Restaurant workers stop Trump administration’s tip grab

A mobilization of restaurant workers and their supporters stopped a Trump administration attempt to rewrite regulations that protect tipped employees from wage theft.

President Trump’s Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta proposed a new regulation that would have overturned an Obama-era regulation guaranteeing that tipped workers maintained controlled their tips.

Acosta’s proposal, which was supported by the National Restaurant Association (NRA), would have turned control of tips over to employers.

The NRA said that the new regulation was needed, so that restaurant owners could create tip pools that could be used to distribute tips among all restaurant employees.

But the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United, which led the successful mobilization, said that the new rule would allow restaurant owners and managers to keep a portion of the tips for themselves, which ROC called “a glaring example of a legal form of wage theft.”

The mobilization efforts by ROC caught the eye of sympathetic lawmakers Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, who put Secretary Acosta on the spot during a committee hearing.

Their questioning of Acosta led to the drafting of legislation that protected tips from employer control, the TIP Act.

Subsequently, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and Secretary Acosta negotiated an agreement that allowed the TIP Act to be incorporated into the omnibus budget bill that Congress passed last week.

Doing so codified the portion of the Obama-era rule ensuring that employers, managers, or supervisors don’t grab their workers’ tips.

“The fact that hundreds of thousands of workers stood up and said no to employers taking their tips and that Congressional leaders listened and acted is a testament to the power of workers standing together,” said Saru Jayaraman, co-founder and president of ROC.

Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project said that the Labor Department received 350,000 comments about the new tip rule.

According to Owens, “the vast majority” of the comments were from restaurant workers, consumers, and others who opposed the new rule.

Additionally, demonstrations by restaurant workers and their supporters opposing the new rule took place at Labor Department and NRA offices in 20 US cities.

In Washington DC, members of ROC dropped a banner from the Labor Department’s headquarters reading, “Trump, Don’t Steal Our Tips.”

The mobilization effort resulted in what Jayaraman call a “historic victory” for restaurant workers.

The proposed rule that restaurant workers were protesting would have allowed restaurant owners to create tip pools as long as they paid all employees at least the minimum wage.

Many if not most restaurants pay their tipped employees a sub-minimum wage of $2.13 an hour, which they are allowed to do under federal law.

The proposed rule also would have allowed restaurant owners or managers to take control of the tips and distribute them any way they chose including keeping some of the tips for themselves.

Doing so, reported the Economic Policy Institute, would have given owners and managers control of $5.8 billion worth of tips with no guarantee that the tips would be distributed fairly.

The agreement negotiated by Sen. Murray and Secretary Acosta and codified in the TIP Act allows restaurant owners to create tip pools if the pay all their workers at least the minimum wage, but it forbids employers, supervisors, and managers from taking and keeping any of the tips for themselves.

“This compromise will protect workers’ income and will allow for more gender and racial equity in the restaurant industry,” said Tupti Patel, a server in a Washington DC restaurant and ROC member.

Jayaraman said that “protecting workers’ tips from managerial tip theft would also protect a mostly female workforce from exacerbated sexual harassment.”

But protecting tips from management control is just one step toward making restaurant work less subject to exploitation.

Jayaraman said that the next step will be for Congress to pass the One Fair Wage, which eliminates the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers.

“The next step is that we need One Fair Wage—the elimination of the lower wage for tipped workers so that this incredibly large workforce, the majority of whom are women, is not entirely dependent on customer tips to feed their families,” Jayaraman said.


Kentucky teachers: stop education funding cuts and honor pension promise

Teachers from all over Kentucky were back in Frankfort, the state capital, on March 23 to demand that Gov. Matt Bevin and his allies in the state Legislature keep their promise to the state’s school children and their teachers.

The Legislature currently is considering bills that threaten the quality of education in the classroom and threaten the stability of the teachers’ pension fund.

Last week, the state Senate passed a budget bill that cuts the funding for classroom education approved by the state House of Representatives by $153 million. It also shaves spending for pre-school programs by 6.25 percent, cuts school transportation funding by $215 million, and provides no funding for student textbooks.

In addition, the Senate version of the budget cuts funding for teacher pensions by $1.1 billion over two years.

“We find it curious that even after taking $1 billion from pension funding, the Senate couldn’t find a way to do more for (classroom education), preschool, or textbooks,” reads a statement issued by the Kentucky Education Association.

The cuts to the teachers’ pension fund is especially alarming because actuaries, who audit the pension fund and determine its soundness, say that the cuts undermine the fund’s stability and will make the teachers’ pension fund insolvent by 2038.

The proposal has sparked outrage all over the state. Dozens of local demonstrations have taken places, and on Thursday, March 22, 2500 teachers and their supporters marched through Frankfort to demand an end to education funding cuts and adequate funding for their pensions.

Demonstrators said that the government has promised Kentucky students a quality education and teachers a secure retirement in lieu of a competitive paycheck.

“This fight is about keeping a promise to the students and teachers of (Kentucky),” said Stephanie Winkler, president of KEA, to KEA members over the weekend.

Gov. Bevin, who called protesting teachers “thugs” for speaking out against his cuts to education and pension funding, wants to take $1.1 billion from the teachers retirement fund and use it to prop up with the ailing state employees’ pension fund, which for years, has been purposely under funded.

Winkler criticized Gov. Bevin for “asking hard-working educators to bail the state out of this problem again rather asking corporations to pay their fair share.”

“We need to find new revenue,” Winkler said. “That’s the fiscally responsible thing to do.”

“We give away $13 billion in tax credits (to corporations) but only take in $11 billion in tax receipts,” she continued.

So far, the House and Senate have passed two different budget bills and a conference committee composed of leaders from the House and Senate has been convened to reconcile the two budgets.

In the meantime, Kentucky educators continue to make their voices heard.

On Monday morning before dawn, teachers in Louisville gathered in front of their schools to stage walk-ins to protest the Senate version of the budget bill and HB 1 another bill being considered by the Legislature.

HB 1 would radically alter pensions for public employees.

For newly hired public employees, it would eliminate their defined benefit pension plans that guarantee a modest but reliable pension for life after retirement and replace it with a cash balance plan.

Cash balance pension plans are often described as hybrids that contain features of individual retirement savings plans such as 401(k) savings plans and defined benefit plans.

In reality, they transfer much more risks to individuals covered by the plans and don’t guarantee the same level of benefits as defined benefit plans.

Gov. Bevin’s support for HB 1 and steep cuts to education and the teachers’ pension fund do not come as much of a surprise.

He is an acolyte of the Koch brothers, whose hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions favor politicians who wish to eviscerate public services such as public education and demean employees who provide these services.

But in his attempt to reduce funding for education and strip teacher pension funds of much-needed resources, he has run into a formidable opponent in Kentucky’s teachers.

Their campaign to save public education from unaffordable budget cuts and to protect their promised pensions has generate widespread community support.

When teachers came to Frankfort on March 22 to oppose cuts to education and their pensions, at least nine school districts called off classes, so that teachers could participate in the demonstrations in Frankfort.

Thousands of people, not just teachers have participated in the fight to stop education funding cuts and to protect teachers’ pensions, said Winkler.

“Our leaders made educators a promise,” she continued. “The people of Kentucky want that promise to be kept, and they’re not silent about it. . . We are the majority, and we will not be silent anymore.”

Striking Idaho miners stand firm

Striking Idaho miners on March 17 marked the one-year anniversary of their strike with a solidarity march and rally.

Miners at the Lucky Friday silver mine in Mullan, Idaho and their supporters chanted “Mullan is a union town. We won’t let you shut it down!” as they marched from the town center to the Lucky Friday picket line.

The mine is owned by Hecla Mining, a precious metals mining company that operates mines in Alaska, Mexico, and Canada as well as the one in Idaho.

Members of  United Steelworkers Local 5114 began their unfair labor practices strike on March 13, 2017 after the company attempted to unilaterally implement changes to the collective bargaining agreement.

The company’s attempt came after more than a year of  negotiations with the union on a new collective bargaining agreement.

Among the changes demanded by Hecla, were concessions, some of which, workers said, will make their jobs less safe.

Work in underground silver mines like the Lucky Friday is dangerous.

A mixture of heavy equipment, high temperatures, brittle rock, and unstable dust make for a volatile work environment.

“When things go wrong (in the mine), you usually don’t get a second chance,” said Louis Elam, a Local 5114 member to the Spokane Spokeman-Review during the solidarity march.

In 2011, an explosion at the Lucky Friday killed one miner.

“They pay you for your diligence and safety,” continued Elam. “These are talented people who know how to work the rock.”

A key element in keeping the mine safe is the seniority system that miners and the company agreed to more than 35 years ago.

The seniority system allows senior miners to select their crews. The system, according to union members, enhances safety because it builds crew cohesion and communication.

It also has resulted in record-setting production levels.

But the company thinks that the seniority system gives miners too much control over their jobs and wants to end it.

The company’s concession demands also included changing procedures for recalling workers after layoffs, increasing workers’ health care costs, moving work out of the mine, and reducing miners’ bonuses.

Before the strike began, the company tried to bully workers into accepting the company’s demands and once the strike began, it tried to intimidate them into returning to work.

The union filed unfair labor practice charges against the company, and some of the charges were recently resolved.

As a result of a settlement between the company and the National Labor Relations Board, Hecla mailed letters to union members telling them that the company will no longer engage in the unfair labor practices listed in the letter.

Among other things, Hecla said that it will not threaten employees with “negative consequences” if they support the strike; it will not promise benefits to those who abandon the strike; and it will allow workers to take accrued vacation as either a lump sum payment or earned vacation time.

The letter also said that the company will bargain in good faith with the union and will not unilaterally implement changes to the collective bargaining agreement.

Prior to receiving the letter, Local 5114 members had a chance to vote on whether to continue the strike.

In a secret ballot election held on March 7, workers voted 123-51 to reject a proposal to submit the outstanding negotiating issues to arbitration and instead to continue the strike and to continue negotiating with the company.

“Our members have spoken,” said Dave Roose Local 5114 unit chairman to the Shoshone News Press after the vote. “We have played the game, jumped through the hoops, and everyone has had the chance to vote. We have chosen to remain on strike rather than let someone else decide our future.”

Local 5114 members are looking to make it clear that the March 17 solidarity march was not just a one-time event and that they are ready to continue their fight for a fair contract.

On the local’s Facebook page, Roose announced that beginning March 23, “every Friday will be designated Black Friday” and encouraged members, family, and supporters to wear black “in remembrance of all the union members that have given their lives on picket lines and (as) a show of solidarity!!”

Unions members join suit to save TPS

Labor organizations have joined immigrant rights activists in challenging the Trump administration’s decision to revoke temporary protected status (TPS) of immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan.

UNITE HERE, the National Day Laborers Organizing Network (NDLON), and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) joined a coalition of groups supporting ten TPS holders and five children of TPS holders who on March 12 filed suit in a San Francisco federal court to overturn the Trump administration’s TPS decisions.

One of the plaintiffs is Wilna Destin, a Haitian immigrant and a UNITE HERE organizer in Orlando, Florida.

“For my daughters, America is all they’ve known,” said Destin, explaining why she joined the lawsuit. “Without legal intervention to stop the expiration of Haitian TPS, my daughters will be forced to either lose their mother to Trump or to sacrifice their entire lives and educational opportunities to move to an underdeveloped country that cannot absorb a wave of thousands of deportations. I am afraid of becoming a target by standing up to Donald Trump, but my daughter and I chose to do this to save our family.”

One of Destin’s daughters is also a plaintiff.

TPS, which was authorized by legislation passed in 1990, allows immigrants fleeing from political violence, war, repression, or natural disasters to live and work in the US without fear of deportation.

Since TPS became law, TPS holders have routinely had their status reaffirmed, but that has changed under the Trump regime, which in little more than a year has revoked TPS for 200,000 immigrants and their families.

“With the stroke of a pen, this administration upended the lives of hundreds of thousands of people lawfully residing in the United States for years and sometimes decades,” said Emi MacLean, staff attorney for NDLON and one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs. “But in terminating TPS in the way that it did, this administration was exercising authority it did not have.”

The lawsuit contends that the decision to revoke TPS was based on the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant, white supremacist agenda.

According to the lawsuit, the decision to revoke TPS “motivated by intentional race- and national-origin-based animus against individuals from what President Trump has referred to as ‘shithole countries’.”

In addition to resting on a foundation of racism and nativism, the lawsuit says that Trump’s revocation of TPS is unconstitutional and violates the Administrative Procedures Act.

Trump’s revocation of TPS is unconstitutional, argues the lawsuit, because it deprives US citizens, this case the children of TPS holders, of their constitutional right to live in the US.

“These American children should not have to choose between their country and their family,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, advocacy and legal director of the ACLU of Southern California, who also represents the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit also says that the Trump administration has violated the Administrative Procedures Act because it arbitrarily and without explanation departed “from existing practice” without any regard for the impact that the revocation will have on peaceful, law-abiding people who contribute to the public good with their hard work and taxes.


In addition to Destin, the other adult plaintiffs are members of the National TPS Alliance, CARECEN-Los Angeles, African Communities Together, which are immigrant rights groups, and IUPAT.

D. Taylor, international president of UNITE HERE explained why the union is supporting this legal action to save TPS.

“This lawsuit is about who UNITE HERE is as a union, and who America is at its core,” Taylor said. “We are proud to be a union made up of many immigrant families and deeply committed to the labor movement as a civil rights vehicle. As Donald Trump and his administration attempt to divide America with his racist policies, it is imperative that labor serve as the moral conscious of this country and challenge the illegal and immoral policies that would destroy working families.”




April 2 public employee strike looming in Oklahoma

April 2 could be momentous day for Oklahoma teachers and state employees.

The Oklahoma Education Association (OEA), on March 8 announced that unless state lawmakers provide for a “significant raise” for teachers and school support employees and restore the funding cut from the state’s education budget, there will be a statewide closure of public schools on April 2.

“Teachers and support professionals of Oklahoma are angry and frustrated with the legislature for not doing its job,” said Alicia Priest, president of OEA. “We have tried several different paths to improve education funding, but none have worked. If the legislature cannot properly fund education and core state services by the legal deadline
of April 1, we are prepared to close schools and stay at the Capitol until it gets done.”

Two days later, the Oklahoma Public Employees Association (OPEA) board of directors voted to develop a work stoppage action plan for state employees. The work stoppage would take place on April 2.

“State employees in all 77 counties are fed up with state leaders who will not act to address state employee pay that is 25 percent below the private sector,” reads a statement issued by OPEA. “They are also tired of politicians who will not vote to raise revenue so core services can be sufficiently funded.”

The state’s failure to adequately fund core services such as education, public health, human services, law enforcement, etc. is the result of an extended shortage of revenue.

The revenue shortage is the result of generous tax breaks given to the oil and gas industry and the absence of other reliable and stable revenue sources.

While being stingy when it comes to funding the state’s core services, Oklahoma lawmakers have been almost philanthropic when it comes to lavishing tax breaks on the oil and gas industry.

US News reports that “Oklahoma has cut educational spending drastically in recent years while granting some of the most generous tax breaks in the country to oil and gas companies.”

The result of this generosity was a steep drop in state revenue even when oil production was booming.

Reuters reports that while oil and gas production boomed, “Oklahoma’s generous tax breaks for horizontal drilling resulted in declining revenue from production taxes,” which according to Reuters cost the state about $800 million in lost revenue between 2008 and 2014.

These tax breaks had been temporary, but in 2014, lawmakers voted to make them permanent.

In doing so, they continued to subsidize the oil and gas industry at the expense of core state services.

In 2017, the Guardian reported that Oklahoma’s lack of funding for public services made it resemble “a failed state” in which “the contract between citizens and public institutions breaks down.”

The Guardian describes a number of failures of the state to provide basic services including its lack of funding for programs that serve Oklahoma residents with mental disabilities. This lack of funding has resulted in a ten-year waiting period for some of these services.

In addition to short-changing its residents, Oklahoma has also been short-changing workers who provide state services. Oklahoma state employees haven’t had a pay raise in nearly 10 years.

And it’s no better for the state’s public school teachers whose average pay is the worst among all states in the US.

Priest said that as result of the low pay, Oklahoma teachers are leaving the state for better paying jobs in Texas and Arkansas.

Oklahoma’s failure to fund education has resulted in larger class sizes, reduced after-school programs, and cuts to other vital education services.

The lack of education funding also has caused nearly 100 of Oklahoma’s 513 school districts to reduce their school week to four days.

Teachers and state employees have been vocal advocates for improving the state’s core services, but lawmakers have ignored them.

Nevertheless, these advocates have persisted and what we’re seeing in Oklahoma, said Priest, is a “grassroots movement” that will no longer stand by and watch while state core services continue to crumble.

“Being last in the country in teacher pay and at the bottom of per pupil funding cannot be our vision for Oklahoma,” Priest said. “Our teacher shortage has reached catastrophic levels. . . We have thousands of full‐time support professionals who live below the poverty line. These people are vital to the day‐to‐day operations of our schools and play a significant role in our students’ lives.”

“We have found we cannot cut our way to prosperity,” continued Priest. “Our health care system is cutting services to our most at-risk populations. That includes children who are also our students.”

Priest went on to say that school districts across the state are preparing to close on April 2 but that a school closure is not OEA’s goal.

“Properly funding education and our state’s core services is the goal,” Priest said.

Frontier Communication workers strike for job security and improved customer service

Workers at Frontier Communications in West Virginia are on strike.

The 1400 striking Frontier workers are members if the Communication Workers of America (CWA). They walked off their jobs on March 4 because they want their new collective bargaining agreement to include job security protections for all union members.

Union members also want Frontier to keep promises that it made to customers when it acquired the state’s telecommunications system from Verizon in 2010.

“Frontier promised West Virginians that they would continue to provide the high quality service that is critical for families and businesses across the state,” said Ed Mooney, vice president of Communications Workers (CWA) of America District 2-13. “Instead, what we have seen is a sharp increase in customer complaints that has coincided with job cuts. There are simply not enough employees to get the job done.”

The CWA bargaining team began negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with Frontier ten months ago.

After nearly a year of bargaining, the company was willing to guarantee job protections for 85 percent of union members, but the union wanted job protections for all members.

Union members say that job protections and quality services go hand in hand.

Frontier acquired West Virginia’s telecommunication system from Verizon in 2010 and at the time promised to invest in the state’s local workforce and its telecommunication system.

But instead, the company eliminated 500 good-paying, middle class jobs, a 27.5 percent reduction in its workforce.

Half of those job cuts have come since January 2017.

In December, about the same time that Frontier learned that it would be getting a substantial tax cut, the company announced its plan to eliminate 50 more jobs.

While Frontier has been eliminating good-paying union jobs, the work load has not declined, and the company is using lower-paid non-union contractors to pick up the slack.

As the company relies more on inexperienced contractors, customer service complaints have increased substantially.

The union’s review of informal customer service complaints filed with the West Virginia Public Service Commission found that complaints against Frontier increased by 69 percent between 2014 and 2017 going from 639 in 2014 to 1072 in 2017.

“”Customers are waiting way too long to have their problems resolved, and too often we’re back fixing the same problems over and over again,” said John Bailey, president of CWA Local 2276 in Bluefield. “Frontier is leaving West Virginia behind. The network has been neglected and there are just not enough experienced, well-trained workers left to handle the service requests.”

Since the strike began, Frontier has been trying to maintain service by importing out-of-state contractors to serve as replacement workers.

One of the out-of-state contractors was detained by police after he brandished a gun at striking workers as they walked their picket line.

Despite the actions of one disgruntled contractor, striking Frontier workers have been receiving widespread support locally and throughout the US.

During a recess on the final day of the state Legislature’s session, a busload of Democratic lawmakers joined a Charleston picket line of  striking Frontier workers.

Earlier in the week, Frontier received a letter from Kent Carper, president of the Kanawha County Commission.

In his letter, Carper wrote that he was disappointed with Frontier.

When Frontier began operating West Virginia, wrote Carper, it made promises to the community, but the company “failed to live up to its promises.”

Carper requested a meeting with company officials “to discuss this work stoppage and offer my assistance to resolve it.”

In addition to these elected officials, other unions and union members from all over the US are supporting striking Frontier workers.

During the first week of the strike, members of International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 10, SEIU Virginia Local 512, CWA Local 2201, CWA locals from Virginia and Maryland, and UAW locals joined Frontier picket lines.

United Food and Commercial Workers locals 1776 and 23 whose members live and work in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia sent a letter pledging support for the striking workers and their customers.

A number of unions including CWA locals all over the country and United Mine Workers of America locals 1924, 1620, and 1332 from the Navajo Nation posted messages of support on Facebook.

And union members and other supporters from all over the country have been making contributions to the strikers’ Solidarity Fund, which helps striking workers meet the financial responsibilities during the strike.

In  a statement issued on March 9, Mooney said that Frontier, which has already agreed to job security protections for 85 percent of its union employees, could end the strike by extending the same protections to just 200 more of its union workers.

“We are asking them to make a commitment on job security for 200 of their employees to close this deal,” Mooney said. “They have no problem making a commitment to 200 scabs, many of them from out of state, in order to try to undermine our strike. Why not commit to their own employees, some of whom have been with the company for 40 years or more?”

UNITE HERE holds week of action to support immigrant workers

UNITE HERE announced that during the week of March 5-9 the union will launch a series of actions to support immigrant workers in danger of having their DACA or TPS protections revoked.

“With the fates of hundreds of thousands of DACA and TPS holders remaining uncertain, . . . UNITE HERE is running major internal member education campaigns for DACA holders and is organizing externally against Trump’s racist immigration policies,” said the union in a statement about this week’s activities.

DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an executive order issued by President Obama. It allows immigrants who came to the US as children with their parents to work, study, and live without fear of deportation.

Last year, President Trump revoked DACA, and March 5 was supposed to be the day that DACA protections expired, but President’s Trump’s revocation has been suspended while courts review his action.

More than 800,000 people who have lived in the US most of their lives are protected by DACA.

“America has been my home since I immigrated here at 12 years ago,” said Celica Valdez, a UNITE HERE member from Monterey, California. “DACA allowed me to come out of the shadows and provide for my family. I’m a single mother, and my family depends on my union job as a hotel worker at Hyatt. If Trump wins with taking away my work authorization, my family would be destroyed.”

TPS, or Temporary Protected Status, has been in effect since 1990. It gives protected status to immigrants fleeing political violence, repression, war, or natural disasters.

It has allowed more than 300,000 immigrants who can’t live in safety in their own countries to do so in the US.

During the Trump administration 250,000 immigrant workers with TPS status from El Salvador, Haiti, and Nicaragua have had their TPS terminated and been ordered to leave the US by 2019.

UNITE HERE has 270,000 members, many of whom work in the hospitality industry. According to the union, tens of thousands of our members are immigrant workers, some of whom are affected by President Trump’s DACA and TPS decisions.

UNITE HERE on March 5 began its week of mobilization in Washington DC by joining SEIU, another union with a large contingent of immigrant members, in supporting immigrant rights activists, who demonstrated near the Capitol to demand that DACA protections be extended.

At the Capitol complex, 87 people were arrested for committing non-violent acts of civil disobedience.

The next day, UNITE HERE Local 23 members in Indianapolis, Indiana joined a demonstration in downtown Indianapolis demanding that the state’s two US senators–Joe Donnelly and Todd Young–support legislation that would make  DACA permanent.

The demonstration was organized by Faith in Indiana, a faith community action group that advocates for economic and racial justice

Speaking to the demonstrators, Rev. Steve Carlsen, dean of Christ Church Cathedral, an Indianapolis Episcopalian church, criticized Indiana’s two US senators, Joe Donnelly and Sen. Todd Hunter, for voting in favor of a budget that continues to fund the government’s “massive deportation machine.”

Demonstrators locked arms and formed a human chain through downtown Indianapolis connecting the local offices of Sen. Donnelly and Sen. Young.

Twenty-three people, including at least one member of Local 23, were arrested when they refused police orders to disperse.

In Honolulu, UNITE HERE Local 5 got  an early start on the union’s week of action by holding an immigrant citizenship application fair on March 3 and 4.

The union trained 150 union and community volunteers to help eligible immigrants to apply for citizenship.

“The historic citizenship action is one of the largest in UNITE HERE international’s history, and resulted in 10 times the citizenship applications than the next largest citizenship fair in Hawaii’s history,” reported the union.


UNITE HERE said that it plans other action this week.

UNITE HERE members will be lobbying Congress to support proposals that will extend DACA and TPS protections denied by the Trump administration and will be conducting internal organizing forums to educate members about the current status of DACA and TPS.

“This week will also see UNITE HERE affiliates in swing states such as Pennsylvania and Nevada and as far flung as Indiana to New Jersey mobilizing in-state for a range of activities,” said the union.

West Virginia teachers’ strike continues

Update (3/6/2018): The Republican dominated Senate succumbed to the pressure of striking West Virginia teachers and school support employees and agreed to support a 5 percent raise for them.

Both the Senate and the House voted unanimously to support the raise, and Gov. Jim Justice signed the bill.

Striking education workers who filled the halls of the West Virginia Capitol cheered the news.


Last week, I incorrectly reported that West Virginia teachers and school support employees would return to work after  being on strike for four days.

West Virginia education employees, however, remain on strike because West Virginia Senate President Mitch Carmichael torpedoed an agreement that would have ended the strike.

The agreement between the unions whose members are on strike, the West Virginia Education Association (WVEA), the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia (AFT-WV), and the West Virginia School Support Personnel Association (WVSSPA), and Gov. Jim Justice was announced on February 27.

It would have given all education employees a 5 percent pay increase, created a task force to find a long-term solution to rising health benefit costs, and ended any chance of anti-public school and anti-union legislation from passing during this session of the Legislature.

The state Legislature had to approve the 5 percent raise in order for it to become effective, and the House of Delegates on February 28 did so by a voting 98-1 in favor of HB 4145.

The raise would have been the first pay increase for teachers and school support employees since they received a one-time bonus payment four years ago.

The House sent HB 4145 to the Senate, but Sen. Carmichael, the Republican leader of the Senate, refused to allow a vote on the bill.

Feeling angry and betrayed, the striking education employees vowed to stay on strike until the Senate approved the agreement that they had reached with the governor.

On Friday, March 2, the seventh day of the strike, 40 West Virginia school superintendents met with Carmichael to urge him to support a pay raise for the striking education employees.

The next day, the Senate Finance Committee met to consider HB 4145, and in a 9-8 vote, the committee amended the House bill by reducing the pay raise from 5 percent to 4 percent.

In addition, the committee increased a previously agreed upon 3 percent raise for state employees to 4 percent.

Christine Campbell, president of AFT-WV called the committee’s vote “a deal breaker,” and the three unions whose members are on strike issued a joint statement about the committee’s proposal.

“We are angry and disappointed with the actions of Sen. Carmichael and his Republican leadership team,” began the statement. “Our agreement was for a 5 percent increase for education employees–period!”

The statement went on to say that the education unions supported a 5 percent raise for state employees and criticized Sen. Carmichael and the Senate leadership for pitting one group of under paid pubic servants against another.

The unions also thanked the public including their students, parents, community leaders, and school superintendents who have supported the goals of the strike, but concluded by saying that “Sen. Carmichael and the Senate leadership team leave us no choice–all public schools in West Virginia will be closed again on Monday and remain closed until the Senate honors the agreement that was made.”

After the committee vote, the Senate convened to vote on the amended bill and voted 21-13 to lower the pay raise from 5 percent to 4 percent–or, at least, that’s what the Senate leadership thought happened.

Unfortunately for them, none of the Senate leaders bothered to read the committee’s bill, which contained an error.

Somebody had forgotten to change the section of the bill containing the new salary schedules, and the bill that senators voted on actually  maintained the 5 percent pay increase.

The amended bill with the 5 percent raise still in it was sent to the House.

After the Senate leadership realized that they had made a mistake, they recalled the bill and re-voted to lower the raise.

The House refused to concur with Senate’s amendment, and a conference committee is scheduled to meet on Monday to resolve the issue.

Meanwhile the West Virginia teachers strike continues for at least another day.

Dale Lee, president of WVEA, said that the Senate leadership including Sen. Carmichael miscalculated when they thought that they could lower the pay increase agreed to by the unions and Gov. Justice.

“They thought that teachers and school support employees were bluffing about staying out until the Senate honored the agreement,” Lee said.

“They were wrong,” he continued later. “We were not bluffing. . . . On Monday, we will be back at the capitol and invite everyone who can to join us. We must make sure that the Senate hears our voice and knows that we won’t back down.”