Labor Roundup | August 2019

Wayfair workers walk out over company furnishing border camps. Hundreds of employees of the online home-goods company Wayfair in June walked out to protest its involvement in furnishing border camps. Workers at the firm’s Boston headquarters demanded Wayfair stop furnishing a government contractor with beds for detained immigrants.

“We believe the current actions of the United States and their contractors at the Southern border do not represent an ethical business partnership Wayfair should choose to be a part of,” said a letter signed by 547 employees.

Protesters also asked Wayfair to donate $86,000 of the profits it’s made from these sales to Raices, a not-for-profit immigration legal service.

Meanwhile, according to online news source Sludge, 61 other contractors are profiting from Trump’s camps for refugee children, including Heartland Human Care Services of Chicago ($85.5 million) and a residential-care facility in Des Plaines, Ill., operated by the Catholic Church ($15.1 million).

Pro-worker Illinois Legislature, governor approve “barrage” of pro-labor laws. The Democratic-run Illinois legislature and new pro-worker Gov. JB Pritzker have enacted what the St. Louis Labor Tribune called “a barrage” of pro-labor laws.

That’s quite a contrast to the prior four years, when right-wing, anti-worker GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner spent his term trying to destroy workers and unions, battling lawmakers, and refusing to sign a budget unless it included his union-busting schemes. Unlike Rauner, Pritzker led lawmakers to approve a balanced budget by the July 1 deadline, passed the state’s first infrastructure plan in a decade, banned local “Right To Work” laws and other pro-employee measures.

And in a final rebuke to Rauner, Pritzker and AFSCME District Council 31, which represents about 40,000 Illinois workers, agreed on a new contract.

“The Rauner era was one of hostility to working people and chaos in state government,” said Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch. “AFSCME members got through it by standing together and refusing to be bullied.”

Pro-worker Dems bargain to add worker rights to “new NAFTA.” Pro-worker House Democrats, led by veteran Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., opened talks in June with President Trump’s trade negotiator about writing strong and specific worker rights straight into Trump’s “new NAFTA.”

“We have made it clear from Day One there must be changes in the agreement,” DeLauro said.

One reason the lawmakers and unions want the pro-worker requirements written into the trade pact’s text itself is they don’t trust Trump or U.S. multinationals to follow separate laws implementing the new agreement.

Autoworkers narrowly lose again in Chattanooga. In a setback to the Auto Workers’ campaign to organize foreign-owned auto plants in the South, UAW Local 42 lost a second recognition vote at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. The June 14 tally was 48 percent to unionize in a 774-833 vote, a 93-percent turnout.

VW management claimed to be neutral, but supervisors conducted a strong anti-UAW campaign.

Meanwhile, outside special interests ran a community-wide hate campaign against the union, charging the UAW with corruption and questioning what it would do for the workers, and Tennessee’s ruling Republican politicians again threatened the Chattanooga plant would lose state subsidies and tax breaks if workers unionized.

“Our labor laws are broken,” said UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg. “Workers should not have to endure threats and intimidation in order to obtain the right to collectively bargain.”

Unionized nurses charge Univ. of Chicago hospital with patient neglect. Registered nurses have filed complaints with the Illinois Department of Public Health and OSHA against the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) charging the hospital is failing to comply with federal and state laws and thereby jeopardizing patient safety, National Nurses United (NNU) said.

“Nurses across UCMC see every day on every shift that short staffing is causing delays and jeopardizing safe patient care,” Talisa Hardin, a registered nurse in the burn intensive care unit, said.

Besides short-staffing, hospital management fails to uphold federal laws on workplace injuries and state law banning mandatory overtime.

“State and federal laws are put in place to protect the public,” said State Sen. Robert Peters, D-Chicago. “It is greatly disturbing to find that UCMC is flagrantly disregarding statutes designed to protect nurses and patients.”

After strike authorization OKs, unions open bargaining with GE. After many overwhelming local votes to authorize a company-wide strike, bargainers for the 11-union joint coalition representing General Electric workers nationwide opened talks with the firm last month. Adam Kaszynski, President IUE-CWA Local 201 in Lynn, Mass., warned GE that American workers’ new militancy isn’t confined to teachers from coast to coast.

“Since 2018, there has been a shift in the labor movement from bargaining as usual to fighting back,” he said. “It is not lost on this union that we are in a historic moment – and labor must get on the offensive to survive.”

IKEA workers vote to join Machinists union. A group of 186 distribution center workers at IKEA distribution centers in Joliet and Minooka, Ill., have voted to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). The organizing win gives a boost to the IAM’s internationally backed campaign to unionize thousands of IKEA workers. Partnering with the global federation Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI), IAM is building leverage with the world’s largest furniture manufacturer.

The Machinists already represents workers at IKEA facilities in Danville, Va., Perryville, Md., Westampton, N.J., and Savannah, Ga. IAM workers at IKEA expressed support for Illinois IKEA workers, saying the “strong IAM contracts we have negotiated are not just words on paper –– it has given us respect and fair treatment on the job.”

News briefs courtesy of The Labor Paper

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