Labor News

November 17, 2020

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(This article first appeared in the November/December 2020 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

Asheville, NC Nurses Win Largest Hospital Union Victory Since 1975

On Sept. 17, registered nurses (RNs) at Mission Hospital in Asheville, NC won their union election in a landslide, with nearly 70 percent of votes cast in favor. Over 1,800 nurses at the hospital will now be represented by the National Nurses Union (NNU), following a year-long campaign to win collective bargaining rights.

The victory is a major landmark for labor in the South. According to the NNU, the election win is the first for any private sector hospital in North Carolina, and the largest hospital union victory in the South since 1975. Additionally, the victory is the largest union election win of any kind in the South in 12 years.

During the union drive, nurses faced strong anti-union activity from the hospital owner HCA, the largest hospital system in the country. Mission RNs were forced to wait six months for the NLRB election and conduct the campaign during the dangerous circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following HCA’s takeover of Mission two years ago, cost-cutting measures led to larger nurse-to-patient ratios, and patient care became more difficult as large numbers of hospital staff were let go. The pandemic not only reinforced the difficult situation for RNs at the hospital, but also fostered strong solidarity between nurses, as they fought for strong health protections in the midst of the union campaign.

“We fought together through petitions, actions to address our concerns over patient care conditions, and the need for better protection against the virus and we were able to win victories,” said Amy Waters, a pediatric ICU RN. “Staying active kept our unity, and the promise of a collective voice to win greater improvements.”

Following the election victory, Mission RNs will now turn to negotiating their first union contract. “This victory is just the beginning,” said Alex Kimbro, a recovery room RN at Mission. “We are looking forward to bargaining for a fair contract to improve patient safety, as well as competitive wages to keep Asheville nurses working here in our community. We are more than ready to win the next chapter too.”

Philadelphia Teachers Win Strong Tentative Agreement Following Strike Threat

On Oct. 21, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) won a tentative agreement on a oneyear contract, after tense negotiations followed the previous contract’s expiration on August 31. The 13,000-member union, affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), won pay raises and preserved step increases as part of the contract.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Philadelphia has maintained remote schooling, but, as this issue goes to press, plans to gradually reopen in-person classes in November. When the Philadelphia School District attempted to strong-arm the union into accepting an unsatisfactory safety plan for reopening, PFT President Jerry Jordan planned to call for a strike authorization vote. If the strike had occurred, it would have been the first for Philadelphia teachers in decades. Instead, the union won strong safety terms following the strike threat.

The PFT’s strike threat follows the July 28 resolution passed by the National AFT Executive Board that supported the use of strikes as a last resort to protect students and educators during the COVID-19 pandemic. After the success of dozens of teachers and school worker strikes throughout 2018-2019, education employees are reaping the benefits of that collective power. School boards across the country know the vote to strike is not an empty threat.

Association of Flight Attendants-CWA Demand #ReliefNow as Payroll Support Program Expires

In the May/June issue of the American Postal Worker, we reported on the inclusion of the Payroll Support Program (PSP) in the CARES Act stimulus package signed into law in March. The $32 billion fund kept airline workers in their jobs as the industry saw steep declines in demand during the pandemic. However, the PSP expired on Sept. 30, and as a result, airlines began furloughing tens of thousands of workers.

Throughout the summer and fall, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA) lobbied legislators to pass an extension to the PSP, and gained majority support in both
chambers of Congress. However, as this issue goes to press, negotiations to extend the program as part of a further stimulus package and as a standalone bill have stalled.

In response, AFA-CWA members organized #ReliefNow actions in cities across the country, including Washington, DC; Newark, NJ; Chicago, IL; Toledo, OH; Philadelphia
and Allentown, PA; Atlanta, GA; Seattle, WA; Charlotte, NC; Salt Lake City, UT; Houston and Dallas, TX; Miami and Orlando, FL; Cleveland, OH; Detroit, MI; Minneapolis, MN;
Denver, CO; and Los Angeles, CA. AFA members rallied with members of the public, other union members, and allied organizations to demand an extension to PSP and support for furloughed airline workers.

“Now is the time. There is no retroactivity that Congress can apply to the human toll caused by delayed relief,” wrote AFA-CWA President Sara Nelson in a letter to Congress
on Oct. 20. “Inaction is simply not an option when we can keep people in their homes, lock-in enhanced unemployment, direct checks, support for jobs and services we count on in our cities, and our small businesses.”

APWU members are encouraged to join the #ReliefNow effort and contact their members of Congress and senators to demand a PSP extension. More information is available

Bolivian Labor Unions Lead the Struggle to Restore Democracy


Bolivia has some of the greatest mineral wealth in Latin America, yet remains one of its poorest countries. It has one of the largest lithium reserves in the Americas. Lithium is the key resource in fueling the electric car batteries of the future.

Elon Musk, the billionaire anti-union cofounder and CEO of Tesla, the premier U.S. electric car manufacturer, stated in July 2020 that “we will coup whoever we want.”

He was referring to the violent militarybacked October 2019 coup in Bolivia, which overthrew the democratic-socialist Evo Morales-led popular government. Over 14 years, the Morales government tripled the GDP, reduced the poverty rate by half and nationalized a number of industries including oil and gas (with plans to nationalize thelithium mines) with the financial benefits used to uplift the population.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka joined international labor organizations “in condemning the military interference in Bolivia’s election process.” Trumka shared that, “Morales reduced widespread poverty and fought for the inclusion of the indigenous majority. Bolivians must be able to vote peacefully and freely in new elections.”

Morales, who had formally been an agricultural workers union leader, was driven into exile and the pro-corporate Jeanine Anez was “appointed” as interim president. Responding to strong protests following the coup, she promised to hold new elections in January 2020. This promise was reneged upon numerous times.

Labor unions of Bolivia, including the Federation of Miners, began to mobilize against the delays of a new election. Bolivian union members, along with thousands of peasants and indigenous people mobilized mass protests, including bringing the country to a standstill with roadblocks and mass marches to force the long-promised new election. In response to the protests, and threats by the Bolivian Trade Union Center for a general strike, the Legislative Assembly finally set October 18 as the date for the general election.

Luis “Lucho” Arce, the former Minister of Economy under the Morales government, handily won the election with 55% of the vote. The workers and the people have ensured the restoration of democracy.

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