Labor Roundup | May 2020

NY Mayor Bill de Blasio orders probe of Amazon firing protesting worker Christian Smalls, who organized a walkout to demand greater protections against coronavirus for warehouse workers. About 15 workers participated in the walkout at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse after reports that employees there had tested positive for COVID-19. “The allegation is because he spoke up for the safety of his fellow workers he was fired,” de Blasio said. “If so, that would be a violation of our city human-rights law.”

General Electric factory workers demanding to make medical ventilators walked off the job March 30 and demanded GE convert its jet-engine factories to help health-care workers. GE employees stood six feet apart silently protesting at GE’s Lynn, Mass., facility and the corporation’s Boston headquarters.

“If GE trusts us to build, maintain and test engines which go on a variety of aircraft where millions of lives are at stake, why wouldn’t they trust us to build ventilators?” said Jake Aguanaga, president of local 86004 of the Industrial Division of Communication Workers of America (IUE-CWA).

Pandemic claims two UAW members in Michigan, Indiana. Two Fiat Chrysler workers and members of the United Auto Workers at plants in Kokomo, Ind., and Sterling Heights, Mich., succumbed to COVID-19, the union confirmed. Company officials declined to comment.

Guild wants to save newspapers. Declaring that reliable information and covering every level and every issue from the federal government to city councils is vital, the News Guild is campaigning to save newspapers. The coronavirus pandemic, which has killed thousands, made an extremely bad situation dire, the union said.

While social media have exploded, U.S. newspapers have shrunk in size, revenue and numbers.

Papers are in a bind: trying to inform readers about a pandemic while dealing with closures, layoffs and pay cuts – including slashes for any journalist making more than $38,000 yearly at the biggest, partly unionized Gannett chain, owner of the Journal Star and most Illinois newspapers.

The union, a CWA sector, is campaigning for “government subsidies for newspapers in the form of public-service ad buys and direct support, and is going to put forth a marketing and lobbying effort at the federal and local levels — the first time TNG has tried anything of the kind,” the Guild said.

Illinois may vote on constitutional ban on “Right-To-Work.” Two Democratic lawmakers are proposing a state constitutional amendment to ban the phony “Right-To-Work” law in Illinois.

Sen. Ram Villivalam, D-Chicago, and Rep. Lance Yednock, D-Ottawa and a member of Operating Engineers Local 150, sponsored such a prohibition approved last year but are behind the amendment, because it’s more difficult to overturn.

“Right-To-Work” measures criminalize labor contracts. Workers should either join the union or at least pay fees for the union’s negotiating efforts on behalf of all workers.

Union asks Congress to remember jobless musicians. American Federation of Musicians Ray Hair is asking jobless members to seek unemployment benefits and lobbying Congress not to forget musicians as it works on the next coronavirus aid bill, to ensure musicians aren’t left out on the streets when they lose gigs due to the pandemic.

“We will get through this by standing together in solidarity,” Hair said.

News briefs courtesy of The Labor Paper

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