First-ever national adjunct walkout day planned for February

If you’ve ever wondered what a college campus would be like without adjuncts on staff, you’ll soon find out come National Adjunct Walkout Day.

Planned for February 25, 2015, the protest was proposed by an adjunct professor of writing at San Jose State University – who has chosen to remain anonymous – to call for fair wages and better working conditions. The protest would help bring attention to a segment of college faculty members normally neglected when it comes to work benefits, even though they make up the majority of professors employed by higher education institutions today.

Response has been “enormous” for the event “because an action like this is long overdue,” the adjunct behind the protest told Inside Higher Ed. She went on to say that the organized rallies would likely vary depending on the school and highlight “educational or administrative issues impacting adjuncts within that particular campus, across the country, or [the] plights of individual adjuncts.” The adjunct added that the main idea behind the movement is that “no adjunct or campus must face these shared issues alone.”

A quick glance at the National Adjunct Walkout Day Facebook page will tell you that this event is gaining traction, with adjunct faculty across the country pledging their support for the movement. A quote from Miranda Merklein, an adjunct who teaches between six and seven English composition, literature and developmental courses per semester at Northern New Mexico College and Santa Fe Community College, stands out most on the page. In response to the proposal for National Adjunct Walkout Day, she said:

Hired Ed would immediately cease to function and everyone would find out real quick who the essential employees are.

The plights of adjuncts is receiving a lot more attention this year, with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) submitting a bill in August to eliminate student loan debt for adjunct professors. The legislation would help wipe away thousands of dollars in student debt for adjuncts who are ineligible for the federal student loan forgiveness program because they are not full-time employees.

Grad Employees Re-Unionize at NY—First in the Country

NYU grad studentsby Matt Canfield, LaborNotes.orgread original

Victory cries rang out across campus the night of December 11. Tears of joy were shed.

The American Arbitration Association had just announced that New York University graduate employees had voted 98.4 percent in favor of union representation—after eight years of struggle for recognition.

This makes NYU once again the only private university with unionized graduate employees.

The Graduate Student Organizing Committee/Science and Engineers Together (GSOC-UAW)—which brings together two organizing drives across NYU’s campuses—is affiliated with the United Auto Workers and includes more than 1,200 graduate employees.

“We hope this inspires graduate employees at all universities to organize for their rights,” said Brady Fletcher, a PhD student in Cinema Studies.

GSOC and UAW made history in 2000 when they won a precedent-setting case that recognized graduate students as employees under national labor law. The decision set off a wave of organizing at private universities.

But administrators quickly allied against graduate employee unions—and Brown University, with support from several major private universities, won an appeal that overturned NYU’s case in 2005, under the Bush National Labor Relations Board.

In its decision, the NLRB reasoned that the labor performed by graduate assistants was part of an educational process, over which faculty and administrators should maintain control. The principle of equality of bargaining power, the Board ruled, was ill-suited to the realm of higher education.

With employers no longer legally obligated to recognize graduate employee unions, unionization attempts at many schools were quickly busted. Organizing committees disbanded. Ballots from a union vote at Columbia University were impounded. And NYU—which had settled a first contract with its graduate employees in 2001—refused to bargain another contract.

In fall 2005, NYU graduate workers decided—by an 85 percent majority—to strike to demand recognition. Determined to break the union, the administration threatened international students, spied on faculty emails, and refused to rehire anyone who didn’t leave the picket line.

The strike was called off in May 2006, but graduate employees continued to organize and demand recognition.

A Wake-Up Call

For the last eight years, graduate employees at NYU have been living with the consequences of not having a union. Fletcher says employees lost a voice just as health care costs increased sharply, new fees were imposed, and tuition remission was withdrawn for some.

Continue reading

Harvard Library Workers Resist Top-Down Restructuring and Austerity

Staff rallied in Harvard Yard

The world’s wealthiest university is squeezing workers with a new “shared services” model. Staff rallied in Harvard Yard in November. Photo: HUCTW.

by James Cersonsky, February 12, 2013, Labor Notes

The world’s wealthiest university is squeezing workers with a new “shared services” model. Staff rallied in Harvard Yard in November. Photo: HUCTW.

With an endowment of $32 billion, Harvard is the wealthiest university in the world. Upon rebounding from the recession, the university is remodeling all its dorms, expanding its online course program, and constructing a new science center. Its library workers, meanwhile, have gotten the short end of the stick.

Workers beat back threatened mass layoffs last spring, but are now enduring the consolidation of their work in a new “shared services” model that translates into bigger workloads and fragmented work relationships. Now, along with the rest of Harvard’s clerical and technical employees, library workers are mobilizing for a fair—and long-overdue—contract.

Evolving Expectations

With more than 55 miles of bookshelves, Harvard boasts the largest academic library system in the world. Its range of archives and specialized resources are a major draw for scholars and the backbone of the university’s academic culture.

Nonetheless, university leaders concluded last spring that the Library was lagging behind the “evolving expectations of the 21st century scholar.” Their restructuring initiative, launched with hype more typical of a social media IPO than of a library, has been a blow to workers and patrons alike.  Continue reading

Poor management, not union intransigence, killed Hostess

Hostess WorkersBy Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, November 25, 2012

Let’s get a few things clear. Hostess didn’t fail for any of the reasons you’ve been fed. It didn’t fail because Americans demanded more healthful food than its Twinkies and Ho-Hos snack cakes. It didn’t fail because its unions wanted it to die.

It failed because the people that ran it had no idea what they were doing. Every other excuse is just an attempt by the guilty to blame someone else.

Take the notion that Hostess was out of step with America’s healthful-food craze. You’d almost think that Hostess failed because it didn’t convert its product line into one based on green vegetables. Yet you only have to amble down the cookie aisle at your supermarket or stroll past the Cinnabon kiosk at the airport to know that there are still handsome profits to be made from the sale of highly refined sugary garbage.

It’s true that the company had done almost nothing in the last 10 years to modernize or expand its offerings. But as any of the millions of Americans who have succumbed to Twinkie cravings can attest, there has always been something about their greasy denseness and peculiar aftertaste that place them high among the ranks of foodstuffs that can be perfectly satisfying without actually being any good.

Hostess management’s efforts to blame union intransigence for the company’s collapse persisted right through to the Thanksgiving eve press release announcing Hostess’ liquidation, when it cited a nationwide strike by bakery workers that “crippled its operations.”

That overlooks the years of union givebacks and management bad faith. Example: Just before declaring bankruptcy for the second time in eight years Jan. 11, Hostess trebled the compensation of then-Chief Executive Brian Driscoll and raised other executives’ pay up to twofold.At the same time, the company was demanding lower wages from workers and stiffing employee pension funds of $8 million a month in payment obligations.

Hostess management hasn’t been able entirely to erase the paper trail pointing to its own derelictions. Consider a 163-page affidavit filed as part of the second bankruptcy petition.

There Driscoll outlined a “Turnaround Plan” to get the firm back on its feet. The steps included closing outmoded plants and improving the efficiency of those that remain; upgrading the company’s “aging vehicle fleet” and merging its distribution warehouses for efficiency; installing software at the warehouses to allow it to track inventory; and closing unprofitable retail stores. It also proposed to restore its advertising budget and establish an R&D program to develop new products to “maintain existing customers and attract new ones.” Continue reading

Unions, buoyed by election results, are taking a stand

Protesters at Walmart

Protesters demonstrated over pay and working conditions at the Pico Rivera store in October. (Mark Boster, LAT)

Thousands of workers across the U.S. are striking and walking out of jobs rather than accept pay and benefit changes. Victories of pro-labor candidates give them hope.

By Alana Semuels, Los Angeles Times, Nov 21, 2012

They’re fed up and they’re not going to take it anymore.

That’s the case for thousands of employees across the country who are striking and walking out of jobs rather than accept changes to their pay and benefits. It might be a shot in the arm for a labor movement that had been left for dead but saw big gains in the November election as voters elected pro-labor candidates.

The number of union-related work stoppages involving more than 1,000 workers, which reached an all-time low of just five in 2009, rose to 13 this year as of October. And unions aren’t done yet.

Nurses are striking this week at hospitals operated by Sutter Health in California; workers voted against concessions at Hostess Brands Inc., forcing the company’s hand; pilots at American Airlines are wreaking havoc on the airline’s schedule as it tries to cut pension and other benefits.

“There’s a lot of agitating going on,” said Julius Getman, a labor expert at the University of Texas. “People are unhappy. They feel that they’re not being well-treated. There is a swelling of annoyance at the rich.”

This week, labor faces a pivotal test of just how strong this movement is, with a group called Our Walmart asking associates to strike at stores across the country during the retailer’s busiest days of the year.

The group says it is protesting Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s retaliation against workers who seek to unionize. It wants to get the corporation to sit down with the group and listen to workers’ complaints.

“There comes a time when you have to stand up and you have to fix what is broke, and Wal-Mart is broken,” said Evelyn Cruz, 41, who works at a Wal-Mart in Pico Rivera and walked off the job there Tuesday.

Cruz says that the company has cut staff so that her department has half the number of people it once did, and that Wal-Mart gives poor shifts or fewer hours to the people who complain. She was one of a handful of workers who participated in the first strike in the company’s history in October. Continue reading

Labor Union Unfairly Blamed for the Hostess Meltdown

by David Macaray, Counterpunch, Nov 20, 2012

“Ignored or left to languish, even the strongest brands can decline or die.”—Charles Sullivan, Hostess CEO, 2000 (Source:  Mid-American Journal of Business, Spring, 2000)

“If you over-lever a business, and you don’t invest back into the business for a period of years, you’re going to wind up in bankruptcy.”—Greg Rayburn, Hostess CEO, 2012 (Source:  CNBC Squawk Box, November 15, 2012)

Unless a last-minute investor comes to the rescue (and there are rumors that Dean Metropoulos & Co., owners of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, is considering acquiring the company), Hostess Brands, Inc., founded in 1930, will permanently shut its doors, put 18,500 people out of work, and begin liquidating its assets.

Despite the fact that it’s had two bankruptcies since 2004, that its management has proven woefully inadequate (it’s had six CEOs since 2002), and that its Wall Street masters ( a private equity firm and two hedge funds) burdened Hostess with $800 million of debt, the blame for this mess is being laid on the BCTGM (Bakery, Confectionery Tobacco and Grain Millars International Union), the union representing Hostess employees.

Let’s look at the facts.

The company was never seriously interested in solidifying and entrenching its position in the marketplace. Rather, caught up in the go-go exuberance of the “bigger is better” philosophy of the post-Reagan era, Hostess went on a wildly ambitious buying spree in the 1990s, one that more than doubled the company’s total number of production facilities and employees.

Then, in the early 2000s, despite warnings from market analysts, Hostess began buying back huge amounts of its own stock. Because the timing was bad, the move resulted in enormous debt and what was described as “balance sheet degradation.” One could make the case that Hostess was not only a poorly run company, but one that was crying out for a cohesive market strategy. You don’t go through six CEOs if you have a clear plan.

But they blame the union for their problems. Continue reading

Walmart’s First-Ever Retail Worker Strike Spreads To 12 Cities

WALMART-STRIKEby Alice Hines, Huffington Post, October 9, 2012

The first retail worker strike against Walmart has spread from Los Angeles, where it began last week, to stores in a dozen cities, a union official said Tuesday.

Walmart workers walked off the job in Dallas, Seattle, the San Francisco Bay area, Miami, the Washington, D.C., area, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Chicago and Orlando, said Dan Schlademan, director of the United Food and Commercial Workers’ Making Change At Walmart campaign. Workers also went on strike in parts of Kentucky, Missouri and Minnesota, he said.

Tuesday’s walkouts included 88 workers from 28 stores — a minuscule fraction of the 1.4 million who work at Walmart, the world’s largest private employer. Until Friday, when about 60 Walmart employees walked off the job for a day in LA, no Walmart retail workers had ever gone on strike, the union said.

The workers are protesting company attempts to “silence and retaliate against workers for speaking out for improvements on the job,” according to a United Food and Commercial Workers news release. Walmart workers, who are not unionized, have long complained of low pay and a lack of benefits.  Continue reading

Chicago Area Walmart Supply Workers End Strike, Win Back Pay

walmart suppliers on strikeby Matthew Blake, Progress Illinois, October 9, 2012

Employees at a giant Walmart supply warehouse in rural Will County returned to work Saturday after staging a 21-day strike in response to alleged employer retaliation by a Walmart subcontractor.

The settlement with RoadLink – a California-based subcontractor that helps staff Schneider Logistics, the Walmart warehouse in Elwood – comes amid a historic walkout by Walmart retail workers throughout the country. It also follows Walmart supply workers in the Los Angeles area ending their own strike.

According to Phillip Bailey, a striking RoadLink employee, the 38 workers on strike received letters in the mail from the company in which they rescinded their retaliation action. The subcontractor also welcomed workers back to the warehouse and provided back pay for their three weeks on the picket line.

Bailey says the settlement is “thrilling” and “absolutely empowering”, but it will take “years and hundreds more people” to improve the working conditions of Walmart supply warehouses. Continue reading

History of Chicago Teachers Strikes

This documentary fills the void of context and perspective that our local corporate owned media refuse to report. This video is produced by CORE, Caucus of Rank and File Educators of the Chicago Teachers Union.

Chicago Teachers Say They’ll Strike for the Kids

CTU Informational Picket

After weeks of stalled negotiations with the school board, the Chicago Teachers Union is inching ever closer to a strike, as educators say they are willing to fight to get appropriate services in all schools.

by Therese Moran, Labor Notes

Chicago teachers starting back to work this week might not want to get too comfortable in their classrooms. After weeks of stalled negotiations with the school board, the Chicago Teachers Union is inching ever closer to a strike.

On Wednesday the union’s House of Delegates authorized President Karen Lewis to give the board a 10-day strike notice at her discretion. Though Illinois teachers, unlike those in many states, have the legal right to strike, under last year’s anti-teacher law they have to notify the school board 10 days ahead of going out. Ninety percent of teachers—and 98 percent of those voting—voted to authorize a strike in June.

CTU Financial Secretary Kristine Mayle says the union still hopes to avoid a strike, but is prepared to walk if necessary.

“Of course our teachers want to be in the classroom with our students, but we realize this is a bigger fight for the good of public education,” Mayle said. “The future of public education in Chicago will be threatened if we don’t take action now. “

The union’s top priority is a “better school day” for all of Chicago’s students, one that would include art, music, gym, recess, and foreign languages. CTU wants smaller class sizes and wraparound services like social workers, counselors, and school nurses to make sure that the district’s mostly poor students get the support they need.

The district, on the other hand, has been slashing services for years and cites a $665 million anticipated budget deficit for next year. Many schools lack basic playground or gym equipment and 160 are without libraries. Continue reading

Detroit’s Wayne State U. Looks to Destroy Tenure

AAUP pickets Wayne Stateby Aaron Petkov, Labor Notes, August 15, 2012

Wayne State University in Detroit has proposed a new contract that would radically redefine the terms for eliminating faculty. The school would be the first research university to effectively abolish tenure, said the faculty union, which mounted a protest.

Wayne State University in Detroit has proposed a new contract that would radically redefine the terms for eliminating faculty.  Continue reading

Unions Crash Governor’s State Fair Event

Unions Demonstrate at State FairGovernor’s Day at the State Fair just not Quinn’s day

by Dave Mckinney, Sun-Times, August 16, 2012

Union members heckled him while he ate his State Fair favorite for lunch: pork on a stick. A plane flew overhead towing a banner blasting him as anti-worker. A labor leader was stumped on whether he was a better governor than the disgraced Rod Blagojevich.  Continue reading

College Leaders and Labor Organizers Spar Over Possible Graduate Student Unionization

July 24, 2012, By Peter Schmidt, Chronicle of Higher Ed

Briefs filed with the National Labor Relations Board on Monday differed sharply in their view of a potential board decision to allow the unionization of private colleges’ graduate-student employees in two cases involving New York University. While union advocates said such a move would simply recognize the reality of how private colleges depend on graduate-student workers, private colleges and their supporters warned the board that it appeared poised to change graduate education in ways that would curtail academic freedom and sabotage relations between students and their instructors. Continue reading

Caterpillar: Corporate Greed, Plain and Simple

Catapillar worker, Irene Stiller

Irene Stiller, an assembler for Caterpillar for 39 years. (photo: B. Jackson)

July 27, 2012 Chicago Sun-Times

Champagne corks were likely popping last week at Caterpillar global headquarters in Peoria when the company announced second-quarter profits climbed 67 percent.

Business writers reported that Caterpillar’s had rising sales in “every region worldwide” and that “higher sales volume and prices provided a $2 billion boost” for the corporation.

But outside of its sprawling plant on Channahon Road in Joliet, some of the workers whose labor contributed to those gains were trying to figure out how they were going to get by on $150 a week strike benefits.  Continue reading

Chicago Teachers Win Relief in Longer Day Battle, but War Not Over

CTU members at Puerto Rican Day Paradeby Theresa Moran, Labor Notes, July 25, 2012

The Chicago Teachers Union won a major victory yesterday when the city halted its plans to increase teacher work hours.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago school board announced in April that they were unilaterally increasing the school day by 20 percent in the fall—without increasing teaching staff or providing proportional compensation for the additional hours.

Chicago teachers already work an average of 58 hours a week, according to a recent report. Under Illinois labor law, the board is not required to negotiate with teachers over work hours.  Continue reading

Hyatt scores point in union dispute, but battle to escalate

UNITE Here RallyUnite Here expected to call for global boycott of hotel chain

By Kathy Bergen, Chicago Tribune

Hyatt Hotels Corp. chalked up a win this week in its three-year standoff with the hotel workers union, but the battle is expected to escalate Monday with a union call for a global boycott.

Richard Killiher-Paz, the acting regional director of the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago, found merit in unfair labor practice charges brought by Hyatt in relation to contract talks here. To resolve the allegations, the NLRB office drafted a settlement agreement that two Unite Here locals signed early this week. Continue reading

Effects of SB7 collective bargaining provisions being felt in CTU vs. CPS negotiations

Effects of SB7 collective bargaining provisions being felt in CTU vs. CPS negotiations

When Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis announced Wednesday that the CTU was rejecting the arbitrator’s suggestions in the fact-finding report, she said it was because important grievances like class sizes and the longer school day were not even brought to the bargaining table.

That’s because two education reform bills, one passed in 1995 and the other passed last year, narrowed the range of issues that can be discussed during collective bargaining. Continue reading

Saying It’s Not about the Money, Chicago Teachers Inch Closer to Strike

CTU rallyby Theresa Moran, July 18, 2012,  Labor Notes

The Chicago Teachers Union stepped closer to a strike as it voted today to reject an arbitrator’s recommendations in the contract dispute with “Mayor 1%” Rahm Emanuel.

Though the arbitrator’s economic proposals are far more favorable than the city’s, CTU leaders say they advised delegates to reject the report. The union’s House of Delegates voted it down unanimously.

Kristine Mayle, CTU financial secretary, says she opposes the report because it fails to take into account the full scope of the union’s concerns. “It doesn’t address the education issues that we’re concerned about,” she said. Continue reading

As Strikes Wane, Caterpillar Workers Hold The Line

caterpillar strikeby David Schaper, NPR

Whenever a car or truck turns off busy Channahon Road onto the long drive to the Caterpillar plant in Joliet, Ill., a handful of union workers on a picket line scream, “Scab! Scab!!”

As strikers try shaming the few workers and managers who cross the line, even a clearly marked sandwich delivery car gets shouted down.

Approximately 800 workers at this plant, which makes hydraulic systems for Caterpillar’s heavy construction and mining equipment, are about to enter their third month on strike. Continue reading

UIC Worker Strike Will Begin May 30, Run For Three Days

UIC WORKERS STRIKEfrom Huffington Post

More than 80 percent of University of Illinois Chicago medical support staff will engage in a three-day strike starting May 30 unless they reach a new contract agreement with administrators.

A group of nearly 500 university staff members has been lobbying for pay raises, but the workers’ union says they have yet to receive an equitable offer, according to a release from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73. Continue reading