Michigan Dems Doublecross Teachers Union – Gay Bars Unionizing as Violence Mounts – NYC Union Pass Medicare Advantage Program Amid Controversy

Michigan Gretchen Whitmer is poised to repeal "right-to-work" legislation passed in 2012 (AP)

Folks, 

Greetings from the Burgh, where local labor leader Dylan Rooke is playing Irish music set at Cork Harbour in Lawrenceville; swing down and check it out tonite Party starts at 8. 

Michigan Dems Doublecross Teachers Union 

This week, the Michigan State House passed a bill that will repeal “right-to-work”: legislation in the state. However, a provision that would eliminate a ban on teacher strikes in the form has been removed from the bill, angering teacher unions in the state. 

“It is about holding our employer and legislators accountable so we can have good working conditions and our students can have the best learning conditions,” Detroit Teachers Federation Lakia Wilson-Lumpkins told WXYZ. 

For more, check out WXYZ. 

Gay Bars Unionizing as Violence Mounts

With gay bars across the country facing an epidemic of violence, some workers are beginning to unionize. Recently, workers at Berlin in Chicago joined a growing movement of gay bar workers demanding union representation. 

People often say that gay bars or queer bars are community spaces,” Saint says. ​“If they want to live up to that promise, they need to take care of the people who are making that happen … so that we can make people feel welcome and loved.” Leo Sampson told In These Times magazine. ​“In a time where the political climate is so anti-drag and anti-trans, I think it’s important to remember we are all we’ve got is this community, and we have to support each other.” 

For more, check out In These Times. 

LBGTQ Suicide Hotline Workers Unionizing 

Not only are gay bar workers unionized, but workers at the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ suicide hotline under enormous strain with the spike in anti-gay violence, are unionizing as well. 

“People get pretty worn out on doing this, and doing it without the support of the organization that we hope to achieve through the union,” Sarah Hallock told Vice. “It’s a hard job to do, and especially when we have these kinds of attacks on our service that are outside what we really came here to do, which is support youth in crisis.” 

For more, check out VICE. 

Controversial Medicare Advantage Program Approved in New York City 

In New York City, many municipal unions have approved a controversial plan that would switch workers to the Medicare Advantage program, which many workers fear will reduce benefits.

 The City has the story: 

Groups representing the City’s 250,000 municipal-work retirees are already teeing up potential legal challenges. Last year, they successfully sued to block the deal, and a judge barred the City’s offered alternative coverage, under which retirees would have been allowed to keep their existing health plan — if they paid $191 a month.

Amid the uproar, the City Council declined to pick up legislation pressed by Mayor Eric Adams that would have allowed retirees to pay for and keep their current coverage.

The switch to Medicare Advantage had its roots in the labor deals struck by former Mayor Bill de Blasio, which included commitments of billions of dollars in health care savings to help fund raises and benefits.

On Thursday, dozens of retirees bearing merch from DC37, the UFT, and other unions gathered at City Hall to protest the plan, which could increase their healthcare costs for what they say will be inferior coverage.

“We will keep fighting, and we will never stop until we get the traditional Medicare with our Medigap plan that we have always had, we were promised, we worked for, and that we deserve,” UFT retiree activist Sarah Shapiro said, adding that she expects “ongoing litigation” over the health care switch.

For more, check out the City. 

Scabby the Rat Manufacturer Stops the Production 

Finally, some sad news is that no factory in the United States produces Scabby the Rat. The Guardian has the story:

Big Sky itself was, incredibly, not a union shop. It made most of its other balloons for major city businesses – the Chicago Bulls, Cubs, and White Sox; the Navy Pier, the Chicago Auto Show, and most car dealerships in the area, employers who could easily have found themselves with a Scabby parked out front. By the late 2010s, Mike was also, according to Padilla, “a big Trumper” who refused to do “any political stuff.” None of that kept Big Sky from selling, at various points, a half-dozen Scabbies per month at up to $10,000 a pop.

But these days, America’s Scabby supply may be running dry. When I called Big Sky last week, a woman identifying herself as Michelle said that, in the past month, the business had come under new ownership. “We don’t do any of the unions or the rat stuff anymore,” she said. “We have nothing to do with the inflatable rats.” The identities of Big Sky’s new owners or their plans for the business remain a mystery. “We’re not at liberty to say,” Michelle repeated, claiming “a lot of stuff is non-disclosure.”

It’s unclear whether the sale will actually change the rat market. The website still advertises a selection of “Union Inflatables,” linking out to an Ohio-based contractor called Inflatable Images. Michelle wouldn’t say how long Big Sky had used its services, and the firm didn’t respond for comment. But one Chicago Tribune article suggests the O’Connors might have been outsourcing Scabbies as early as 1997. “I had the feeling that they never made the rats,” Padilla admitted. Their warehouse was filled with hot air balloons, but nothing for rodent production, he said. And they bought in an outside seamstress when the rats needed repairs.

“I think they used someone else,” Padilla said, but “they didn’t want to let us know. They probably thought we would go around them and order directly from the company. But my intention was just to find out who made them in case they went out of business, which is where we’re at now.”

For more, check out the Guardian. 

News & Strikes Happening Elsewhere

Alright folks, I gotta run. Keep donating to help us cover the labor movement. Please, sign up as one of our 746 recurring donors today. 

Keep sending story ideas, complaints, comments, and yes, recipes to [email protected] 

Love & Solidarity, 

Melk 

About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter and alumni of the Guardian. A native of Pittsburgh, Elk grew up in a UE union family. Elk was the only American reporter in the room with Lula on the morning of the election & traveled with him to the Oval Office. Credited by the Washington Post for being the first reporter to track the strike wave systematically, Elk started Payday Report using his NLRB settlement from being illegally fired for union organizing in 2015. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and attended journalism school at PUC-Rio de Janeiro. He speaks both Portuguese and Pittsburgh fluently. His email is [email protected]

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