In response to attempts by Donald Trump and Republicans to pose as friends of working people, UAW President Sean Fain had some harsh warnings to workers about what a future Trump presidency would hold.

The warnings came after Trump, in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention last week, called upon UAW members to fire Fain, its popular president, who had won for them the best auto workers contract in decades. During the strike earlier this year that produced the contract and saw President Biden join workers on the picket line, Trump appeared at a non-union auto plant and denounced the strike.

Fain lost no time in responding. “America’s autoworkers aren’t the problem,” he declared. “Our union isn’t the problem. The working class isn’t the problem. Corporate greed and the billionaires’ hero, mascot, and lap dog Donald Trump, are the problem. Don’t get played by this scab billionaire.”

Others reminded people that anti-labor actions were part and parcel of the Republican agenda, no matter what they may be saying in public now. One example cited was the action of former Wisconsin Republican governor Scott Walker, who withdrew the right of public sector unions to collective bargaining and outlawed dues checkoff at unionized shops statewide. Another was the actions of Trump while president in stacking the Labor Department and the National Labor Relations Board with anti-union lawyers and backing a series of court cases to weaken collective bargaining.

Jonathan Weisman in NY Times, 7/19

In June it was a big demonstration in front of the office building at 529 Fifth Avenue, called by the Service Employees International Union. Hundreds of their members who work in the area, picketed in front of the building at 44th Street in Manhattan’s diamond district in support of their union brothers and sisters. We reported on this demonstration in an earlier post.

Now, just a few weeks later, a strike by the building employees beginning July 10 seems to have stirred the management to reach out feelers about bargaining with the union. At issue was the fact that management, Fifth City Realty, an affiliate of Empire Capital, had recently acquired the building and brought in a new contractor, L&J Janitorial, to manage its janitorial services, L&J then unilaterally tore up the contract that had been negotiated between the old management and SEIU. The new janitorial service,  then proceeded to cut the wages of the buildings cleaners nearly in half to the city’s minimum wage of $16 an hour. cancelling worker benefits like family medical insurance and terminating long term employees, including full-time and part-time security officers and a fire safety director.

The action prompted a mass demonstration of hundreds of SEIU members and supporters on the streets around the building and a walkout by the buildings employees on July 10.

It didn’t take long for the owners and the janitorial contractor, which had adamantly refused to bargain with the union, to reach out to the union, potentially the first step in the negotiating process.

In response, then union agreed to temporarily suspend the strike but said that it’s still possible  for the strike to continue if L&J Janitorial delays negotiations or does not bargain in good faith with the union.

Labor Press, 7/13

Many of you have been wondering why we haven’t posted any new items for several months, particularly since so much has been happening on the labor front. We’ve had some medical problems that prevented us from working on the website for a while.

But all is well now and we’re back and in good health. Below you’ll find some initial items that broke recently. Many more will follows. And thanks for staying with us.

By Paul Becker

With health care for retirees the big issue, a major step forward in the fight for democratic unionism was registered last week when a rank-and-file slate swept the elections for officers and delegates of the retirees chapter of the United Federation of Teachers. The chapter vote has implications of trouble for the leadership of the UFT, which through its Unity caucus has been running the union since its founding nearly 65 years ago. The current UFT president, Michael Mulgrew, has held office for the past 15 years. He and the officers of the entire union are up for election next year.

NYC municipal retirees march down Broadway protesting the city’s ongoing campaign to push them into a for-profit, privatized Medicare Advantage plan. Photo by Joe Maniscalco, Workbites

The Retiree Advocate slate, ran up an impressive victory, scoring nearly two-thirds of the more than 27,000 votes and ousting the Unity caucus leadership of the retirees chapter. The UFT is New York’s Local 2 of the American Federation of Teachers.

Resentment against the UFT leadership has been building slowly during the past few years over the union’s acceptance of substandard contracts for teachers, paraprofessionals, and other New York City school employees. A growing number of union members also resent Unity caucus’ cling to power through a well-oiled political machine, abandoning principles of democratic unionism and playing ball with local and state politicians rather than fighting for its members. Unlike many unions, retired members can vote in union-wide elections and, until recently, have provided an important base of support for Unity caucus.

The key issue in this campaign was the attempt by UFT leaders, acting with the heads of other large municipal unions to force their members out of traditional Medicare and into a so-called Medicare Advantage plan. (The insurer for city workers would be the health insurance mega corporation, Aetna.) The move would affect hundreds of thousands of retired city workers. Over the years, these workers, including teachers, made concessions on other benefits over the promise that, upon retirement, they would have fully paid health care with the gap between Medicare payments and costs of medical treatments covered by the city. As such, teachers are covered by Medicare with GHI as the secondary insurer. The premiums for this secondary insurance were reimbursed. Under the new proposal, if teachers elected to stay with traditional Medicare, this reimbursement would be dropped, costing them a substantial amount of money that retirees with their limited income could ill afford.

The so-called Medicare Advantage plans, despite being sold under the label “advantage” and putting forth some enticements like free gym memberships, have some very important disadvantages. It is run by private corporations whose principal goal is bottom-line profits rather than making patients healthy. While some 85 to 90 percent of American doctors accept Medicare payments, under corporate Medicare Advantage, you have to choose from their panel of doctors. Thus, many teachers would have to abandon the doctors they have had over the years whom they have trusted and who know them to switch to a doctor they do not know.

Cartoon by Fred Wright. Courtesy United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers (UE)

Even more important, Medicare Advantage plans require pre-approval for many medical procedures. If pre-approval is denied, they won’t pay for it. The patient can appeal but it can still be denied, or even if it’s approved, it often takes time when a speedy treatment is necessary. During the campaign of teachers and other city workers against the planned switch, a number of people have come forward to tell of their experiences when the delay has resulted in severe damage including death to a family member or friend. Medicare, on the other hand, usually accepts the judgment of the doctors, except in cases of outright fraud. My own doctor, an outstanding physician who is recognized as one of New York City’s best cardiologists, complained to me that he now has to spend nearly half his time on the phone arguing with private insurance companies about the necessity of a medical treatment for patients who have been denied coverage.

These private insurance plans have been reaping fat rewards since Congress, about 30 years ago, allowed them to collect subsidies from Medicare that should have gone to health care for people on the government program. And recently, some of them have been caught defrauding Medicare by billing for services that were never delivered. Little wonder that giant insurance companies now crowd the field as they discover “there’s gold in them thar hills.”

Several months ago, a state court ruled that the city could not change the health care plan promised to retirees. The ruling was upheld by the New York State Appellate Court but New York Mayor Eric Adams has said he would appeal to the state Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state.

The win for the Retiree Advocate slate pledged to fight against forcing retired school employers into these private plans could have important implications not only for next year’s elections for union-wide UFT officers but for other unions of city workers which have endorsed the plan despite the growing objections of their retirees.


After gaining the best contract in decades for auto workers from the US Big Three a few months ago, UAW President Sean Fain announced that the union would be begin an organizing drive among the non-union auto plants in the country.

A second early result this month came in the form of an announcement by the union that more than 30% of the workers at the Mercedes-Benz plant outside Tuscaloosa, Alabama, have signed UAW authorization cards to be represented by the union in collective bargaining. The Tuscaloosa workers join workers at the Volkswagen facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in reaching the 30% goal, the first step in their union organizing efforts. If 50% sign up, the union will publicly rally and at 70% the UAW will demand recognition or call on the National Labor Relations Board to organize a vote.




Most national unions elect their presidents at their conventions held every few years. They are chosen by the delegates the locals send to the conventions. This indirect election of its top leaders has produced an undemocratic structure in most unions in which the leadership has only a remote connection to he rank-and-file members.

But developments in two unions may serve to be a harbinger of things to come. In both the Teamsters  and Auto Workers unions, the government intervened after a lengthy legal process and compelled an election by direct mail ballot of the entire membership. In the case of the UAW, the old guard leadership was sent to jail for corruption.

The result was leadership closer to workers directly on the production line. UAW President Sean Fain went around the country, holding meetings and sounding out workers on what they wanted in their new contracts. The process produced the best contracts for workers in decades.  The Teamsters contract with UPS, signed this past summer, made great gains for UPS drivers without a strike. UAW workers in factories of the Big Three US automakers are enjoying a contract not seen since the early organizing days of the union.

A valuable lesson that greater union democracy often brings greater gains for workers.

Labor Notes, 1/5



Almost 5,500 workers in the U.S. died from on-the-job injuries in 2022, the highest number in the past 10 years, according to a report released Dec. 19 by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

More than 70% of the victims worked in blue-collar jobs such as construction, driving trucks, and maintenance, and more than 90% were men.”These deaths could be prevented,” said Jessica E. Martinez, co-executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health “if employers listen to workers and adopt preventive and comprehensive safety measures.”

“Transportation incidents” accounted for more than 2,000 fatalities, about two-thirds of them in vehicle crashes. Falls, most commonly to a lower level of a structure, accounted for 865 deaths, and 839 came from exposure to poisons, electricity, or extreme heat. Older workers were most vulnerable, with 35% of those killed 55 or older.

Work Bites, 12/20

Some big wins for labor over the past couple of months have signaled the rising power of the union movement. It may well be the opening shot across the bow against corporate attacks on unions over the last four decades that has resulted in a steady decline in the standard of living of working people.

UAW President Shawn Fain, shown with striking workers, has pledged an agressive organizing campaign at non-union auto facilities., Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press

The biggest wins for workers were in the highly successful strike by the United Auto Workers against the Big Three car manufacturers – GM, Ford, and Stellantis.  Instead of the usual strike against the entire company at once, it adopted the rolling strike tactic, hitting a limited number of auto factories at each carmaker at a time. The companies never knew which would be next and the strikes at plants that played a vital part in car production affected production as a whole in other places.

And by framing the strike, not only as one conducted by a union against management, but as a fight for working people against the greed that has resulted in huge growth in corporate profits at the expense of declining standards for America’s working people, UAW President Sean Fain ignited the fighting working class spirit that built the union movement in decades past.

When the Big Three finally caved after about six weeks, the resulting contract the union won was the best in the union’s history, unmatched since the contracts won in 1937 after the Flint, Michigan, sitdown strike that built the union. The principal terms of the contract have been reported widely. Outstanding among them are a  25 percent wage increase over the four-and-a-half year contract and an end to the two-tier wage system that saw younger workers never able to earn what workers hired earlier could earn. An end to their second class status and their elevation to the pay scale enjoyed by older workers will give them extraordinary pay raises, in some cases up to 150 percent. The union also won a restoration of the cost-of-living (COLA) adjustment that had been a feature of UAW contracts from 1948 to 2008 when the union gave in to industry’s demand to end it.

And in an important union first, the contract guarantees that workers at battery production plants for its new electric cars will be included in the new master agreement, setting the stage for the union’ s announced goal of organizing non-union electric car manufacturers.

As of this writing, the contract was in the process of being voted on by the UAW membership.

Two other big wins this summer and fall were the contract won by Teamsters Union drivers at UPS without a strike but just the threat of one. In a contract agreed to just 24 hours before a strike was scheduled, 340,000 Teamster members at UPS won raises of $7.50 an hour over five years, with drivers’ pay climbing to $49 an hour and part-time workers receiving a pay increase of 48% on average. The agreement also ends a two-tiered classification for drivers, provides part-timers with longevity raises, adds Martin Luther King Day as a paid holiday off, and ends forced overtime on off days.

And the months long strike by the two unions representing TV and motion picture screen writers and actors has produced contracts with substantial gains. The Writers Guild of America, which represents 11,500 screenwriters, reached a tentative agreement with studios on Sept. 24 and ended its 148-day strike on Sept. 27. In the coming days, SAG-AFTRA members will vote on whether to accept their union’s deal, which includes hefty gains, like increases in compensation for streaming shows and films, better health care funding, concessions from studios on self-taped auditions, and guarantees that studios will not use artificial intelligence to create digital replicas of their likenesses without payment or approval.

And in just a few other recent labor actions:

In August, 15,000 American Airlines pilots won pay increases of 46% over four years. After a three-day strike earlier this month, 85,000 Kaiser Permanente workers won raises of 21%, as well as a $25 minimum wage for Kaiser’s workers in California. In March, 30,000 Los Angeles school district workers – bus drivers, cafeteria workers and teachers’ aides – won a 30% wage hike over four years. In Oregon, 1,400 nurses at Providence Portland hospitalsecured raises between 17% and 27% over two years.

And all indications are that it’s just the beginning.

NY Times, 10/31, 11/8; The Guardian, 10/24; Jacobin, 11/1

This current US Supreme Court has people worrying about some of its recent horrible decisions. Now the country is awaiting a decision that could virtually cripple a union’s right to strike (see item Pending Supreme Court case … on then Labor News page of this website). But a reactionary Supreme Court is nothing new. Privileged men in their black robes have long stood in the way of progress in the United States. And their record on decisions favoring workers is a case in point . We cite below one of is more egregious examples:

In 2023, it is worth recalling a decision handed down a hundred years ago. The case was Adkins v. Children’s Hospital. The District of Columbia had enacted a law setting a minimum wage for women and children which was challenged in court. In a 1923 decision that set a standard for twisted reasoning, the Court held that the law was unconstitutional since it interfered with “liberty of contract” which they said was guaranteed by the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment. According to the Court, employers and employees “have an equal right to obtain from each other the best terms they can as the result of private bargaining.”

In his dissent, Chief Justice William Howard Taft noted the reality that ‘employees in the class receiving least pay are not upon a full level of equality of choice with their employer… (and) are prone to accept pretty much anything that is offered. They are peculiarly subject to the overreaching of the harsh and greedy employer.”

This decision was overturned by the Supreme Court in its 1937 decision upholding the National Labor Relations Act, that protected the right of workers and their unions to bargain collectively.

The notion that an individual worker, particularly one in a class that is most exploited, has equal bargaining power with a large corporation, conjures up the image of “equality before the law” satirized by Anatole France, the French writer, in his oft-quoted line, “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread,”

Work History News, newsletter published by the New York Labor History Association, Winter/Spring 2023

Cartoon by Fed Wright Courtesy of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE)


An Apple store in Oklahoma City became the second one in the nation in which workers have voted to be represented by a union. The Oct. 14 vote conducted by the NLRB saw 56 workers at the company’s Penn Square Mall voting to be represented by the Communication Workers of America with 32 voting against it.

At Apple’s first unionized store in Towson, Maryland, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, chosen by the workers, is currently preparing to begin negotiations with the company.

Associated Press, 10/15


The narrowly averted strike of rail carriers last month has been put back on the table as members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, affiliated with the Teamsters union, voted against the proposed deal. The union announced October 11 that the deal had been rejected wit 56% voting no. The union represents 23,000 freight rail workers with 12,000 casting ballots in the vote.

Any potential strike won’t happen until Nov. 19 at the earliest with union leaders hoping to return to the bargaining table. At issue is the demand of workers for some sick days. Currently, they get no paid sick days. They have been demanding 13 sick days annually but the rail carriers have refused to budge on the issue. Earlier, the deal was also rejected by members of another union, which has since announced a new tentative agreement. Two other unions, re resenting conductors and engineers are set to begin voting during the week of Oct. 17. The two represent about half of the 115,000 union members at the nation’s freight carriers.

Labor Notes, 10/11


For more than a month, lumber workers in the Northwest have been on strike against Weyerhaeuser mills and log yards. The issue is simple fairness. The company is demanding concessions from workers, insisting that they start paying for part of health insurance premiums and proposing wages that lose ground to the rate of inflation. This comes as Weyerhaeuser reported a record profit last year of $2.6 billion.  Under the present contract, workers made concessions, like agreeing to a two-tier system that ended pensions for new employees and a health care plan with fewer benefits. They saying now that they are done with concessions, particularly when Weyerhaeuser is raking in record profits. “We want our fair share of what we produce,” declared one of the picketers.

Portside, 10/7


Drivers for Uber, Lyft, and FedEx, previously classified as “independent contractors” have been reclassified as employees by the Department of Labor, giving them the rights guaranteed to employees under labor laws. One of them is the minimum wage law, which now guarantees them $15.50 an hour in California and other states where the minimum is higher than the federal one of only $7.25. When expenses they lay out for buying or leasing and maintaining their cars are subtracted from the money they earn, the drivers’ real hourly income is only about $6.20.

The American Prospect, 10/11


The compensation packages of corporate CEO’S has increased by 1,460% over the past 44 years, even as pay of most workers could not keep up with the rising cost of living, according to a recent study of the Economic Policy Institute. The rate of income growth has exceeded virtually all other economic factors. The study projects that, taking into consideration stock awards when vested and stock options when cashed in, CEO compensation at 350 corporations will average a staggering $27.8 million. Even considering the value of the stock options when issued but not cashed in, their compensation comes to $15.6 million. Last year, their pay package was 399 times the average worker pay, up from 300 times just a few years ago. Their pay and soaring corporate profits are key reasons for increased union activity in the past two years as workers, who have made big concessions, struggle to achieve a decent standard of living.

Economic Policy Institute, 10/4


After a three-day strike, restaurant workers at San Francisco International Airport OK’d a new contract that won them a $5 an hour raise and free health care for themselves and their families. The 1,000 workers are members of UNITE HERE Local 3. They approved the new contract overwhelmingly. They will get an immediate $3 an hour raise and the other $2 will come in September 2024 when their hourly wage will rise from the present $17.05 to $22.05.

Portside, 10/3


As we moved into October, thousands of workers around the country are either on strike or threatening one. Filings for union representation so far this year have increased 58% over last year with public support for unions at 71% approval, according to a recent Gallup poll.

Among the biggest recent strikes have been:
15,000 nurses in Minnesota,
4,500 teachers and staff in Columbus, Ohio
2,000 mental health care workers in California,
700 nursing home workers in Pennsylvania
1,100 timber workers in Washington and Oregon,
6,000 teachers and staff in Seattle, Washington,
1,200 casing plant workers in Indiana.

In addition, votes have authorized strikes at:
Kaleida Health facility in Bufalo, NY,
Kroger Groceries in Columbus, Ohio, involving 12,500 workers,
Auto workers at Ultium electric vehicle plant in Lordstown, Ohio, involving 800 workers,
Graduate school workers at Clark University and Indiana University.

And many more…

 The Guardian, 9/26


Two years ago, workers at the  New Jersey Refresco bottling plant walked out to protest the company’s failure to provide for their safety during the Covid epidemic. They are now bargaining for their firt union contract, represented by the United Electrical Workers (UE). Key to the bargaining issues is the protection of their health and safety. Also at issue are low wages, lack of decent benefits, abusive treatment by supervisors, constant schedule changes causing havoc with their family lives, sexual harassment at the plant, and an attendance system that penalizes workers for getting sick. Refresco was named this year by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health as one of the “Dirty Dozen” for their terrible health and safety record.

UE Action Alert, 10/13; You Tube video


Ohio Kroger workers, organized by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1059 have rejected their tentative contract for the third time and authorized a strike. The union represents `12,000 Kroger workers in the state.


The recently released NLRB report for the just-ended fiscal year shows that new filings for union elections were up by 53% over last year. A major problem at the agency is that part of the attack on labor unions since the Reagan administration has been underfunding which has resulted in the loss of half their field staff. It’s a problem that must be overcome to take care of the big increase in union activity and the need of the NLRB to enforce the nation’s labor laws.

Who Gets the Bird, 10/4. 10/8

By now, much has been written about the narrowly averted railroad workers strike. Although salary issues are nearly always paramount in collective bargaining and was an issue here, the key sticking point was the punishing work schedules that was wreaking havoc on workers lives. Workers were expected to be on call at any time for weeks on end. They couldn’t take time off for a doctor’s appointment or a family emergency without being penalized with loss of pay beyond the loss of the day’s pay or possibly even fired.

The policy comes from a business model increasingly being adopted by other companies. It seeks to enhance its profits by cutting costs, which usually involves cutting the work force, thus cutting labor costs. It means that the existing labor force is pressured to do more and more to make up for it. Rail companies are now reported to be operating with 30 percent fewer employees than 20 or 30 years ago.

Thus, as the freight railroads have racked up record profits in recent years, their workers have suffered from burnouts, marriages and family lives have been upended, and workers’ health has been severely endangered by the scheduling policies.

Although all the details of the rail settlement have not been revealed in the press, it appears that the unions have gained important concessions on this. From initial reports, aside from important salary hikes, the companies have agreed to issue set schedules that allow workers to enjoy time off without being called back at the will of the company. They will also have days off for medical appointments or family emergencies without additional penalties.

The agreement now has to be ratified by votes of the membership of the 12 unions involved.

NY Times, 9/16