Thursday, August 25, 2011

[olympiaworkers] Farm workers are marching to Sacramento

by Dan Bacher Aug 25th, 2011

Odilia Chavez, a field worker who gets work where she can in various
crops, is planning on marching all 13 days.

"I am going to march from Madera to Sacramento because of the bad
conditions we farm workers work in," she stated. "The farmers and farm
labor contractors put a lot of pressure on us, they don't respect us,
we are paid very poorly and it is not enough to make ends meet. We are
going to Sacramento to tell Governor Jerry Brown that it is time for
him to sign what we are asking."

Farm workers just started a 13 day, 200 mile march to Sacramento. Their goal?

"To press for enactment of the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act and the
right to be paid overtime after 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week just like
any other worker," according to a statement from the United Farm Workers
Union (UFW).

The two bills are expected to be introduced in the legislature shortly.
The Fair Treatment For Farm Workers Now march will end on Sept. 4th, Labor
Day weekend, at the State Capitol. If you're in California, please
consider joining workers for one of the days of the march.

If you can't join the march in person, please join virtually by signing
the petition:

Two months ago, Gov Brown vetoed the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act,
a bill that would have made it easier for farm workers to join a union and
speak up for their rights. More than 1,000 farm workers visited the
Capitol during the 12 days Governor Brown deliberated on the bill. Risking
their jobs to attend, they held vigils, fasted and rallied for change.

"They told the Governor how the laws in the books are not the laws in the
fields," according to the UFW. "They talked about having no bathroom
breaks, no overtime pay, no respect and the lack of enforcement of heat
regulations. And they were right-- two more workers may have died of heat
related illness this year alone."

Farm workers can't afford to wait any more, not when their lives are at
risk. So they are using their marching feet to try and convince Gov. Jerry
Brown to sign their new bills when they reach his desk.

One of these workers is Maria Escutia, who has toiled in the table grapes
for more than a decade. She is marching all 13 days. Her reason?

"I am doing this because I am very upset," stated Escutia. "I believe we
work in dangerous conditions, in the heat, in the cold and I believe we
deserve to be treated better without being intimidated at work; we deserve
the right to have benefits. We deserve this and more."

In Governor Brown's veto of the "Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act," he
says he is "not yet convinced." For farm workers, "not yet" means farm
workers don't get water and shade. "Not yet" means farm workers continue
to die of heat illness.

"Not yet" means farm workers do not have basic justice implemented by the
Agricultural Labor Relations Act. "Not yet" means hundreds of farm workers
who last year voted for union representation have waited more than a year
for the Agricultural Labor Relations Board to take the simple act of
certifying the elections.

Aaying the time to act is now, farm workers will begin a 200 mile
pilgrimage up the Central Valley to Sacramento to press for enactment of
the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act.

Odilia Chavez, a field worker who gets work where she can in various
crops, is planning on marching all 13 days.

"I am going to march from Madera to Sacramento because of the bad
conditions we farm workers work in," she stated. "The farmers and farm
labor contractors put a lot of pressure on us, they don't respect us, we
are paid very poorly and it is not enough to make ends meet. We are going
to Sacramento to tell Governor Jerry Brown that it is time for him to sign
what we are asking."

There will be up to 50 full time marchers who will be joined by farm
workers and community folks throughout the route and by thousands of farm
workers when they arrive in Sacramento. To do a march of this size will
cost close to $250,000.

"Between meals, water & ice alone we are talking about $31 per marcher per
day or $403 per marcher for 13 days or $20,150 just for the full time
marchers. Farm workers from up and down the state will want to join in on
the weekends when they can get off work. On the last day we will need to
rent buses for the thousands of workers who plan to attend," the
organization stated.

"Enough with 'not yet.' The time is now. Join the virtual march by signing
the petition to get Maria and other farm workers the fair treatment they
deserve," the UFW concluded. Go to:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

[olympiaworkers] Verizon strike highlights need for new workers' movement Aug 21 2011

45,000 workers at US communications giant Verizon have been on strike for
nearly two weeks. Adam Ford, of Infantile Disorder, examines the lengths
the company and the state have gone to to undermine the strike.

Global communications giant Verizon have made profits of more than $19
billion over the last four years - that's nearly two British pounds per
person on the planet. All of that was created by the company's workforce,
but instead found its way into the bloated bank accounts of executives and
shareholders. That's not enough for them though, so Verizon are currently
trying to extract the equivalent of $20,000 per US employee per year. In
this effort, they are being assisted by the corporate media, the court
system, the FBI, and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) unions.

The 45,000 American workers have been on strike for nearly two weeks,
having not surprisingly rejected management's demands. As the strike has
worn on, the government has aggressively intervened on the side of the
company, imposing strict anti-strike injunctions to facilitate
strikebreaking, and setting up an FBI investigation into alleged
'terrorist' sabotage of the Verizon networks.

It is instructive to examine the injunctions, and to see just how
carefully calculated the attempt to force strikers into submission
actually is. For instance, New York pickets are limited based on the
number of scab workers on each site. A workplace with twenty-five
strikebreakers can have only six pickets at any one time. Fifty
strikebreakers can be met by ten pickets, et cetera. In Pennsylvania, all
pickets are limited to six strikers, who must be fifteen feet from the
door. More than this, "videotaping, photographing, or recording in any
manner, the likeness of any individual at any worksite of any Verizon
employee or contractor performing company work" is illegal. Neither the
CWA nor the IBEW have raised a finger to dispute this injunctions, and
have instructed strikers to follow them to the letter.

Last Friday, the FBI announced that it is investigating a "national
security" issue, relating to possible "sabotage" by Verizon workers.
Special Agent Bryan Travers declared that: "Because critical
infrastructure has been affected, namely the telecommunications of both a
hospital and a police department, the FBI is looking into this matter from
a security standpoint as part of our security efforts leading up to the
9/11 anniversary."

Verizon workers immediately dismissed this as a slander, designed to
reduce public sympathy. As a cable splicer in Fairfax, Virginia commented
to the WSWS: "Of course they'll say that. In reality the cables go down
all the time, even on a good day like this. These are scare-tactics that
Verizon is attempting to use." And a Pittsburgh employee added that: "I
feel the company is feeding the media the reports on sabotage. They want
to have a lot of negative publicity out there about us and try and make us
look bad. We need to all stand together."

The company have attempted to put an abstract limitation on the strike, by
setting a deadline of 31st August for workers to return, or face the
immediate suspension of all health-related benefits. For their part, the
union bureaucrats continue to offer their assistance to the company,
stating that they will accept major concessions if Verizon "bargain
fairly". As the company's artificial deadline approaches, workers can
expect unions to do far more than "meeting [the company] halfway."

As always in industrial disputes, one cent taken off the compensation
workers receive for their blood, sweat and tears would be an outrage, but
as things stand the total will be far more than that. To have a chance of
winning, Verizon employees must take charge of their own struggle by
forming rank-and-file committees, and make the biggest possible appeal for
the solidarity of the wider working class. Their interests are
diametrically opposed to those of the union tops, and can only be defended
by a total break from their control.

Monday, August 22, 2011

[olympiaworkers] Foreign Students in Work Visa Program Stage Walkout at Plant

Aug 18, 2011 The New York Times

PALMYRA, Pa. — Hundreds of foreign students, waving their fists and
shouting defiantly in many languages, walked off their jobs on Wednesday
at a plant here that packs Hershey's chocolates, saying a summer program
that was supposed to be a cultural exchange had instead turned them into
underpaid labor.

The students said they were expecting to practice their English, make
money and learn what life is like in the United States.

The students, from countries including China, Nigeria, Romania and
Ukraine, came to the United States through a long-established State
Department summer visa program that allows them to work for two months and
then travel. They said they were expecting to practice their English, make
some money and learn what life is like in the United States.

In a way, they did. About 400 foreign students were put to work lifting
heavy boxes and packing Reese's candies, Kit-Kats and Almond Joys on a
fast-moving production line, many of them on a night shift. After paycheck
deductions for fees associated with the program and for their rent,
students said at a rally in front of the huge packing plant that many of
them were not earning nearly enough to recover what they had spent in
their home countries to obtain their visas.

Their experience of American society has been very different from what
they expected.

"There is no cultural exchange, none, none," said Zhao Huijiao, a
20-year-old undergraduate in international relations from Dalian, China.
"It is just work, work faster, work."

Each summer, the State Department brings many thousands of foreign
students to the United States on the international work-travel program,
with visas that are known as J-1. Over the years, the program has
successfully given university students from distant countries a chance to
be immersed in everyday America and to make lasting friends.

But in recent years, the program has drawn complaints from students about
low wages and unexpectedly difficult work conditions. It appears, however,
that the walkout at the Palmyra plant is the first time that foreign
students have engaged in a strike to protest their employment.

John Fleming, a State Department spokesman, said officials were aware of
the students' protest and had sent staff members to Hershey, Pa., where
the candy company is based, to investigate. "It is our job to ensure that
all J-1 visa holders are accorded their rights under all provisions of the
Summer Work Travel program," Mr. Fleming said.

The arrangements that brought the foreign students to work at the Eastern
Distribution Center III, a vast warehouse in a trim industrial park near
Hershey, the American chocolate capital, involved layers of contractors.

The students said they mainly placed blame on the organization that
manages the J-1 visa program for the State Department, the Council for
Educational Travel, U.S.A., which is based in California.

Rick Anaya, chief executive of the council, said he had brought about
6,000 J-1 visa students to the United States this summer. Mr. Anaya said
he had tried to respond to the Palmyra workers' complaints. "We are not
getting any cooperation," he said. "We are trying to work with these kids.
All this negativity is hurting an excellent program. We would go out of
our way to help them, but it seems like someone is stirring them up out

A spokesman for Hershey's, Kirk Saville, said the chocolate company did
not directly operate the Palmyra packing plant, which is managed by a
company called Exel. A spokeswoman for Exel said it had found the student
workers through another staffing company.

The spokeswoman, Lynn Anderson, said: "We contract with a staffing agency
to provide temporary employees, some from the local work force and some
J-1 visa holders. We don't have a lot of influence over some of those
issues that they've raised."

A labor organization, the National Guestworker Alliance, which has been
working with the students, presented a complaint on Wednesday to the State
Department asking for the Council for Educational Travel, U.S.A. to be
removed from its list of sponsoring organizations.

In the protest on Wednesday, about 200 students who were scheduled to
start work on an evening shift at 3 p.m. walked into the plant and
presented a petition with several hundred signatures to a management
representative. Then, together with some students coming off the daytime
shift, they marched out.

The students walked off their jobs at a plant in Palmyra, Pa.

They came down the driveway to the plant, with semi-trailer trucks
wheeling by, chanting, "We are the students, the mighty, mighty students!"
and labor slogans in English as well as their own languages. The students
said they believed that so many of them walking off their jobs would stop
some production on their shifts.

"We want to own our rights," Ms. Zhao said, speaking in English. She and
three other Chinese students held out their arms, pointing to bruises they
said they had from moving large boxes.

Representatives from two American labor unions participated in the rally
at an intersection outside the plant. Three labor officials, including
Rick Bloomingdale, president of the Pennsylvania State Federation of the
A.F.L.-C.I.O., and Neal Bisno, president of a Pennsylvania branch of the
Service Employees International Union, staged a brief sit-in at the plant
entrance and were arrested.

Harika Duygu Ozer, 19, a second-year medical student from a university in
Istanbul, said she had heard from friends that the summer exchange program
would be fun and that she would earn enough money to pay for her medical
school tuition.

"I said, 'Why not?' This is America," Ms. Ozer said.

When she was offered a contract for a job at a plant with Hershey's
chocolates, she said, she was excited. "We have all seen Charlie's
chocolate factory," she said. "We thought, 'This is good.' "

Like many other students, Ms. Ozer said she invested about $3,500, which
included the program costs, to obtain the J-1 visa and travel to the
United States.

Several Chinese students, including Ms. Zhao, said they had paid more than
$6,000 in the process of securing visas.

Ms. Ozer said she worked an eight-hour shift that began at 11 p.m.

"You stand for the entire eight hours," she said. "It is the worst thing
for your fingers and hands and your back; you are standing at an angle."

At one of the sites where she worked, she said, cameras were trained on
her, and supervisors told her that if she did not want to maintain the
pace of work, she should leave.

Godwin Efobi, 26, a third-year medical student from Nigeria who is
studying at a university in Ukraine, said his job was moving boxes. "Since
I came here, I have a permanent ache in my back," Mr. Efobi said. "Holding
a pen is now a big task for me; my muscles ache."

The students said they decided to protest when they learned that neighbors
in the apartments and houses where they were staying were paying
significantly less rent.

"The tipping point was when we found out about the rent," Mr. Efobi said.

Ms. Ozer and other students said they were paid $8.35 an hour. After fees
are deducted from her paychecks as well as $400 a month for rent, she
said, she often takes home less than $200 a week. "We are supposed to be
here for cultural exchange and education, but we are just cheap laborers,"
Ms. Ozer said.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

[olympiaworkers] Verizon workers return to work, without a deal


NEW YORK (AP) — Thousands of striking Verizon workers will return to work
starting Monday night, though their contract dispute isn't over yet.

Both the company and the union say they have agreed to narrow the issues
in dispute and have set up a process to negotiate a new contract. But the
talks are likely to be contentious. The two sides still disagree on touchy
subjects such as health care benefits, pensions, and work rules.

About 45,000 employees went on strike on Aug. 7, after their previous
contract expired. They work in the company's landline division in nine
states from Massachusetts to Virginia.

Verizon says that it needs to cut costs in the traditional landline phone
business, which is in decline as more Americans switch to mobile phones.
The company has proposed freezing its pension and switching union workers
to its non-union health plan, which has higher costs for employees.

The unions counter that the landline business supports the growing
wireless business and that Verizon, which earned about $3 billion in the
first half of the year, can afford to maintain the benefits in the
contract that expired on Aug. 6. They also say Verizon put too many
proposals on the table.

Of the 45,000 striking workers, 35,000 are covered by the Communications
Workers of America, while 10,000 are covered by the International
Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Jim Spellane, a spokesman for the IBEW, said the strike occurred because
Verizon "came in with an extreme set of proposals and never really moved
off of them."

But after the 14-day strike, "I think they realized the unions are
serious," he said. "It's in everybody's best interest to get back to

Verizon spokesman Richard Young said that many of the benefits and work
rules were put in place when Verizon faced much less competition in its
landline business. "The contracts are not reflective of today's
marketplace," he said.

Spellane said that much of the traditional phone network helps support the
faster-growing wireless business. And many of the technicians that went on
strike install and maintain the company's new fiber optic network, FiOS,
which provides Internet, video and phone services.

Verizon has 196,000 workers, with 135,000 of those non-union. The wireless
division, which wasn't affected by the strike, is mostly non-union.

Nearly 30 percent of U.S. homes have dropped landline phone service and
rely on mobile phones only, according to the National Center for Health

Verizon Wireless added 1.3 million wireless customers in the April-June
quarter, for a total of 89.7 million. That growth has been helped by the
addition of Apple Inc.'s iPhone in February. The company owns 55 percent
of Verizon Wireless, with Britain's Vodafone owning the rest.

Meanwhile, total voice connections, which measures FiOS digital voice
connections in addition to traditional landlines, declined 7.9 percent to
25 million. But the company has seen increases of more than 20 percent in
customers subscribing to both FiOS Internet and TV services over the past
12 months.

Candice Johnson, spokeswoman for the CWA, said Verizon is asking $20,000
per worker in annual concessions. The company has disputed that but hasn't
offered its own figure.

Johnson said earlier this month that the union's best-paid Verizon workers
get about $77,000 a year in New York. The company puts the figure at
$91,000 and said benefits average $50,000.

"These are very important issues" being negotiated, she said. "They are
issues that help families ensure a middle-class life."

While union workers walked the picket lines, managers and non-union
employees performed their duties.

Verizon's Young said the company began training managers and non-union
workers at the beginning of the year to prepare for the strike. Thousands
of employees were brought in from as far away as Texas, California, and
Colorado, he said. They have worked 12 hours a day, six days a week, he

The company also used newer technologies to resolve 50,000 problems a day
remotely, Young said, such as resetting set-top boxes and routers and
testing lines.

Peter Thonis, Verizon's chief communications officer, acknowledged there
was "a little bit of a slowdown" in installing new services like FiOS, but
said replacement workers largely kept up on repair work.

The company said in its statement that it will "quickly address any
backlog in repairs and unfulfilled requests for service."

While customers who will now get their FiOS services installed on time may
be winners, Verizon's Thonis said neither the company nor the workers
could claim a victory.

"We still have a lot of hard and difficult bargaining to do. None of the
major issues that were on the table before the strike, are off the table,"
he said.


AP radio correspondent Julie Walker contributed to this report.

Monday, August 08, 2011

[olympiaworkers] 45,000 Verizon workers go on strike over contract

By CRISTIAN SALAZAR - Associated Press Aug. 7, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) — Tens of thousands of unionized Verizon Communications Inc.
workers from Massachusetts to Washington, D.C., went on strike early
Sunday after they failed to agree on a new labor contract with the
telecommunications company.

The Communications Workers of America said negotiations in Philadelphia
and New York stalled Saturday night after Verizon continued to demand more
than 100 concessions from workers and the unions refused to budge.

Mark C. Reed, Verizon's executive vice president of human resources,
called the outcome of the unions' actions "regrettable" for customers and

"We will continue to do our part to reach a new contract that reflects
today's economic realities in our wireline business and addresses the
needs of all parties," he said in a statement.

The contract that expired midnight Saturday covers 45,000 workers,
including 10,000 represented by the International Brotherhood of
Electrical Workers, who serve as telephone and repair technicians,
customer service representatives, operators and more.

"Even at the 11th hour, as contracts were set to expire, Verizon continued
to seek to strip away 50 years of collective bargaining gains for middle
class workers and their families," CWA said in a statement Sunday.

Verizon, the nation's largest wireless carrier, has 196,000 workers;
135,000 are non-union.

At the center of the contract negotiations, which began June 22, are the
costs of health care, pensions and work rules.

The CWA said the concessions are unjustified and harsh, given that Verizon
is highly profitable — the company's revenue rose 2.8 percent to $27.5
billion in the second quarter. Its growth was largely attributed to its
wireless business.

But Verizon said its wireline business has been in decline for more than a
decade, and that it is asking for changes in the contract to strengthen
the unit. The company said union employees contribute nothing to their
health care premiums.

Verizon activated a contingency plan to ensure customers experienced
"limited disruption in service" for the length of the strike.

"Tens of thousands of Verizon managers and other personnel have been
trained to step in and perform emergency work assignments," Verizon
spokesman Rich Young said.

A customer satisfaction survey released in May showed Verizon Wireless and
Sprint Nextel Corp. ranked highest among the Big 4 wireless carriers. The
survey polled 8,000 households in the first quarter of this year.

Verizon added 1.26 million wireless subscribers under contract in the
April to June period this year, a result that flies in the face of the
slowdown in new subscribers across the industry in the last two years. A
year ago, Verizon added just 665,000 subscribers under contract.

Verizon ended the last quarter with 106.3 million devices connected to its
wireless network. No. 2 and chief rival AT&T is trying to leapfrog Verizon
in size by buying No. 4 T-Mobile USA for $39 billion.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

[olympiaworkers] Chilean miners strike and join wave of protest against government Aug 4 2011

Strikes in Chilean mines strengthen workers' struggles throughout the
copper industry, and reflect growing political unrest in Chile.

2,300 miners at Chile's Escondida copper mine - the largest in the world -
have been out on strike since 22nd July, and were joined by 7,000
contractors on 27th July. The mine is privately owned by Australian firm

Workers at Escondida are demanding a rise in monthly production bonuses,
and initially aimed for $11,ooo per worker to be paid out by the end of
the year. BHP have declared the strike illegal, as bonuses are
discretionary and fall outside the collective contract and strict
anti-labour laws in Chile prevent workers from striking outside of the
collective negotiating agreement. The union rejected BHP's offer of
$6,000, which has since been lowered to $5,600 per worker. The strike
continued, with the union lowering it's demand to $8,700, but BHP are now
refused to negotiate while workers are still downing tools. Today, the
union has put the $5,600 offer out to be voted on, and if accepted by the
workers, the strike will be over. The union is also demanding protection
for workers who contract work-related illnesses, removal of surveillance
cameras throughout the mine, and improved punch-clocks which monitor their
12 hour shifts.

The Escondida strike is yet another case of workers' struggle throughout
the mining industry in Chile and the rest of the world, as workers are
demanding their share of record profits. Workers in Zambia and Indonesia
have also been striking against private firms such as Anglo-American and
Freeport McMoran.

Industry bosses are keen to bring an end to the Escondida strike as they
fear a success for the workers here could fuel further strikes across
Chile. At another major Chilean copper mine, Collahuasi, workers staged a
24hr stoppage over the weekend in protest against anti-union measures,
pressure being placed on workers, and bosses attempts to negotiate with
workers outside of the collective union contract. Collahuasi workers have
previously held a 33-day strike in December 2010.

The state-run Coldeco mines have also seen their first walk-outs in over
20 years, prompting the increasingly unpopular President Pinera to meet
with union leaders and assure them that Coldeco will not be privatised.
Previous strikes at Coldeco saw sub-contractors demanding improved
conditions. Signs outside the Escondida mine are calling for the mining
industry to be re-nationalised.

The miners strikes form part of a wave of growing unrest in Chile, as
students and environmentalists have also been protesting against the right
wing Pinera government.