UNITE HERE Calls for boycott of Trump’s businesses

After marching into the clubhouse of the Trump National Golf Course in Los Angeles on September 27, members of UNITE HERE announced at the ritzy venue that the union was calling for a boycott of all businesses owned by Donald Trump and all businesses in which he has invested.

Two days later and four hundred miles up the road, UNITE HERE members in San Francisco rallied at the Bank of America building at 555 Californina Street.

“Trump is co-owner of 555 California St in San Francisco’s Financial District,” said a message on UNITE HERE’s Boycott Trump Facebook page. “We urge you to not patronize this Trump-related business until Trump Las Vegas complies with its obligation under federal law.”

The boycott stems from Trump’s refusal to negotiate a first contract with UNITE HERE’s Culinary Workers Union Local 226 in Las Vegas.

Housekeepers, bar workers, kitchen staff, and other workers at Trump International Hotel in December 2015 voted to join Local 226 in a union representation election.

Instead of negotiating a first collective bargaining agreement after the workers voted to unionize as required by law, the hotel’s management used appeals to the National Labor relations Board to avoid negotiating with the workers.

After the NLRB dismissed the appeals, management continued to stonewall the workers.

The stonewalling tactics led UNITE HERE to call for the boycott.

“Enough is enough,” said UNITE HERE President D. Taylor. “While Donald Trump waged an indefensible anti-worker and anti-immigrant presidential campaign, the workers at his Las Vegas hotel fought for dignity and respect in their workplace. They voted to unionize, they won, and now the law says Trump must negotiate.”

The workers’ union election victory was a long, hard-fought struggle. The organizing campaign began in 2014, and the workers had to overcome an aggressive anti-union campaign by management.

The hotel’s management hired the union avoidance firm Seyforth Shaw to fight the workers’ union drive.

During the almost two years that it took to secure a union election victory, workers endured threats, intimidation, a physical assault, and illegal surveillance.

Management implemented policies that prohibited free speech on the job to keep workers from talking about a union.

Some workers were suspended for wearing their union buttons to work, and some were fired for supporting the union.

The union managed to get the suspensions and firings reversed and back pay for those who were forced off their jobs.

While the organizing campaign was going on, the National Labor Relations Board filed three unfair labor practices complaints against Trump’s management.

After the workers won their union election, Trump’s management appealed and asked the NLRB to throw out the results.

Finally in July 2016, the NLRB dismissed Trump’s appeal, ruling that the appeal lacked merit.

Despite their lack of success at nullifying the results of the election, Trump’s hotel management continues to refuse to bargain with the union.

Having a union and a fair contract is crucial for the workers who have fought so long and hard for dignity and respect.

The Trump hotel is one of the few non-union hotels in Las Vegas. Trump Hotel workers in Las Vegas make $3.00 an hour less than their union counterparts. They also pay as much as $260 a month for health insurance. Union hotel workers don’t pay anything.

“We’re not second class workers,” said Eleuteria Blanco, a guestroom attendant at the Trump Hotel as she explained why she is continuing to fight for a good contract that will bring her up to the same level as the other 57,000 hotel workers who belong to Local 226.

Geoconda Arguello-Kline, Local 226’s secretary treasurer urged other workers and anybody who believes in fair play for workers to stand with the Trump Hotel workers.

“After a disgraceful anti-union campaign against their own workers, the hotel still refuses to negotiate with their employees,” said Arguello-Kline, “We call on allies and workers to stand in solidarity in a national boycott until Donald Trump, the ‘Great Negotiator,’ comes to the table.”


Union launches boycott to save jobs

The union representing laid off workers at the Nabisco bakery in Chicago has launched a boycott campaign to protest the layoffs.

The Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco, and Grain Millers Union (BCTGM) is urging consumers not to buy Oreos, Chips Ahoy, and Ritz Crackers made in Mexico.

The union on March 23 also announced that it would be sending teams of workers laid off at the Chicago bakery to communities all over the US to publicize the boycott.

Two days before the union made its announcement, Mondelez International, the owner of the Chicago bakery, laid off 277 workers at the bakery.

Mondelez, the world’s largest maker of snack foods, is in the process of moving much of the work done at the Chicago bakery to Mexico. When the process is complete, 600 of the 1200 jobs at the bakery will be eliminated.

In July 2015, Mondelez told its Chicago workers that instead of investing to upgrade the Chicago bakery, it would be shutting down some of its production and moving the work to Mexico.

Prior to the announcement, Mondelez had made the workers an offer that the company knew the workers couldn’t accept–agree to $46 million a year in concessions in perpetuity, and the company would invest in upgrading the plant.

David Durkee, international president of BCTGM called Mondelez’s offer a sham.

“They made an offer that was so ridiculous they knew it could never be accepted,” said Durkee.

Had workers accepted the proposed concessions, their pay and benefits would have been cut by 60 percent.

“I don’t know of anybody who could support a family if 60 percent of their pay is cut today,” said Jethro Head, vice president Midwest Region BCTGM.

According to Durkee, Mondelez’s offer was made to justify a decision that had already been made.

Mondelez was ranked 91 on the 2015 Fortune 500 list of the world’s largest corporations.

It is the product of a Byzantine restructuring of the commercial food business that involved Kraft, General Mills, Nabisco, and the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company.

After a series of mergers, restructuring, and spinoffs, Kraft in 2010 split itself in two. One company continued to make and sell food products under the Kraft and other brands.

The other became Mondelez, a global snack food corporation, that makes Oreos, Cadbury candy, and a host of other popular snack foods.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the split was forced by Trian Fund Management, a hedge fund and activist investor with major holdings in Kraft.

Five years later, according to the Journal, William Ackman another hedge fund manager and activist investor acquired a $5.5 billion stake in Mondelez. The Journal reports at the time of the acquisition that Ackman “believes that Mondelez has to grow revenue faster and cut costs significantly or sell itself to a rival.”

At about the same time that Ackman was calling for cost cuts, Mondelez announced that it would be moving much of the work done at its Chicago bakery to Mexico.

Mondelez’s Chicago Nabisco bakery has been a fixture on Chicago’s Southwest Side since the 1950s.

Most of its workers are African American or Latino, many live in neighborhoods near the bakery, and quite a few have worked at the bakery for decades.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the Chicago bakery has been “crucial to Mondelez’s North American bakery business in part due to its location and because its skilled workers know how to make a variety of cookies and crackers.”

BCTGM says that the timing of the Chicago layoffs suggests that the company is trying to gain leverage just as Mondelez and BCTGM begin a round of negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement that covers 2,200 BCTGM members who work for Mondelez  at six locations across the US.

The union’s boycott campaign will give workers and consumers across the country an opportunity to stand in solidarity with laid off Mondelez workers and those who remain on the job but are facing the possibility of more cuts to their wages and benefits.

“(Mondelez) wants Americans to buy Oreo, Ritz Crackers, and Chips Ahoy, but (the company) isn’t interested in investing in Americans to make them,” said Head. “(Mondelez) wants to box up our decades of experience and use it to exploit the good people of Mexico.”

Farmworkers in Washington fight for a contract; urge boycott until they get one

It has been a contentious summer in the Sate of Washington’s Skagit Valley.

Farmworkers at the Sakuma Brothers berry farm have walked of the job three times to protest unfair production quotas that adversely affect their pay and safety and health conditions.

The strikes, which so far have lasted for short periods. are part of ongoing struggle for fair treatment and worker rights that began more than a decade ago.

The Sakuma Brothers farmworkers, mainly immigrants from southern Mexico, organized Familia Unidas por las Justicia (Families United for Justice) and are seeking to be recognized as a union by the company, a large industrial sized berry picking and processing operation.

Members of Familias Unidas are asking consumers to boycott berries picked at Sakuma, most of which are sold under the Driscoll’s brand.

Familias Unidas is also asking consumers to boycott Haagen-Dazs ice cream products which also use berries from Sakuma Brothers.

In a recent development, Familias Justicia reports that Sakuma Brothers is now packaging berries under the Belmont brand.

Familias Unidas over the years has won pay increases and other concessions from Sakuma Brothers, one of the largest berry producers in the State of Washington, but the company has refused to bargain with the workers’ group for an enforceable collective bargaining agreement.

Last year, Sakuma Brothers agreed to pay $850,000 to settle wage theft suits initiated by Familias Unidas.

The suits claimed that Sakuma Brothers failed to pay workers for time worked and denied them breaks.

Sakuma acknowledged that it made payroll mistakes that led to workers being under paid, but maintains that the mistakes were unintentional.

Familias Unidas struggle for a fair contract has attracted support from organized labor in the Northwest.

Members from the International Longshore Workers Union (ILWU) and other unions joined a July 11 march in the Skagit Valley to support Familia Unidas.

The day before the march, members of Familias Unidas met with union leaders from California, Washington, and Mexico to discuss strategies for winning a collective bargaining agreement.

“This is an important campaign that crosses borders to unite the common concerns of workers,” said Rich Austin, president of ILWU’s Pacific Coast Pensioners Association. “It’s not an easy fight, but the important fights are never easy. Solidarity and unity are the best weapons we have to fight injustice and capitalist greed.”

The ILWU in June passed a resolution of support for Familias Unidas at its international convention.

“The ILWU calls upon other labor organizations and legislators and congressional delegations to support a boycott of Sakuma Brothers Farms, Haagen-Dazs, and Driscoll’s Berries until the demands of Familias Unidas Por La Justicia are met, reads the resolution.

Although work has resumed after the most recent strike, the fight for a fair contract is continuing.

Familias Unidas is holding a demonstration on August 9 at the Skagit Historical Museum, which is presenting a program called Back to Our Roots, an historical overview of agriculture in the Skagit Valley.

The exhibit ignores the role that farmworkers have played in the agricultural history of the valley.

In addition, Steve Sakuma, one of the Sakuma Brothers owners is scheduled to speak at the ceremony that kicks off the exhibit.

“This is insult to the Farmworkers to have an event that blatantly leaves out people who have gathered or produced food in Skagit Valley for generations and have contributed much to the history of Skagit Valley,” reads an internet post announcing the demonstration.

Staples boycott still on says postal workers union

Postal workers and teachers on August 27 staged a back-to-school rally in downtown Boston urging teachers and parents to boycott Staples when shopping for school supplies.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) is experimenting with outsourcing Postal Service jobs, and chose Staples to operate the outsourcing pilot program. Under the terms of the agreement between USPS and Staples, Staples will provide an array of postal services at 82 of its stores, and USPS will evaluate the results and decide whether to expand the outsourcing project nationwide to Staples’ 1,500 stores.

The American Postal Workers Union (APWU)  is fighting this attempt to outsource good paying Postal Service jobs to a retailer that pays low wages, but the union said that its fight against outsourcing is more than a fight to save jobs.

“It is about protecting the public Postal Service,” said John Dirzius, Northeast Region coordinator for the APWU.  “Many people are outraged that a cherished public asset is being used to prop up a struggling private company.”

“Contracting (postal service) out to a third party will diminish that service and weaken a great American institution,” said Richard Stutman, president of the Boston Teachers Union, whose members joined the postal workers’ August 27 rally. “We stand behind our postal workers 100 percent and will urge our members to boycott Staples.”

USPS management’s public position is that the pilot with Staples isn’t an outsourcing project and that postal workers don’t need to fear losing their jobs, but an internal USPS memo obtained by APWU suggests otherwise.

“The pilot will be used to determine if lower costs can be realized with retail partner labor instead of the labor traditionally associated with retail windows at Post Offices,” reads the memo.

APWU’s campaign against the outsourcing pilot has had some success.

In July, Staples announced that it was withdrawing from the pilot project after APWU members picketed several Staples stores and several teachers unions announced that they would urge their members to boycott Staples. About 30 percent of Staples’ revenue comes from selling school supplies.

But Staples’ announcement turned out to little more than a public relations gambit. The pilot stores have continued to offer the same postal services as they did before the announcement. The only difference is that Staples and USPS changed the name of the outsourcing pilot from “Retail Partner Expansion” to “approved shipper.”

The back-to-school rally in Boston was aimed at making sure that the public knows that the outsourcing pilot with Staples is still going forward and so is the boycott.

According to Mark Dimondstein, APWU president, Staples has launched a major marketing drive aimed in teachers in hopes of softening the impact of the boycott.

APWU has countered with online ads asking teachers and parents to do their school supply shopping elsewhere.

APWU is also encouraging locals to spread the news about the boycott.

“I encourage all APWU members to ask the teachers they know and the parents of school-age children they know to buy school supplies from other stores,” said Dimondstein. “Locals should distribute the (boycott) flyers and ask for support from our friends and allies throughout the labor movement and in our communities.”

Staples is facing stiff competition in the office/school supply business from Walmart and Amazon, and that competition has had impact on sales.

Staples recently reported another quarter of declining sales and as a result, plans to close 140 of its stores.

Staples outsourcing deal with USPS could provide the company with a new source of revenue that could make up for lost sales, but a Boston APWU leader questioned whether it’s appropriate for USPS to prop up a company that appears to be on the decline.

“A failing private company doesn’t belong in the postal business,” said Bob Dempsey, vice president of the APWU’s Boston Metro local. “Postal consumers want reliable service from highly-trained workers who have taken an oath to protect their letters and packages. Staples can’t offer that.”

Staples and USPS suffered another setback on August 13 when a National Labor Relations Board administrative judge ruled that USPS must provide APWU with an unredacted copy the outsourcing pilot agreement between USPS and Staples.

The judge agreed with the union, which argued that the agreement contains information about outsourcing work covered by the collective bargaining agreement.

The union wants this information, so that it can perform its own cost benefit analysis to determine whether the outsourcing project can really save money.

USPS had argued that it couldn’t turn over the agreement because it contains trade secrets.

“The secrecy prompts the question: What are they hiding?” asked Dimondstein.

Farmworkers in Washington on strike, urge boycott

Migrant farmworkers at the Sakuma Brothers Farms in Washington state’s Skagit Valley are on strike for a fair wage and fair treatment and are asking supporters to boycott the farm’s berries and products such as Haagen Dazs strawberry ice cream that use the farm’s berries.

Most of the striking farmworkers are indigenous people who trace their ethnicity back to the Triqui and Mixteco civilizations of southern Mexico.

“Many of us have been coming to Skagit County to pick strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries for Sakuma Brothers Farms for years,” reads a statement by Familias Unidas por la Justicia (Families United for Justice), the workers’ union. “Every year that we have been coming to Sakuma Farms we have tried to ask for better wages, housing, and treatment from the Sakuma family. After years of trying to change the conditions, we felt it was necessary to organize into the union that we are today to make a lasting impact.”

In July the workers joined together to form Familias Unidas and demanded fair pay for the work they do. The workers also objected to the poor housing conditions in the labor camps where they live during the harvest.

The strike began in July when a supervisor fired Federico Lopez, a farmworker who was talking to other workers about joining the union.

The strikers demanded an increase to the piece rate that they were being paid.

The owner agreed to rehire Lopez and negotiate with the workers. The negotiations resulted in an agreement that the workers thought was fair.

The Skagit Valley Herald reports that the two sides agreed to a piece rate based on a test pick conducted by the workers.

The results of the test pick showed that the piece rate should be $0.48 per pound of berries, but the owner was only willing to pay $0.40 per pound.

Since then, the workers have engaged in a number of work stoppages to protest unfair pay and other problems on the job.

One of these problems is wage theft. They point to a recent review of pay stubs by workers showing that their pay was shorted.

The owner admits that some pay checks were short, but attributes the error to a computer glitch.

The union, however, accuses the owners of “systematically” miscalculating their wages.  “These ‘miscalculations’ or ‘glitches’ have been happening for years,” said the Familias Unidas statement.

The workers also say that their living conditions are bad. The shacks where they live during the harvest provide scarcely any protection from the elements.

They are also overcrowded. NBC Latino reports that shacks that are supposed to house six have as many as 14 workers crowded into them forcing some to sleep on the floor.

The strikers also say that they are often the target of racist comments and treatment by their crew bosses.

The strikers recently won a victory in court.

The owners stationed private security guards at the labor camp. The guards, said the owner, were for the workers’ protection.

But a judge ruled that the guards limited the freedom of association rights of workers and ordered them withdrawn.

The owners are now refusing to negotiate with Familias Unidas and are conducting a public relations campaign aimed at discrediting the union.

They recently fired Ramon Torres, who Familia Unidas members elected as their leader, and said that the firing was because Torres had committed an act of domestic violence.

Torres’ wife, who called the police after Torres shoved her during an argument, discounted the domestic violence charge.

After Torres was fired, union members again went on strike and have continued to maintain their strike.

The workers want a contract that states in writing what the Sakuma Farms owners say they are already doing.

“They tell the public that they are paying a fair wage, $12 per hour, and providing us with good working conditions just like is required by the contract they have covering the wages and working conditions of the guest workers,” said the Familias Unidas statement. “If that is true, why won’t they put that in writing in a contract with us?  That is all we are asking; an enforceable contract that guarantees what they say they are already doing.”

Locked out Canadian IKEA workers reject company offer because it’s too weak

As the lockout at the IKEA store in Richmond, British Columbia entered its fourth month, the company made an offer that it thought workers could not refuse. But for the fourth time since contract negotiations began earlier this year, the workers, who are members of Teamsters Local 213, voted to reject the company’s offer.

Local 213 Business Representative Anita Dawson, a former IKEA worker, told The Tyee that the rejected offer eliminated some of the concessions originally sought by the company but that the new offer was too weak.

According to Madeleine Lowenborg-Frick, an IKEA spokeswoman, IKEA’s latest proposal does not include the two-tiered wage structure that the company originally proposed.

The two-tiered wage structure would have resulted in new hires and some current employees making less that other workers doing the same job, one of the main reasons that 84 percent of Local 213 members in May rejected the company’s original offer.

After workers rejected the original offer, the company made subsequent proposals that Dawson described as backward bargaining. That is, the subsequent proposals were worse than the original.

While the company’s rejected offer was an improvement, it would have made it more difficult for workers, many of whom are low-wage workers, to make any significant headway in improving their wages.

The Globe Mail reports that most of the raises offered in the rejected proposal were tied to sales and productivity goals established solely by the company. Those goals are $20 million to $30 million more than current sales. The goals would escalate over a six-year period.

“Most of the things that attribute to the sales goals are out of our control,” said Dorothy Tomkins, a Local 213 member to the Globe Mail. “They’re basically within management’s control. We don’t control how much stock comes into the store and whether we have items available to sell.”

If the workers had accepted the company’s offer, it would have taken some workers more than 20 years to reach the maximum hourly rate in their job category.

Local 213 has maintained its pickets line at the store and is urging people to boycott the IKEA Richmond store and another IKEA store in Coquitlam that is owned by the same franchise holder who owns the Richmond store.

Other unions and union members have helped out Local 213. Members of the Douglas County Faculty Association recently joined Local 213 members on the picket line.

Earlier this month, JIm Sinclair, president of the BC Labor Federation wrote an op-ed piece that appeared in The Province in which he said that IKEA’s lockout is an attack on the middle class.

“IKEA insist(s) that its workers accept a contract that would lower wages by as much as four dollars an hour,” writes Sinclair. “IKEA’s offer also cuts benefits. Every time a rich company like IKEA is successful in replacing decent paying jobs with low-wage jobs, Canada’s shrinking middle class is made even more vulnerable.”

No justice, no piece; pizza workers launch boycott

Workers at a Milwaukee pizza factory on Monday launched a nationwide boycott of Palermo’s frozen pizza products. The workers traveled to Middleton, Wisconsin, a suburb of Madison to urge, Costco, the nation’s largest retailer of Palermo products, to pull Palermo and Kirkland pizza products from its shelves.

Some Palermo workers have been on strike since June when the company fired workers who were taking part in a union organizing drive.

“We are taking our message beyond the workplace to consumers and the community because all workers have a right to a voice on the job and safe workplace” said Raul De la Torres, a striking worker. “It’s a shame the company still refuses to recognize the worker’s concerns and hear the voices of consumers.”

In May, Palermo workers gathered 162 signatures on a petition for union representation, about 80 percent of the eligible workforce. The petition drive was organized by an independent union, the Palermo Workers Union, with the help of Voces de la Frontera, an immigrant and worker rights center.

On May 30, a delegation of workers and supporters met with Palermo management to discuss the possibility of the company recognizing the union and to review the process for verifying signatures.

The company subsequently fired 90 workers who did not respond to a company request to provide immigration documents. After the firings, workers went on strike.

The firings may have sparked the strike, but its cause runs deeper.

New workers work for low pay without benefits. Workers with more tenure receive better pay and some benefits but their work is unsafe. One common grievance unites both–the company does not treat them with respect.

“The company would speed up production faster and faster, which led to jams,” said Alberto, a striker who didn’t give his last name. “One day my sleeve got caught in the machine, sliced open my pinky, and I almost lost two fingers. I was in so much pain, but the company wanted me to go back to work almost immediately.”

Excessive line speed, unsafe conditions, and a general lack of respect caused Palermo workers to contact Voces de la Frontera in 2008. With the help of Voces, the workers slowly began laying the foundation for their union, which became a full-fledged organizing drive about a year ago.

The company says that it didn’t fire the workers for organizing a union but rather because of a notice that the company received earlier this year from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) questioning the immigration status of some of its employees.

The company, however, didn’t act on the ICE notice until after the workers presented their union petition and asked the National Labor Relations Board to hold a union election.

The strike has received a wide range of support from both community and labor groups.

On July 2, Rev. Joe Ellwanger of the Milwaukee Innercity Congregations Allied for Hope (MCAH) led a delegation of Palermo workers and supporters to the company headquarters where he delivered a petition supporting the workers signed by 15,000 people. Those signatures were gathered in less than a month.

“We’ve seen an incredible outpouring of support from union members, faith leaders, customers, and retailers,” said De la Torre in a statement about the July 2 demonstration.

Some labor unions have become actively involved in supporting the strike. AFSCME Local 60, which represents municipal workers in Dane County, organized a food drive for the strikers.

The South Central (Wisconsin) Federation of Labor with more than 100 affiliated unions, is urging its members to donate food and money to the strike fund.

The strikers have also received support from the Milwaukee Labor Council, the United Steelworkers, the Ironworkers Union, the Milwaukee Teachers Association, and other unions.

A union election was scheduled to take place in early July, but it has been postponed. The workers remain on strike and hope that the national boycott will get the fired workers reinstated and their union recognized. Others think that the strike has wider significance.

“The Palermo workers’ struggle is a struggle of national significance,” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Voces executive director. “In the wake of the recall election (of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker) that was bought and paid for by billionaire contributions this struggle reminds us that you cannot buy people’s dignity.”