This Week in Labor: Unrest in the Pacific Northwest and Beyond

Lindsay Beyerstein

Members of the Minnesota Nurses Association on strike July 12 in Hibbing, Minn.

At the end of each week, Working In These Times rounds up labor news we’ve missed during the past week, with a focus on new and ongoing campaigns and protests. For all our other headlines from this week, go here.

—Hundreds of union workers in Washington State blocked a mile-long train carrying grain to the EGT terminal at the Port of Longview on Thursday. EGT wants to bring in nonunion workers and International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 21 is not standing for it. EGT claims it has the right to hire nonunion workers when it opens a new building, but the union says it has the contract for the entire EGT operation. This is the third major protest this week and all grain shipments have been rerouted until further notice.

—Nurses in Minnesota’s Iron Range concluded a three-day strike for staffing increases on Thursday. The nurses say that Range Regional Health Services is burning out its staff and putting patients at risk by forcing nurses to work excessive overtime instead of hiring adequate numbers of nurses. The nurses are demanding the right to divert patients to a neighboring hospital when there aren’t enough registered nurses to take care of everyone. The Minnesota Nurses Association, which represents the strikers, has submitted a report to the state documenting instances where understaffing has put patients at risk.

—Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Friday that he would lay of 625 city workers after labor leaders missed the mayor’s deadline to submit cost-cutting ideas to prevent layoffs. Emanuel’s predecessor, Richard Daley, managed to balance the budget by extracting furloughs and other concessions from city workers. Emanuel doesn’t want to continue the furlough arrangement, which ended on June 30—he favors lower wages and longer weeks for city workers.

Emanuel ordered organized labor to come up with $11 million in proposed cost savings. The Chicago Federation of Labor said its consultant’s report wouldn’t be ready until Monday; the union had already received an previous extension from the mayor. The unions dispute the premise that it is their problem to come up with ways to cut costs, seeing as they never negotiated the furlough stop-gap arrangement in the first place.

—Nigerian labor leaders are calling for a three-day general strike next week to protest lax enforcement of the country’s new minimum wage law. Under the three-month-old law, the minimum monthly wage is 18,000 Naira ($118). However, many of the country’s lowest-paid workers are not getting the wages they’re entitled to.

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times’ City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://​www​.hill​man​foun​da​tion​.org/​h​i​l​l​m​a​nblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.
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