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On the picket line

May 31, 2002 | Page 11

University of California-Los Angeles
Madison, Wis., nurses

New York City Labor Against War

By Laura Durkay

NEW YORK--New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW) mobilized about 50 trade union members and supporters May 21 to picket the AFL-CIO's Executive Council meeting with a top Israeli official.

NYCLAW organized the protest on short notice when they learned that members of the Executive Council would be meeting with Israeli Consul General Alon Pinkus at the Sheraton Hotel.

Every year, the AFL-CIO invests a portion of union members's dues in Israeli government bonds. But NYCLAW supporters came out to send a message: Not all union members support Israel's war on the Palestinians. The demonstration called for divestment from Israeli bonds, as well as and end to Israel's occupation and the right of return for Palestinians.

"Israel is carrying out ethnic cleansing," said Marty Goodman, a member of the executive board of TWU Local 100. "We're completely opposed to the labor movement giving any support to Israel's genocidal war."

During the protest, three union members tried to enter the Sheraton Hotel to meet with the Executive Council. When they tried to enter the meeting, they were accused of supporting the bombing of the World Trade Center, then kicked out by security.

Michael Letwin, a leading member of NYCLAW and president of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325, explained why it was important for union members to protest Israel's war. "American workers need to be on the side of human rights and support the Palestinians and the Israeli peace movement," Letwin said. "It's bad enough that our tax dollars are going to fund Israel, but our union dues--that's intolerable."

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University of California-Los Angeles

By Gillian Russom

LOS ANGELES--About 150 students rallied on the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) central campus May 10 to support food service and custodial workers' efforts to unionize. The 130 mostly Mexican immigrant workers who work at UCLA's student union building (ASUCLA) are fighting to join AFSCME Local 3299.

They have no sick time, vacations or health benefits. And they can't earn seniority, since they are hired in the fall through a temporary agency and then fired at the end of the school year.

Workers and students demanded that ASUCLA's Board of Directors, which is elected by students, support the workers' efforts.

Protesters read aloud workers' testimonies. "My name is Alberto Ramirez. I've worked for ASUCLA for five years, although they call me temporary. When I had to take care of my sick wife I was laid off. It is outrageous that in the year 2002 there are still people treated like slaves."

Protesters marched to the ASUCLA Board of Directors' meeting to demand that they pass a resolution supporting workers. "This is a step that goes to the heart of the fight against neoliberalism," Fernando Gapasín, president of AFSCME Local 1108 and a Chicano studies professor, told Socialist Worker. "In 1995, the [UCLA] administration decided it was going to increase its profits on the backs of these workers. In Italy, a whole country of workers is on strike because of things like this."

Jose Sanchez, a union member at the UCLA faculty center, was there in solidarity. "Workers deserve to have a just wage to pay their rents and health care for their children," he said, "With these wages, we just can't."

Board members claimed that only UCLA's president has the power to approve unionization, but they issued a statement of support and conceded that the workers are UCLA employees.

Future solidarity actions are planned to keep the heat on.

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Madison, Wis., nurses

By Mike McHugh

MADISON, Wis.--About 80 nurses and supporters rallied at the State Capitol May 7 to call for a ban on mandatory overtime.

Nurses in Wisconsin--and around the country--are routinely forced to work consecutive shifts because of understaffing. Recent studies in Wisconsin have shown that many Wisconsin nurses are cutting back on hours or leaving nursing altogether due to stress caused by inadequate staffing.

The rally was sponsored by Service Employees International Union Local 1199. "We work with human beings whose lives hang in the balance," said speaker Lisa Stauffacher, a 30-year registered nurse at University of Wisconsin Hospital. "Our patients deserve better than nurses who are tired at the end of a 16-hour shift."

A bill was introduced last year in Wisconsin that would have banned mandatory overtime, but it was never voted on. "The health care industry decided to kill [the bill] with lots of money," said State Representative Dwayne Johnsrud.

Wisconsin State AFL-CIO President David Newby reminded the crowd that five workers were killed in Milwaukee in May 1886 fighting for the eight-hour day. "We're still, 116 years later, fighting for the eight-hour day," Newby said.

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