Today’s News & Commentary — October 10, 2018
The nationwide Marriott workers’ strike enters its second week today, with hotel workers in eight major U.S. cities demanding higher wages, job security, and improved workplace safety protections. Nearly 8,000 workers, including housekeepers, bellhops, bartenders, and restaurant workers, have joined the strike. After many Marriott contracts expired earlier this year and negotiations dragged on, union locals began taking strike authorization votes in early September. Unite Here, the union leading the strike, represents about 20,000 Marriott workers nationwide, about 12,000 of whom are currently working without a contract. Marriott workers are continuing a year of high-profile, nationwide labor strikes, including the summer’s #RedforEd teacher’s strike and the 2018 national prisoners strike.
Teamsters union leaders are trying to push through implementation of proposed contract covering over 200,000 UPS drivers — even though a majority of the union’s UPS workers voted against it. As Jenny noted this weekend, 54% of voting members rejected the terms of the proposed five-year contract, which would create a two-tier wage system and raise wages, but not to $15 an hour. The Teamsters union argues that the proposal can still be ratified because about forty-four percent of voter eligible voters cast ballots. The union’s constitution says that if fewer than half of eligible members turn out to vote on a contract, a two-thirds rule kicks in — to reject the contract, members must vote against it by 66 percent. Many UPS workers, including the reform group Teamsters for a Democratic Union, criticized the decision as undemocratic and out-of-touch with the union rank-and-file. Meanwhile, UPS quickly retracted a weekend statement that said it was “disappointed” by a vote to return to the bargaining table, replacing it with a new statement saying they “look forward to implementing” the contract. Concern seems to be spreading, as a growing number of union Vice Presidents call for the union to return to the bargaining table and renegotiate a new contract. The same day, a smaller group of UPS Freight workers rejected another agreement that would cover about 11,000 teamsters with 66.2 percent of members voting against.
The Trump Administration is attempting to bar homecare workers from voluntarily paying agency fees to their unions (see OnLabor’s previous discussion of the proposed rule here). Now, a major health-care workers’ union is developing a creative workaround. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is issuing workers pre-paid debit cards that they can use to access their paycheck, with dues automatically deducted. The Supreme Court has already banned mandatory agency fees for home health aides, whose unions are being targeted by the proposed rule. The proposed Trump rule would limit homecare workers from voluntarily paying about $70 million in annual dues. The new card is designed to reduce the administrative burden on workers who want to pay dues despite these new hurdles. Workers can use the debit card, authorize their paychecks to be deposited to the card, and use the cards to store government benefits. Rather than writing a new dues check every month, workers who use the card will opt to have them automatically deducted. The cards are part of a large “recommitment” campaign that SEIU and other public sector workers are organizing after Janus.
The AFL-CIO is facing a strike of its own: about 50 janitors, secretaries, and accountants that work for the union federation just unanimously voted to authorize a strike. The strike authorization follows the rejection of a proposed contract that lacked wage increases and weakened layoff protections. The workers are represented by the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU). Bloomberg reports that, if those workers go on strike, about 125 other AFL-CIO staff who are members of the Communications Workers of America would also go on strike.