CA DirectTV workers stand together in solidarity to protest unjust firing

DirectTV installation and maintenance technicians in Sacramento, California refused to work on January 30 because one of their fellow technicians was unfairly fired.

The company fired Anthony Estrada, a two-year DirectTV employee, because it claimed that he lost a $300 meter used to aim satellite dishes.

According to the workers, Estrada’s firing was the first time that the company had fired someone for losing a meter or other tool of any kind.

“We have had guys lose a meter before,” said one technician. “They just made them pay the depreciation cost.”

Estrada is one of 130 DirectTV workers at the company’s McClellan Business Park office in Sacramento

The workers are members of Communication Workers of America Local 9421, a 1500 member local whose members work for AT&T in the Sacramento area.

AT&T bought DirectTV in 2015, and since then many DirectTV workers have joined CWA locals.

California and Nevada DirectTV workers, including those in Sacramento, joined CWA in 2016 and have been bargaining for their first contract.

At present, because there is no contract there is no agreed upon grievance procedure for resolving the kinds of unfair disciplinary actions that led to Estrada’s firing. As a result, the workers decided to take direct action to protest the company’s unjust firing.

The job action began on a Monday, and escalated on Tuesday when workers showed up outside the DirectTV service center and refused to go to work again.

At that point, the company said that it was locking out the workers.

The company’s action however, failed to intimidate the workers, and they showed up again on Wednesday en masse with picket signs reading, “WE ARE ONE.”

On Thursday, the company refused to allow the workers to use restroom facilities in the office, but the workers maintained their picket lines outside the office.

While the workers’ job action continued, the union and the company met to discuss ways to end the job action.

On Friday morning, the two sides announced an agreement, and the technicians resumed work on Friday afternoon.

The agreement did not restore Estrada’s job immediately; instead, the two sides agreed to bring the issue of his firing to the bargaining table.

The union and company are scheduled to meet on February 8 at which time CWA will present its case for reinstating Estrada.

“It didn’t go 100 percent the way we wanted to, but it’s still not over yet,” said Estrada to the Sacramento Bee.

In the meantime, John Miller, president of Local 9421 had high praise for the new members of the local. “I want to say I am very proud of my guys and extremely impressed with the solidarity they showed in uniting for one of their own. I’m very proud to have this group in my local,” said Miller.

Supporters of Nissan workers: “Worker rights are civil rights”

A group that included civil rights activists, clergy, local elected officials, union members and leaders, and students on January 26 demonstrated outside of a Nashville Nissan dealership to protest civil rights violations at the Nissan factory in Canton, Mississippi.

“We are proud to stand with our friends in Mississippi to call attention to civil rights abuses at Nissan’s assembly plants,” said the Rev. Ed Thompson, chair of Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH), a coalition of faith leaders, community organizations, and labor unions. “We believe workers’ rights are civil rights. We’re asking Nissan to do better by its hard-working employees, and we’re asking Nissan’s dealers and customers to join us in this cause.”

The Nashville demonstration was the first of a series of planned actions being taken to raise awareness of troubling conditions at Nissan’s Canton factory, which manufactures several Nissan models including the Altima, Frontier, Murano, and Titan.

Workers at the Canton Nissan factory have become concerned about safety at the factory, a punishing production quota that exacerbates safety problems, a two-tiered wage system that pays temporary workers much less and provides fewer benefit than permanent workers, and the company’s campaign of coercion and intimidation directed at workers who want to form a union.

Workers who have been trying to form a union local of the United Autoworkers (UAW) have seen their safety deteriorate since the plant was opened in 2003.

“People get hurt too often at Nissan and these injuries can rob us of our ability to provide for our families,” said Ernest Whitfield, a 13-year Nissan employee in Canton who attended the Nashville demonstration. “We’re forced to decide if we should work with an injury, or report it and potentially lose our jobs. It strips away your dignity to feel like the company values production numbers more than the safety of the people who make it successful.”

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in July fined Nissan for safety violations at the Canton plant that that caused serious injuries to two workers. According to OSHA, both workers were hospitalized because of falls caused by slip hazards that the company failed to correct. One fall happened in October 2015; the other in February 2016.

At the Nashville demonstration, a delegation delivered a letter to the dealership’s owner from the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan (MAFFAN), a civil rights coalition supporting the Canton Nissan workers.

The letter, signed by Dr. Isiac Jackson, president of the General Missionary Baptist State Convention of Mississippi and chairman of MAFFAN, says that despite promises that Nissan would “bring quality jobs to our community for years to come, over time, Nissan has decided to take a different path. Today, the company exploits its predominately African American workforce in a number of ways.”

Speaking at the Nashville demonstration, Vonda McDaniel, president of the local labor council, criticized Nissan for the disparity between what it says are its values and the way that it conducts itself at the Canton plant.

“Nissan spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year marketing itself as a socially responsible car maker,” said McDaniel.. “But the reality is, Nissan is turning a blind eye toward workers’ rights and safety problems at its assembly plants. It’s time for Nissan dealers and customers to recognize that what they’re selling and buying just doesn’t fit the image of what Nissan claims it’s producing.”

Similar demonstrations are planned for Nissan dealerships in Atlanta, Birmingham, Alabama, Charlotte, North Carolina, Greensboro, North Carolina, New Orleans, and Raleigh, North Carolina.

Workers at two Trump hotels settle labor disputes

Union members at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas won their first union contract, and workers at the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC won the right to conduct an organizing campaign without management interference.

The two separate agreements with the management of the two hotels were announced on December 21.

In Las Vegas food and beverage and housekeepers, who one year ago voted to join UNITE HERE Culinary Workers Local 226, reached an agreement with hotel management on their first union contract that raises wages and provides a pension, health care benefits, and job protections.

“This agreement is the result of tremendous efforts of the parties’ leadership teams. Both the Culinary Union and the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas extend their congratulations to each other and each look forward to a mutually productive and peaceful labor-management partnership,” reads a statement issued by Local 226.

While the statement suggests that the two parties are on the road toward building a mutually respectful relationship, the history of the workers’ struggle for a union suggests that the road to enlightened labor relations at the Trump hotel may be a bit rocky.

Workers at Trump Las Vegas began talking about organizing a union in 2014. That talk quickly became a full-fledged organizing campaign, and for a year, pro-union workers with the help of union organizers talked one-on-one to other workers about the benefits of having a union.

They told their fellow workers about the 35,000 union workers at other Las Vegas hotels who were paid better wages and had pensions, excellent health care benefits, and job protections.

Some union supporters wore buttons to work to express their support for the union.

Management reacted with a campaign of its own. The Trump Las Vegas hotel, which is co-0wned by billionaire Phillip Ruffin, spent $560,000 to prevent workers from organizing a union.

In June 2014, five workers were suspended for wearing union buttons to work and talking to other workers about joining the union.

A year later, they were awarded back pay for lost wages after the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that hotel management had violated their right to speak freely about joining a union.

The union filed other charges of unfair labor practices including allegations of physical assaults against union supporters, verbal abuse, intimidation, and threats.

In August 2015, the NLRB ruled that Trump Las Vegas acted illegally to prevent workers from joining a union by suppressing their free speech, illegally interrogating employees, threatening them with reprisals for supporting the union, and in one instance, physically assaulting union supporters.

Things didn’t get any easier after workers voted in December 2015 to join Local 226. Hotel management refused to bargain with the union for a first contract.

Eleven months after the workers voted to unionize, the NLRB ruled that Trump Las Vegas Hotel management violated the National Labor Relations Act by refusing to bargain with the union

Hotel management reacted by appealing the decision rather than negotiating.

However, management’s attitude toward the union made an abrupt and unexpected about-face, and in December, the two sides announced an agreement on the workers’ first collective bargaining agreement.

The turn around came as President-elect Trump was facing intense scrutiny about his business holdings and the potential conflicts of interest that would exist between those holdings and his responsibilities as President of the United States.

Among the possible conflicts of interest were his shares of ownership in the Trump hotels in Las Vegas and Washington DC that were both subject to unfair labor practices investigations being carried out by the NLRB.

The New York Times reports that Trump and his transition team have been working vigorously to create an image that no conflicts of interest will exist after he becomes President.

To do so they have been trying to resolve some of the most blatant examples of potential conflicts of interest, including Trump’s labor relations problems in Las Vegas and Washington DC.

As a result, the Trump hotels in these two cities moved quickly to settle their labor problems.

In Washington DC that meant reaching an agreement with UNITE HERE Local 25, which has been helping workers at the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC organize a union.

Local 25 announced that the agreement will allow a union organizing drive to proceed without management interference.

“(The agreement) satisfies the union’s goal to represent and ensure strong working conditions for hospitality workers in the Washington, DC metropolitan area,” said John Boardman, president of Local 25.  “We look forward to pursuing a mutually productive partnership with Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C.”

Fight for $15 victory in Minnesota; airport workers choose union

Workers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on November 14 became union members.

They joined SEIU Local 26 after a long organizing campaign that grew out of the national Fight for $15 Movement.

“This victory did not come easy, but it was worth the effort,” said Abdi Ali, a cart driver who has worked at the airport for eight years.”We are always there for each other, and now we will finally have a real voice at the airport.”

Ali and the 600 other new union members work for AirServ, a Delta Airline subcontractor. They are baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, cart drivers, wheel chair agents, and other service providers whose work is essential but whose wages are low.

Their organizing campaign began in 2013 at about the same time that low-wage workers across the US were striking and demonstrating for an increase in the national minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Airport workers in Minnesota took part in the early Fight for $15 street demonstrations. After the street actions were over, they took the fight for $15 to their jobs and began organizing a union.

AirServ workers and other low-wage Minneapolis-St. Paul airport workers demonstrated, picketed, petitioned, and testified for higher wages and better working conditions.

Their organized efforts won paid sick leave and a higher minimum wage for all airport workers. The new airport minimum wage was $10 an hour, $1 above the state’s minimum wage.

Those victories showed the power of collective action, but they fell short of the workers’ ultimate goal–a living wage and an organized voice on the job that could give them a say in determining the terms and conditions of their work.

So, the AirServ workers pressed ahead for union recognition. In June, the workers voted to strike unless the company recognized their union and took steps to improve working conditions.

The strike was averted when AirServ agreed to establish a process that would allow workers to decide whether they wanted to join a union without interference from the company.

But details about how workers would make this decision were left unclear.

For two months, AirServ and negotiators from Local 26 negotiated the details of a fair process.

In August, AirServ workers grew impatient and authorized another strike unless an agreement on a fair process could be reached.

Finally the union and the company agreed that the company would recognize the union if a majority of workers signed union representation cards and a neutral third-party verified the signatures.

In November after the signed authorization cards were verified, the company announced that it would recognize the union.

“I couldn’t be happier than I am today,” said Ali after hearing the news.

The union victory was especially important to Misrak Anbesse, an airplane cleaner and like most of the other AirServe workers is an immigrant from East Africa.

“Winning our union was a big step for us—and for everyone working to raise up people of color and immigrants in Minnesota,” said Anbesse.

“We’re all working together for a better life for our families,” she added.  “I know the community here in Minnesota will keep supporting us as we bargain a good contract and work to raise wages at the airport even more.”

Honeywell workers reject company’s latest offer

After enduring a lockout that has lasted six months, workers at two Honeywell plants in South Bend, Indiana and Green Island, New York, on November 12 rejected the company’s latest contract proposal.

“We’ve been out here for too long to cave for something like this,” said Tom Simpson, a member of UAW Local 9 to the South Bend Tribune.

The lockout began in May when members of Local 9 in South Bend and UAW Local 1508 in Green Island rejected Honeywell’s contract proposal that would have raised health care premiums, raised health care deductibles by as much as 400 percent, frozen pensions, stopped company pension contributions, and given the company complete control of the workers’ health care plan, which meant that the company could impose more benefit reductions without bargaining with the union.

“We’ve got a lot of people that relied on the quality insurance they had,” said Adam Clevenger to Workers Independent News. “And what they want to offer now is gonna just put a burden on those people and what they’ve worked for all these years.”

In its latest proposal to end the lockout, the company offered to limit premium increases to 15 percent per year for the next five years and make contributions to workers’ health savings accounts to offset some of the higher premium costs.

But Honeywell’s proposal still included major reductions to the workers’ health care and pension benefits.

Honeywell is hardly a struggling company that can ill afford to provide quality health care and retirement security to its workers.

It ranks 75th on Fortune’s list of the world’s 500 largest companies.

It employs about 350 production workers at its South Bend and Green Island facilities, where it produces wheels, brakes, and fuel systems for commercial and military aircraft.

But it  is a highly diversified company that owns manufacturing facilities all over the US and the world that produce consumer products, automation and control systems, and other aerospace products.

It even owns a uranium processing plant in Metropolis, Illinois.

It also is a very rich company. According to Bloomberg, with $9.1 billion in cash on hand, “Honeywell International, Inc. has more cash than almost every one of its peers.”

Only General Electric and Boeing have more.

But instead of using a pittance of its pile of cash to maintain quality health care and retirement security for its workers in South Bend and Green Island, Honeywell is looking for other ways to spend its money.

It recently announced that it was raising its annual investor dividend by 12 percent..

It is also about to go on a buying spree. Bloomberg reported in March that Honeywell was planning to spend $10 billion to buy other companies.

In a report to investors, Honeywell said that it had already spent $2.5 billion on new acquisitions and $1.9 billion to repurchase stock from investors.

Meanwhile, its workers in South Bend and Green Island have endured a six-month lockout over what amounts to a tiny fraction of the company’s cash stash.

XPO workers resist anti-union campaign; vote to join Teamsters

XPO Logistics workers in Illinois and Connecticut resisted an intense anti-union campaign and voted in two separate elections to join the Teamsters.

“This is all about us workers standing up to this corporate bully and demanding fair wages, affordable health insurance and an end to the mistreatment,” said Ted Furman an XPO employee at the company’s North Haven, Connecticut warehouse. “XPO’s CEO, Bradley Jacobs, had the audacity to come to our warehouse and tell us we don’t need a union, and then he returned just a couple of days before the election. Well, Mr. Jacobs, we are now proud Teamster members!”

The North Haven warehouse workers on October 13 voted 72-49 to join the Teamsters and became XPO’s first warehouse workers in the US to unionize.

On the same day, XPO drivers in Aurora, Illinois also voted to join Teamsters Local 179.

“Our victory is important to all of us because we have seen how XPO operates since taking over Con-way Freight,” said Cliff Phillips, a driver in Aurora. “XPO is treating us unfairly, denying us any voice on the job and just seems interested in the bottom line. But now we will fight back as Teamsters!”

XPO Logistics is one of the world’s largest transportation and logistics companies. It operates businesses in every link of the supply chain all over the world.

It has been on a buying binge as it tries to capture more of the transportation and logistics market. In 2015, it purchased Con-way Freight, where the Teamsters were conducting an organizing drive.

After the purchase, XPO continued and expanded the anti-union efforts initiated by Con-way.

In Aurora, XPO spent money on a union avoidance company to keep its Aurora site union free.

On the days before the Aurora union vote was taken, consultants from the union avoidance company hopped into the cabs of freight trucks and gave drivers lecutures on the right to work for less by remaining union free.

XPO has used other tactics to prevent workers from joining a union.

In Laredo, Texas, workers at what then was Con-way voted in 2014 to join the Teamsters.

Instead of bargaining with the union, the company went to court to overturn the election.

When XPO bought Con-way, XPO could have withdrawn the challenge and recognized the workers’ union, but the company chose not to.

Unfortunately for XPO, a federal judge in September denied XPO’s request to set aside the Laredo election results.

“The company has tried to do everything to delay and frustrate the workers, but for over two years they have remained strong and united in their fight for a more secure future and a voice on the job,” said Frank Perkins, president of Local 657.

Tyson Johnson, director of the Teamsters Freight Division, urged XPO to halt further efforts to nullify the union vote.

“We demand that the company gets serious about negotiating a contract in Laredo. These workers have waited far too long,” said Johnson.

Shortly after the union victories in Connecticut and Illinois, the Teamsters took advantage of the momentum generated by the pro-union vote and conducted a mass leafletting of XPO work sites.

“The national campaign continues to gain momentum (as). . .workers have realized that the new XPO, which is highly unionized in Europe, needs to be a union employer here in the US, too,” said a posting on the Teamsters XPO Facebook page.

The next union election will take place at an XPO site in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania where 52 drivers will vote on whether to join the Teamsters.

Ryan Janato, an XPO driver in Aurora had a message for the King of Prussia drivers and other XPO workers who want a union voice on the job.

“They said it couldn’t be done. We did it; you can’t be scared of these guys. The union busters come in; they did what they tried to do. It didn’t work. We made a better future for our families and co-workers, and you can do it too. Just believe in your local,” said Janato.

Washington farmworkers vote yes for a union

Farmworkers in the state of Washington have voted to join a union.

In a secret ballot election held on September 12, workers at the Sakuma Brothers Farms in Burlington, Washington voted to join Familas Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ).

“This win is a win for all farmworkers,” said Ramon Torres, president of FUJ. “Now we will be getting ready for a union contract negotiation process.”

Sakuma Brothers Farms is a vertically integrated agribusiness that among other things is a large scale producer of blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries on its farms in Washington.

Sakuma sells its berries to Driscoll’s, a global agribusiness that distributes berries to markets all over the world.

The workers at the farm in Burlington are immigrants from Mexico. Most are Triqui and Mixteco indigenous peoples from the state of Oaxaca in southwestern Mexico.

Three years ago they formed FUJ and began organizing to fight for better pay, better working conditions, and better housing in the dilapidated labor camps where many of the workers live while picking berries.

A wage theft suit initiated by FUJ won an $850,000 settlement in which Sakuma agreed to pay workers for unpaid wages.

FUJ’s organizing also won increased wage rates for workers.

However, Sakuma refused to recognize FUJ as the workers’ union and refused to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement.

To win union recognition, FUJ called for a boycott of berries produced at Sakuma Farms. The main target of the boycott was Driscoll’s, Sakuma’s primary distributor.

Supporters of the boycott established solidarity boycott committees primarily in cities along the West Coast. The committees urged stores such as Costco and Whole Foods to stop selling Driscoll’s berries.

In another act of solidarity, members of the International Longhore Workers Union in July refused to load Driscoll’s berries onto a ship in the Port of Seattle.

In the summer of 2016 when the berry picking season began, things began to heat up in the fields.

On July 20, 200 workers walked off the job in a blueberry field to protest wage rates and the limited number of hours they were allowed to work.

They went back to work the next day without the issues being resolved.

Another walkout took place on August 9 when workers objected to a management decision to lower the blueberry wage rate in a particular field from $0.60 a pound to $0.56 a pound.

At the same time, workers in another blueberry field were being paid $0.77 a pound.

After walking off the job, the blueberry pickers marched to a blackberry field and urged workers there to join the walkout.

Management tried to stop the blueberry workers from talking to the blackberry workers and even threatened to call the police.

After intense discussions between the two sides, management agreed to sit down and talk with representatives from the workers, and the two sides reached an agreement.

The company agreed to raise the wage rate in the blueberry field where the walk out took place to $0.65 per pound if the workers agreed to return to work.

Despite the victory, workers were frustrated by this and other ad hoc agreements with the company. They wanted something in writing that would guarantee fair treatment. In short, they wanted a contract.

Three weeks later, FUJ called for another walkout and urged community supporters to join workers on the picket lines.

When workers in blueberry fields began walking off the job on August 27, they were cheered on by FUJ members and supporters who had gathered on a picket line.

Those who walked out and their supporters marched to other fields and urged more workers to join the strike.

“We don’t walk out of the field because we just feel like it,” said Tomas Ramon, a member of the FUJ coordinating committee. “This is the only way that Sakuma listens to our demands for pay that is fair for our labor. That is why we need a union contract, so we can work and not to be calling for work stoppages in order to get a fair wage.”

After the walkout, Sakuma’s management sat down with leaders of FUJ for more talks. As a result, the two sides agreed to hold a secret-ballot union representation election on September 12 in which farmworkers would vote on whether to join FUJ.

In return, FUJ agreed to end the boycott.

During most of the organizing drive, Sakuma’s management contended that only a small percentage of farmworkers supported FUJ.

But when the ballots were counted, 77 percent voted to join FUJ.

“We want to thank all our supporters that helped made this victory happen,” said Felimon Pineda, vice president of FUJ. “We are looking forward to a new and productive relationship with Sakuma.”