Greetings from the Burgh, where it’s been a frustrating week as I have been sick for most of the week and lost a lot of writing momentum. However, I’m working through it and wanted to update you quickly.
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Ray Curry Narrowly Leading UAW Presidential Election
For the first time in the history of the UAW, the election of its next president is being done via popular vote, with each member allowed to vote instead of by delegates. Approximately 130,000 ballots were cast in the runoff for the presidential election between incumbent UAW President Ray Curry and challenger Shawn Fain.
With 66,000 votes, approximately half of the votes counted so far, incumbent UAW President Ray Curry leads challenger Shawn Fain by a margin of 33,913 votes to 32,135 votes, a margin of only 1,778 votes.
For more updates, check out the UAW’s website.
Rail Union Leaders Say East Palestine Workers Falling Ill
In a letter from the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Ways Employees Division (BMWED) to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, union leaders complained that many workers who cleaned up after the East Palestine rail derailment are now falling sick.
“When some of the Norfolk Southern workers inquired about the appropriateness of their personal protective equipment and the safety of their personal protective equipment, they received little or no response,” wrote the union in a 5-page letter. “Many other employees reported that they continue to experience migraines and nausea, days after the derailment, and they all suspect that they were willingly exposed to chemicals at the direction of Norfolk Southern.”
For more, check out the full 5-page letter from BMWED.
After 57 Dead in Rail Crash, Greek Railroad Workers Strike
On Tuesday, 57 people died in a rail accident in Northern Greece. Greek railroad workers called for a nationwide strike to protest unsafe conditions on the railroads.
“Unfortunately, our constant requests for the recruitment of permanent staff, better training, and above all, the application of modern security technologies, are permanently thrown into the wastebasket,” the union said in a statement.
For more on the crash, check out the Washington Post.
White Collar Starbucks Workers Begin to Unionize
At Starbucks, white-collar workers in their corporate headquarters have now begun to unionize. From Josh Eidelson at Bloomberg:
Dozens of white-collar Starbucks Corp. employees and managers have signed an open letter protesting the company’s return-to-office mandate and its alleged union-busting, opening a new front in the battle over the avowedly progressive coffee chain’s treatment of its staff.
“We love Starbucks, but these actions are fracturing trust in Starbucks leadership,” the workers wrote in their letter, which was sent to senior executives and board members and will be posted on a website Wednesday. “Morale is at an all-time low, and the brand reputation and financial value of this publicly traded company are at risk.” The letter argues that violating baristas’ unionization rights and subjecting white-collar staff to an abrupt return-to-office mandate reflects the same problem: “Not listening to partners.”
“We believe in Starbucks, we believe in its core values, and we call for a return to those values,” the white-collar staffers wrote.
For more, check out Bloomberg.
Brazilian Minister of Racial Inequality Anielle Franco Honored as Time 100
Finally, the Brazilian Minister of Racial Inequality, Annielle Franco, was honored as a member of the Time 100. Franco’s sister, former Rio city councilwoman Marielle Franco, who I attended college at PUC-RIO, was assassinated in 2018 by paramilitary forces linked to Bolsonaro.
Time has a moving piece on why they decided to honor Anielle Franco:
Now 38—the same age Marielle was when she died—Franco finds herself in a much more prominent position than her sister might have imagined, with a real shot at advancing their dream of a fairer Brazil. Franco took office in January as Minister for Racial Equality after leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva defeated Bolsonaro in October elections. Franco’s job is to make sure Lula’s ministers and legislators deliver on his promise of equality for Black and mixed-race Brazilians, who make up 56% of the population, and the country’s Indigenous and Asian minorities.
The stakes are high. Police killings hit record levels during Bolsonaro’s presidency as he championed shoot-to-kill tactics; 84% of the victims in 2021 were Black. In 2022, a deepening post-pandemic economic crisis triggered a 60% jump in the number of Black Brazilians experiencing hunger—almost twice the increase among white Brazilians. Bolsonaro also gutted budgets of the programs and agencies designed to help marginalized communities. “This was a political project that he was pursuing—to push aside everything that was for Black people, for Indigenous people, for women, for poor people, for LGBTQI people,” Franco says. “I’m just glad that we got to interrupt him.”
Though the election was tight, stopping Bolsonaro was likely the easy part. To undo four years of backsliding on equality, and ultimately to push further ahead with new policies, Franco will need the backing of other ministers and legislators, many of whom are unlikely to prioritize racial justice. She’ll also need to win support from a conservative-dominated Congress and from a deeply polarized public. (Franco’s planned Jan. 9 inauguration was delayed by two days after Bolsonaro supporters stormed Brazil’s congress, supreme court and presidential palace on Jan. 8 in the hopes of overthrowing Lula’s government.)
Franco says she can handle it. She remains a cautious person—but not one who can be shouted down, she says. “I lost my fear when they killed my sister. Now I fight for something much bigger than myself”.
Strikes & News Happening Elsewhere
- Sri Lanka workers defy strike ban to protest IMF bailout plan
- Finland’s port strike enters 3rd week with more strikes planned
- Labor leaders urge DNC to spike Atlanta
- Pew has a long look at how Democrats are divided over teachers’ strikes
- Caterpillar reaches tentative contract agreement with UAW
- Flight attendant leaders will meet over JetBlue/Spirit merger discord
- Italian film dubbers are on strike over the introduction of Artificial Intelligence
- Finally, NW Labor Press has a long look from a variety of readers what it feels like to be on strike
Alright folks, I’m heading back to bed. Donate to our Long Covid recovery and treatment fund. Please, if you can, sign up as one of our 743 recurring donors today.
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Love & Solidarity,
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