Monday, November 19, 2007

On the picket line

Published Nov 18, 2007

Nurses strike in W.Va., Ky.

More than 630 nurses at Appalachian Regional Hospitals in West Virginia and Kentucky have been on strike for nearly a month. Their pay was cut 10 percent in December 2005. Although an arbitrator found in favor of the nurses, ARH, which purchased the nine hospitals from the United Mine Workers in the 1970s, refuses to honor the ruling and appealed the case to federal court.

The Kentucky Nurses Association, which represents the nurses, called the strike to protest ARH’s unfair treatment of nurses and for allowing unsafe staffing for patients. To sign a petition demanding that ARH negotiate with the nurses, go to the Jobs with Justice Web site:

Possible Amtrak strike

Amtrak workers in eight unions may strike as early as Dec. 1 after more than half of their 15,000 members rejected mediation and entered a 30-day cooling-off period on Nov. 1. The issues include health insurance costs, work rules and back pay dating to 2000 when the last contract was approved.

Smithfield stops negotiating, sues union

On Oct. 15, Smithfield management thumbed its nose at the Food and Commercial Workers union by calling an end to negotiations. The UFCW has been struggling for more than a decade to represent the 5,500 workers at Smithfield’s Tar Heel, N.C., plant, the largest pork processing facility in the world.

Two days later, Smithfield pulled another punch and sued the union under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which was originally passed to stop organized crime syndicates. The suit alleges that UFCW’s efforts to organize public support for the Tar Heel workers constitute attempted extortion.

As a union statement notes: “Clearly, the lawsuit is meant to be a distraction from the ongoing health and safety issues at the plant, and the latest roadblock to finding a long-term solution for workers who have been struggling for years to bring union representation into the plant. The UFCW intends to vigorously fight these baseless allegations.” (Oct. 22) For more about this struggle, go to

Cintas workers protest death on the job

More than 50 people did not let torrential rain stop them from picketing Cintas’ annual shareholder meeting in Cincinnati on Nov. 6 to protest and mourn the death of follow worker Eleazar Torres Gomez—who was killed on the job in Oklahoma after being dragged into an industrial dryer. (Unite Here, Nov. 7)

Workers and community allies demanded that the uniform company address the lethal hazards that led to Torres Gomez’s death. The same dangers have been found at plants in California, New York, Ohio and Washington. Eleuteria Mazon, who works in Cintas’ Schaumburg, Ill., laundry, said, “We can see a continued lack of safety measures because the company only cares about production—not about the conditions that we work under.”

March on Burger King!

In 2005 the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, representing tomato pickers in Florida, won a precedent-setting agreement with Taco Bell. In May of this year McDonald’s agreed to the same terms, which boost the workers’ pay and help improve their working conditions.

As of Nov. 30, CIW is marching on Burger King with help from leaders of both the AFL-CIO and Change to Win. For more about CIW’s Campaign for Fair Food, go to the CIW Web site:

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