At least seventeen people have died and million remain without power in Texas as an “unprecedented” winter storm continues. Texas’ energy grid failed mostly due to its reliance on natural gas production which could not withstand the freezing temperatures. Climate change and labor activists have been highlighting the role that Texas’ privatized and deregulated energy grid has played in the crisis. The Houston DSA has renewed the call for a Green New Deal that includes public power for a grid that can withstand extreme storms such as this one. While Texas Governor Abbott and other conservative politicians have been falsely blaming wind power on the unprecedented power outages, mutual aid networks and local organizers have been struggling to deliver life-saving help to their neighbors. As the Daily Beast reports, “as state and city government responses have floundered, various nonprofits, faith organizations, and mutual aid groups have stepped into the void that has yet to be adequately filled.”
Nursing home workers in Burlingame, California are on strike. The union, AFSCME Local 829, represents workers at Burlingame Long Term Care, which is run by California’s largest for-profit operator Brius Healthcare. Workers have been trying to negotiate a contract since last summer and have been met with intimidation tactics and stonewalling by their employer. Workers also report that their employer, a healthcare provider, charges them between $900- $1800 per month for healthcare, depending on family size. This leaves employees with almost nothing left over to live on. After the strike was declared Brius Healthcare offered $500 to any workers who cross the picked line.
Essential health workers at another long-term facility in Oregon have also organized to strike. Workers World reports that workers at the Rawlin at Riverbend Memory Care Facility set a strike deadline of yesterday to demand union recognition. Employees report not enough trained staff to properly care for their patients, inadequate training, excessive turnover, and low wages. 21 residents have died at the facility in the last eight weeks, six from COVID-19. Lyn Neeley at Workers World reports that due to understaffing, patients are left for long periods of time in soiled clothing and dying in degrading conditions. The strike was announced on YouTube, with worker Summer Trosko stating that they “are done watching our residents and each other suffer from the effects of critical understaffing, extreme turnover due to low wages and traumatizing working conditions at The Rawlin. It’s breaking my heart… That’s why we are forming a union, asking for change.”
Workers at Medium, a blogging and digital media platform, have announced they are unionizing. The Medium Workers Union says that more than 70% of eligible employees have already signed cards in support of the union. The Medium workers are forming a union with the Communication Workers of America and are currently seeking voluntary recognition from Medium. Medium is the latest digital media company to see organizing efforts, following at least ten other unionizing campaigns at other outlets, including Huffington Post, Slate, and The Ringer. In its mission statement, the Medium Workers Union explains that in this age of extraordinary change in the world of news, in order to “thrive as a creative, sustainable platform, Medium must support and protect its workforce.”
Finally, yesterday Second City teachers filed cards with the NLRB announcing their intent to form a union, the Association of International Comedy Educators (AICE). Second City, the improv comedy school, has taught Bill Murray, Tina Fey, and hundreds of other famous comedians. 160 comedy teachers at the Chicago Second City location filed cards in support of the union with the NLRB. Because cards were filed by a majority of employees, a representation election will be held at each Second City location. The Chicago local would be a part of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and the Hollywood and Toronto units would be a part of the Communication Workers of America and Canada, respectively.