Chipotle Closes 1st Store to Unionize – 9,000 Columbus Teachers Could Go on Strike – Korean BBQ Restaurant Unionizes in L.A

Chipotle workers in Maine launched an independent union effort today (Chipotle)

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Chipotle Closes 1st Store to Unionize 

Last month, workers at a Chipotle location in Augusta, Maine launched the company’s first-ever union. Now, the company is closing that location permanently, claiming that they are unable to staff the location. 

Chipotle United denounced the move as union-busting. 

“This is union busting 101 and there is nothing that motivates us to fight harder than this underhanded attempt to shut down the labor movement within their stores,” Chipotle United organizer Brandi McNease said in a statement. “They’re scared because they know how powerful we are and if we catch fire like the unionization effort at Starbucks they won’t be able to stop us.”

For more, check out Nation’s Restaurant News 

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300 Healthcare Workers Strike at California’s Sequoia Hospital 

In Redwood City, California, over 300 healthcare workers, members of AFSCME, are on strike over low pay, health insurance increases, and unsafe staffing ratios. The workers, who voted by a 95% margin to strike, say that they plan to stay on strike until the issues are resolved. 

“How can I safely care for 32 patients? It’s humanly impossible,” said Aretha Martins, a certified nursing assistant in Sequoia’s cardiac surveillance unit. “I went to the bathroom a few times to cry but had to swallow it and return because there was so much to be done. It’s horrible. We need safe staffing ratios now.”

For more, check out AFSCME’s website 

9,000 Columbus Teachers Could Go on Strike 

In Columbus, Ohio, over 9,000 teachers are threatening to strike on the first day of school in late August unless some major issues are resolved. The union says that its main concern is understaffing caused by high turnover in the schools during the pandemic, when many teachers retired early or left the profession altogether. 

“This idea that teachers are like machines that if your colleague doesn’t show up for work, for all the good reasons, you can take on an elementary teacher, you can take on their load of extra 14 children on top of your 32 that you already have in your class and still have a productive lesson that day. That is an impossible task, ” Regina Fuentes, a spokesperson for the Columbus Education Association, told WBNS. 

For more check out WBNS 

Korean BBQ Restaurant Unionizes in L.A. — Could Korean Supermarkets be Next?

Last month, Genwa, a Korean BBQ  in Los Angeles, became the first Korean restaurant to get a union contract, achieving a $20/hour minimum wage, reimbursement for healthcare costs, and seniority rights. 

The union drive at Genwa is starting discussions in the city’s Asian-American community about unionizing other businesses. According to a report published by Asian Americans Advancing Justice coalition, the majority of Asian-American workers in L.A. make less than $15/hour. Experts cite the close-knit and protective culture of many immigrant communities for keeping wages low. 

“They have this co-ethnic employee-employer relationship that often undermines the workers’ ability to express their grievances and report abuses,” Chanchanit Martorell, executive director of the Thai Community Development Center told the L.A. Times. 

For more on organizing among Asian-American workers, check out the L.A. Times 

David Moberg in His Own Words — Rest in Power 

Yesterday, it was announced that veteran labor reporter David Moberg had died of Parkinson’s at age 79. A lot of people have shared moving reflections about him. 

“David Moberg, who has died at 79, reported on workers and unions at a time when most of the media had abandoned the labor beat. He was a friend, a comrade and one of my greatest teachers,” wrote the Nation’s John Nichols on Twitter. “Love and solidarity to a great journalist and his rich legacy” 

Veteran New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse, while paying tribute to his long-time friend David Moberg on Twitter, shared a moving autobiographical essay by David Moberg: 

Neither a ​“red diaper” nor a ​“blue-collar” baby, I came circuitously to be one of In These Times’ original staff writers, covering labor. I grew up on a farm in western Illinois, where my youthful models of alternatives to capitalism owed less to Marx — whom I didn’t seriously study until graduate school — and more to the collective work of putting up hay with neighboring farmers and the cooperative traditions of the farm supply company my father managed.

My first, minor experience of working-class struggle came in high school, on the grueling job of pulling tassels off seed corn. I led a walkout of fellow workers who shared my resistance to slogging through a muddy field rather than waiting for the ground to dry. We won nothing, but we felt good. 

As an early ​’60s student ​“radical” I did win some victories in the modest realm of campus politics — and also a week-long expulsion for publishing an ​“alternative” newspaper. That led to my first full-time job after college, working for Newsweek in Los Angeles. I had the good fortune to cover the beginnings of the United Farm Workers’ organizing drive under Cesar Chavez, and learned important lessons about solidarity, persistence and the flaws of even labor movement saints.

A few years later, I entered graduate school in anthropology at the University of Chicago. Inspired by Marx to see work as central to the creation of human culture, I did fieldwork for my dissertation not in the usual exotic locales but in eastern Ohio, among the young workers engaged in high-profile conflicts with General Motors at a new factory in Lordstown. Contrary to popular belief, workers there were even more interested in control over their work than in increasing their pay. 

For more, check out the full essay at In These Times 

News & Strikes Happening Elsewhere 

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Melk

About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter, who covered everything from the Brazilian labor movement to major league baseball and spent years covering union organizing in the South for The Guardian. In 2015, he used his NLRB settlement from being fired illegally for union organizing at Politico to start the crowd-funded Payday Report. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh but speaks Portuguese which he learned in journalism school in Rio de Janerio. Email: [email protected]

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