More Than 20 Unions Join Puerto Rico Relief Efforts
SAN JUAN, P.R.—Volunteers from more than 20 labor unions have traveled to Puerto Rico to help with relief efforts after Hurricane Maria killed at least 34 people and left most of the island’s residents without electricity and running water. The more than 300 volunteers include doctors, electricians, engineers, carpenters, truck drivers, and 50 nurses from National Nurses United. “I put out the call for help, and who listened? The unions,” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz told a group who arrived Oct. 4. They will help clear road blockages, care for hospital patients, deliver emergency supplies, and restore power and communications,” the AFL-CIO’s Kenneth Quinnell said Oct. 5. “We use the word ‘solidarity’ a lot in the labor movement. The idea that when we come together, we are stronger,” AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, who traveled with nurses and doctors to the town of Loiza, wrote. “On this relief mission, it was solidarity in the truest sense of the word. Working people united around a common purpose — to provide help for those in need.”
Louisville Packaging-Plant Workers on Strike
LOUISVILLE, Ky.—About 70 workers at Louisville manufacturer Oracle Packaging have been on strike since the end of September, trying to stop the company from cutting their benefits. United Steelworkers Local 1693’s contract with the North Carolina-based owner expired Aug. 31, and management has proposed cutting hours, quadrupling workers’ health-care costs, and eliminating its matching contribution to workers’ 401(k) plans, said Louisville-based Steelworkers representative Larry Ray. “The egregious proposals that the employer has on the table… you’d be better off with better benefits at Amazon or McDonald’s,” he told WDRB-TV. He said the union hopes Oracle will “come back to the bargaining table” with a more favorable proposal. Production workers at the plant, whose products include the foil that lines cigarette packs and the backing for scratch-off lottery tickets and insulation, typically earn $18 to $20 an hour, Ray said. Local 1693 held a rally outside Oct. 6, with speakers including state Rep. Joni Jenkins and Kentucky AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan.
Teachers Get Restraining Order Against Fake-News Site
SOUTHFIELD, Mich.—A judge in Michigan issued an emergency restraining order Sept. 29 prohibiting the far-right attack-video group Project Veritas from publishing any information it obtained from trying to infiltrate American Federation of Teachers Michigan. The union’s lawsuit charges says that Project Veritas spy got an internship in May 2017 under a false name by claiming she was a University of Michigan student who wanted to be a teacher. It says that she spied on confidential documents looking for “instances of educators who had supposedly engaged in ‘sexting’ with students; there were no such instances.” Project Veritas, headed by James O’Keefe, specializes in surreptitiously filmed, deceptively edited attack videos, such as going to an ACORN office and pretending to be a pimp and a prostitute seeking government aid for their sex-trafficking business. O’Keefe later agreed to pay the ACORN worker he filmed $100,000 to settle a defamation lawsuit—the man had called police as soon as the two left—but the video got the federal government to cut off funds to ACORN projects. Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Brian R. Sullivan said that he had issued the order without giving Project Veritas advance notice because that would have given them “the opportunity to publish information obtained unlawfully,” and that “information released to the public cannot be recalled nor the privacy of the information restored.” The case has been moved to federal court.
Missouri Court Won’t Stop Vote to Repeal Union-Shop Ban
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.—Missouri’s Supreme Court has prevented a legal effort to knock a referendum on repealing the state’s union-shop ban off the November 2018 ballot. The Court said Oct. 5 that it would not hear an appeal of a July lower-court ruling rejecting a challenge to the union-backed initiative. The referendum also prevented the law, signed by Gov. Eric Greitens in February, from going into effect in August. “This court ruling is a victory for the middle class and hard-working Missourians all across the state,” Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis said. “It is time for politicians to listen to their constituents and allow the democratic process to play out.” Supporters of the so-called “right to work” law, backed by the National Right to Work Foundation, had argued that the referendum’s language was riddled with grammatical errors and could confuse voters. Kansas City lawyer Ed Greim told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he was considering challenging the validity of the more than 300,000 signatures union-backed groups collected to put the measure on the ballot.
Illinois Temp Workers Look Forward to Rights Law
SPRINGFIELD, Ill.—The more than 800,000 temporary workers in Illinois will gain new rights June 1, when the Responsible Job Creation Act goes into effect. The law requires staffing agencies to try to place temp workers into permanent jobs as they become available, report the race and gender of all job applicants to the state Department of Labor, and inform workers about safety equipment and procedures. It also prohibits them from charging job applicants for background checks, drug tests, and credit reports; Chicago Workers’ Collaborative activist Freddy Amador, who worked as a temp for five years at a factory in Waukegan, told In These Times that he’s had to pay up to $95 in such fees. The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Iris Martinez and state Rep. Carol Ammons, both Democrats, was passed with bipartisan support and signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner in late September. “We now have to ensure there is enforcement, not that we create a law and forget about it,” says Martinez. Ammons wants to follow up with a bill that would prohibit agencies from paying temp workers with credit or debit cards that carry fees.