On the picket line

United Farm Workers march to secure voting rights

The United Farm Workers (UFW) union is marching to Sacramento, the state capital of California, to pressure the governor to sign the Agricultural Labor Relations Voting Choice Act, legislation that would make it safer for farmworkers to vote in union elections. Dolores Huerta — co-founder with Cesar Chavez of the National Farm Workers Association, which later joined with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee to form the UFW — spoke at the march starting point in Delano, site of the historic 1965 Grape Strike.

Huerta had a message for the bosses: “We want to give a message out there to the growers that it’s time that they recognize the farmworkers, because they’re the ones that make them wealthy . . .” The workers want the same rights as other union members in the state; agricultural workers have historically been excluded from the rights recognized under the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, as well as the California Labor Code

Currently, farmworkers face intimidation and retaliation from the grower bosses, because union votes are held at the workplace. Farmworkers want the right to vote by mail and by secure drop-off ballots. The 35-mile march will reach Sacramento Aug. 26, gathering support and solidarity along the way. (tinyurl.com/2p88wxnu)

Dollar General workers strike in South Carolina

The workers at the Holly Hill, South Carolina, Dollar General have been on strike since July 16 to force Dollar General management to meet their demands. These demands include a living wage and worker safety. Workers want their hourly wage bumped up to $15 an hour. Minimum hourly wage in South Carolina today is a measly $7.25, the federal minimum. (tinyurl.com/ym64yacy)

Safety concerns center around fire hazards and management’s failure to secure the store following a robbery. A petition from workers to the company demanded “that our safety be taken seriously and changes be made as soon as possible,” including measures so that workers can see more clearly outside the store.

The next step is organizing a union campaign.

Reuters journalists strike to protest stalled contract negotiations 

Journalists held a one-day strike Aug. 4 at Reuters, one of the largest news agencies in the world. The 300 workers, represented by NewsGuild, say Reuters is dragging their feet in contract negotiations. The last contract expired in December 2020.

Reuters has offered an insulting 1% pay increase, which translates to a pay cut, given the rising cost of living today. “While we reporters are called away from our families in the middle of dinner, something we gladly do for the job, Reuters executives sit in the comfort of their home offices managing the profits we bring in for the company,” Reuters video reporter Julio-César Chávez noted in a NewsGuild statement. The company’s second quarter revenues were $1.6 billion.  (tinyurl.com/4x5923vp)

Verizon wireless union drive spreads to three states

Verizon Wireless retail workers in Washington, Oregon and Michigan all filed with the National Labor Relations Board to vote to be represented by the Communications Workers (CWA). The Seattle workers won their union vote already, and Everett and Lynnwood, Washington, workers voted to ratify their new contract Aug. 4. Portland Verizon Express retail workers and two Flint, Michigan, stores have not yet had their election. (cwa-union.org/news/bargaining-update-211)

Demands include fair compensation, safety on the job and consistent scheduling. Workers cite a corporate culture that undervalues employees and is aggressively anti-union. In 2014, the Brooklyn, New York, wireless store became the first Verizon Wireless location to unionize, despite Verizon’s nasty union-busting campaign, and those CWA workers have also ratified the new contract Aug. 4.

Flint Verizon Wireless retail worker David Vanderstelt said, “. . . from speaking with my fellow Verizon workers in Washington and Oregon, I know this toxic culture isn’t unique to Flint — it’s an issue at Verizon retail stores across the country. With our growing union momentum, I know we can build a better Verizon, both for ourselves and our customers.” (laborpress.org/44289-2/)

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