Labor Advocate Online

KC Labor Newsletter
Week In Review, May 23, 2004
by Bill Onasch, webmaster, kclabor.org

SBC Battle Heats Up With Four-Day Strike
CWA bargaining for 103,000 SBC workers heated up Friday with the launch of a four-day strike. The units covered are: SBC Midwest (formerly Ameritech); SBC Southwest (formerly Southwestern Bell); SBC West (formerly Pacific Bell); and SBC East (formerly Southern New England Telephone). The principal issues are—surprise—health care and job security. It is hoped that this warning strike will convince SBC bosses to seriously negotiate an acceptable settlement. Otherwise future job actions are likely. CWA is asking SBC local phone customers to help:

“If you're an SBC customer, we're asking you to pledge to switch your local and long distance phone service to AT&T, another unionized carrier, if and when union leaders say it's time. (AT&T offers local service in California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin.) Your name will be forwarded to AT&T only when the time is right in the fight with SBC, and AT&T will contact you to walk you through your service options. You service will not be switched to AT&T without your further authorization. Get details or take the pledge now.

“If you do not live in an area where AT&T offers local service, we're asking you to pledge to cancel your ‘enhanced’ services with SBC -- home voice mail, caller ID, call forwarding, etc.”

The General Strike That Almost Was
One of the stories we missed covering during our recent road trip was an “illegal” health care workers strike in B.C. against an imposed settlement including massive job cuts. A solidarity movement to promote a general strike gained widespread rank and file support. In an e-mail message one of our Canadian correspondents wrote:

“As for the General Strike it was going to happen....
The General Strike was a movement was generated at the HEU picket line. This vehicle was completely driven by the workers.
The BC Federation of Labour, and rest of the unions including my union CAW, jumped on the band wagon trying to take it over...
Their reasons were to gain control over the General Strike,  they were scared stiff that the members would take control...
So Sunday night the BC Fed, HEU, BCNU, CUPE, CAW, Teamsters, IBEW, IWA, etc. sold out the striking hospital workers. 
All the unions proclaimed a "deal" had been reached....
CAW and the rest have more in common with the employers than us workers. The big unions were scared that they may be fined by the courts.
Protecting the unions finances capital is more important than defending the workers.  What's the point in having $65 million dollars in the CAW national strike fund?
Our local had the phone tree operating all Sunday night making sure that members reported for work on Monday instead of joining the General Strike.
The only union to jump in with full cooperation officially was the BC Ferry and Marine Workers Union, President. Jackie Millar was on the radio & TV Sunday telling her members that no ferries would sail Monday.
By Monday afternoon Jackie had to tell her members that the General Strike had failed....”

Clearly, class consciousness and the will to fight back is on a higher level among our Canadian cousins. Just as clearly, they face similar leadership obstacles in their unions.

On another note, federal elections have been called in Canada for next month. Early polls show the NDP labor party running a strong third.

American Nurses Raising Hell Too
In California, the California Nurses Association (CNA), a Labor Party affiliate, have been mobilizing mass actions against an effort by hospital employers to overturn a recently won Safe Staffing Law that guarantees adequate nurse/patient ratios.

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On the other coast, the Massachusetts Nurses Association jammed a thousand members and supporters into the State House in support of a bill similar to the one under attack in California.

There They Go Again
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Last Fall, University of Minnesota clerical workers, organized in AFSCME Local 3800, rallied strong community support around a strike against proposed cuts in health care benefits. Now they are again pestering their employer, this time around job cuts and violations of seniority rights. First the union issued a position paper/open letter to management, blasting their misplaced budget priorities. This was followed up with a public rally outside a Board of Regents meeting. Some protesters wore shopping bags over their heads to dramatize the faceless cuts. Not only are workers being laid off; senior workers who exercise bumping rights to other positions are being placed on probation—a blatant attack on the principle of seniority. It looks like these academic bosses are slow learners and need another lesson from Local 3800.

Solidarity With Iraqi Workers
US Labor Against the War put the text of an excellent speech by Gene Bruskin, History Repeats Itself: Iraq, Labor Rights and Democracy, on its web site. USLAW is also currently raising funds to help the two major legitimate union federations in Iraq.

Tales From the Weird Side...

Promise Renewed
Used to, when I got behind on promised writing projects, I could take some time off work and get caught up. Now that I am retired I no longer have that advantage. The report on three events that I told you last week to look for unexpectedly grew in size. I’ve had to make it a three-part series. Part One is already posted. Part Two should be out tomorrow (May 24) and the final part will be available before the end of the month.

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