Members of the National Nurses United (NNU) walked off the job November 11 and 12 to protest what they view as a lack of preparedness for an Ebola outbreak in the U.S. nationwide. The union also cited safety conditions and training as central issues during their ongoing contract talks with Kaiser Permanente. The strike occurred at multiple hospitals in 16 states and the District of Columbia.
Hundreds of federally contracted employees walked off the job November 13 to demand that President Obama order agencies to give preference to those companies that pay $15 per hour, provide benefits, and honor union rights. This was the first time employees at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center participated in a walkout, although it is the 10th one-day strike since May 2013. The strikes are backed by labor federation Change to Win, which has changed its demand for a “living wage” to a $15 wage floor, benefits, and collective bargaining rights. The Congressional Progressive Caucus, which supports the striking workers, discussed how President Obama’s previous executive order, which raised the minimum contractor wage to $10.10 and forced companies bidding for government contracts to disclose previous labor violations, was not enough.
Baggage handlers at Philadelphia International Airport walked off the job to call attention to alleged retaliation and intimidation by their contracted employer, Primeflight Aviation Services Inc., for involvement with an SEIU organizing campaign. The SEIU said the Philadelphia strike was coordinated with protests by airport workers in eight other cities the same day. The unfair labor allegations are the subject of an upcoming NLRB hearing. Workers employed by Primeflight at La Gaurdia Airport in New York and Newark Airport in New Jersey also protested and asked airlines to pressure their contracted employer to improve working conditions. Joining the strikers, airport employees in Fort Lauderdale protested for wages owed and leafleted airline passengers in cities across the country. A day earlier, workers and supporters had protested Alaska Airlines’ pending lawsuit, challenging the validity of the local initiative to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, at their headquarters outside of Seattle, Wash.
Housekeepers at the Doubletree by Hilton hotel in Cambridge, Mass. held a 24-hour strike, demanding that hotel owner Harvard University allow the group to unionize without fear of retaliation. Union officials for UNITE HERE, which orchestrated the protest, say the strike was prompted by increased workloads, which have increased workplace injuries. The protestors asked Harvard to take a position on the strike, but Harvard has refused to get involved, saying the demands should be dealt with by Hilton and maintaining that it is not an employer. The union claims Harvard is “hiding behind Hilton.”
Dockworker members of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union began a work slowdown on October 31, reducing container movement in Seattle and Tacoma Washington. The 20,000-member union has been negotiating for a new contract with the Pacific Maritime Association, representing terminal operators at shipping lines for ports along the west coast, after their six-year collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expired earlier this year. The issues surrounding the negotiations involve health care expenses, salaries, work rules, and jobs preservation efforts in the face of increasing automation. On November 6, the dockworkers expanded the slowdown to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the biggest of the 27 west coast ports. According to a representatives for the Association, this will leave half the yard crane positions unfulfilled and threatens to exacerbate existing congestion. Full shutdown coast-wide would cost the U.S. economy an estimated $2 billion a day. In 2002, after a similar work slowdown, the association locked out workers for 10 days until President Bush obtained a court order to reopen the ports. Negotiators are discussing salaries, overtime, automation, and work rules, but announced they have resolved health care-related issues.
Leaders from the United Steelworkers (USW) union, representing two-thirds of workers in U.S. oil refineries, have announced that they are ready for a nationwide strike in order to ensure that their workers get a share of the industry’s recent boom. Oil industry production is at its highest level in three decades, and the USW believes workers deserve to share in refineries’ profits. The union is demanding substantial wage increases, rules to prevent fatigue, and measures to keeps union workers, not contract employees, on the job. A nationwide strike of USW workers could cause a halt to as much as 63 percent of U.S. oil production.
An estimated 750 IBT truck drivers at seven companies operating at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, as well as two rail yards, engaged in a nine-day strike. The strike began among port truck drivers from two drayage firms and expanded a few days later to include drivers at five other companies. The drivers are challenging their classification as independent contractors rather than employees of the trucking companies. The IBT said the drivers believe the trucking companies are also denying them basic protections, health and safety regulations, disability insurance, workers’ compensation, and unemployment benefits. The companies targeted by the protests accounted for just 500 of the 10,000 drayage trucks registered to operate at the ports.