Labor Roundup | September 2019

Miners block train to demand stolen wages. For days last month, Kentucky miners and their families occupied a railroad track, blocking a train that’s loaded with coal the workers dug out of the earth and never got paid for. Mine owner Blackjewel LLC unexpectedly shut down and filed for bankruptcy, and miners’ next-to-last paychecks bounced.

The miners also weren’t properly notified of the closure, so they couldn’t verify their status and were initially rejected for jobless benefits, and workers reported that Blackjewel apparently hadn’t reported miners’ wages to Social Security all year.

Area residents rallied around the sit-in, making donations to help pay utility bills and bringing food and water, tents and portable toilets and even a generator to protestors.

Communications Workers blast GOP tax cut as corporate giveaway and called for rich to pay their fair share. The Communications Workers of America at its July convention demanded lawmakers force the rich to “pay their fair share” by repealing the 2017 tax cut and taxing Wall Street speculators.

Delegates also censured President Donald Trump for his racism, xenophobia and threats to four progressive Congresswomen.

“CWA supports tax policies that require corporations and the wealthy to pay their fair share to provide adequate revenue to support programs that benefit the working class, provide vital government services and support good jobs for public employees,” the CWA said. “CWA supports a Wall Street sales tax on transactions of stocks, bonds and derivatives to discourage speculative financial trading that can harm the economy, and legislation to ban corporate stock buybacks. This would make our tax system more fair and put the brakes on corporate greed.”

Staffing, security woes force University of Chicago nurses to picket. Fed up with short staffing, security concerns and lack of progress on talks for a new contract, hundreds of nurses at the University of Chicago Medical Center picketed the sprawling complex this summer to tell patients and the public about the problems and force the employer to bargain in good faith.

National Nurses United represents the 2,300 RNs at the center, which includes Billings Hospital, the University of Chicago Hospital and several other institutions.

“We are committed to providing patients with the very best care possible on all shifts,” RN Johnny Webb said.
NNU is demanding nurse-patient ratios like California mandates by law, but the hospital rejected the proposal. Nurses’ previous contract expired in April.

Trump is a danger to democracy, NEA said. President Donald Trump endangers democracy, disqualifying him from office, much less an endorsement from the nation’s largest union, said Lily Eskelsen-Garcia, president of the 3.2-million-member National Education Association (NEA).

“We need a new president who will respect our democracy, who serves all the people including the ones who don’t have a membership to Mar-a-Lago,” said the Salt Lake City teacher. “Donald Trump is pushing our beautiful, imperfect nation toward authoritarianism and despotism.”

Progressive lawmakers push national domestic workers rights. Saying it’s time to stand up for millions of domestic workers, the co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus and a top Democratic presidential contender are co-sponsoring a domestic workers’ rights bill. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., would bring job equity to one of the nation’s most-exploited groups of workers including maids, house cleaners, nannies and home health-care assistants.

A comparable Domestic Workers Bill of Rights was approved in Illinois and eight other states.

“Domestic workers do the work most precious to us: Caring for our homes and loved ones. But they don’t have the basic rights and dignity they deserve,” said Ai-Jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. “Home care workers, nannies and house cleaners have been excluded from basic labor protections.”

AFT’s Weingarten and college grads take on DeVos. After 2 ½ years of battling anti-teacher Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten has had it. And so have cheated college graduates. So they teamed up to take DeVos to court.

In a July filing with the U.S. District Court in D.C., the AFT president and eight graduates who’d pledged to public service and/or teaching, demanded due process and the right to appeal before DeVos’ department can improperly saddle them with student debt. They’re seeking a settlement for all 32 million graduates who are or will be in public-service jobs. Only 518 have had their loans forgiven.

DeVos “vindictively and illegally blocked the graduates’ path into the middle class” even as those grads entered public service, Weingarten said. She called DeVos’s actions “deliberate sabotage” that “pauperized” the grads who want to serve the public.

“Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a right, but Betsy DeVos has turned it into a crapshoot,” Weingarten concluded.

News briefs courtesy of The Labor Paper

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