On the picket line

Flight attendants unite:  ‘No concessions’ 

Three unions, representing 80% of all U.S. flight attendants, issued a joint open letter July 3 addressed to their members and the airline industry: “Concessions cannot and will not resolve the crisis in the industry. We are putting management on notice: Don’t even think about it.” Initiated by the Association of Flight Attendants-Communication Workers (AFA-CWA), led by President Sara Nelson, cosigners included the Association of Professional Flight Attendants and the Transport Workers Union.

Noting that passenger demand is now only about 20% of what it was a year ago, due to the worldwide pandemic and the economic depression, which have drastically cut business and social travel. The statement asserts: “Our wages, health care benefits, work rules and job protections are not the problem in this industry. The problem is one of demand, which will only be resolved when the flying public feels safe to travel.”

The letter concludes: “We must not let management set up a false choice of pitting our careers against our contracts. …  Cutting wages and work rules will not bring our jobs back.  …  [W]e stand united in our opposition to concessions. Flight Attendants must not be allowed to bear the burden of the aviation crisis.

Nurses in motion from coast to coast

National Nurses United held a memorial in front of the Capitol on July 21 honoring the more than 160 nurses who have lost their lives from COVID-19. They are demanding essential personal protective equipment and regulatory protection for frontline nurses and other health care workers.

Previously on March 6, 1,600 registered nurses at Mission Hospital, the largest health care center in Western North Carolina, petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to form an NNU unit in the country’s second-least unionized state. The nurses want to raise hospital staffing levels to lower nurse-to-patient ratios. This is believed to be one of the largest union campaigns in the country today. (Portside, July 15)

NNU proudly announced on July 16 that the registered nurses at St. Mary’s Hospital and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tucson, Ariz., voted overwhelmingly to approve their first contract with the NNU. This is a first for RNs in the state. The three-year contract includes safe patient care protections during COVID-19, with a voice for nurses about PPE, optimal patient handling, lift equipment and communicable disease issues; a Professional Practice Committee to meet monthly about optimal patient care and nursing practice; and at least 8 hours rest between shifts.

The July 10 Payday Report cites nurses on strike in areas with a major surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations, including Riverside, Calif., Houston and Joliet, Ill., to name a few. The newsletter has recorded over 900 labor strikes since March.

To create jobs, Missouri labor joins fight for Medicaid

Seeking to create 16,000 jobs in Missouri, a coalition of organized labor, businesses, patient advocates and faith leaders is supporting the “Yes on 2” ballot initiative, which would expand Medicaid in the state. Already nearly 300 organizations, including the Missouri AFL-CIO and the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, have transcended party politics, racial lines, the rural-urban split and other usually divisive barriers.

“Our partners recognize the urgency of Medicaid expansion to protect frontline health care jobs, help keep endangered rural hospitals open, boost our state’s economy and generate additional jobs during our ongoing economic crisis,” campaign manager A.J. Bockelman told the July 23 Labor Tribune.

Researchers at Washington University report the expansion will save the state more than $1 billion annually by 2026, with tax dollars coming back from Washington and cutting state costs. An independent study by economic analysts projected job growth will happen at nearly 80% outside the health care industry and Missouri’s big cities. Average personal income would grow by $1.1 billion annually — with an extra $500 on average for each Missouri household.

Hire Oregon workers for renewable energy projects there!

Why are Oregon renewable energy projects, which get state tax subsidies, going to out-of-state contractors? Oregon Building Trades Council Executive Secretary Robert Camarillo is organizing to end that. If fossil fuel developers have to sign a Project Labor Agreement, he wants the same rules to apply to renewable energy projects: mandating in-state hiring, paying prevailing wage and instituting apprenticeship training programs. Camarillo set up an ad hoc task force with staff and leaders of five building trade unions that meets weekly. They are making videos in which Eastern Oregon residents and union members talk about why they want that work. Stay tuned.

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