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On the picket line

September 14, 2001 | Page 15

UPS Teamster contract 2002
Midwest Generation
Delta flight attendants
Democracy Now!
Bay Area Rapid Transit
D.C. parking attendants

Brockton Hospital


BROCKTON, Mass.--Nurses at Brockton Hospital ended their three-month strike with a victory party in late August. The walkout by the 450 nurses was the second-longest nurses' strike in Massachusetts history.

Hospital administrators took a tough line in negotiations with the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) and even refused to continue talks. But Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) intervened to bring management back to the bargaining table.

Nurses soundly rejected the hospital's two previous contract offers because they failed to address issues of mandatory overtime work. The new contract now has clear language on this issue.

Under the terms of the deal, mandatory overtime can't exceed four hours, and no nurse can be forced to work more than 12 hours in a continuous period. Hospital management can only require nurses to work overtime eight times a year, and nurses can now refuse to work mandated overtime shifts.

The contract also prohibits management from floating nurses where they would be forced into overtime or where they aren't trained to work. Nurses say these provisions are vital since Massachusetts--under a draconian law--holds nurses fully liable for their patients.

The agreement also has a mechanism for nurses to monitor overtime, staffing and hiring practices. Nurses also won a 13 percent wage increase over three years that is retroactive to October 15 of last year--the end of the last contract. And the contract guarantees that all striking nurses will return to work.

The questions about federal arbitration raised by Kerry's involvement in the final negotiations aren't lost on the MNA. One of the sticking points was the nurses' demand for a shortened arbitration process--which would give the MNA more power in future disputes.

The final agreement allows leeway in the length of the arbitration process, but gives nurses control over the arbitrators' decision. At the heart of the fight was the MNA's determination to have a united front of nurses statewide. The union's argument all along was for parity in contract language throughout Massachusetts.

The recent victory at St. Vincent's Hospital, and now at Brockton, presents a bold example to nurses everywhere. "The nurses cared about their patients when they went out on strike, they care about them now and are happy to be going back," Joanne, an organizer for the MNA, told Socialist Worker. "They've always done this for patient care."

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UPS Teamster contract 2002

by DANNY KATCH, Teamsters Local 804

NEW YORK--UPS Teamsters are kicking off the 2002 contract campaign with a rally at Local 804 on September 21. Around the Northeast, supporters of Tom Leedham's campaign for union president are mobilizing.

Since our strike victory in 1997, UPS has retaliated with a vengeance. They stalled on creating the full-time jobs won during the strike, and the new jobs pay part-time rates.

For all these reasons, UPS Teamsters need to get organized well before the contract expires in July. This kickoff meeting could be a good step. Unfortunately, President James Hoffa doesn't seem ready to go all the way--after rejecting a proposal to raise our strike fund at the international convention this summer.

Leedham, on the other hand, is running on a platform of aggressively challenging Teamster employers, rebuilding our strike fund and hiring more organizers. That's why it's critical that Leedham buttons and T-shirts are visible at the kickoff rally.

Some Leedham supporters argue that we shouldn't bring election politics into this rally. But it's already a political event. The fact that it's being held at Local 804--Ron Carey's old local--is no coincidence. Hoffa wants to brag that Local 804 President Howard Redmond, who worked under Carey, is now a Hoffa supporter.

During the last election, Local 804 members voted for Leedham 10 to 1. A strong pro-Leedham presence on September 16 can give them confidence to vote that way again.

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Midwest Generation

CHICAGO--After starving workers into ending their strike August 31, Midwest Generation, Inc., wouldn't let them come back to work. On September 6, it locked out the more than 1,100 workers, members of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 15.

Midwest Generation, which operates seven fossil-fuel power plants in Illinois, refused to bargain with the union after it surrendered. By a vote of 437-336, Local 15 members decided to end their strike and to return to work. But the company will bar them from working until Local 15 agrees to a contract that includes all of the concessions Midwest demanded.

Midwest has announced plans to continue to operate its plants with scabs. The union struck June 28 in opposition to concessions demanded by management. Unfortunately, the local had never been on strike before and, therefore, didn't have a strike fund.

With the strike going nowhere, Local 15 President William Starr called for workers to end it. Local 15 officials said they would file an unfair labor practices claim against the company.

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Delta flight attendants


ATLANTA--Flight attendants at Delta Airlines filed a petition with federal mediators in late August asking for a union representation election.

Even without a union, the 20,000 flight attendants at Delta make the highest pay among all the airlines. But they lag behind in "vacation pay, uniform reimbursement and leadership pay," said Scott Hayter, a New York-based Delta attendant. Plus, Delta attendants want a contract to keep management from changing work rules, cutting staff at a whim and victimizing workers hurt on the job.

According to an Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) press release, the three-year union organizing effort represents "the largest private-sector organizing campaign since 1968, the largest Railway Labor Act campaign since 1965 and the largest organizing campaign in the airline industry-ever."

Delta is the only major U.S. carrier where attendants are nonunion, and management is pulling out all the stops to stay, as one Delta flack put it, "union-free." Delta Chair Leo Mullin tried to link the airline's reasons for opposing the organizing drive to job actions at United and the recent strike at Delta's subsidiary Comair.

"As we have seen throughout the airline industry in recent months, fractious labor negotiations can create agonizing challenges to customer service and serious uncertainty and upheaval for all employee groups," Mullin said in a memo sent to all flight attendants.

In early September, the AFA filed a complaint with the National Mediation Board (NMB) citing more than 300 violations of workers' right to organize. "I've seen a supervisor grab hold of a flight attendant and pull a flyer right out of the attendant's hand," said flight attendant Andrea Taylor.

The NMB will take up to 60 days to verify the petition signatures before calling a vote, giving Delta at least two more months to strong-arm attendants. Under Railway Labor Act rules stacked against the unions, the AFA will need 50 percent plus one vote by all eligible voters, not just the attendants who return ballots.

Flight attendants will need to push hard to get out the vote if they're going to overcome Delta's 60-year history of fighting union organizing.

For information, call the Delta Organizing campaign at 770-997-5522.

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Democracy Now!


NEW YORK--More than 100 people rallied outside the studios of WBAI (99.5 FM) on August 28, outraged at the latest attacks on the award-winning news show Democracy Now! and its host Amy Goodman.

Goodman was suspended without pay after moving the show to an alternate broadcasting site because of physical intimidation and assault by management in the station's studios.

Protesters accused WBAI and its parent organization, the Pacifica Foundation, of attempting to mainstream the radio station by censoring and harassing hard-hitting, left-wing shows like Democracy Now! and firing and banning most of the station's prior staff and volunteers.

"WBAI is the only independent radio station in this metropolitan area that is not controlled or influenced by the commercial considerations that has been able to do investigative reporting into topics that other radio station cannot touch," fired Wake Up Call host Bernard White told Socialist Worker.

"It's heart-breaking what's happened," said former Wake Up Call line-producer Janice Bryant. "And the people who will be hurt the most is the Black and Latino community. We reported on children in foster care, racial profiling, police brutality. That's not happening now."

The protest was part of a national day of outrage against the attacks on Democracy Now! Organizers are planning a demonstration at the next Pacifica board meeting on September 19.

For more information, call the Concerned Friends of WBAI hotline at 1-800-797-6229.

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Bay Area Rapid Transit


SAN FRANCISCO--Just hours before a strike deadline on September 4, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) management reached a tentative agreement with the rail system's two biggest unions.

The proposed settlement offers members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and SEIU Local 790 a 22 percent pay raise over four years--double management's original offer.

But some rank and filers are unhappy with the deal, because of the length of the proposed contract and because the wage offer won't keep up with the Bay Area's high cost of living.

Union members were due to vote on September 11. BART has still not reached a settlement with its third union, AFSCME Local 1393, which represents train controllers and supervisory workers.

If no settlement is reached, AFSCME says it will strike on October 15, and BART's two other unions have promised to honor their picket lines.

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D.C. parking attendants


WASHINGTON--More than 200 union members and supporters gathered for the first hearing of the D.C. Workers Rights Board in early August. The newly formed board includes leaders from local faith communities and D.C. Council members. It has no legal power, but was convened to "take forward action at the civic level, moral level, and community level," members said.

At its first meeting, the board heard testimony from parking attendants, union officials and academics regarding harsh conditions and union-busting tactics at InterPark, one of the largest parking companies in D.C.

"Our wages are so low, and our benefits are so poor that it's difficult to support a family," said former InterPark employee Ammanuel Yohannes. "I made $8 an hour...I had to work two jobs simply to survive and take care of my wife and two kids." Ammanuel was fired from InterPark for circulating a letter to employees protesting conditions.

HERE Local 27 President Roxie Herbekian described the enthusiasm of InterPark workers for a union to represent them--and InterPark's harassment of organizing efforts.

Unionists and supporters held a picket at an InterPark garage August 16 and plan more actions.

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BURLINGTON, Vt.--Last month, IBM workers here got a surprise. Without warning, its shift workers were hit with an 18 percent pay cut. The immediate pay cut comes just two years after the company slashed retirement benefits.

Only after workers started a union drive, winning a great deal of media attention and involving Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in their fight, did IBM budge slightly and partially restore these benefits.

Workers have restarted a union drive. If they're successful, they would become the first union IBM facility in the country.

"They threw us a bone last time in order to stop the union," one IBM worker told Socialist Worker. "It's time to get serious and organize to prevent this type of thing from happening in the first place."

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