On the Picket Line

Ascension nurses locked out

National Nurses United represents the nurses at Ascension-Seton Medical Center. According to NNU, the Catholic “nonprofit,” with hospitals in Austin, Texas and Wichita, Kansas, holds “$19.5 billion in cash reserves, an investment arm that manages $41 billion, and a private equity operation worth $1billion.”

Ascension-Seton is resorting to union-busting tactics, proving claims by staff nurses that management doesn’t give them the respect they deserve.


As a way to draw attention to the dire patient care situation due to poor staffing ratios and retention rates, the nurses held a one day strike on June 27. In response, the hospital administrators locked out the nurses for four days.

Picture nurses in scrubs, ready to get back to their patients’ bedsides, their entry blocked by security guards and administrators at the hospital entrance! These are the same nurses who have daily risked their lives during the pandemic to care for the sickest COVID-19 patients.

Ascension-Seton administrators bar nurses from returning to patients’ bedsides, July 28, 2023, Austin, Texas.

The union has filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, but that will likely have little impact. The hospital corporation has hired union-busting law firms. It doesn’t look like the bosses have had a change of heart when it comes to the nurses’ demands around staffing ratios.

One other point worth mentioning:  Some “travel” nurses, contracted to replace striking nurses, were reportedly refusing to cross the picket line in solidarity with the hospital staff nurses. Kansas and Texas nurses will resume negotiations this month.

Wabtec Locomotive strike 

The 1,400 locomotive manufacturing workers, members of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (UE), care more about the environment and the climate crisis than the capitalists who own the Wabtec Locomotive company in Erie, Pennsylvania. UE Local 506 represents the factory workers, while UE Local 618 represents clerical workers at the plant. They are striking the plant over their right to strike over grievances during the life of the contract, a right which would ensure them a measure of control over conditions on the shop floor.

The union has represented workers at the plant, formerly owned by General Electric, since 1938. Wabtec assumed ownership of the Fortune 500 company in 2019 and strong-armed the union into giving up valuable grievance procedures during the first contract negotiations. Now, the workers are demanding those grievance procedures be reinstated, demonstrating on the picket line that they mean business!

The UE locals are also demanding that Wabtec pivot operations to “green” locomotive manufacturing. That will cut down on harmful engine emissions and provide job security for the “green” transition. Negotiations have yielded few results so far, but the struggle continues.

Boston, Los Angeles hotel workers demand raises, citing high housing costs

Encore Boston Harbor casino and hotel workers are celebrating their victory after  ratifying a new contract with Wynn Resorts, hours before they were set to strike.

Unite Here Local 26 won major economic gains — including a pension and access to legal, education and housing resources  — for the casino’s 1,200 bartenders, cooks, front desk agents, baggage and door attendants and housekeepers. Along with wage and benefit upgrades, the contract eases disciplinary restrictions for lateness and absenteeism. 

The victory also uplifted 200 drivers and warehouse workers represented by Teamsters Local 25, who won the same contract after vowing to strike with Local 26.

Meanwhile, 1,500 hotel workers, members of Unite Here Local 11, have held two strikes demanding pay raises at 60 hotels in Los Angeles in July.

The high cost of housing in these two towns, both of which attract large numbers of tourists, makes it difficult for workers to live near their place of employment. 

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