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On the picket line

May 13, 2005 | Page 11

Franklin Medical Center
Seattle carpenters

San Francisco hotel workers
By Marcia Thorndike

SAN FRANCISCO--Thirty-seven people were arrested May 3 here when hotel workers staged a 500-strong march and sit-in at the downtown Hilton.

They aimed to turn up the heat on the 14-hotel Multi-Employer Group (MEG), which has not met with their union, UNITE HERE Local 2, since February 14. The two sides are currently in a "cooling-off period," brokered by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

A two-week strike last October that targeted four hotels was followed by a six-week lockout at all 14 of the city's most prominent hotels. When contracts for 4,300 unionized hotel workers expired in August, 2004, workers mobilized to fight for health care, wages, pensions and a contract expiration date of 2006, to bring San Francisco into alignment with other major U.S. cities.

The hotel workers' union, UNITE HERE Local 2, has called for a boycott of the 14 hotels in the MEG, which has resulted in several large conferences being relocated. This financial hit to the hotels is rumored to be causing some of the hotels to want to settle.

While there are no informational pickets to promote the boycott, UNITE HERE Local 2 Vice-President Lamoin Werlein-Jaén announced that, "In the upcoming weeks, there will be more demonstrations, more protests and more action inside hotels until they realize that their stalling is not going to dilute the determination to fight for a fair contract." It's important to keep mobilizing and not allow the fightback of last year to fizzle out.

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Franklin Medical Center
By Wayne Standley

GREENFIELD, Mass.--"All we want is to be treated fairly." Registered nurses repeated this during their informational picket at Franklin Medical Center (FMC) May 2.

The picket line stretched for an entire block in front of the hospital, and in a show of solidarity, the nurses, members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, were joined by members of Service Employees International Union Local 509, United Auto Workers Local 2232, United Electrical Local 274, firefighters and others from the community.

After more than five months of negotiations, management is taking a tough stance. The hospital has offered between 4 and 5 percent annual raises over a three-year contract, but only if nurses accept increases in their health insurance payments--which would more than wipe out their wage increases. Management is also seeking a two-tier contract--in an attempt to divide and weaken the nurses' union--by imposing even steeper increases on those who work less than 30 hours per week.

FMC is part of Baystate Health Systems, one of the largest health care corporations in New England, so it can well afford to provide its workers with good wages and health benefits. With continuing solidarity and unified actions, the nurses can fight off these concessionary demands.

To support the nurses, call Mark Tolosky, CEO of Baystate Health Systems, at 413-794-0000 and demand a contract without concessions.

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Seattle carpenters
By Steve Leigh

SEATTLE--One hundred carpenters and supporters gathered April 30 to protest the use of nonunion labor on construction sites in the south Lake Union area.

Paul Allen's Vulcan Corporation is re-developing the area with substantial financial aid from the city of Seattle. While some of the financing actually comes from the carpenters' own pension fund, some of the contractors that Allen--one of the world's 10 richest men--is hiring are nonunion, and their workers receive a much lower wage scale and no benefits. They also have less experience and training.

The floor on one building is "already sagging because they forgot to weld the steel reinforcements before pouring the concrete...I'm worried about the safety of anyone who uses that building" said one carpenter, as workers marched from site to site. "You have to stand up, or they'll knock you down," said another carpenter. "Our conditions are fragile, we have to defend them."

This rally was the start of an ongoing campaign to force Vulcan to raise conditions and wages for workers in the area. Other unions were represented, but in very small numbers. A victory for the carpenters would help all workers. Other unions need to actively support this campaign.

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