Utah Teachers Organize ‘Sickout” Strikes – Striking Wash Fruit Workers Unionize – Atlantic City Teachers Strike – OSHA under Biden: A Preview

Alex Palma, a member of the independent union Familias Unidas por la Justicia waves his union flag outside of his plant in Yakima Valley, Wash. State (Evan Abell/ Yakima Herald-Republic)

Greetings from the Burgh, where Melk is recovering from a respiratory infection after last weeks’ Orange Air Alert Days.

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Utah Teachers Organize “Sickout Strike” 

As COVID-19 resurges throughout the United States, workers are organizing in places they have never organized before. In Utah, teachers held rallies and protests calling on teachers statewide to organize “sickout” strikes. Some teachers in Utah are even organizing against the advice of their unions. 

KSL-TV has the story: 

[Teacher Brooke] Walrath, who has been teaching for eight years, said that despite receiving an email from the Granite Education Association stating that a “sick out” could impact teachers’ employment status and land them in a disciplinary meeting with their principal, she felt the risk was worth it.

“At school we’re seeing huge groups of kids huddled together — no masks, eating, sharing water bottles, hugging, having a good time, hugging each other, all of the things that they aren’t supposed to be doing right now,” Walrath said. “I don’t think health officials are taking that into account.”

“I care about my community and I see how badly COVID is affecting it,” she added. “The damage that it’s doing to our communities is undoable. You can’t take back death.”

For more, check out KSL-TV.

More than 200 Atlantic City Teachers Stage “Sickout Strike” 

Today in Atlantic City, teachers went out on a “sickout” strike to protest unsafe school reopenings. 

“Since September, our members have been delivering safe, high-quality remote instruction for our students from their classrooms,” said Atlantic City Education Association President P.J. Dollard in a statement. “Bringing students into those classrooms right now puts at a higher risk of contracting and spreading the virus than is necessary.”

For more, go to Breaking AC

Yakima Valley Strike Leads to New Union Organizing Victory

Earlier this year, Payday covered a series of bold strikes held by fruit processing workers in Washington State’s Yakima Valley. Now, those strikes seem to have been bearing fruit as a new group of workers in the Yakima Valley have moved to unionize. 

From the Yakima Herald: 

A group of Allan Bros. workers has mobilized over the last few months, this time to form a union called Trabajadores Unidos por la Justicia, or Workers United for Justice.

Allen Bros. worker Angelina Lara, 48, said the company responded to worker concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic and has been providing masks and face shields daily.

Ultimately, the protests last spring encouraged employees to speak out about other issues, including pay and working conditions.

While the company signed an agreement with the protesting workers that led to the end of the strike in late May, the deal is not legally binding, like a collective bargaining agreement.

“I feel if we had a union, they would have to talk to us,” Lara said.

For more, go to the Yakima Herald. 

Obama OSHA Chief Releases Blueprint to Revamp OSHA under COVID 

Today President-elect Biden held a roundtable meeting of business and union leaders to discuss COVID-19. 

In the roundtable, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka pressured Biden to issue an emergency workplace standard for combating the virus on Day One of his presidency. 

Former Obama-era OSHA Director Dr. David Michaels and Harvard Medical School professor Gregory Wagner also released a white paper outlining immediate steps that OSHA could take to stop the spread of COVID in the workplace. 

The steps range from issuing an emergency workplace standard to increasing fines to involving community groups in helping target non-compliant employers to use the power of OSHA’s public affairs to publicly shame corporations that won’t comply with COVID regulations. 

Go to the Institute for New Economic Thinking to check out their 11-part proposal to fight COVID in the workplace under a Biden Administration

Alright, folks, that’s all for today. Please send, any tips, links, or story ideas to [email protected]

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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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