By ERNIE GOTTA
Christmas Eve nurses strike?
About 2500 union nurses, members of Service Employee International Union Local 121, are threatening to strike over work conditions in three Southern California hospitals on Christmas Eve. Hospital workers will still need to wage a fight around safety even as frontline health-care workers begin to get COVID vaccinations. For months, nurses, techs, janitors, and doctors have been subjected to a lack of PPE and unsafe conditions.
Safety, staffing and workload issues impacting safety are the employees’ major concerns. Management’s proposals in negotiations have not shown a clear path to making the workplace safe for staff and patients.
“Those of us on the front lines of this pandemic have witnessed not only the ravages of the disease, but also the chaos manufactured by the hospital’s unwillingness to listen to our recommendations,” said Erin McIntosh, a Rapid Response Nurse at Riverside Community and a Bargaining Team Member. “We decided going into our contract negotiations with HCA that our line in the sand is getting strong pandemic safety guarantees. Union Nurses like me have led on health and safety for decades—AIDS treatment, needle safety, aerosol transmissible disease standards, safe patient handling. This pandemic is no different. Sadly, we often had to fight hospital administrators then, too. But it’s a fight we’re willing to take on for our patients and our profession.”
Aluminum workers walk off the job in Muscle Shoals
Some 400 union workers at the Constellium aluminum production facility are on strike over unfair labor practices in Muscle Shoals, Ala. Members of United Steelworkers Local 200 walked off the job as management failed to offer an acceptable agreement during contract negotiations.
“Constellium insists on a contract that would erase decades of collective bargaining progress on issues like seniority and occupational health and safety in order to give management the unchecked authority to pick and choose exactly who works and when,” said USW District 9 Director Daniel Flippo. “We’re going to fight to hold the company accountable and to win the fair contract that USW members have earned and deserve.”
“Long before Constellium acquired this plant, our union contract made these the kind of jobs that support families and sustain our community,” he said. “We cannot allow the company to take them away.”
Alabama is becoming a hub of class struggle, with new manufacturing and logistics hubs popping up. Workers in Bessemer, Ala., are preparing to hold a vote for union recognition at Amazon. The NLRB has finally ruled to let the vote move forward despite opposition from Amazon. The fight ahead will be difficult and Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) would benefit from building solidarity with the Constellium strike and rallying all of organized labor to their side.
Cleveland Heights teachers win / Dallastown teachers’ strike vote
After walking off the job on Dec. 2 teachers in Cleveland Heights put an end to the impasse in contract negotiations. Despite small concessions teachers won modest pay raises and additional days off.
This was a long hard-fought battle that saw 97% of the workers reject the “final” contract offer in September. As the school administration and AFT Local 795 neared a tentative contract agreement, teachers showed up in mass to begin the strike. Despite the school and union issuing a joint statement that a strike had been averted, it had not reached the teachers. En masse, teachers turned out carrying strike signs on a cold day following a massive snow storm. This action helped push negotiations over the finish line.
A similar situation is developing in Dallastown, Pa. Members of the Dallastown Area Education Association sent notice to the school administration that they authorized a strike for March 16, 2021. Workers have been without a contract since June 30 and have been negotiating since January. President of the DAEA Ellen Connelly says, “We will continue to negotiate in good faith, because a strike is the last thing anybody wants.”
A strike like the one in Cleveland Heights is just what they need to overcome the impasse with the school board. Since 2018, teachers from West Virginia to Los Angeles have shown that withholding your labor is a powerful tool to win good contracts.
Pennsylvania Steelworkers fighting concessions
Since August, United Steelworkers Local 1016 has been on a strike against unfair labor practices in Farrell, Pa. About 400 workers at the NLMK Pennsylvania mill are fighting a company that wants deep concessions around health care and wages.
Little progress has been made in negotiations, as workers are unwilling to make more sacrifices for the bare minimum they need in the middle of a pandemic. Current contract agreements offered to the skilled millwrights, high-precision machine maintenance positions, and electricians would force them to pay high deductibles, adding up to unacceptable out of pocket expenses.
Numerous unions, local farms, and businesses have donated material support for the strike. The local Agway donated refilled propane tanks to help keep strikers warm as Local 1016 maintains the picket line in the cold weather. The Haitian Sensation, a local Caribbean eatery, has donated meals for strikers.
Illustration by General Strike Graphics