Tag Archives: strike

Three Things You Need to Know about the BART Strike

by Steve Smith, California Labor Federation

After months of negotiating in bad faith, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) management last night left BART workers no other option but to go on strike. What a shame. It didn’t have to come to this.

With all the misinformation swirling about on the BART strike, there are a few things to clear up.

Here are the three things you need to know about the BART strike (h/t to Pete Castelli of SEIU 1021):

1) The strike is NOT about wages or benefits. BART workers made concession after concession on the economic proposals with the goal of averting a strike. BART workers and management agreed to a deal yesterday on wages, health care and pensions.

2) BART management pulled the rug out from under workers at the last minute by insisting on new workplace rules that infringed on the rights of workers. These new rules included changing the 8-hour workday and curtailing overtime pay and removing protections for workers from punishment and retribution when they report favoritism, sexual harassment and other problems in the workplace.

3) The new rules are NOT needed. BART became the top-rated transit system in America with its current work rules. BART increased ridership from 270,000 riders to 400,000 riders per day with its current work rules. BART management never focused on performance or efficiency issues during bargaining and repeatedly acknowledged that productivity in the system had increased. The fact is that the system is carrying more passengers than ever with fewer frontline workers than ever.

As unfair as the proposals were, the unions didn’t reject them out of hand. They asked for a neutral arbitrator to make the final decision on these new rules. Management flatly rejected that offer. As last night turned into this morning, there was no other option left for workers but to go off the job and onto the picket line.

This is BART management’s strike. They own it. And they can put a stop to it at any point in time by simply being reasonable. If management pulls its unreasonable demands on workplace rules or even agrees to let a neutral party decide on them, the strike is over. It’s that simple.

California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski:

Today’s strike was not an outcome workers wanted. But it was the only outcome management would allow. The California labor movement will continue to support BART workers in their fight for a fair contract. We urge BART management to quickly negotiate a fair settlement that allows workers to get back to doing what they’ve done for years — serving the Bay Area community with professionalism, dedication and commitment.


The Devil in the Details of the CUSD Strike – Education Alliance and Privatization

I’ve been writing about Capistrano Unified School District and the struggles with our current Board of Trustees.  The teachers went on strike today even as talks began regarding the contract imposed by the Board of trustees.

The details are important because they seem to be getting lost in translation between the media, the administration, the union and the parents.  The issue is that Teachers are willing to take pay cuts, they just don’t want them to be permanent.  There are other issues as well, which I’ve written about but the real issue is the board, who funded their race and the ultimate goal of a variety of organizations to privatize our public education system.

Capistrano Unified School District is ground zero for this fight.  It has been documented in an hour long film called Not as Good as You Think: The Myth of the Middle Class School.

Pacific Research Institute is the maker of this documentary and have used it to push their expansion of privatization of public schools and rather than support the structure that is there, the system that has proven to be successful for many years in the past, they are asking for funding for Charter schools and vouchers, which will further weaken our public school system.  This is their rallying call.

Not as Good as You Think was the first-ever study to evaluate student performance in schools located in California’s middle-class and affluent neighborhoods. While this study focused on California, its findings received national recognition. The book was the subject of an editorial by the Wall Street Journal, as well as the basis for Lance Izumi’s appearance on CNBC’s Kudlow & Company. The authors of Not as Good as You Think gave major addresses at the Heritage Foundation, briefed staffers in the White House, the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the U.S. Department of Education. Op-eds on the book’s findings have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, New York Sun, San Diego Union-Tribune, San Francisco Examiner, and other newspapers across the country.

In California, Lance Izumi and Vicki Murray briefed Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s top advisors, state legislators, legislative staff, and key education policymakers.  As a result, for the first time in six years, five school choice bills were introduced in Sacramento. The historic number of bills included an opportunity scholarship, a disability voucher, and a safe schools voucher.

Emphasis mine

This film was also brought to Washington and shown to people in Congress.  It’s not an Orange County problem, it’s not just a California problem, this is a National issue.

WASHINGTON – A libertarian think-tank that prominently features the Capistrano Unified School District in a documentary about how the U.S. public school system is broken will screen its 49-minute film this afternoon on Capitol Hill.

“Not as Good as You Think: The Myth of the Middle Class School” recounts a five-year effort by the CUSD Recall Committee parents group to bring reforms to a school district plagued by scandal, community unrest and allegations of corruption reaching into the highest levels of its administration.

“We have made a national impact here in Capistrano Unified,” said Recall Committee leader and parent Tony Beall, a Rancho Santa Margarita city councilman. “It’s nice that our efforts are being recognized at the U.S. Capitol.”

The 2:30 p.m. screening will be hosted by two leading GOP lawmakers – U.S. House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the senior Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee.

OC Register

So, there is a trail here of players and one of the is Tony Beall.

OC Register June 24, 2008: HIGH FIVE:Tony Beall (settlement recipeient), left, member of the CUSD recall committee, high fives his wife Jennifer (recall recipient), as they celebrate election results that recalled CSUD trustees Sheila Benecke and Marlene Draper and the election of trustees Sue Palazzo and Ken Maddox to replace the ousted board members. Mike Winsten is in the background as is Craig Alexander. Mr Alexander is on the Board of Directors for The Education Alliance. 1

From the Orange County Register: June 24, 2008 special election victory party at the home of Tony and Jennifer Beall (settlement recipients). Also pictured are Mike Winsten, Ken Maddox, Donna Furniss (settlement recipient), Tom Russell (settlement recipient), Juli Pehrson (original claimant), Sue Palazzo, and others. 2


So, settlements?  Supporters, what does this mean?  

Trustees Mike Winsten and Ken Maddox voted in favor of an out of court settlement resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars being paid to individuals who financially contributed to or supported their candidacies to the CUSD Board of Trustees.


Two settlements were reached with CUSD residents who had sued the District over an alleged “enemies list” kept by former CUSD administrators.

The first settlement was approved on a 7-0 vote on September 15, 2009 and resulted in $475,000 being paid to the Case and Reardon families. Jim Reardon contributed directly to Trustee Maddox’s campaign.

The second settlement was approved on a 4-0 vote and resulted in $178,350 being paid to the Beall, Russell and Furniss families. Trustees Addonizio, Christiansen and Palazzo recused themselves from this vote. Maddox stated that those three trustees abstained because the families receiving the settlements had lent money to the political action committee that had elected the three to office.

Trustees Maddox, Winsten, Bryson and Brick voted to approve both settlements which resulted in a total of $653,350 being paid to these families. CUSD insurance policies covered most of these payments but at least $100,000 came directly out of the CUSD general fund to pay the insurance deductible. With more than $550,000 being paid by the insurance company the District’s insurance premiums are likely to be greatly affected. The Beall and Russell families were the primary supporters of the previous recalls and elections that resulted in the current seven trustees being elected to the CUSD Board of Trustees. Mike Winsten chose Mr. Beall to be the person who swore him into office when he was elected to the CUSD Board of Trustees.


Orange County Register 9-29-09


Mike Winsten’s campaign platform, October 26, 2008

“Conflict of Interest Code Draft and adopt a more stringent Conflict of Interest Code that sets standards far greater than the sham standards set by state law, that ensures there are no more cozy hidden relationships involving sole source contracts for years and decades, between CUSD vendors and Administrators, like we have heard about in the recent past;”

– Mike Winsten’s campaign platform Oct 26, 2008

Maddox and Winsten Contributions – Out of Court Settlements Summary – Document is posted on the recall website:



So this is a board struggling with deficits?  Hundreds of thousands of dollars going to people who supported and funded their campaigns.  These people are closely related in business and with the local Republican party and with the Education Alliance.  The Capo Recall 2010 Website outlines millions of dollars of other obscene unnecessary expenditures as this board, on their private recall site continues to call teachers, “Selfish Public Employee Unions” and “Greedy union leaders”.

So who supported this slate of “reformers”?  As I mentioned, Education Alliance is behind the board and their website is clear about their goals.


History of the Education Alliance:

Electing Conservative School Board Members

The Education Alliance was formed in 1994, and operated as a political action committee supporting candidates who support local control of our schools, the rights of parents to make educational choice for their children, and an emphasis on basic, academic instruction.

Since the 1990’s the performance of our schools has continually declined. Today it is still far below its potential, and the control of our education system by the elite, liberal bosses who run the teachers unions have been consolidated and are now more complete than ever. Even the most modest changes, such as merit pay and charter schools, are strenuously opposed using the funds of teachers who often support these proposals. This was shown in the 2005 special election in which overwhelming union spending was used to defeat Governor Schwarzenegger attempts at reform.

The Education Alliance began to become the organization committed solely to giving a voice to parents and teachers who support excellence for our children through means other than the liberal, self-serving policies of the teachers union leadership and their allies in the education establishment.

The site is full of buzzwords, from local control and “basic” education,  and they call charter schools “modest changes”.  Of course they also like to bash the “liberal” teacher’s unions, which tends to forget the fact that many teachers in Souther Orange County are Republican.  Republicans support public education and this is a fight about extremism.  And Education Alliance is as about extreme as they come.

Here is their Platform

The Education Alliance exists to promote the betterment of our educational system for the benefit of parents, children and society as a whole.

The Education Alliance arose and exists to further each of the following self-evident principles of an effective education system, and to help insure that these fundamental principles are adhered to by those who seek to govern the educational process:

Academic excellence and the teaching of the “Three R’s”should be the hallmark of our education system and we should resist any attempt to impose upon our schools any other goals, objectives or ideologies.

How school districts are run belongs under the control of local parents and taxpayers, not the State or Federal governments.

Parents and other local citizens are closest to, and care the most about, the children in their communities. Therefore, all control over funding, expenditures, curriculum and all matters of administration of publicly run schools should remain in the hands of local parents, voters and locally elected school boards. The more control the State government asserts over local education decisions the less responsive our schools are to local needs. Federal control of education strikes at the very heart of the system of federalism established by the founding fathers of our country and must be resisted. Funding of education by the State and Federal governments is a primary means of exercising control. The failure of many existing school board members to resist both increased State and Federal control of our schools is error.

We therefore believe that all attempts to increase State or Federal control over any aspect of our education system or its funding should be resisted.

Students in the United States should be instructed in the English language.

One indivisible Nation such as ours must be united by a single common language. Failure to follow this policy will lead to an unnecessary and disruptive commercial, social and regional balkanization of the populace and contribute to impoverishment of those who are not educated in English.

We therefore believe our education system has the duty to insure that all students have an opportunity to become proficient in English quickly and that once English proficiency is achieved that all students receive their educational instruction in English.

The unions and other special interests currently control our education system for their own gain and to the detriment of our children.

The proper function of teachers’ unions is not to dictate educational policy, but to support teachers in collective bargaining of wages and working conditions. Unions have usurped unto themselves the role of educational policy makers. Union dues which are taken from teachers’ salaries without the teachers’ consent are used to fund political activities which they often disagree with. the election of school board members who represent the Unions, not the teachers, parents or the local voters. This has allowed the Unions’ handpicked candidates to gain majority status on most school boards and to therefore control educational policy. School board policy should be made for the benefit of children, not Unions.

We therefore support eliminating any ability of the Unions to require membership or dues to be paid as a condition of employment. We also support eliminating the absolutely indefensible practice of allowing districts to act as collection agents for the Unions by taking dues directly out of employees checks.

Our schools must impart positive values and discipline to students in order to maintain an optimum learning environment and to properly prepare students for life as productive citizens after school.

All educational processes necessarily impart values of some sort to their pupils. We reject the fallacy that it is possible to educate children in a “value neutral” manner. It is no more possible to govern schools in a “value neutral” manner than it is to govern an entire nation or state in such a manner. Likewise, just as it is not possible to govern an entire nation or state that is in anarchy, it is not possible to govern a school system or a class that is in anarchy and where discipline is neither maintained nor enforced.

We do not support teaching religion in our schools. Liberal defenders of an education system devoid of values charge that the teaching of values is somehow synonymous with teaching religion. We believe that this is a ridiculous and is designed by the defenders of the educational status quo in an attempt to deflect attention from their own failures.

Is it getting clearer here?  The most appalling thing is that teachers are some how the other, that as local community members they wouldn’t understand what might be best for their students, that they would only be interested what’s best for their own gain.  This is the gist here.  It’s an adversarial stance that creates a hostility between parents and teacher.

The agenda is privatization and it’s insidious.  And our board was supported by this PAC, specifically created to vote in School Board members to support their agenda.

So now it’s all abouttracing the money.

Also waiting to be seen at this point is how much of a financial role the CUSD Recall Committee will play in the June 24 special election. The committee raised eyebrows after reports that it received $17,000 from the Tustin-based Education Alliance, a group that supports education vouchers and local control over schools. It opposes bilingual education and contends teachers’ unions are too powerful. The Education Alliance also gave $5,000 directly to Bryson.

The Education Alliance was co-founded by Mark Boucher, a member of the Republican Central Committee. Rancho Santa Margarita City Councilmember Tony Beall, a leader in the CUSD Recall Committee, is also running for the Central Committee. They would both represent the 71st Assembly district. Also on that list? Acting Sheriff Jack Anderson is an incumbent seeking re-election, and Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, bumping against term limits, is also seeking on the district’s six seats.

And tracing the relationships through articles and nuances, this board has been watching through the last couple of years and there are signs here and there that people get it but not enough people get it.

“There’s a new battle being waged in Capistrano Unified, and it is every bit as dangerous as the battle voters just won,” says district parent Tony Beall, addressing the board of trustees he helped elect as a leader of the CUSD Recall Committee. “Many who directly profit from CUSD’s multimillion-dollar budget are continuing their efforts to frustrate and roll back reforms.”

Beall, a Rancho Santa Margarita city councilman who speaks with the nasal precision of the elder George Bush, has mastered the art of political euphemism. He thinks teachers and staff are making trouble because they don’t like the board’s recent suspension of A. Woodrow Carter, the retired army colonel who has served as CUSD superintendent since September 2007. Trustees say that personnel laws prevent them from saying why they voted 6-1 behind closed doors on Jan. 6 to put the popular superintendent on paid administrative leave after hearing scores of constituents praise him. Carter’s seat at the dais at the Jan. 12 meeting is empty, and the many parents, teachers, students and district employees who say Carter was the most honest, effective, friendly and helpful superintendent they’d ever worked with (CUSD has gone through four people in the top spot since Fleming left in 2006) took the board’s vote as a troubling sign. (The Weekly’s efforts to reach Carter for comment were unsuccessful.)

Campbell’s words jab against rumors that the reform trustees, whose campaigns were largely financed by such conservative groups as the Education Alliance and Howard Ahmanson’s Fieldstead & Co., seek to sabotage public education from the inside out. The Education Alliance, which publicly opposes the influence of teachers’ unions, has been a point of contention for the new board’s critics. The Capistrano Unified Education Association, the local teachers’ union, endorsed trustee Christensen and current board president Ellen Addonizio when they ran in 2006; after the Education Alliance got more involved, though, the union vocally and financially backed the opponents of the “reform” slate in 2008. Posts on the website of the local chapter of the California School Employees Association (CSEA), which represents classified staff (including custodians and librarians), say Carter’s dismissal may have been part of a plan to “break the union,” a charge the trustees deny.


And directly from our local Red County Blog, a press release from Education Alliance regarding the recall.

Dear Education Alliance Supporters:

As you might have heard, last Tuesday the voters of the Capistrano Unified School District voted to recall trustees Sheila Benecke and Marlene Draper. The vote was very lopsided – over 69% voted in favor of the recall. This result was a great victory for everyone involved in the recall and, most importantly, for the students attending Capistrano Unified schools. This district has been run into the ground for almost two decades by incompetence and corruption. At last, the Capistrano Unified School District is governed by a majority of trustees who are committed to reform.

The credit for this victory rests primarily with the CUSD Recall Committee, and it leaders, Mike Winston, Tom Russell, and Tom and Jennifer Beal. They have been working on this for 5 years and have devoted countless hours to documenting the problems in this district, gathering signatures, and campaigning.

The Education Alliance also played a major role by providing financial support that was instrumental to the effort. Many of the funds for this purpose were raised at the Dennis Prager dinner last year, which many of you attended. The recall opponents attempted to make the Education Alliance an issue by orchestrating newspaper stories and emails with dire warnings of outsiders trying to take over Capistrano Unified for some sinister purpose. Unfortunately for them, this scare tactic backfired. Most voters like what we stand for – excellence in education, the rights of parents to make choices for their children, and local control of our schools.

Thank you for your support of the Education Alliance. Together, we are making a difference for our children.

Mark Bucher, Chairman

Education Alliance

There you go, right from the Education Alliance themselves.  And so today teachers were on the picket line, walking to fight for not their pay, not to keep money in their pockets but to fight for public education.

Just go to the Capistrano Unified School Districts Webpage and you will see that the board put two new Charter Schools on their agenda today while teachers walked the picket line.

Do you think that’s not on purpose?  Do you think that Charter Schools being offered on the same day that teacher strike is just a coincidence?

The strike is becoming a national issue since the Huffington Post is covering it but will Education Alliance be written about?

I need you to learn more about and spread the word and let your neighbors, friends and family know that this fight is not about money, class size or  the greedy unions.  It’s about keep public education the best it can be and truly public and within local control.

Pushback: SEIU Potential Walk-Out, Corporate Tax Cut Repeal, Court Overturns Medi-Cal Cuts

Rumors ran rampant yesterday that state employees, pushed too far by yet another salary cut (totaling 20% over the course of the year), would potentially strike.

Doug Crooks, Director of Communications with the Service Employees International Union’s local 1000, which represents more than 95,000 state employees, declined to confirm the rumor but said any decision would be made by the employees through an authorization vote.

“In the first place, that decision hasn’t been made yet,” said Crooks about the plan to strike. “That decision hasn’t been made yet. We are definitely going to strongly oppose and do everything we can to prevent the governor from imposing a fourth furlough day. But check back with me Monday.”

“The bottom line is we negotiated with this governor in good faith and we agreed on a contract that would save $340 million dollars immediately, and if applied to all state employees it would save the state a billion dollars. That’s billion with a ‘B.’ And for the governor to undermine that contract now is beyond irresponsible. He’s made the state employee a pawn” in the state budget negotiations.

“Well actually, it’s a five percent cut on top of those three furlough days,” explained Alicia Trost, a spokesperson for Senate leader Darrell Steinberg. “It’s simply a scare tactic by the governor, yet another, and we feel the state workforce has already paid their fair share. What’s worse is that it would have a horrible effect on the economy if state workers were to lose up to 20 percent of their buying power.”

By the way, Mr. Stogie just lost a furlough case, with a judge tentatively ruling that he cannot furlough  the legal staff of the State Compensation Insurance Fund, which has emboldened the larger pool of workers in SEIU.  But more to the point, in the world of Arnold Antionette and the Yacht Party, workers making a median income getting 20% salary cuts while the largest corporations doing business in the state get a massive corporate tax break is considered “everyone paying their fair share.”

Speaking of which, Lenny Goldberg offers the text of an initiative to repeal the negotiated-in-secret corporate tax cuts and save the state $2.5 billion dollars a year.  Opponents typically respond with race-to-the-bottom rhetoric about businesses leaving the state, which isn’t true, by the way.

UPDATE: Here’s a study out TODAY from the PPIC confirming that the whole “the rich are leaving California” line is a flat-out lie.

Finally, a federal appeals court ruled that California cannot cut Medi-Cal reimbursements, in an opinion written by a George W. Bush appointee.  The familiar pattern of breaking the law to cut the budget often runs up against judicial review, and so the criminals in Sacramento – considering what they’re attempting, I don’t consider that hyperbole – will have to try something else to achieve their long-sought destruction of the social safety net.  

AFSCME delays strike at UC

A while back I put up a very brief post about a strike at the University of California system for more than 20,000 UC patient care and service workers that AFSCME represents. That strike has been cancelled as both parties seek to move back to the bargaining table.  

We’ll try to keep this story updated. Full letter over the flip.

May 29, 2008

TO:  The Campus Community

FR:  Leslie Sanchez

     Manager of Employee and Labor Relations

RE:  Cancellation of AFSCME Strike Planned for June 4-5, 2008

We have just received the following joint statement from the University of

California Office of the President and the American Federation of State,

County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union regarding contract

negotiations concerning UC Patient Care Technical and Service Unit


University of California officials and representatives of the American

Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union today (May 29)

jointly announced that they will be returning to the bargaining table to

continue negotiations for new labor contracts for the more than 20,000 UC

patient care and service workers that AFSCME represents.

The State Mediation and Conciliation Service has recommended that the

parties continue bargaining, and negotiations will resume at 10:00 a.m. on

Friday, May 30 with the assistance of a neutral third-party mediator.

Accordingly, the union will not be striking UC medical centers and campuses

on June 4 and 5 as previously announced.

Both UC and AFSCME are committed to bargaining in good faith, and hope to

reach an agreement soon.

UC and AFSCME have been in negotiations for the last ten months for a new

contract for more than 11,000 UC patient care technical employees, and for

the last seven months for a new contract for 8,000 UC service employees.

The 20,000 patient care and service workers include a wide variety of jobs

including, but not limited to, medical technologists who take x-rays, MRIs,

and mammograms; respiratory therapists who operate breathing machines;

medical assistants who clean wounds, bathe and turn patients to prevent

infections and bed sores; cleaners who disinfect medical instruments and

patient areas; custodians who clean the hospitals and campus dorms; and

food service workers who provide cafeteria service to patients and students.


Blogs Brought Attention To The Security Guard Strike

Over the last few weeks I have been writing about the plight of security guards working for a company called Inter-Con, a contractor at Kaiser Permanente Hospitals in California.  One post I wrote on this was titled, Why Don’t We Hear About Labor Issues Anymore? and I want to get to that subject some more here.  But first, I want to go over what was covered.


The security guards went on strike because their employer was interfering with their right to form a union.  The first post, Security Guards Striking for the Right to Have Our Laws Enforced

This strike is not against Kaiser and is not to ask for money or benefits; it is not even to form a union in the first place. This strike is just to ask that our laws please be enforced. This may be a lot to ask for in today’s corporate-dominated system, but they’re asking for it anyway.

The second post, Why They (And You) Need A Union, asked,

How else are workers going to get back their rights, get health care, get pensions, and get paid? If you see a better idea out there, please let us all know because this strike and the things happening to these security guards shows that it is very very difficult to form a union. In today’s environment where workers are afraid of employers moving their jobs overseas – or even just laying them off and telling everyone else to work harder – and then giving their pay out as raises to the executives and multi-million-dollar bonuses to the CEO, this is a very brave action to take.

Then, in Unions: Sticking Together to Fight Corporate Power,

You and I are individuals, alone. But corporations have the ability to amass immense power and wealth and influence. You and I as individuals must stand alone against this power and wealth. What can you or I or anyone else do on our own? The average person in our society has very little ability to stand up against this kind of power and wealth.

Over time people discovered that there are some things they can do that will work. One of these has been to form unions. By joining together the workers in a company can amass some power of their own. The company needs the workers in order to function so the workers — if they stick together — have the ability to make the corporation obey employee/employer laws, provide decent pay, and all the other benefits that the unions have brought us. This is why they are also call “organized labor.” By organizing into a union and sticking together people have the ability to demand respect and compensation for their work.

There were also some other posts with news about the strike itself.

In the post Why Don’t We Hear About Labor Issues Anymore? I wrote,

A few local TV news broadcasts covered the story, and there were a few newspaper articles announcing that there was going to be a strike. But there was almost no actual coverage of the strike except on progressive sites and labor outlets. What’s up with that?

This is a significant problem with today’s corporate media.  There is overwhelming coverage of business issues like the stock market, investment, mergers and CEO personality profiles.  There is story after story pushing new products, cars, bigger houses, consumption, even listings of which movies are making more money than other movies – as if that was a concern to ordinary people.

But there is very little coverage of issues that might help regular people live their daily lives.  And in particular there is no, none, nada, negatory, zero coverage of ordinary working people fighting back against the corporate domination of our democracy and other decision-making, including the commercialization of everything.

Labor issues are a big part of that equation.  Organized labor is the vehicle that enables regular people to fight back against domination by the big corporations.  Big corporations are able to aggregate immense wealth and power.  Individuals have no change standing against such wealth and power on their own.  But banding together they do.  And the more that band together, the better the chance to stand up to the wealth and power of the corporations.

But not if people don’t find out that they can’t do this.  And that is where the blogs come in.  I was able to post the stories about the security guards’ strike at Huffington Post, MyDD, Seeing the Forest, and in DailyKos and Calitics diaries. Other sites like AlterNet picked up these stories and passed them along to their readers.  In this way literally millions of people were able to learn about this strike, which helped raise awareness of the situation as well as apply more pressure to Inter-Con, the employer as well as to government agencies responsible for enforcing the labor laws.  If stories like this can be kept entirely quiet strikes like this would be completely ineffective. But if the blog-readers and other progressives start demanding that laws be enforced and workers be allowed to organize, we can start to make a difference.

Please visit StandForSecurity.org.

I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike.  sfs-234x60-animated-v2

Kaiser Security Guard Strike

This week I wrote about the Kaiser Permanente / Inter-Con Security Security Guard strike.

The post Security Guards Striking for the Right to Have Our Laws Enforced discussed why the guards are striking.  They are employees of Inter-Con Security, Inc., which contracts services to Kaiser Permanente facilities in California.  This company (not Kaiser) is trying to stop the guards from forming a union and the guards are striking to ask that laws allowing union organizing be enforced.

In Why They (And You) Need A Union a comparison with unionized security guards at Kaiser facilities in other states demonstrated the difference that forming a union can make to workers everywhere.

The post Unions: Sticking Together to Fight Corporate Power discussed how individuals are unable to stand up against the immense power and wealth that corporations are able to accumulate.  Over time workers learned that by organizing into unions they were able to also build enough power to fight back and demand fair compensation and benefits for their work.

Outside of the blogs there was remarkably little coverage of this strike.  Here is a roundup of some of the other coverage:

This is a good story online at Urban Mecca, Three-Day Strike by Hundreds of Security Officers at Kaiser Hospitals,

“The public needs to know that the security officers responsible for making Kaiser hospitals safe and protecting vulnerable patients are being denied our fundamental civil rights. Inter-Con freely uses intimidation, spying and retaliation to harass its workers,” said Shauna Carnero, a security officer in Hayward.

The strike, which began May 6 and included major rallies outside Kaiser medical centers in Oakland, Sacramento and Los Angeles, followed numerous federal complaints that workers have filed with the National Labor Relations Board in recent weeks charging Inter-Con with unfair labor practices over the past two years.

The Pasadena Star-News had Kaiser guards strike,

Hospital security guards went on strike statewide Thursday, citing poor working conditions and lack of health coverage.

About 200 Southern California employees of Inter-Con Security, which is contracted by Kaiser Permanente to provide security guards, joined their Northern California counterparts who have been on strike since Tuesday, Service Employees International Union officials said.

[. . .] Security guards have little legal recourse when they are denied the right to organize, an SEIU attorney said. A loophole in the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 gives security guards only one method of forming a union.

While most employees have the option of holding an election to bring in a union, security guards can only organize if their employers agree to recognize the union, said attorney Orrin Baird.

“It’s sort of out-dated,” Baird said. “If they were not guards they could file a petition with the (National Labor Relations Board) and then they would have to have an election.”

While a few local TV stations carried news about the strike, there was a near-blackout of coverage in the corporate media.  Why do you think that is?

Please visit StandForSecurity.org.

I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike.  sfs-234x60-animated-v2

Unions: Sticking Together to Fight Corporate Power

(Proud to be working on this. Solidarity! – promoted by Bob Brigham)

I have been writing about the strike by California Kaiser Permanente security guards working for contractor Inter-Con Security, who are demanding that laws be enforced and their rights be honored.

SEIU sent out a press release on the situation, titled, Workers With No Healthcare Protecting Kaiser Facilities, Security Contractor May Be Misleading California’s Largest Healthcare Provider.  In summary, the security guards at Kaiser are supposed to be provided with individual healthcare after working for 90 days, but it turns out that many are not.  The security contractor Inter-Con Security has found a way around the promise: they classify workers as “on-call” instead of permanent.

As more and more workers report that Inter-Con is keeping workers on temporary or “on-call” status for months or years, it’s still unclear whether Inter-Con is misleading Kaiser or if Kaiser is simply turning a blind eye to these tactics which short-change workers.

And their families are not provided with health insurance at all.  The security guards — paid as little as $10.40 an hour — are supposed to buy it.  The result is that 41% of the officers who responded to a survey cannot.  And without paid sick days they cannot afford to take the time off to see a doctor anyway.

So here we are with a company finding ways around a promise by changing the classification of the workers to “on-call.”  This points out yet one more problem of workplaces that do not have unions.  How many people are classified as “temporary” or “contractors”?  This is one of the bigger scams that is going on these days.  One reason companies do this is because if someone is not an employee the employer doesn’t have to pay their share of the Social Security payroll tax.  (There are other reasons as well, including avoiding paying promised benefits.)

How do you know if you should be called an employee or an independent contractor?  For a quick guideline, let’s go to the IRS.  They say that by-and-large you are an employee,

if the organization can control what will be done and how it will be done. This is so even if the organization gives the employee freedom of action. What matters is that the organization has the right to control the details of how the services are performed.

Yet most of us see examples of people in this situation who are called “temporary workers” or “contractors” all the time.

Companies are not supposed to do this to us, but here’s the thing: What can you do about it? You and I are individuals, alone.  But corporations have the ability to amass immense power and wealth and influence.  You and I as individuals must stand alone against this power and wealth.  What can you or I or anyone else do on our own?  The average person in our society has very little ability to stand up against this kind of power and wealth.

Over time people discovered that there are some things they can do that will work.  One of these has been to form unions.  By joining together the workers in a company can amass some power of their own.  The company needs the workers in order to function so the workers — if they stick together — have the ability to make the corporation obey employee/employer laws, provide decent pay, and all the other benefits that the unions have brought us.  This is why they are also call “organized labor.”  By organizing into a union and sticking together people have the ability to demand respect and compensation for their work.

This is what the security guards at Kaiser are trying to do.  This is what you should do.

I encourage you to visit StandForSecurity.org.

I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike.  sfs-234x60-animated-v2

General Strike

There was some question whether or not this would actually happen, but I’m proud of the ILWU for putting principles first and pulling this off.

Thousands of dockworkers at all 29 West Coast ports, including Los Angeles and Long Beach, took the day off work today in what their union called a protest of the war in Iraq, effectively shutting down operations at the busy complexes.

The action came two months before the contract expires between the dockworkers, represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, and the Pacific Maritime Assn., which represents port operators and large shippers, many of them foreign-owned.

“We are supporting the troops and telling politicians in Washington that it’s time to end the war in Iraq,” said union President Bob McEllrath.

This is the first major general strike against the war I can think of in my personal memory.  Two years ago most truckers stayed away on May Day to protest immigration policy and attend rallies in LA.  But this is the entire west coast of the US and Canada.

The longshoremen understand what our politicians must: this war is immoral, unnecessary, catastrophic, and damaging to our national character.  It needs to end.

(This is also why a strong labor movement needs to be sustained.  Not only does it provide an engine to upward mobility for the working class, it takes the role of our national conscience.)

UPDATE: Here’s an example of why the ILWU is out in the streets today.

Sgt. 1st Class David L. McDowell, 30, of Ramona, California died Tuesday in Afghanistan of “wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked using small arms fires.” The San Diego Tribune reports, “He had been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq seven times and was a recipient of two Bronze stars and a Purple Heart.”

Seven tours of duty.  No end in sight.  What a tragedy.

Little Non-Election Stuff In Bullet-Point Fashion

• According to Dan Walters, all his serious economist friends are telling him there’s no recession yet, theoreticaly speaking.  He might want to read his own paper, about how the Employment Development Department can’t keep up with the demand for unemployment benefits and everyone calling in is getting a busy signal.  Tip to those who apparently aren’t feeling a recession: use the EDD website.

• In a reversal to the Bush Administration, a judge has ruled that George Bush cannot exempt the Navy from environmental laws regarding the use of sonar within 12 miles of the California coast.  Not that Bush followed the ruling of the judiciary the first time, but…

• There are still high hopes for an end to the WGA strike, and meetings in Los Angeles and New York have been scheduled for the weekend (ostensibly to present the contract), but caution lies ahead, as more foreign imports and reality television are likely to wind up on schedules, and less pilots are likely to be shot.  Of course, this was my point all along, and why I underscored the need to grow the union for the benefit of everyone involved and give everything on television the opportunity to unionize.  But jurisdiction for reality and animation was dropped in the most recent round of talks, and there will be consequences to that.

• Our friends at the SEIU are going to start a $75 million dollar, year-long, national campaign in support of universal health care.  I have to think that this is a positive by-product of the coalition built in California around the ultimately unsuccessful effort on health care reform.  If so, then there was nothing unsuccessful about it.  It’s very exciting to see a full media and ground effort to draw the policy distinctions on health care between the parties, and to advocate for a system that makes sense for working families.

Use this as a repository for everything but the election.

What Good Democratic Consultants Do

Bill Carrick and Kam Kuwata are the anti-Chris Lehane.

The Writers Guild of America has retained veteran Democratic political consultants Bill Carrick and Kam Kuwata to provide assistance on the strategic and PR fronts of the 8-week-old strike.

“We both have friends in the WGA,” Kuwata told Daily Variety. “And we have landed a lot of times on the sides that are pro-labor.”

The duo came aboard earlier this month at the guild’s behest in the wake of the Dec. 7 collapse of negotiations between the WGA and the AMPTP, which insisted that the guild remove half a dozen proposals from the table as a condition of continuing to bargain. The WGA refused, and no new talks have been scheduled, while the Directors Guild of America is widely expected to set a start date for negotiations on its contract within the next week.

Kuwata said he and Carrick will work for the WGA for as long as needed.

Carrick ran the Angelides campaign and Kuwata has worked a lot with DiFi in the past.  But at least that they understand that Democrats stand with workers, unlike Chris Lehane.  I’d rather reject that corporate money and be on the side of those who just want their fair share.