On the picket line

Michigan nurses outmobilize ‘right to work’

More than 1,000 registered nurses at the Munson Medical Center in Traverse City, Mich., triumphed on Aug. 9-10. They not only organized the biggest union victory in a right-to-work (for-less) state, but succeeded where they’d failed 15 years earlier. What changed?

Since they won that earlier battle, the bosses ramped up anti-worker maneuvers — heaping on mandatory overtime, cutting benefits, shuttering professional development opportunities and pushing RNs around different departments with no cross-training. So the nurses decided to unionize with the Michigan Nurses Association, employing traditional, battle-tested methods. They held a day-long drop-in session at a coffee shop, as well as face-to-face lunchtime meetings, and organized meetings to accommodate workers’ schedules.

Organizers also used modern methods, such as team-based group chats in a texting application, which allowed them to drop in on management’s captive audience meetings and call out anti-union consultants. The entire process is documented in a Sept. 20 Labor Notes article. To communicate the benefit of the nurses’ winning tactics, it deserves a full read at tinyurl.com/mnwu1/. Workers may need to adjust their approach to win a victory. But when they win a union contract in a RTW state, you know it paid off!

Oppose the Guestworker Act! Residency and citizenship for migrant workers!

A proposed farm bill might become a law threatening workers industrywide. Chair of the House Judiciary Committee Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced the Agricultural Guestworkers Act of 2017 on Oct. 4. It is designed to do three things: replace the existing H-2A visa program, call it instead the “H-2C” visa program and put it under the Department of Agriculture. If passed, the law, according to the National Guestworkers Alliance, a project of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, would drive down wages of all workers in agriculture, dairy, forestry, seafood and meat processing.

The proposed law would also drive a wedge between workers, as NGA director Saket Soni noted in an Oct. 4 statement: “The bill purports to address flaws with current guestworker programs. In fact it would exacerbate the worst faults of current programs, while creating a host of new ones that would hurt both guestworkers and U.S.-born workers.” Though big agriculture and the meat business are salivating at the prospect of getting this measure signed into law, over 150 groups concerned with protecting workers’ rights are opposing it.

The United Farm Workers is demanding a path to stable citizenship and permanent residency. You can sign a petition supporting that just demand at tinyurl.com/yd54b3sf/. The planned vote on the act by the House Judiciary Committee was postponed Oct. 5. WW says: “Throw the bill in the trash. Workers deserve better!”

Media organize at Vice and LA Times

Two unions — Writers Guild of America, East, and Motion Picture Editors Guild/IATSE Local 700 — announced Sept. 22 that approximately 430 VICE Media employees have chosen to go union. Creative workers joined WGAE, while post-production workers joined MPEG. Organizing began on May Day. Over the past year, workers at Salon.com, Huffington Post, and People’s World have organized to bargain on wages, hours and working conditions. (Portside, Sept. 22)

Meanwhile, newsroom workers at the Los Angeles Times have been trying to form a union, setting up a clash with Tronc, the newspaper’s parent company. After months on the case, the organizing committee placed its demands — improved working conditions, higher pay and enhanced benefits, and protections for staff members against “unilateral change by Tronc” — on employees’ desks after work on Oct. 3.

The letter affirms that “a majority of the newsroom” at the LA Times has signed union cards supporting representation by the NewsGuild, which represents 25,000 reporters, editors, photojournalists and other media workers at news organizations across the United States. (NY Times, Oct. 4)

Oppose changes to Workers’ Comp in New York state

Every year benefits and care for injured and ill workers come under attack in New York state. Corporations and the Business Council of New York have been lobbying hard this year to gut workers’ compensation. The NYS Workers’ Compensation Board has proposed new rules and regulations that would reduce awards for workers who lose use of a body part and increase uncertainty, delay and litigation for injured workers. “This plan is an insult to all working men and women,” said NYS AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento. “Benefit cuts for injured workers are wholly unjustifiable.” To sign a petition opposing the changes, visit tinyurl.com/y7lu6lz8/.

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