Labor Roundup | January 2019

Senators to Verizon, subcontractor: End pregnancy discrimination. Nine U.S. Senators, led by Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, have demanded that Verizon and the subcontractor running its Memphis warehouse, XPO Logistics, answer published details about unusually high levels of pregnancy discrimination there – and take steps to stop it.

In a letter, the group also is demanding details of both firms’ policies on legal accommodations for temporarily disabled, pregnant workers and policies for preventing pregnancy discrimination.

The demand follows a New York Times story a month before about working conditions at XPO’s Memphis warehouse where workers pack and ship Verizon devices.

Supported by the Communications Workers, who represent most Verizon workers, and the Teamsters, who represent some XPO workers, the lawmakers reminded both companies they hold federal contracts and that federal law comes down particularly hard on federal contractors who discriminate on the basis of pregnancy.

Besides Democrats Blumenthal and Warren, Democratic Sens. Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Tina Smith (Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) and Tammy Baldwin (Wis.) plus independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont signed the letters.

Labor racked up ballot-box wins. After November’s miderm election, most coverage tended to be about a handful of high-profle national races, but a deep dive into results shows that union members – and key union supporters – racked up significant wins.

Teachers’ activism was key to several victories. Hundreds of NEA and AFT members nationwide ran for offices from governor on down. The unionists who won include active unionist Tim Walz (Minnesota’s next governor); former Minnesota state AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Julie Blaha (another teacher, Minnesota’s new state auditor); Jahana Hayes (a teacher and Connecticut’s first African-American female U.S. Representative); United Auto Workers Region 9A president Julie Kushner (a new Connecticut State Senator); teacher Kathy Huffman (Arizona’s next Superintendent of Public Instruction); News Guild-CWA member Elissa Silverman and Teachers (AFT) member Ruth Wattenberg (who both won re-election to the City Council and school board in Washington, D.C., respectively); union nurse Rachel Prusak (a new Oregon State Representative); Office and Professional Employees member Kyle Allen won re-eelection to the Hillsboro, Ore., City Council; and Teamsters winning in the Bay Area, with Lori Frugoli (the new Marin County District Attorney), Esther Lemus (a new member of Windsor’s Town Council), and Demnlus Johnson III (an incoming Richmond City Councilman).

Non-unionist friends of labor also prevailed, including Tony Thurmond (California’s next State Superintendent); Teamster-backed William Ihlenfeld (a new State Senator in West Virginia); John Doyle (a new State Representative in West Virginia); Anna Williams (a new Oregon State Representative); Faith Winter (a new Colorado State Senator); Amy Schumer Goodwin (incoming mayor of Charleston, W.Va., where the city council will seat two new labor-backed members, Caitlin Cook and Jennifer Pharr); and Heather Buch, who walked a picket line with striking AFSCME workers in Lane County, Ore., won a seat on the County Commission.

Barber to House Dems: restore voting rights. U.S. House Democrats must use their new majority in the next Congress to restore voting rights and to investigate and expose ills besetting the country, the Rev. William Barber says.

Barber, co-leader of the New Poor People’s Campaign and founder of the Moral Mondays movement that’s spread to other states from his native North Carolina, said exposing problems can unite African-American and white workers.

Barber says Dems should start the new Congress with the legislation and the probes into former Attorney General “Jeff Sessions and what he did on voter suppression and on child abduction at the U.S.-Mexico border,” Barber said, “and pass universal health care.”

“They should show how voter suppression, the lack of a minimum wage increase, and the lack of health insurance is impacting everyone state by state and race by race,” Barber said.

Workers at Texas’s top independent bookstore unionize. Workers at Texas’s largest independent bookstore, BookPeople, in Austin, have gone union. By an overwhelming margin, they voted to be represented by the Office and Professional Employees.

“The group of 80 booksellers, event staff and inventory managers at the Austin bookstore are devoted to creating a thriving business for their community. They sought to unionize to ensure that includes a dignified living and voice in the workplace for all BookPeople employees,” OPEIU said.

City Council member Greg Casar said, “These brave employees stood up for themselves, their families and our whole community by joining Local 277. The BookPeople staff are protecting the values we love in Austin: fairness, creativity and opportunity.”

Patrick Watson, a BookPeople inventory manager, added, “We are so excited to get this win. BookPeople workers were organizing months before we contacted OPEIU, and to see our efforts finally lead to representation is exhilarating. Now we’re ready to go into negotiations with the same energy and passion we’ve had from the beginning.

News briefs courtesy of The Labor Paper

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