On the picket line

Photo Credit: Vermont AFL-CIO
Staff currently on strike at Goddard College by UAW Local 2322.

Union has a new name

For now, the workers at the National Audubon Society want their union to be called The Bird Union. They will hold a member election to select a new official name, but it will not include any mention of John Audubon, who was an enslaver and a white supremacist. 

The union explained in a statement: “We named our union Audubon for All after our employer, the National Audubon Society. But Audubon was not for all. The organization is named for John James Audubon, a racist white man who enslaved at least nine Black people and contributed to Samuel George Morton’s ‘race science,’ which claimed white superiority over other races ideas criticized at the time and now discredited. 

“Starting today we disavow the name. We will not elevate and celebrate a person who would reject and oppress our union members today. We call on the National Audubon Society to join us.” (birdunion.org, Feb. 22)

But when National Audubon Society CEO Dr. Elizabeth Gray and the Board of Directors later met, they decided to refuse to follow the workers’ example. The union issued this sharp statement in response: “Their decision to double down on celebrating a white supremacist and to continue to brand our good work with his name actively inflicts harm on marginalized communities, including members of our union, who for too long have been excluded from the environmental movement.” (birdunion.org, March 15)

Goddard College staff strike

About 35 members of United Auto Workers Local 2322 — custodians, dining hall, IT, library and financial aid workers at Goddard College — have been on strike since March 24. Their primary demand is a 3% pay increase and $20 an hour minimum pay.

The president of the private college in Vermont, Dr. Dan Hocoy, wants the union to give up its rights to negotiate working conditions in exchange for higher wages. That was unacceptable to the members, so they walked. Especially irritating was that the administration has already received a 3% salary increase, but the workers’ raise will not kick in until July. 

Students, many still on remote status, are feeling the impact of the strike already. Many are having technical difficulties with final projects, with no tech support to help them sort out the glitches before the semester ends. (rutlandherald.com, April 9) 

Hawaii health care workers

Hawaii is definitely not paradise for 500 health care workers at Kaiser’s Maui Health System. They have been on strike at three hospitals since Feb. 22. 

The United Public Workers (UPW), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 646 members include nurse’s aides, respiratory therapists, cooks and housekeepers. All perform vital services to maintain the well-being and safety of patients at Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital – both on the island of Maui – and Lanai Community Hospital on Lanai. 

Hazardous conditions at the hospitals, which are being reported on social media, prove how essential the workers are. Wages and safe working conditions are what the workers want. The rank and file rejected the administration’s latest offer because it came up short of the union’s demands. 

After the failed March 20 negotiations, UPW explained the strike’s continuance: “The latest proposed wage increases still leave many skilled employees making less than the market rate and do not keep up with the inflation rate. The employer has proven time and time again that they have money for traveling staff but spare none for the loyal local families that serve their community. Although frontline workers put their lives at risk through the pandemic, hospital management repeatedly fails to do what’s right and give them the respect they deserve.” (stateofreform.com, March 28)

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