevada whose contract expired that day. The workers are now under an extended contract that can be terminated with 72 hours’ notice.

AT&T wants to cut jobs by closing retail stores and shifting work to “authorized dealers,” by moving call center jobs overseas and by cutting commissions, among other demands. CWA announced on Feb. 15 that it is taking a two-week, cooling-off period after negotiations had become increasingly “contentious,” with AT&T making ”greedy and retrogressive demands despite their huge profits.” (cwa-union.org) Solidarity is needed. Stay tuned.