Trump Blocks Nurses from Unionizing in N.C. & Denver – Teachers Mobilize for Strikes – Cinco De Mayo Hell for Workers

Nurses hold a demonstration outside Jacobi Medical Center to protest a new policy by the hospital requiring a doctor's note for paid sick leave, Friday, April 17, 2020, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Greetings from the Burgh, where it looks like new allergy medicine and relief may finally be on the way. 

Early signs show that COVID-19 may have led some workers to begin organizing. 

North Carolina Nurses Unionize During Pandemic

In North Carolina, labor journalists Matthew Cunningham-Cook & Jonathan Michels for the Intercept take a look at how nurses unionized in response to COVID-19: 

The largest hospital corporation in America, HCA Healthcare, is using the coronavirus pandemic to delay and undermine a union election for 1,600 nurses in North Carolina.

After nurses filed in March to hold an election, HCA Healthcare petitioned the National Labor Relations Board, or the NLRB, to delay the vote because of the pandemic. In the meantime, it hired professional union busters costing $400 an hour to conduct meetings inside Mission 

Hospital in Asheville, urging nurses to oppose joining a union.

And while the corporation stands to rake in $4.7 billion in CARES Act benefits, the number of coronavirus cases in North Carolina is steadily growing, and nurses say they had to fight for basic personal protective equipment, or PPE.

“Instead of HCA using those resources and money and effort to prepare for Covid-19 and have proper PPE, they chose to put it into union busting instead,” said Sarah Kuhl, a registered nurse with Mission’s oncology research department.”

For more, check out the Intercept. 

Denver Hospital Workers Drive Could Be Blocked Too

Nurses at Denver Health Medical Center also announced that they were planning to unionize this week with CWA. From the Denver Post

If workers contract the virus, as the group says several have, they have just three days of sick leave, despite medical experts recommending weeks of quarantine time.

And then there’s the question of how cash is spread throughout the financially challenged county hospital, they say. The issue rose to the fore most recently after Denver Health awarded executives six-figure salaries while asking frontline staff to cut their hours.

The group says hospital staff handling sick patients daily have too little protective gear like masks, gloves and smocks. And the gear — often called personal protective equipment or PPE — that is in stock is often the wrong size.

For more, go to the Denver Post. 

NLRB COVID Delays In Election Favor Hospital Management

These workers, as well as other health care workers, could be blocked by the NLRB and result in delayed union elections. 

This is nothing new — employers often try to prevent union drives by delaying them. They use the interim time to dissuade employers from unionizing through a mixture of intimidation and promising better conditions if workers don’t unionize. 

The NLRB shutting down elections could give employers time to prevent unionization in medical industries. 

Union Busters Use COVID Uncertainty In Attempto o Get Union Members to Quit

Some union busters are trying to use fear of COVID to try to get workers to quit their unions. From Oregon Public Broadcasting: 

“Have you considered opting out of your union during these times of uncertainty?” the caller asked. “This is a surefire way to increase your take-home pay and keep more of your money in your pocket, where it belongs.”

The message came from the Freedom Foundation, a group founded in Washington state to urge people to opt out of public sector unions. It has recently taken fire for apparently leveraging the pandemic against public sector unions.

Leaders of the foundation said they are only trying to inform dues-paying union members of other options. They said they don’t oppose organized labor, on principle, but do oppose union tactics to increase membership and use the dues to influence politics.

The organization has continued to send emails and mailers, and make phone calls during the pandemic. The outbreak has changed one tactic, however: They no longer go door-to-door.

Teachers Activate Strike Facebook Groups to Organize to Help Families During COVID

During the teachers’ strikes, the usage of teacher Facebook groups played a major role in helping the strike wave to spread. Now teachers are reactivating those same Facebook groups to help students and families through home learning:

In mid-March, Kentucky joined the slew of states shuttering schools to observe social distancing as the coronavirus spread across the country. The several-week shutdown has since been extended through the end of the school year.

“It was kind of a surprise to all of us,” [Allison] Slone, [creator of “Kentucky Teachers In The Know,” said. “I was in my classroom one day, and we’d heard little tricklings of this coming, but then the next day, we’re done.”

She said the early weeks of online learning were marked by countless requests for help in the group — everything from technical questions to teachers struggling to balance their class lessons with those for their own children. But by the end of the month, she noticed a change.

“The progression has quickly went from that, ‘Please help me,’ or ‘I need help,’ to ‘Hey, I’ve done this, and it’s great, you’ve got to try it,’ ” she explained.

For more, check out Business Insider 

Teachers Strike Could Happen Again

The reactivation of these Facebook groups could help teachers in the tough days ahead. With many states facing budget cuts, several state legislators might try  undoing raises won through strikes.

Additionally, many states may attempt to force teachers back to work before it’s safe. Teachers union leaders have vowed to resist any such attempts. 

AFT President Randi Weingarten told Politico that if schools are re-opened then teachers should “scream Bloody Murder” and “do everything [they]can to … use [their] public megaphones.”

Cinco de Mayo Is Hell for App Delivery Workers During COVID

Finally, every year, Cinco De Mayo is an outrageous holiday that offends many with its depictions of Latinx culture. 

This year, Cinco de Mayo may prove particularly deadly for the many low-wage immigrants and kitchen workers forced to make delivery orders for high-income workers, or for those who can afford to stay at home. 

One worker described the experience as “a shit show”. Lauren Kaori Gorley and Edward Ongweso Jr. have more at Vice:

“It was a total disaster. I went to a regular Mexican restaurant last night that I’ve picked up from many times and never had a problem, but there were 100 cars in the parking lot, a huge line of 30 or more people outside of the restaurant, and 20 people packed in the lobby,” said Susan, a GrubHub delivery driver in Portland. 

Motherboard agreed to use delivery drivers’ first names only in this story because they feared retribution from platforms that increasingly control their working hours.

In cities around the country, dozens of gig workers crammed onto sidewalks, parking lots, and even inside restaurant lobbies. Workers scolded each other for standing closer than 6-feet apart. Food went undelivered. Many workers were forced to choose, in some cases, between waiting for more than an hour for orders to be prepared by skeleton kitchen crews, or canceling orders out of frustration or fear of exposure to other workers.

“People didn’t have masks and were not maintaining distance very well,” Susan said. “After I realized I wasn’t going to be able to get the order for 30 minutes or more, I cancelled the order, losing $15. When I got another order from the same restaurant, I cancelled it again.”

For more, go to Vice. 

That’s all for today folks, donate so we can keep on trucking.

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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