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On the Picket Line

June 22, 2001 | Page 15

New York City teachers


NEW YORK--Teachers here are headed for a long hot summer without a new contract.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is on the warpath, insisting that teachers accept individual merit pay and a meager raise that barely makes up for the wage freeze in the last contract.

The city and the union are far apart, and if a new contract isn't negotiated before the end of June, then no deal will come before the next school year, since teachers won't be able to vote until then.

As Socialist Worker went to press, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) had filed an unfair labor practices lawsuit against Giuliani and the city and allowed a state board to begin a fact-finding study of the contract dispute.

But UFT leaders let a June 5 deadline pass without a peep.

In fact, though UFT President Randi Weingarten says she's declared "war" against Giuliani, she has shamefully refused even to prepare for a serious battle.

At a June 6 delegate assembly meeting, the leadership promoted and won a resolution declaring that this would be the wrong time for a strike authorization vote--even though teachers have been working without a contract since November.

After leading dissident Mike Shulman made a rousing speech endorsing the leadership's waffling, almost all of the delegates--including most dissidents--backed the resolution.

But among rank-and-file teachers at the schools, the mood is far more militant.

At least five schools have brought unanimous resolutions to the delegate assembly calling for serious strike preparation and a strike authorization vote.

These dissident chapters are also pressuring the union negotiating committee to reject all forms of merit pay and any call for a longer day in the contract.

But the negotiating committee has already put these concessions on the table.

Giuliani can be beaten--but only if UFT members organize now to demand that union leaders wage a real fight.

Fairfield, Calif., teachers


FAIRFIELD, Calif.--Teachers in the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District struck for 10 days to demand raises, health benefits and time for class preparation.

Teachers' anger has mounted since the district's contract last year, which gave teachers a measly 0.5 percent raise.

Teachers want 11.7 percent.

Thousands of parents and students joined teachers in rallies, demonstrations and on the picket line.

"The government doesn't pay them well," parent Flor Guzman told the San Francisco Chronicle.

With three children in the elementary and high school levels, Guzman supported the teachers and refused to send her kids to school.

"Who shares the life with your kids? The teachers!" Guzman added.

As the school year came to a close, union leaders decided to call off the strike.

However, many teachers are ready to hit the picket line again.



HEBRON, Ky.--Regional air carrier Comair and the union representing 1,350 striking pilots announced a tentative contract agreement June 14.

The pilots, members of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), set up picket lines March 26 at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

They have been working without a new contract since June 1998.

"Our negotiating committee endorse this agreement, recommending that our members adopt it because we believe it satisfies the pilots' fundamental requirements," J.C. Lawson, ALPA's Comair chair said.

Pilots are seeking higher pay, a shorter workday, 12 days off per month, full retroactive pay to June 1998 and a better retirement package.

Details of the current deal were not available as Socialist Worker went to press.

Beginning pilots at the profitable regional carrier earn less than $15,000!

ALPA members voted down two previous contract proposals--1,090 to 6 on March 19, and 1,042 to 99 on May 12.

Comair and its parent company, Delta Airlines, laid off 2,400 workers, sold more than 35 jets, eliminated 400 pilot positions and threatened to shutter Comair in an unsuccessful attempt to scare pilots back to work.

But pilots refused to give in and seem to have won this battle.

It appears likely that ALPA members will accept this deal in voting that ends June 22, though it may be a month before jets are in the air again, because of pilot retraining required by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Comair's tactics and three years of stalling angered most pilots, and tensions will linger.

"They're going to have to prove their trustworthiness and credibility to us again," pilot John Hutches told reporters, "because for the most part, as a group, we've lost that trust now."

University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics


MADISON, Wis.--The union representing 1,100 nurses at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics (UWHC) filed 17 counts of unfair labor practices in May.

UWHC enjoyed a five-fold increase in profits this year made off the backs of nurses and other health care workers.

Last year, UWHC forced nurses into mandatory overtime 2,598 times--that's five times more than the other Madison hospitals.

Its RN turnover rates and vacancy rates are close to 20 percent.

"We are constantly at risk of losing our licenses due to understaffing and excessive hours," bargaining team member Mary Hesse-McBride said at a May 8 rally to prohibit mandatory overtime. "We are in fear of making mistakes and not providing our patients with the best possible care."

"Even though nearly 200 hospital beds have been closed, staffing remains at crisis levels," reported a staff nurse.

Nurses are represented by Service Employees International Union District 1199W/United Professionals.

In an attempt to bust the union, management imposed and implemented their "best and final" offer on May 1.

Nurses weren't allowed to ratify this contract!

Although nurses will receive a 10 percent pay increase over the next two years, it will be difficult to recruit and retain nurses since on average they will make $2.50 less than other local hospitals.

The nurses' union alleges that management solicited an out-of-state temporary agency in February for scabs in the event of a strike.

While a violation of state law, management obviously feared nurses could strike.

Pending National Labor Relations Board and state's attorney general decisions, nurses and union officials have contacted local unions for solidarity efforts and letter writing campaigns.

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