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On the picket line

Published Jul 5, 2012 7:48 PM

NYC nurses demand safe staffing ratios

On June 20, the New York State Nurses Association stepped up its battle with New York City for a new contract covering 8,800 nurses at 11 public hospitals. After filing grievances related to understaffing at all the Health and Hospitals Corp. institutions, nurses took to the streets to protest in front of the hospitals in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx. In a statement posted June 20 on nysna.org, the union stated: “We have to keep the pressure on management at HHC and the City to fix our staffing problems and to get mandatory staffing ratios enacted into law. Short staffing hurts patient care and results in intolerable working conditions that only make the problem worse.” On June 22, the union launched a new TV, radio and print campaign that accuses billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, of failing to invest in adequate staffing. The nurses have been without a contract for more than two years and have not had a raise since July 2008.

Verizon workers hold 400+ actions

In more than 400 actions across the country, Verizon employees, represented by the Communication Workers and the Electrical Workers (IBEW), took their year-long campaign for a fair contract to members of Verizon’s board of directors. Joined by other unionists and community activists on June 22, protesters passed out leaflets outside restaurants owned by Clarence Otis (Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse and The Capital Grille), at Banco Popular branches owned by Richard Carrion and at Verizon Wireless stores. The week of June 25, CWA members began a postcard campaign directed at board member Mark Neubauer. “Members of Verizon’s board are paid $230,000 per year to direct Verizon’s business,” said CWA Chief of Staff Ron Collins. “It’s time for them to step up and make Verizon management recognize the contributions of front-line workers who have helped the company become so successful.” Meanwhile, the 45,000 CWA and IBEW members have coined a new name for Verizon: “Verigreedy” says it all. (cwa-union.org, June 28)

Landmark contract affirms LGBTQ rights

In May, 2,000 employees at Bloomingdale’s flagship store in Manhattan, who are members of Department Store union Local 3, ratified a five-year collective bargaining agreement that includes a new paternity benefit for gay men in marriages and domestic partnerships. The union believes this benefit is the first of its kind in a retail contract. The agreement also strengthened protections against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression. The Advocate news magazine called this a breakthrough in an industry that attracts lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people in disproportionately high numbers. Discrimination is rampant in retail, according to a report by the Retail Action Project, a New York City-based membership organization for retail workers, many of whom identify as LGBTQ and who are immigrants and people of color. The report, “Discounted Jobs: How Retailers are Selling Workers Short,” also shows that the overwhelming majority of workers in retail are not in unions and consequently lack health insurance, are paid low wages and must contend with “just-in-time” scheduling. The Advocate article expressed the hope that the Bloomingdale’s contract will influence the industry to make improvements. (advocate.org, June 21)