On the picket line

Immigrant workers hunger strike 

A new hunger strike has broken out at a migrant prison, the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington. The strike of at least 40 immigrants is already in its second week, according to the immigrant solidarity group La Resistencia. 

The strike, the eighth at this detention center, involves many immigrants from India. There are 300-400 detainees in the detention center, and most have been sent there from the Mexican/U.S. border. They are refugees escaping a crisis. 

The strikers want asylum, and they want freedom. They demand to know the status of their cases with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but ICE won’t tell them anything. They are also striking against tortuous conditions at the detention center. 

Previous hunger strikes have successfully pressured the center to release detainees — a victory for strikers. But some have been deported. Hunger strikers say they are willing to strike for as long as it takes. Being an integral part of the working class, these workers need the support of the whole working class.

SLUH nurses strike

Nurses at St. Louis University Hospital (SLUH) are accusing the hospital administration of unfair labor practices, including stalling contract negotiations and outsourcing registered nurse jobs. The nurses are represented by the Nurses National Organizing Committee (NNOC), an arm of National Nurses United (NNU). 

Contract negotiations have dragged on since May 2023. Despite informational pickets and walkouts, SLUH nurses say the hospital is still outsourcing work to temporary agency nurses instead of making the necessary changes to attract and retain permanent staff nurses. Nurse-to-patient staffing ratios have increased since a new hospital opened. This suggests that hospital administrators are absorbing new operational costs by increasing nurses’ workloads in order to preserve the organization’s profit margin.

SLUH nurses stage 24-hour strike on Sept. 25, 2023.

The SLUH nurses’ last labor action took place in December. They walked a picket line in the rain for two days, showing their determination to force the hospital to recognize their commitment to their patients. 

According to emergency room nurse Jessica Tulk RN:  “During the pandemic,  it [the hospital administration] was more focused on glorifying nurses and trying to encourage nurses to maintain. Now it’s become more obvious that they are more concerned with conserving pennies, conserving profits. “One would think that they would want to retain staff, but really it’s become more obvious over the past couple of years that they’re more focused on getting brand new nurses into the hospital who may potentially not have the training and experience. It’s getting to the  point where they’re de-incentivizing people who have been here to stay.” (tinyurl.com/3789e2cx)

As Kelli Allen RN, a cardiac nurse at SLUH, explains: “People are better cared for when we have continuity of care at the bedside, [good] relationships with our physicians and fellow team members, nurses who know the policies and expectations of the job. 

“We want a competitive contract that acknowledges the higher level of care delivered by nurses with higher skill sets here at SLU Hospital, just compensation for the demanding job that nursing is, a package that attracts both new and seasoned nurses, that retains core staff. We hold ourselves to a high standard, because we care about our patients. We wouldn’t be out here in this weather if we did not care. Patients deserve the best care we can deliver.”

Elmwood Taco strike

Elmwood Taco and Sub (ETS) workers successfully organized and voted to unionize in November 2023, and management has retaliated. Undaunted, the workers went on strike Dec. 6 at the popular eatery in Buffalo, New York. They have taken their grievances to the National Labor Relations Board, charging that the company drastically cut hours of fulL-time employees, making it impossible for some workers to pay rent and other expenses. 

Inspired by the Starbucks union drive that began in Buffalo, ETS workers have organized with Workers United, which represents Starbucks workers across the country.

According to ETS worker and union leader Abel Lopez: “ETS workers are going on strike because of the union-busting, the harassment, the drastic cut in hours and unfair treatment in general. We’re going on strike and using our voices to hopefully win this thing and let other people know that it’s not okay to be talked down to or belittled by your employers.” (tinyurl.com/572fdf48)

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