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On the picket line

May 6, 2005 | Pages 10 and 11

OTHER STORIES BELOW:
University of California
Liberty Lines
Seattle child care workers

New York City teachers
By Megan Behrent, United Federation of Teachers

NEW YORK--As New York City teachers near the two-year anniversary of the expiration of their last contract, members of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) are demonstrating their anger at the city's failure to negotiate in good faith by organizing local actions throughout the city. On April 15, the Brooklyn High Schools organized "Black Friday: Rally for Respect" which drew over 1,000 teachers.

Key issues for UFT members are the lack of a raise in more than two and a half years and the city's demands for massive concessions, including the elimination of most work rules, the elimination of tenure and linking future raises to "productivity" measures.

The UFT--which represents more than 100,000 teachers and staff--has declared an impasse in negotiations and has moved towards fact-finding, which could take months and does not guarantee any substantial gain. At the same time, UFT President Randi Weingarten, responding to increased pressure from below, has begun an advertising campaign highlighting our issues and has encouraged union actions throughout the city.

Members of Teachers for a Just Contract, an opposition caucus within the union, have organized "honor pickets" in several schools throughout the city. In these actions, teachers refuse to go into work before the beginning of their workday and picket outside the school until all members walk in together in a show of solidarity. Honor pickets have been organized with success at several schools, including Goldstein High School and FDR High School in Brooklyn; Norman Thomas High School and Public School 125 in Manhattan; and Columbus High School in the Bronx.

The next citywide action planned by the union leadership is an indoor rally at Madison Square Garden on June 2. Members from the Teachers for a Just Contract and other militants in the union have since successfully argued for a march to the rally from Union Square to provide a greater sense of militancy. Although the union leadership voted down this idea, Manhattan High School Chapter Leaders later voted to organize the march.

This march is a great opportunity to continue to build on the anger and militancy that is sweeping New York City schools.

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University of California
By Kathryn Lybarger, AFSCME Local 3299

MEMBERS OF AFSCME Local 3299 are set to vote on a tentative contract with the University of California as Socialist Worker went to press. The agreement, which covers service workers, was reached within one week of a successful one-day strike at all of the system's nine campuses and medical centers.

The agreement itself is far better than what the university had been offering, and the wage increases are better than we've seen in years. But it falls far short of what UC could afford to give us--and we should have considered fighting for more.

Most people, while not fully satisfied, feel that we "broke even," so there is good reason to expect that the contract offer will be accepted. We did win better seniority rights and a minimum wage of $9 per hour, instantly raising the hourly wage of many of our workers by a dollar or more. And while we didn't win a guarantee on wage increases, we won the right to strike if UC doesn't come through. We didn't win contract language on sweatshop-free uniforms, but UC must meet with us on the issue within 60 days of signing the contract.

The biggest problem is that coming to an agreement now weakens other unions' contract fights with UC, including the Coalition of Union Employees and the Union of Professional and Technical Employees. Many UC employees face possible discipline now for sympathy striking with us--and we should be willing to do the same if they go on strike. Their support was crucial to our success, and it is our continued unity that will make us all stronger.

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Liberty Lines
By Nicole Solano

WESTCHESTER, NY--Members of Transport Workers Union Local 100 last month voted to end a six-week strike against the Liberty Line bus company's Bee-Line service here, accepting a contract that fell short of union demands. Liberty Lines, which has 55,000 riders on Bee-Line, was backed by a relentless attack on the part of Westchester's Journal News.

The strike began March 3 over company demands for concessions on several issues, including efforts to impose higher health care costs on workers and maintain penalties for early retirement at age 57.

According to a statement released by Local 100, the union accepted a four-year contract that includes higher health care costs. The company will assume "full responsibility for annual increases in health care costs up to 20 percent, and will cover 96.5 percent of the increases beyond 20 percent per annum," Local 100 reported. Given rapidly escalating health care costs, this could bite into workers' paychecks.

The union did make some gains on early retirement. By the fourth year of the contract, members with 20 years of service will be able to retire at age 59 without penalties. For those who retire at ages 57 and 58, penalties will be "significantly reduced," the union stated. Wages will increase 3.5 percent this year, 3 percent in both 2006 and 2007, and 3.25 percent in 2008.

In a meeting April 20 to ratify the contract, workers engaged in what Local 100 described as a "heated" debate, raising what Local 100 President Roger Toussaint called "legitimate concerns" over health care and pension issues. The workers voted to accept the deal, with 80 percent in favor.

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Seattle child care workers
By Brooke Weney

SEATTLE--More than 100 child care teachers, parents, children, union leaders and supporters marched here in rainy conditions April 29 to demand better pay for child care workers. The march was organized by the Childcare Workforce Alliance of Washington, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, SEIU 925 and the Childcare Guild.

Organizers wanted the public to be aware that child care workers earn an average of $8.77 an hour in the state of Washington. The estimated wage for one adult to live self-sufficiently in a household of one preschooler and one school-age child ranges from $12.54 an hour in Chelan County to $20.70 in King County, according to data from 2001.

The workers chanted, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, worthless wages and corporate greed have got to go!" and "What are your children worth to you? It's time to value the work we do!" The sentiment of many on the march was that the government should spend money on child care and education, not for war.

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