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On the picket line

September 2, 2005 | Pages 10 and 11

Boston security guards
Swedish Medical Center

Space Needle restaurant
Ellie Fingerman, UNITE HERE Local 8

SEATTLE--After stalling negotiations, then proposing negative pay raises and insulting work rules to its employees, the Space Needle is taking an even harder line.

During the last so-called negotiating session, the employers sat in the room for approximately 40 minutes out of the five hours scheduled for talks. Now they've sent out a nasty letter with employee's paychecks, trying to paint the union as unconcerned about Space Needle workers and more concerned with "industry standards."

Fortunately, the union is stepping up the pressure as well. On August 18, more than 60 people came out to a rally organized by UNITE HERE Local 8 right outside the Needle. Community members, union brothers and sisters and several local politicians turned out to show their support for the workers and their frustration with Space Needle management. Many speakers mentioned that the Space Needle is a symbol of Seattle, and that it should symbolize fairness and workers' rights, not corporate greed.

The union expects the Space Needle's hired lawyer to try to bust the union by sending out more letters to the membership and talking to workers about decertification. More steps are being taken, such as house visits and a petition to the chairman of the board, to continue to build the campaign for a good, fair contract.

In a related incident aimed at intimidating union members, a hard-working and dedicated employee was recently fired after being delayed by the elevator and clocking in two minutes late. A petition to get his job back was immediately signed by more than130 employees, and a grievance is proceeding against the company. If the union is successful in getting this person re-hired, it will give a huge boost of confidence to union members to fight back.

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Boston security guards
By John Moore, Museum Independent Security Union

BOSTON--Security guards at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, members of the Museum Independent Security Union, have been working without a contract since March 18.

Guards are paid between $11 and $13 an hour, and we have seen a 20 percent reduction in full-time jobs. The Museum has embarked on a $525 million building-expansion campaign, and yet what they have out on the negotiating table now is a net loss in wages in one of the most expensive cities in the country.

A part of this equation is that they are taking away time-and-a-half pay after eight hours. Currently, three hours and 36 minutes of overtime are a part of our regular 40-hour workweek. In order to make our 40 hours a week, we are expected to work from 9:30 a.m. until 10:15 p.m. on Wednesdays. Thus, the 2 percent raise that they are offering us is a net loss.

They want to take protective language concerning our pension plan out of our contract. They also want to take away the 320 hours of accrued sick leave buyback that we now can take with us when we resign or retire.

They are continuing the slaughter of making full-timers part-time, and they have cut 21 full-time positions from the galleries in the last decade. Currently, they pay the employees who opt out of the museum's health plan $500 a year. They are also taking that away.

We are asking everyone to e-mail or call the director of the Museum of Fine Arts of Boston, and demand that they work out a fair contract for the guards in our union.

Protest the poor treatment of the Museum Independent Security Union by calling 617-369-3200 or e-mailing [email protected].

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Swedish Medical Center
By Kate Johnson

SEATTLE--Workers at Swedish Medical Center, members of SEIU 1199NW, held informational pickets and rallies on August 16 to build solidarity for their bitter contract fight with management. About 200 workers, union members and labor activists turned out for the rally and march around the medical center in the First Hill neighborhood, the hospital's biggest center.

Despite almost getting shut down hours earlier by management, who begged the courts to intervene and order the demonstration illegal, workers were in an optimistic and fighting mood. Armed with bullhorns, chants and lots of picket signs, they marched around the hospital chanting "Patients not profits!" before they held a rally that featured speakers, musicians and politicians.

In July, SEIU employees at Swedish rejected management's initial offer by a 98 percent margin, sending the contract back to the negotiating table.

At the heart of the battle is management's proposal to slash quality, affordable health care and scrap pension plans for new workers, creating a permanent two-tier system. Current workers would be able to keep their pension plans, but new hires would be forced into a less-secure 401(k) plan instead--a classic divide-and-conquer strategy by the bosses.

But the workers are determined to keep this proposal out of their contract. As one nurse told Socialist Worker, "It [Swedish's proposal] is part of the war on working people. We all deserve quality health care. We all deserve a pension plan!"

Swedish is the largest hospital in Washington--and is one of the most profitable. In the past three years, Swedish has made $158 million in pure profit. But instead of raising standards for health care jobs, Swedish is demanding unreasonable concessions from its frontline workers to line its greedy pockets.

Swedish workers are determined to keep up the fight for a good contract, and the recent pickets are a great first step in building much-needed solidarity and community support. "Sure," one nurse said, "we'd rather be at the bargaining table right now, but they have forced us out on the streets."

And taking it to the streets is exactly what they must continue to do! Solidarity, rank-and-file involvement and preparation for a militant fight will be key to winning a good contract that secures quality standards of living for Swedish Medical Center workers.

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