On the picket line

New Illinois labor law seeks to counter Janus decision

The Dec. 2 Labor Tribune reported that a bill to uphold rights of public sector unions, which are threatened by the Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus decision, was passed by the Illinois Legislature on Nov. 13. Ill. Gov. Pritzker promises to sign it. Written with support of several public sector unions, led by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the law includes measures to protect unions’ ability to communicate directly with workers and protect workers’ privacy: At least once a month, employers must provide new employees’ contact information to the union and not give it to outside third parties which might be anti-union. Employers are prohibited from discouraging employees from becoming union members; all inquiries about union membership must be referred to bargaining reps; and union reps have the right to meet with new employees during working hours. 

Ed Caumiant, regional director of AFSCME, told the Southwestern Illinois Central Labor Council in late November that passage of the bill is a major victory for labor. It doesn’t reverse Janus, but aims to “mitigate its effects.” For example, the law allows members to leave unions, but only within specified annual 30-day periods. While unions’ enemies had hoped the SCOTUS decision would incite millions of workers to leave unions, the article concluded: “Instead, the vast majority of union members have resisted the temptation to freeload and continued as honorable, dues-paying members.” Many unions are behind similar laws in their states. 

4,000 RNs in Calif. approve contract 

The 4,000 registered nurses at eight Tenet hospitals across California voted overwhelmingly during the week of Nov. 18 to approve a new master contract, reported California Nurses Association /National Nurses United. “This new agreement is a win for the nurses and our patients, for our families and for the communities we serve,” said Ginny Gary, an RN at Los Alamitos Medical Center. “As nurses we are dedicated to providing optimal care for our patients, and we fought hard for a contract that supports that goal,” said Heather Baker, an RN at Twin Cities Community Hospital. 

The 3 ½-year agreement promotes the recruitment and retention of RNs and addresses issues raised at actions over the past year, including those at a one-day September strike. Nurses will receive rest periods of at least eight hours between shifts and adequate rest and meal breaks. The contract stipulates “standby/on-call” scheduling not be a substitute for regular scheduling and nurse-patient ratio must be maintained. Average wage increases include 13.5 percent for the first year and a half, 3 percent increases thereafter, with step increases for eligible RNs and increases in standby/on-call pay. The hospitals must post “on-call” schedules 13 days in advance and may not change them without consent of affected RNs. (nationalnursesunited.org, Nov. 22) CNA raises the bar for all nurses!

Support workers at Seattle’s Edgewater Hotel

Housekeepers and other workers at The Edgewater Hotel in Seattle, represented by UNITE HERE Local 8, voted to authorize a strike by 93 percent after the luxury waterfront hotel demanded a drastic wage cut. Although the hotel’s revenue has grown by 70 percent recently, it wants workers to accept wages $2 an hour below those at other posh downtown hotels. Besides, the workers’ wages have not kept up with Seattle’s high cost of living since 2010. The hotel even refuses to guarantee the workers’ jobs if it is sold. 

No wonder the workers began picketing the hotel Dec. 12 and 14, chanting “One job should be enough.” Reina Martinez, a housekeeper there since 1989, reports, “I feel the effects of the heavy work. And not only me — all of my co-workers suffer. We need job security.” To support the workers, sign the pledge at tinyurl.com/r2hetk9/.

Sign petition to ‘End U.S. wage theft in El Salvador’

The LD garment factory in El Salvador sewed clothes for prominent U.S. brands including Levi’s, Ralph Lauren, Walmart and PVH (owner of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger) until March 7, 2018. The 824 workers lost their jobs when the factory closed without warning. Under Salvadoran law, the workers are due severance based on length of employment. But the brands refused to pay up, stated their intermediary, Global Brands Group. After finally distributing a miserly $600,000 over a year ago — about 4.5 times less than the $2.3 million that the workers are owed by law — Global says the brands won’t pay more. 

Sign the petition at tinyurl.com/rtuh6tc posted by the International Labor Rights Forum ([email protected]) and demand “End U.S. wage theft in El Salvador!”


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