Greetings from the Burgh, where I’m slowly regaining my energy after being in the hospital again for stomach issues from earlier this year and catching up on the strike reports that we have received over the past few days. (Thanks to all those who have donated to the paid sick day fund.)
Also, at the close of the newsletter today, we have a special section on my nearly 15 years covering AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka including some pretty memories. Be sure to read through to the bottom and check it out.
200 Reno Bus Drivers Strike
Yesterday in Reno, Nevada, Teamsters Local 533 members, employed by the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) for-profit contractor Keolis Corporation, went on strike over the company’s threat to switch from a Teamsters’ owned health insurance to a cheaper-run plan chosen by the company.
“At the latest bargaining session last week, Keolis made a proposal to eliminate Teamsters Health insurance with 60 days notice,” said Gary Watson, Teamsters Local 533 President in a statement put out by the Teamsters. “We told Keolis the proposal is a poison pill and violates the Health and Welfare Trust Agreement. Keolis refuses to withdraw this language.”
Washington Burger King Workers Walk Off the Job & Hand Out Free Food
In Washington State, Burger King workers walked off the job because of understaffing and poor working conditions. It wasn’t enough, however, f0r them to simply close the place and leave. The workers decided to stand outside and hand out free food to frustrated customers looking to eat.
“[Customers] were greeted by workers walking out of the store, handing out free food outside,” Allison Zimmerman, a manager of the neighboring Cost-Less Pharmacy, told The News Tribune.
Four NYC Tri-State Butcher Shops Strike After CEO Removes BLM and Pride Signs
Dozens of butcher shop workers at four of Fleishers’ high-end butcher shops went on strike after a newly appointed CEO removed signs supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement and LBGTQ+ Pride.
Eater has the story:
The incident that sparked the walkout occurred on July 22, when Rosania reportedly received a text message from a friend, claiming they were offended by a sign in support of the Black Lives Matter movement hanging in the Westport store’s window. Rosania, a real estate developer and billionaire wine collector, called Adams and instructed him to remove the signs, according to former workers with knowledge of the events.
Former employees say that Adams, the company’s newly minted chief executive, and fifth CEO in five years, took a train from the company’s headquarters in New York to its butcher shop in Westport to remove the sign along with a second sign that depicted a Black fist raised over a Pride flag. The following morning on July 23, Adams returned to New York City and removed signs from the butcher shop in Park Slope.
In the hours after the incident, “the atmosphere was at a fever pitch,” says Ajani Thompson, the former manager of Fleishers in Park Slope. According to former employees, Thompson, who is Black says that removing the signs “sent a message” to the company’s staff, approximately half of which identify as either LGBTQIA+ or BIPOC.
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Sacramento Jack in the Box Workers Walk Out
In Sacramento, California, Jack in the Box workers walked out over abusive work conditions, claiming that their employer owed them $184,000.
“I did not get a single rest break for nine years,” worker Areclia Rodriguez told KTXL. “When I first started working here, I approached the manager at the time about taking a break, and he said, ‘We don’t take breaks here.’”
News Happening Elsewhere
- After 350 calls to 911 over two years due to violent customers, South Los Angeles McDonald’s workers go on strike for a safer workplace.
- Tacoma Teamsters launch a practice strike on their lunch break as they prepare to strike.
- Canadian border staff to start a “Work to rule” strike that could back up traffic at the U.S. border.
- University of Arkansas medical chancellor said workers are walking off the job and quitting due to the COVID-19 surge.
- Greenville, Mississippi, school officials turn in names of bus drivers who went on an illegal strike under threat of heavy fines from state officials. This could lead workers to being blacklisted.
A Funny Memory of Richard Trumka Mocking Me at National Press Club #RIP
Finally, many in the labor movement are mourning the death of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who served as President of the AFL-CIO from 2009 to 2021.
AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement about Trumka: “If you have to be in a war, you want to be in the trenches with Richard Trumka. Our hearts go out to Barbara, Richard Jr. and his entire family. May his memory be a blessing.”
Trumka represented a break from past AFL-CIO presidents in terms of being more engaged in pushing the AFL-CIO in a progressive direction to do more foreign policy, gay rights, and financial reform.
After failing to push Obama hard in public on the Employee Free Choice Act during Obama’s first term, Trumka was very critical of Obama’s direction on financial reform.
Without Trumka, it’s unlikely Obama would have appointed Elizabeth Warren to start up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He also led the fight to block Obama from appointing Larry Summers as the head of the Federal Reserve Bank, and instead got Obama to appoint Janet Yellen.
“Without Trumka, Larry Summers would have headed the Federal Reserve Bank,” tweeted retired Economic Policy Institute President Larry Mishel.
However, while pushing the labor movement in some positive directions, Trumka also represented some of the more conservative views of the labor movement.
“Trumka has something of a mixed legacy I think, but he was almost certainly the most progressive head of the AFL or AFL-CIO in its history,” wrote noted labor historian Erik Loomis on Twitter.
Trumka often bristled when I asked him tough questions on things like the AFL-CIO’s support for a resolution at its 2013 convention that called for the anti-immigrant E-Verify system or his more recent refusal to expel police unions from the AFL-CIO. He also failed to denounce the Biden Administration for the Keystone Pipeline and publicly criticized the Green New Deal. He also sometimes faced picket lines from his workers at the AFL-CIO over poor treatment.
In the midst of tough questioning, though, I often found him to be funny to joke around with. One time, he told me that I didn’t understand the labor movement and said, “Look, back, where I am from in Western PA,” and I quickly interrupted to say, “Oh yeah, I am from Western PA as well….”
On another occasion, at the National Press Club in 2012, Trumka got me good and embarrassed me in front of a large crowd of reporters.
I asked him a tough question about how the AFL-CIO could support Obama for re-election, given Obama’s support during an election year for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the AFL-CIO opposed. A few weeks prior, I had joked on Twitter about growing a mustache to emulate Trumka’s mustache.
Before answering my question, though, Trumka took to the podium of the National Press Club to chastise my then-clean cut face.
“Where’s your mustache?” Trumka said to me the sounds of laughter from the National Press Club. “I was expecting you to come here with a full mustache so that we could take pictures together. Oh, come on, Mike,” he joked before proceeding to answer my questions.
Our deepest condolences to the Trumka family on the sudden passing of their husband. Rest in Peace.
Alright folks, that’s all for today. We are taking a break for a few weeks and will be back soon. We appreciate all your donations as we take a break.
Hear about a strike or walkout, or just want to share some comments? Drop us a line at [email protected].
Love & Solidarity,