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Vol. 78/No. 44      December 8, 2014

On the Picket Line

Help ‘Militant’ cover Black Friday Walmart Actions

Walmart workers and their supporters will be demanding “$15 and full time”
Nov. 28 at Black Friday protests at stores across the country. The actions are part
of a nationwide struggle by Walmart workers for a union and an important part of growing working-class resistance. The Militant is covering this fight, giving
a voice to those involved. Send me articles or letters, quotes and photos to: 306
W. 37th St., 13th Floor, New York, NY 10018; or; or call 212-244-4899.
— Maggie Trowe

Los Angeles university workers demand contract, wage hike

LOS ANGELES — Food service, custodial and other workers at the University of Southern California rallied here Nov. 12 to demand a contract with higher wages.

The workers, members of UNITE HERE Local 11, were joined by students and other supporters in a march around the campus during a gala feting some of the university’s million dollar donors.

Genesis Diaz, a member of the union’s negotiating committee, said the administration offered a 25 cents per hour annual raise. Local 11 wants 90 cents per hour for each of the first three years of a five-year contract and $1 for the final two years.

Thomas Sayles, a university vice president, said in a statement that the college is “offering a very fair proposal.”

“They keep proposing the same thing over and over again,” Diaz said, adding that she’s had to juggle whether “to pay rent or buy groceries.”

“On average we make $18,000 a year,” said cashier Tiana Martinez. “But we’re getting our hours cut, too. I’ve been cut to six and a quarter hours a day from six and a half.”

“My father was able to take care of seven people on one paycheck. I’m not able to even take care of myself on mine,” said university worker Leticia Rodriguez.

“Everything is going up, rent, food, everything but our pay,” said Reyna Sanarbria, a university pantry worker. “Even the most skilled workers, the chefs, don’t make more than $16 an hour.”

— Baxter Smith

Wash. health workers say staff cuts ‘recipe for disaster’

TACOMA, Wash. — Some 1,100 workers walked off the job at Tacoma’s St. Joseph Medical Center and St. Clare Hospital in Lakewood Nov. 18 in a 24-hour strike for a higher staff-to-patient ratio, a pay raise, and better health coverage.

The workers are members of SEIU Healthcare 1199 Northwest, which is in contract negotiations with CHI Franciscan Health, the hospital’s owner.

“When I started this job we had five Certified Nursing Assistants for every 40 patients,” Gail Carriker, 61, a CNA at St. Clare for nine years, said at a rally here. “Then it went to four, to three, to two and some shifts have only one CNA for 40 patients. How do we choose which bed alarm to answer first? I pride myself on giving good care to patients. Yet we are subject to disciplinary write-ups for not being in two places at one time. The staff cuts are a recipe for disaster.”

“We are out here because we care about the patients,” Chrystal Thompson, who sterilizes medical equipment, said on the picket line. “We will go back into work with our heads held high.”

— Mary Martin

Hyatt hotel workers fight to organize union in Seattle

SEATTLE — Some 90 people joined a picket line at the Grand Hyatt Hotel here Nov. 13 to win support for hotel workers fighting to organize a union.

In July 2013 the Hyatt hotel chain agreed to sign contracts with UNITE HERE or remove obstacles to union recognition elections. But two Seattle hotels aren’t part of the deal — the Grand Hyatt and Hyatt at Olive 8.

The union called for a boycott of the two hotels a year ago, when the owner refused to negotiate, Levi Pine, an organizer for UNITE HERE Local 8, told the Militant.

Robert Kelly, a part-time server at the Grand Hyatt, told the crowd he also works at the Westin Hotel. “Hyatt pays less than my union-organized job at the Westin,” Kelly said. “Hyatt demands we carry hot plates without using trays. I have burned my hand as a result. Hyatt offers medical insurance but at a rate that I can’t afford for me or my family.

“At my union job I have affordable medical coverage,” he continued. “We need a union at Hyatt to be a space between the workers and the company and to address these issues.”

“Over 30 supporting groups, including labor and others, have allied with and endorsed this fight,” Pine said. “Five of these have cancelled contracts for events at these hotels, including the State Bar Association.”

— Mary Martin

Kaiser nurses in California strike against understaffing

SAN FRANCISCO — Nurses at 86 Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinics in northern California staged a two-day strike Nov. 11-12. The more than 18,000 members of the California Nurses Association at Kaiser are protesting understaffing, service cuts, and inadequate Ebola preparations. Hundreds of nurses attended a rally in Oakland Nov. 12 calling for better Ebola safety standards.

“Above all, we need more nurses,” said Marilu Ramirez, a nurse at the Kaiser facility in South San Francisco.

Under the Affordable Care Act, Kaiser enrolled 422,000 new patients. “Even before Obamacare, we were short,” Ramirez said, as she picketed in front of the hospital. “Now it’s much worse.”

Maria Margot, an operating room nurse, said the time for preparing operating rooms for surgeries has been cut. “It’s very stressful,” she said.

Kaiser bosses attacked the strike with a full-page ad in the Nov. 10 San Francisco Chronicle, claiming the nurses “were fueling more fears” of Ebola unnecessarily.

“We still haven’t had the full training with hazmat suits that is needed,” said Diane Koorsones, a nurse at Kaiser’s South San Francisco Medical Center. Pointing to the hundreds of doctors that Cuba is sending to West Africa in response to the Ebola crisis, she said, “We aren’t doing that here, but we should be.”

After the protests, the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued more stringent regulations on Ebola.

— Betsey Stone

Related articles:
US postal workers fight cutbacks, union busting
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