Wave of social unrest in the United States could see tens of thousands of people on strike within weeks | American unions


Tens of thousands of workers in the United States could go on strike in the coming weeks in what would be the biggest wave of social unrest since a series of teacher strikes in 2018 and 2019, which won major victories and gave a significant boost to the American labor movement. .

The unrest spans a wide range of industries, from healthcare to Hollywood and academia, and is largely focused on higher wages, wage cuts, and better working and safety conditions, especially in light of Covid-19.

It is also taking place against the backdrop of an economy that is rebounding from the scorching experience of widespread economic shutdowns during the coronavirus pandemic, but which remains marked by deep inequalities.

However, the pandemic is also seen as potentially a boost for U.S. unions by increasing bargaining power amid intensifying union efforts and labor shortages in some industries.

Approximately 24,000 nurses and other health care workers at Kaiser Permanente in California, represented by the United Nurses Associations of California / Union of Health Care Professionals, vote on strike authorization of October 1 to 10. The union challenged Kaiser Permanente’s 1% pay increase for workers, pay cuts for new staff and benefit cuts in the company’s most recent offer.

“We have exhausted people complaining of mental health issues and PTSD. We are in a situation as a union where we are concerned about the future of nursing, [and] how we recruit and retain nurses and other health professionals, ”said Denise Duncan, President of UNAC / UHCP and RN.

On 700 building engineers at Kaiser Permanente in the San Francisco area are already on strike.

a 3,400 additional health workers in Oregon and 7,400 USW health workers at Kaiser Permanente also announcement strike authorization votes. Other unions representing thousands of workers at the company whose collective agreements are about to expire are considering strike authorization votes.

In an emailed statement, Kaiser Permanente Senior Vice President of Human Resources Arlene Peasnall said: Difficult issues. Instead of abandoning it, in the spirit of the partnership, we ask union leaders to continue to work constructively towards an agreement, rather than calling on nurses and other staff to step away from patients who need it. during this pandemic. “

A nurse at Kaiser Permanente Woodland Hills Medical Center in California holds an electric candle during a candlelight vigil in memory of those lost during the pandemic. Photograph: Valérie Macon / AFP / Getty Images

After four months of negotiations with the Alliance of Film and Television Producers (AMPTP), the International Alliance of Theatrical Employees (IATSE)announcement a strike authorization vote for 60,000 workers in the film and television industry in the United States. If the union goes ahead with the strike, it will be the first among Hollywood production workers since World War II.

Hollywood workers have reported long workdays and dangerous schedules that worsened during the pandemic. Pay rates for many workers remained low, just above the minimum wage in the Los Angeles area, while streaming services and shorter TV series also pushed wages down.

“They wouldn’t have much to film if we weren’t there to build everything for them,” said Joe Martinez, IATSE Local 44 member and special effects technician. “They have to start looking from the point of view of what would happen if we weren’t there. And then it changes the whole dynamic, because there’s no way they’ll have a core product if we weren’t there.

The vote begins Oct. 1, with 75% of delegates from each local union required to vote in favor of authorization to strike. AMPTP argued The IATSE has left a “generous and comprehensive package” on the negotiating table for a strike authorization vote.

Several other major labor groups have voted to allow strikes in the United States while continuing new collective bargaining negotiations, such as 2,000 Frontier Communications workers in California, public transport workers in Beaumont, Texas, and Akron, Ohio, around 450 public works employees in Minneapolis, Minnesota, dining room workers at Northwestern University, and hundreds of group home workers in Connecticut.

Harvard graduate workers and Columbia university currently hold strike authorization votes and Illinois State University graduates have authorized the bargaining team to call for a strike vote.

About 1,100 Alabama coal miners have been on strike for six months and 2000 carpenters in Washington have been on strike since September 16.

September 12, 10,100 John Deere production and warehouse workers in Iowa, Illinois and Kansas, represented by nine locals with United Auto Workers vote 99% in favor of a strike authorization if a new six-year collective agreement is not obtained by negotiation with the company.

After the strike vote, some union members organized a demonstration outside John Deere headquarters in Moline, Ill., regarding the company’s first contract offer.

John Deere's Harvester Works plant in East Moline, Illinois.  The workers protested against the company's first contract offer.
John Deere’s Harvester Works plant in East Moline, Illinois. The workers protested against the company’s first contract offer. Photograph: Daniel Acker / Reuters

Workers at strike authorization meetings say John Deere’s first contract offer included increases in healthcare costs, including premiums and deductibles, ending the no-closure pledge factory in the collective agreement and the reduction of overtime eligibility after eight hours per day so that after exceeding 40 hours per week. The current union contract expired October 1.

“The initial offer is really a slap in the face,” said Chris Larsen, a member of UAW Local 74 in Ottumwa, Iowa, who worked at John Deere for 19 years. “There are a lot of dissatisfied people.

John Deere a reported record profits in 2021, breaking their annual profit record in the first nine months of this year with new profit records set each quarter in 2021 so far. The company reported net profit of $ 4.7 billion on August 2, compared to its previous record profit in 2013 when annual net profit was $ 3.5 billion.

A spokesperson for John Deere declined to comment on the original offer.

Elsewhere, 2,500 nurses and other hospital staff represented by the Communications Workers of America are fighting for a new union deal with Catholic Health at three hospitals in the Buffalo, New York area. At Catholic Health’s Mercy Hospital, 2,000 workers voted 97% in favor of authorizing a strike on October 1, the expiry date of their current contract.

Tina Knop, a nurse at Mercy Hospital, argued that dangerous staff ratios, lack of support staff and shortages of supplies have worsened working conditions during the pandemic and made it more difficult to adequately care for patients. patients.

“What we’re fighting for is to have better staff and Catholic Health to come forward and work harder to actually staff their facilities,” Knop said. “They don’t provide us with support, emotionally or physically, and all they want to do is cut our pay, take away retirement goals, and charge more for our health insurance.”

Cheryl Darling, an immediate treatment assistant at Mercy Hospital, recently tested positive for Covid-19 despite being vaccinated, but only found out through a rapid test she took before visiting to her mother at a local nursing home. She described the chaotic working conditions at the hospital due to a shortage of staff, from housekeepers to nurses, leaving workers struggling to cope with the workload.

“I’m scared to go to work, because I don’t know what my day will be like,” Darling said. “I go to bed the day before work and I’m a little nervous, because I don’t know where they will put me or what my working conditions will be.

In a declarationCatholic Health President Eddie Bratko said, “I want to assure our community that our top priority is the well-being and safety of our patients, and our hospital will remain open and operational during a strike to continue providing safe, high-quality care. “


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