Union Pacific Railroad Workers Win Paid Sick Days – Fayetteville Bus Drivers Strike 2nd Time in 2 Years – Anti-Caste Discrimination Legislation Introduced in Seattle



Greetings from the ‘Burgh, where I have arrived back after covering President Lula’s visit to the White House and a week-long trip throughout the South.

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Union Pacific Railroad Workers Win Paid Sick Days 

Earlier, this month, 5,000 railroad workers employed by CSX won the right to seven days of paid sick leave. The agreement comes after Congress and the Biden Administration unilaterally imposed a contract on several railroad unions that did not contain paid sick days. 

Now, another group of 2,100 railroad workers employed by Union Pacific have won the right to four days of paid sick leave. 

“We are extremely proud of the progress that [the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen] continues to make on behalf of our members. This agreement recognizes the need for railroad workers to have paid sick leave and secures this very important benefit for our members working at Union Pacific,” Brotherhood of Railway Carmen General President Don Grissom said in a statement

With more attention being paid to safety conditions on the railroads following the East Palestine train derailment chemical disaster, more railroad workers may be able to win the right to paid sick days. 

18 Years Later, UE to Try Again at University of Minnesota 

In 2005, I traveled out to the University of Minnesota with my father Gene Elk, the now-retired United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America (UE) Director of Organization, as the UE attempted to organize graduate employees at the University of Minnesota. However, the effort was unsuccessful. 

It was one of six unsuccessful organizing efforts of graduate employees at the University since 1974.  As recently, as 2012, 62% of graduate employees at University of Minnesota voted against unionizing. 

Now, in an environment, where organizing efforts at graduate employees are winning by nearly 3-to-1 margins, the UE is trying again to unionize 4,000 graduate employees at the University of Minnesota. In the past year, the UE has won high-profile organizing efforts at MIT, John Hopkins University, Northwestern, the University of Chicago, and Northwestern. 

“I can’t emphasize how incredibly excited I am, I’ve been working on this for over a year now,” graduate employee Anya Auerbach told the Racket. “So to have it be public, and something I can talk about, is amazing… it still doesn’t feel real. Unionizing has built an incredible feeling of solidarity and community.”

For more, check out the Racket. 

And speaking of organized graduate students, Temple University’s graduate assistants are on strike and rejected the university’s latest contract offer with 92% of graduate employees voting against it. 

Fayetteville, North Carolina Bus Drivers to Strike for 2nd Time in 2 Years

Collective bargaining for public employees in North Carolina is outlawed for public employees. However, over the past two years, school bus drivers in Fayetteville-area school district of Cumberland County have won raises by going on technically illegal “sick-out” strikes. 

In November of 2021, Cumberland County school bus drivers went on a “sick-out” strike, and won an increase in their wages from $12.21 an hour to $15 an hour. 

Now, as Cumberland County struggles to deal with shortages of school bus drivers, the drivers are striking there again demanding that their pay be raised to $19 or $20 an hour. The strike comes after Chapel Hill-Carboro school bus drivers won raises up to $20-an-hour. 

“We think we deserve more,” Cumberland County Schools bus driver Dorothy Dixon told WRAL. “We just don’t think it’s fair.”

How India’s Caste System Manifests in Seattle-Area workplaces 

In Seattle, socialist councilwoman Kshama Sawant has introduced first-of-its-kind legislation that would bar discrimination based on caste. The Seattle Times has an indepth look at the problems of caste discrimination in the US: 

When a woman who used the pseudonym “Maya” tried to get assistantships to help pay for college, the graduating seniors would only recommend people of their own caste to their professors. 

Maya, who was afraid of speaking out because of the risk of retaliation, also experienced caste discrimination working in the tech industry. Even though she was doing well in her job, when her dominant-caste manager found out she was Dalit, he began shunning her and ignoring her suggestions and ideas. It got so bad that her colleagues started raising the issue on her behalf. 

When she volunteered for a project at work, she said her manager told her, “‘You better not touch the project because you’re ill-fated.’ And it might not sound like something major,” she said, “but for us, it completely resonates with the caste and untouchability because not touching is what all of the dominant-caste people have made rules around for so long. That’s why we are called untouchables. We’re not supposed to touch anything or anyone.”

For more, check out Seattle Times. (H/T The Stand)

Strikes & News Elsewhere 

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About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter and alumni of the Guardian. In addition to filing nearly 2,000 stories from 46 states, Elk traveled with Lula from Sáo Bernando do Campos all the way to the Oval Office in the White House. 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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