Labor News

March 1, 2021

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(This article first appeared in the March/April 2021 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

1,400 Warehouse Workers and Drivers in New York Win Raise After Strike

On January 17, around 1,400 members of Teamsters Local 202 who work at Hunts Point Produce Market in The Bronx, NY went on strike after management refused to meet workers’ demands for desperately-needed pay raises and additional health care support. Following the six-day strike, workers voted over 97 percent in favor of a new three-year contract. The collective bargaining agreement includes a wage increase over the course of the contract above the workers’ initial demand and additional health benefits at no additional costs to workers.

The strike, the first at Hunts Point since 1986, saw strong solidarity from fellow union members and some elected officials, gaining national attention. Train conductors, who are fellow Teamsters, refused to cross the picket line and stopped the delivery of over 21 train cars of merchandise on January 20. Additionally, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14), New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and New York State Assembly member Amanda Septimo joined workers on the picket line. The warehouse workers and drivers at Hunts Point are responsible for handling over 60 percent of all produce in New York City. Workers were poorly paid in one of the most expensive cities in the country, all while risking their safety and health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s been different this year with the pandemic, and actually seeing and knowing some of your friends that you’ve worked with in here for 28 years die, and then have friends of yours not coming to work because they’re home quarantined, sick, makes a big difference,” Hunts Point worker Francisco Flores told Gothamist/WNYC.

Now that the workers won a strong new contract, they hope the strike becomes an inspiration for other essential workers struggling during the pandemic.

“Workers [took] their fate in their hands, and decide[d] to put their hands together to fight for a better tomorrow,” said Teamsters Local 202 President Daniel Kane Jr. “I’m hoping that that will resonate with workers throughout this country.”

Public Workers Strike in Myanmar Following Military Coup

On February 1, Myanmar’s military overthrew the country’s democratically elected government. Myanmar’s governing party, the National League for Democracy, had recently won a landslide in a parliamentary election, but the military launched a coup on false claims of electoral fraud on the day the new legislative session was set to begin.

After the military’s illegal deposition of the country’s elected leaders, crackdowns began across the country, with hundreds of pro-democracy supporters arrested in the days immediately following the coup. As the military presence increased in Myanmar’s biggest cities, the people, led by public workers, immediately mobilized to act against the unlawful overthrow of the government.

Beginning with doctors on February 5, the protest movement quickly spread to railway workers, power plant workers and students. By February 14, hundreds of thousands of civilians joined the strike against the coup. The civil disobedience movement has gained steam even as the military cut internet access and increased the presence of armored vehicles and water cannons in the country’s largest city of Yangon.

The strikes are ongoing as this issue goes to press. More information will be provided on as the situation develops.

Historic Union Election Begins at Bessemer, AL Amazon Warehouse

In the last issue of the American Postal Worker, we reported on the union drive at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, AL. In November, The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) filed a petition for an election with the NLRB, and while Amazon argued to delay the election during hearings, the NLRB ruled against the company, allowing the election to proceed in early 2021.

Following the RWDSU’s filing, the union drive has captured national attention for both its significance – the 5,800-worker election is the first at the notoriously anti-union company since 2014 – and the lengths Amazon has gone to prevent a union from forming at the Bessemer warehouse.

Following the RWDSU’s initial victory in preventing a delay of the election, Amazon pushed to have the election held in-person at the facility, even as the COVID-19 positivity rate in the area rose above 5 percent. The NLRB denied the company’s petition, ruling that the election would take place entirely by mail. Ballots were sent to workers at the end of February, and are due on March 29.

Amazon has waged a ferocious campaign to defeat the union. The company, represented by the infamous unionbusting law firm Morgan Lewis, launched an anti-union campaign at the warehouse, harassing workers with multiple text messages per day and forcing them to attend anti-union meetings.

“Some of the young people are kind of confused. They’re afraid because Amazon told them in the meeting that if you get the union, your benefits will be taken away,” said warehouse employee Jennifer Bates, in a video from More Perfect Union. “It’s just not true.”

The company posted anti-union flyers everywhere in the building, including in bathroom stalls. It took the unprecedented step of lobbying the city government to shorten the stoplight times outside the warehouse to prevent RWDSU organizers from having time to speak with workers as they waited at red lights.

However, organizers have been undeterred by Amazon’s tactics, and have kept organizing workers ahead of the vote. “[Amazon] is continuing to keep them down, and that’s not something we’re going to allow,” RWDSU Organizer Michael Foster said. “We’re going to stay here, we’re going to continue to fight, continue to help, and do whatever we think is necessary.”

When the results of the election are published, we will update this story on

Fast Food Workers Strike as Lawmakers Debate Raising Minimum Wage in COVID-19 Relief Bill

On February 16, fast food workers in over 15 cities across the U.S. engaged in a one-day strike for a $15/ hour minimum wage, demanding a raise from the current $7.25/hour that has remained unchanged since 2009.

The work stoppage, organized by workers in the Fight for 15 campaign, took place purposefully during Black History Month to bring attention to the inequity faced by Black and Latino minimum wage workers. According to the Economic Policy Institute, raising the minimum wage to $15/hour would increase income for nearly one in three Black workers. Black or Latina women would be 23 percent of workers who could see a boost in wages.

“This Black History Month, we have a chance to make our own history by winning a living wage of at least $15 an hour and lifting millions of families out of poverty,” Taiwanna Milligan, a McDonald’s worker from South Carolina, told the Guardian. “I’m striking today because I need at least $15 an hour to survive, and because I know the only way to make change is to stand up, speak out, and demand it.”

The strike took place as federal lawmakers debated including the Raise the Wage Act in the $1.9 billion COVID-19 relief bill under consideration as this issue goes to press. The bill would increase the federal minimum wage to $15/hour by 2025, and adjust the minimum wage each year thereafter to keep pace with growth in the median wage. The bill would also phase out the subminimum wage – currently $2.13/hour – for tipped workers.

Like the rest of the COVID-19 relief package, the Raise the Wage Act can realistically only be passed through the budget reconciliation process that would allow the Senate to avoid a filibuster and pass the legislation with 51 votes. The Biden administration has signaled its desire to include the minimum wage rise in the final bill.

3/6 Update: Both the House of Representatives and Senate passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan stimulus package. However, while the House passed the $15/hour minimum wage, the provision did not pass in the Senate and was not included in the final version of the bill.

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