On the Picket Line: UAW files for third vote at Volkswagen Tenn. plant + more

UAW files for third vote at Volkswagen Tenn. plant

United Auto Workers Local 42 filed its third election petition for representation of 1,709 workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., on April 9. The petition, based on at least 30 percent of workers turning in cards seeking representation, asked for an election on April 29-30. Though the UAW’s last petition in 2015 was voted down by a 43 percent margin, the UAW cited “outside interference” from local anti-union politicians for the loss. The major issue driving this vote is workers’ anger over VW’s arbitrary shift changes.

Despite VW’s early hint about remaining neutral, it delivered a legal brief to the National Labor Relations Board April 25, requesting a delay of the election on a technicality until 2020. (Chattanooga Times Free Press) This would give anti-union forces more time to conspire against the union. Already the so-called Center for Union Facts has taken out full-page attack ads in Chattanooga area papers. Anti-union billboards have been posted. (Payday Report, April 26)

Volkswagen is unionized at 43 of its 45 factories worldwide. “Volkswagen might think that if they stall and delay, we will give up. But we will continue to work for a seat at the table, the same as every other Volkswagen worker around the world,” read a UAW statement. “After all these years, we know the issues and have all the information we need to make a decision.” This time, we will “Organize the South!”

RWDSU organizes poultry workers in the South

The 1,800 poultry workers at the Equity/Tyson plant in Camilla, Ga., overwhelmingly ratified a 3-year contract with the Department Store Union (RWDSU) April 12. The agreement set new standards for poultry workers in the South: a large cut in health care costs; annual general wage increases; overtime for working on personal days, and strengthened rights covering seniority, job bidding, layoffs and recalls.

“The people of Georgia are fighters,” said Edgar Fields, president of RWDSU’s Southeast Council. This contract is “going to impact so many workers not just at this facility, but for years to come at so many others.” RWDSU represents more than 10,000 poultry workers in four southern states. It’s one of the few unions that has been successful at organizing in right-to-work-for-less states. (rwdsu.org, April 13)

NCOSH cites McDonald’s in “Dirty Dozen” list

The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, a federation of labor union, health and tech professionals, and community coalitions, just added McDonald’s to its annual “Dirty Dozen” list of employers whose unsafe practices put communities at risk. McDonald’s was cited for dismissing pervasive sexual harassment at its restaurants. The NCOSH report is released in observance of Workers’ Memorial Week, which began April 22, to honor workers who lost their lives on the job as well as those who suffered workplace injuries and illnesses.

More than two dozen McDonald’s workers have filed sexual-harassment complaints with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. (ACLU.org, Jan. 19) “It’s hard for me to even talk about what happened at my job,” says Tanya Harrell. “A co-worker locked me in the bathroom, exposed himself and tried to rape me.  I’m not the only one. A big company like McDonald’s — they have the resources to prevent this horrible behavior. What are they waiting for?” (coshnetwork.org, April 24)

With sales of more than $37.6 billion in 2017 and the ability to employ more than 1 million, Mickey D’s certainly has the resources to end sexual harassment on the job. Time’s up, McDonald’s!

What drives teachers to strike? Low pay

A study by the Economic Policy Institute, released April 24, shows that from 1996 to 2018 the average weekly wages of public school teachers, when adjusted for inflation and summers off, have decreased by $21, while weekly wages of other college graduates have risen by $323. The analysis, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows the teachers’ weekly wage penalty reached a record 21.4 percent in 2018. When teachers’ better benefits were factored in, the final penalty was 13.1 percent in 2018.

Noting that low pay is a prime reason for education workers’ strikes and walkouts since 2018, report co-author Lawrence Mishel summarized that low wages are “making it harder to attract people into teaching and to retain teachers, and this is bad for students and our nation.”

EPI analysis shows the teachers’ weekly wage penalty is greater than 20 percent in 21 states and the District of Columbia, including states with recent teacher strikes and activism: Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Virginia and Washington.

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