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Vol. 78/No. 21      June 2, 2014

On the Picket Line
Hospital workers in Baltimore rally for higher wages
BALTIMORE — More than 2,000 hospital workers and their supporters took part in a “Mothers’ March and Rally for Justice” at Johns Hopkins Hospital here May 10. Housekeepers, cooks, surgical technicians, plumbers, painters, electricians and other workers employed by Hopkins are demanding higher wages.

Organized by 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, they struck the hospital for three days, April 9-11, demanding a $15-an-hour wage standard over the life of the contract. Their contract expired on March 31.

“We get treated like the trash we pull,” Chonniese Scales, a floor technician, told the Militant at the May 10 rally. “I’ve been here 15 years, and I don’t make $12 an hour. My co-workers with 30 to 40 years don’t make $15 an hour.”

Several dozen busloads of union hospital workers from New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., joined the rally in solidarity. Armando Gonzalez, a dietary aide at Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn, said conditions there are similar. “Workers give health care, but when it comes to us, it’s a fight.”

Three veterans of the Hopkins organizing drive 45 years ago — Annie Henry, Carrie Hiers and Laura Pugh — spoke at the rally. “History has a way of repeating itself,” said Henry, who still works at the hospital. “Hopkins is number one in everything but the wages. They are double-dipping, taking billions in donations and forcing workers onto welfare.”

“What they are offering — 15- and 20-cent raises — is like what I got in the ’70s,” said Bob Domulevicz, who has worked at the hospital for 19 years as a maintenance mechanic.

Representatives of Johns Hopkins Hospital did not return calls requesting comment.

— Arlene Rubinstein

China shoe workers end strike, win back social security payments
After 11 days of strikes and protest marches in April workers at the world’s largest shoe factory in Dongguan in southern China forced the bosses to make social security payments they had been withholding for years.

A worker who retired after 18 years at Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings discovered that the company had made contributions to the social security fund based on the minimum wage of $294 a month, instead of on actual pay. With overtime and bonuses the average wage is $487.

After factory management said the company wouldn’t make any back pay to the fund, workers went on strike April 5. By the middle of the month some 80 percent of the 45,000 workers employed in the 10-story factory had walked out.

Li Zhong, spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Labor and Social Security, said at an April 25 press conference that Yue Yuen had paid insufficient social welfare contributions and that “the department has ordered the factory to rectify the wrongdoings” as of that day.

In response, Yue Yuen Executive Director George Liu said the company intended to pay social security based on full wages starting May 1 and make back payments totaling $30 million to cover arrears for Jan. 1-April 30.

— Emma Johnson

Fast-food workers worldwide demand pay raise, union
NEW YORK — “Minimum wage just doesn’t cut it,” McDonald’s worker José Carrillo, 81, said at a demonstration of 350 here May 15, one of similar actions in 150 U.S. cities and 33 countries demanding a raise in the minimum wage and the right to unionize.

Carrillo attended his first protest two years ago. “I go to them all now. Once McDonald’s suspended me for a week,” Carrillo said. “They claimed I was propagandizing during work hours, but how could I? They watch you all the time. But now they show me more respect.”

“I can’t live on it,” McDonald’s worker Michael Gonzalez, 27, told the Militant about his wage of $8 an hour. “A lot of weeks you have to choose between buying a [subway] Metrocard or food, between paying part of the rent or all the rent. That’s ‘the way it is.’”

“It’s not just the low pay,” Domino’s pizza worker Alfredo Franco, 40, said. “It’s also the abusive treatment by the bosses.” Franco said that 20 of the 40 workers at the location where he works stayed off the job for the day to join the global day of action.

Many workers said that just one or two people at the stores they work at joined the protest. “Some people are scared to join, they might lose their jobs,” Burger King worker Elvis Guerrero, 31, said. “I tell them that it’s our constitutional right.”

The key slogan of actions across the U.S. was $15 an hour and a union. The New York protest — built by the Service Employees International Union, New York Communities for Change, Fast Food Forward, Make the Road New York, New York Workers Rising and other groups — called on Gov. Anthony Cuomo and the state legislature to allow the New York City government to set its own, higher minimum wage.

Some 60 people joined the protest in Atlanta.

“I barely get 30 hours a week at $7.50 an hour,” Long John Silver’s worker Antwon Brown told the Militant there. “The bosses tell us, ‘Go get food stamps.’ But why should I have to get food stamps when I have all my limbs and am able to work?”

— Seth Galinsky in New York and Janice Lynn in Atlanta

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