Southern Service Workers Hold 1st Major Strike – CTU Celebrates Johnson Win – U of Michigan Grad Employees Face Lawsuit

Union organizer and Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson speaks after being projected winner as mayor on April 4, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)

Greetings from the Burgh, where spring is here, and I’m happy to report that Im back out on my bike. 

Thanks to everyone who donated to my Long Covid recovery fund. 

Southern Service Workers Hold 1st Major Strike.

Late last year, the United Southern Service Workers Union was founded to represent low wages workers throughout the South. Now, the union is engaging in its first south-wide strike, with workers striking in over a dozen cities throughout the South to draw attention to poor working conditions. 

“Ryder does not give us any safety gear—no safety helmets inside a warehouse where heavy boxes often fall from 60 feet up. We have over 100 pallets stacked the whole length of the warehouse—blocking all the fire exits. If there was a fire, we would not all be able to get out,” Sersie Cobb Jr, a forklift driver at Ryder warehouse in Columbia, SC, told WIS-TV. 

“On top of all that, I have experienced workplace violence. In January, I was threatened and physically assaulted by a manager. My coworkers and I have filed complaints but Ryder Corporation has done nothing to protect us,” told the station. 

For more, check out WIS-TV. 

Chicago Teachers Union Celebrates Brandon Johnson’s Win 

Yesterday, Brandon Johnson defeated Paul Vallas by 51.4% to 48.6%. 

At first, many doubted Johnson’s campaign could get far, but the middle school teacher and union activist were able to build a grassroots campaign that overcame multi-million dollar attacks. 

“We have ushered in a new chapter in the history of our city,” Johnson said in his victory speech. “Whether you wake up early to open the doors of your businesses, or teach middle school, or wear a badge to protect our streets, or nurse patients in need, or provide child care services, you have always worked for this city. And now Chicago will begin to work for its people.”

For more on the win, check out Chalkbeat. 

University of Michigan Graduate Employees Face Lawsuit

A strike of nearly 800 University of Michigan graduate employees has entered its second week. Now, the University is suing the union, claiming that the graduate employees are on an illegal strike. 

However, the graduate employees say they will continue their strike.

“Grad workers are on strike, because we know our demands are reasonable and just,” Union Bargaining Chair Amir Fleischmann told MLive. “We will continue to fight until we get the contract we deserve.”

For more on strike, check out WMUK. 

Union Pacific Spies on Workers, Who Take Sick Leave

Finally, Union Pacific has won praise recently after it agreed to paid sick leave with 2,000 of its workers. However, a new expose by A.P. raises troubling questions about how Union Pacific spies on workers who take paid sick leave. 

From the A.P.: 

In the Texas case, Rutledge had worked various jobs at Union Pacific over 11 years leading up to working as a conductor before he was fired last year. According to his lawsuit, Rutledge had to take eight months off work to rehabilitate after the back injury in 2017 but after returning to the job he would occasionally need to take additional time off when his back condition flared up.

But the railroad fired him after a private investigator saw Rutledge drive to the grocery store and gas station near his home in Fresno, Texas, and walk for short periods. And Rutledge said his bosses wouldn’t listen when he tried to explain that even if he was well enough to run a few errands he didn’t feel up to helping operate a train.

“The fact that you’re on FMLA doesn’t mean that you have to lay in bed all day. The fact that you can’t work a 12-hour shift is different than whether you can do other things,” Thompson said.

For more, check out the AP

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Love & Solidarity, 

Melk 

About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter and alumni of the Guardian. In addition to filing over 1,800 stories from 46 states, 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 works frequently in Rio de Janeiro, where he attended college at PUC-Rio. He speaks both Portuguese and Pittsburghese fluently. His email is [email protected]

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