Labor News

November 19, 2019

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(This article first appeared in the November/December 2019 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine) 

CWA Members Strike and Win New Contract

During negotiations for a new contract for over 20,000 of its workers, communications giant AT&T stalled the process. Recognizing the need for an organized response to the company’s unfair labor practices, at midnight on Aug. 24, the workers – members of Communications Workers of America (CWA) – walked out.

Workers held dozens of pickets across the nine states in AT&T’s Southeast region – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Striking workers included customer service representatives and technicians who install, maintain and support the vast telecommunications network in the region.

Four days after the strike began, CWA negotiators emerged with a “handshake deal” on a tentative agreement, bringing the work stoppage to an end. On Oct. 1, CWA announced that its members had ratified the five-year agreement, which provides significant pay raises, as well as improvements in pension, retirement, and job security. The contract also includes no increases to health care costs for workers.

“CWA members in the Southeast were united behind our bargaining team,” said CWA District 3 Vice President Richard Honeycutt. “We were able to negotiate substantial improvements to our contracts because our members were truly willing to do whatever it took, including going on strike to protest the company’s unfair labor practices, in order for us to reach a fair agreement.”

UK Postal Workers Overwhelmingly Vote to Strike Against Royal Mail

In late September, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) held a strike authorization vote for employees of Royal Mail in the United Kingdom. With over three quarters of the members voting, a whopping 97 percent voted to strike. The strike will be the first work stoppage at Royal Mail since the service’s privatization in 2013.

“This [strike] result sends a clear message to Royal Mail Group – our members will not stand by as you rip up their terms and conditions and destroy the service they give to the public and businesses of the UK,” said CWU General Secretary Dave Ward. “We are very proud of our members today. They have stood by their union in record numbers and given hope to workers across the nation.”

The strike authorization comes just a year after CWU and Royal Mail reached agreement on a contract that guaranteed pay raises, shorter work weeks, and protections for workers’ pension plans. However, Royal Mail has failed to live up to their end of the agreement. The company abandoned negotiations to reduce the work week by more than an hour and recently announced plans to split the package business, a move that would lead to thousands of workers losing their jobs. The strike will occur during the run-up to Christmas. Further updates will be provided in the next issue of the American Postal Worker and on

80,000 Kaiser Permanente Workers Win New Contract After Strike Threat

On Sept. 16, almost a year after the expiration of their contract with health care giant Kaiser Permanente, the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions announced that over 98 percent of the 80,000 workers organized in the coalition voted in favor of striking. The strike would have been the largest in the United States since the Teamsters strike against UPS in 1997.

The threat of a strike forced Kaiser to meet the demands of its workers. The coalition announced
a new tentative agreement on Sept. 25.

“Our new contract recognizes the skill and dedication we bring to our work, and the guaranteed raises and protected benefits give us the peace of mind to focus on caring for our patients,” said Jessica Rodriguez, an emergency department technician at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland. “We are also proud to have negotiated an agreement that is focused on the future and making sure patients have access to highly skilled and trained caregivers in the years to come.”

Chicago Education Workers Strike for the Community

On Oct. 17, following months of negotiations that resulted in an impasse, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) employees began a strike with over 30,000 workers hitting the streets.

The successful 2012 Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) strike included only teachers. This time, CTU members were joined on the picket line by around 7,000 members of SEIU Local
73 who make up the support staff in CPS, including bus aides, custodians, and classroom assistants.

After 11 days, CPS finally met the workers’ demands in new five-year contracts for each union. Like the teachers’ strike in Los Angeles earlier in 2019, the CTU/SEIU 73 strike’s central demands concerned the students of CPS. Workers were demanding nurses in every school, smaller class sizes and more funding for counselors – as well as living wages for support staff. Workers also won their demand that the city address housing costs and provide support to the more than 17,000 homeless students in CPS.

“These kids deserve all the resources. They deserve social workers, they deserve psychologists, they deserve therapy, they deserve better meals,” Mueze Bawany, a 12th grade teacher at CPS’s Roberto Clemente High School, told Jacobin. “Bargaining for the collective good makes sense.”

40,000 Child Care Providers Gain Collective Bargaining Rights in California

After a campaign lasting more than 15 years and multiple vetoes on previous legislation from the state’s governors, home-based childcare providers in California have finally won collective bargaining rights. On Sept. 30, Governor Gavin Newsom (D) signed AB-378, the Building a Better Early Care and Education System Act, into law.

Approximately 40,000 workers currently care for children who receive subsidized childcare from the state of California. The law grants those providers the ability to negotiate with the state for pay, quality of care standards, and increases to the subsidy system that has gone underfunded for years.

Currently, the median income for childcare workers receiving government subsidies in California is only $12 an hour, with 58 percent of those workers relying on government assistance programs to support their own families. Only 15 percent of home-based childcare providers receive health care from their job.

While collective bargaining rights are only just now written into law in the state, workers do not have to start from scratch to form a union: many childcare providers in California are already members of Child Care Providers United (CCPU), a statewide partnership between SEIU Locals 99 and 521 and the United Domestic Workers/AFSCME Local 3930.

“This is truly a historic day for childcare providers. This means we will have the power to fundamentally change what it’s like to work in early childhood education in California,” said Carolyn Carpenter, an Oakland family childcare provider and CCPU member. “Every worker should have the opportunity to form a union, no matter what work they do.” 

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