Labor Advocate Online

Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
November 13, 2005

Nursing Our Movement Back To Health
I was always taught to pay attention to nurses and follow their directions. That advice, always sound in health care settings, is gaining wider application as a prescription for the labor movement as well. The California Nurses Association, a 65,000 member independent union, was in the vanguard of a mass mobilization that defeated antilabor ballot measures proposed by Governor Schwarzenegger. The gov once boasted that he kicked nurses’ butts but while CNA was holding rowdy victory parties Tuesday night he was whimpering like a girly-boy. Apparently having his fill of confrontations with this small but troublesome union Schwarzenegger also this week withdrew his court challenge to nurse/patient ratio laws that CNA had succeeded in getting through the California legislature a couple of years ago.

While most unions are shrinking CNA has won substantial organizing victories in California and has spun off the National Nurses Organizing Committee that has already had some impressive successes east of the Golden State. Their political achievements have not come through wining and dining politicians; their strength is membership mobilization, often in the streets. They are also firm backers of the Labor Party. And they are not afraid to campaign for the only real solution to the crisis associated with their industry–they helped develop the Labor Party Just Health Care single-payer plan. Oh yeah, they also found a way to send 170 volunteer nurses to help hurricane victims in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

Yes, our sick labor movement would do well to pay attention to the nurses.

Another California Victory
One of our readers passed along this report on a win by SEIU at Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center in the Bay Area,


After nine weeks on the picket lines at the California, Pacific and Davies campuses of Sutter CPMC, and shy just three days from also striking at St Luke’s Hospital, striking caregivers ratified a new contract by a resounding 97 percent! Thanks to the dedication and commitment of our bargaining team, we were able to reach an agreement after several days of lengthy negotiations. We were also successful in ratifying a new contract at St. Luke’s and averting what would have been a certain strike. Special thanks, however, go to Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi who was a catalyst in getting the union and Sutter CPMC back to the bargaining table. She spent 13-hours straight last weekend, meeting with Martin Brotman, CPMC CEO and Sal Rosselli, UHW President, to work out prevailing issues that would ultimately bring us back to the table. Congresswoman Pelosi also appointed Lou Giraudo, a highly respected local businessman and owner of Boudin Bakery, to serve as facilitator and mediator during the negotiations.

During a time when the discussions at the bargaining table could have been emotionally charged and tense, the atmosphere was amicable and respectful. And, when it was announced that a tentative agreement had been reached, followed by the overwhelming ratification vote, cheers, tears of joy and gleeful exuberance was experience by all.

At a press conference on Friday, which drew nearly every television, print and radio station in San Francisco and surrounding areas, the public announcement of the strike settlement was headline news. Individual interviews with union leaders, caregivers and even a CPMC spokesperson who was in the audience, captured the joy and satisfaction that the strike was over, a good contract was won, and that caregivers look forward to returning to the workplace.

A million thanks are extended to everyone who worked hard over the past nine weeks and who helped make our victory possible. The striking caregivers, healthcare workers from other facilities, elected officials, community leaders, the clergy, other unions, labor advocates and members of the general community are to be especially thanked for their unwavering commitment, absolute dedication and unrelenting support. You all helped us achieve a most wonderful and historic victory.


Jeans With Justice
Levi Strauss contracts out its jeans production in fifty countries, including 33 plants in Mexico. They claim to be an ethical company and recently scolded one of their vassals, Lajat’s Gomez Palacio plant, for using police and thugs to try to repress worker efforts to form a legitimate independent union. Lajat’s next move was to lock the workers out. The Coalition For Justice In The Maquiladoras is organizing solidarity north of the border by pressuring Levi to lean on Lajat to reopen the plant and allow the workers to have a union of their choice. In the Kansas City area the Cross Border Network for Justice and Solidarity plans to leaflet holiday shoppers about the Jeans With Justice campaign. If you can help out send a message to Judy Ancel at:

Good Morning Troy, New York
I had the unexpected pleasure of being interviewed by Greg Giorgio, on his monthly The Labor Show, WRPI , 91.5 FM, Troy, New York Someone had forwarded Greg my recent article on the crisis at GM/Delphi. The station streams live audio on the Internet but, unfortunately, does not maintain an online archive of shows.

A lot is going on on the GM/Delphi front. Dozens of local officers and rank-and-filers met at the UAW Local 1231 hall in Comstock Park, Michigan last weekend to discuss fight back plans; six unions formed an emergency coalition, Mobilizing@Delphi; the International Metalworkers Federation pledged to support the U.S. unions; 39 percent voted against the UAW health care give-backs to General Motors; and the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) declared they would give zero concessions to Delphi on their turf.

Managed Care Knows No Borders
Twenty thousand California workers and their families are in employer health care plans, including Blue Shield, that require them to get nonemergency care in Tijuana, Mexico.

But Border Closed to Award Winning Scientist
Vicente Verez-Bencomo was the lead scientist on a Cuban team that helped develop a low-cost synthetic vaccine that prevents meningitis and pneumonia in small children. Natural vaccine produced by big drug companies was far too expensive for most Third World countries–where 700,000 children were dying each year without it. The Cuban invention, much more affordable, could eventually prevent millions of deaths. Verez-Bencomo was scheduled to receive a prize for this life-saving breakthrough from the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, California and was also slated to address the Society for Glycobiology in Boston. But he never made it. The U.S. government denied him a visa. The State Department said it has a policy prohibiting comment on individual visa cases.

Belt Tightening in Italy
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's coalition government has proposed a 35 per cent cut to state funding for the arts. In protest, performers at the legendary La Scala opera house in Milan have gone on a hunger strike, consuming only coffee and juice. Star soprano Barbara Vignudelli has lost thirteen pounds.

As usual, much of the material for this column came from stories posted on the Daily Labor News Digest. Check it out Monday-Saturday.

That’s all for this week.

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