Working In These Times

Tuesday, Mar 3, 2015, 1:17 pm  ·  By Gerard Di Trolio

After Rejecting Proposed Contract, University of Toronto Teaching Assistants Go On Strike

At a recent mass membership meeting, University of Toronto teaching assistants voted to reject a proposed contract and go on strike.  

A version of this post first appeared at rankandfile.ca.

On Friday evening, University of Toronto graduate student teaching assistants (TAs) overwhelmingly voted at a mass meeting of over 1,000 people to reject a tentative agreement reached between their union, CUPE Local 3902, and the university’s administration earlier that day. Approximately 6,000 Unit 1 TAs are now on strike and pickets began on Monday.

Contract faculty at U of T who are part of Local 3902 Unit 3 reached a tentative agreement on February 18. The agreement was presented for a recommendation of ratification on March 2, and will take place over the course of the week. The key issue for Unit 3 was job security, and Local 3902 Chair Dr. Erin Black says the tentative agreement addresses this.

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Monday, Mar 2, 2015, 3:00 pm  ·  By Geoff Gilbert

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers Takes Aim at Wendy’s

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has forced some of the nation's largest corporations to protect farmworkers.   (jankypic / Flickr)

Having received a Presidential Medal in January for its efforts to combat modern-day slavery, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, or CIW, and its Campaign For Fair Food hit the road this month as part of its “Boot the Braids” campaign against Wendy’s. The tour spanned colleges and universities throughout the Northeast and Midwest to educate students, as well as create and solidify campus campaigns aimed at pressuring Wendy’s to join the CIW’s Fair Food Program, the only industry-wide social responsibility program in U.S. agriculture.

Wendy’s is the last holdout of the big five fast food corporations—McDonald’s, Burger King, Yum Brands! and Subway—from the program, which has extended the Fair Food Code of Conduct to more than 30,000 workers, who make up over 90 percent of the Florida tomato industry. The many improbable successes of the CIW offer important lessons for countless other campaigns, especially those by low-wage workers in other industries.

The strength of the CIW, and perhaps the reason why corporations are treating it differently than the fast food workers, comes down to the organization’s sophisticated organizing strategy. 

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Monday, Mar 2, 2015, 1:34 pm  ·  By David Goodner

In Wisconsin’s Battle Against Right to Work, Labor Goes Through the Motions

Two thousand union members packed the state capitol lawn in Madison on Saturday, but attendance was a far cry from the 100,000 who marched weekly during the thick of the Wisconsin uprising in 2011.   (David Goodner)

Over two thousand angry workers marched around the Wisconsin state capitol on a frigid Saturday afternoon February 28 to denounce Wisconsin governor and leading GOP presidential candidate Scott Walker’s latest round of union-busting legislation. But a bitter sense of inevitably was thick in the air.

It’s a bitterness to which the Left has become accustomed. And if organized labor continues to make the same mistakes they have made in Wisconsin over the last four years, the defeats will likely keep coming.

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Friday, Feb 27, 2015, 5:12 pm  ·  By David Moberg

With State Senate’s Approval, Right to Work Looks All But Certain in Wisconsin

Pro-union protestors gathered outside of Wisconsin's state capitol earlier this week to oppose a right-to-work bill, which at this point appears to be an all but done deal. (Preston Austin / Flickr)  

MADISON, WISCONSIN—Against the wishes of thousands of angry constituents in two days of protests outside the state capitol building this week, the Wisconsin state senate late Wednesday night voted 17 to 15 in favor of a “right-to-work” law. Only one Republican, a former union member from the northern woodlands of the state, joined all Democratic senators in voting against the anti-union law that the Republican leadership has rushed through an “extraordinary session.”

If the Assembly approves the bill next week—and with a GOP margin of 63 to 36, larger than in the Senate, it is almost certainly expected to do so—Gov. Scott Walker has promised to sign it, giving a former union stronghold the dubious distinction of becoming the 25th state to pass such legislation.

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Friday, Feb 27, 2015, 11:31 am  ·  By Kevin Solari

Wisconsin Union-busting Gov. Scott Walker Says Fighting Union Members Is Like Fighting ISIS

Walker addressing community college students in Wisconsin, assumedly pleading with them not to join a labor union after they graduate because union members are no different than terrorists. (Gateway Technical College / Flickr)  

Every governor that wants to be president needs to exhibit their foreign policy street cred. Sarah Palin's attempts compelled the world to learn the proximity of Wasilla, Alaska, to Russia in 2008. Scott Walker made a similarly telling gaffe this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland.

Walker, not grasping that his presidential aspirations mean people will pay attention to what he says, compared the Wisconsin protests of 2011 to the Islamic State, or ISIS, surprising no one with the level of disdain he feels for public employees.

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Friday, Feb 27, 2015, 11:00 am  ·  By Mekdes Ferguson

Holyoke Teachers Union President: ‘We Will Not Let Them Take Over Our Schools’

The girl speaking is Holyoke High School senior Rachel Hall who is interviewed in our article. The picture was from the January 15 community meeting.   Reclaim Our Schools/Reclamar Nuestras Escuelas

Holyoke, a small city of 40,000 in Western Massachusetts, has become a major battleground in the conflict playing out across the nation between democratic control of public schools and top-down “education reform.”

Residents of this working-class city of color have banded with the teachers union to fight back against what they see as misguided attempts by the state to wrest away local control of their schools and impose reforms. Now, the community-labor alliance faces its biggest test yet: a threatened takeover of the entire district.

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Thursday, Feb 26, 2015, 4:43 pm  ·  By Andrew Mortazavi

At 100 Colleges Around the Country, Adjuncts Take Action to Demand an End to Precarity and Low Pay

Adjuncts and their supporters rally at Temple University in Philadelphia. (Joe Piette / Flickr)  

Yesterday, adjunct faculty members at over 100 college campuses carried out coordinated demonstrations as part of National Adjunct Walkout Day. Adjuncts aimed to draw attention to low pay, exploitative working conditions, and a lack of job security. They organized walkouts, “teach-ins,” and rallies to push for part-time academic workers’ rights and greater visibility.

While specific goals varied among activists, most adjuncts organizing around the event are demanded better pay, more job security, and access to benefits.

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Thursday, Feb 26, 2015, 4:08 pm  ·  By Jonathan Brozdowski

After Anti-Union Violence Exposed, Bangladesh Garment Workers Win Victory Against Apparel Companies

The country's labor movement has been in the international spotlight ever since the Rana Plaza factory collapse in April 2013.   (Rijans / Flickr)

After weeks of negotiations, Western companies have agreed to resume business with a Bangladeshi apparel maker on the condition that it would bargain with, and cease beating, union leaders.

Late last year, as reported by Steven Greenhouse and Hiroko Tabuchi in the New York Times, closed-circuit camera footage emerged of a female union leader being swarmed and assaulted, only three months after a female union president was severely beaten over the head with an iron rod. Both incidents occurred at factories owned by the Azim Group, which reports employing 27,000 workers. Despite allegations by Workers United, the main union for garment workers in the U.S., of company involvement in the attacks, Azim could not be proven to be responsible.

However, according to Greenhouse and Tabuchi’s story, the VF Corporation, producer of the Wrangler, Nautica, Timberland and North Face brands, informed Azim it would terminate their relationship unless it took strong steps by December 31 to guarantee worker rights and ensure violence against union leaders would cease. Azim’s agreement to cover both the medical bills of the beaten union leader and the full back pay of several union officials returning to work, along with several other measures, seemed to pacify Western companies and prevent contract termination with Azim as of February 18. 

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Thursday, Feb 26, 2015, 3:30 pm  ·  By Kevin Solari

Good News for New York’s Tipped Workers: Your Minimum Wage is Going Up

Worker advocates say they're going to continuing pushing for an end to the two-tiered minimum wage system. (Simon Dufour-Loriolle / Flickr)  

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is no friend to labor, but this week his policies helped one of the most vulnerable segments of workers. On February 24, Commissioner of Labor Mario Musolino announced he would be following the earlier recommendation from the Wage Board to increase the minimum wage for tipped workers 50 percent to $7.50 an hour.

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Thursday, Feb 26, 2015, 1:52 pm  ·  By David Moberg

With Corporate Profits Soaring, AFL-CIO Unions Say “It’s Our Turn”

“Our fight is not just a fight for our members but a fight for the communities,” says Steelworkers President Leo Gerard.   (Matt Popovich / Wikimedia Commons)

Contracts expire this year for roughly five million members of AFL-CIO unions. As their leaders gathered in Atlanta for the winter executive council meeting this week, they set a common goal to raise workers’ wages significantly—and say their prospects for winning such improvements are better than they have been in many years.

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