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Improving Patient Safety: Worker Wins

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Our latest roundup of worker wins begins with nurses across the country winning new contracts and includes numerous examples of working people organizing, bargaining and mobilizing for a better life.

New Contract for More Than 14,000 California Nurses Includes Improved Protections from Violence and Harassment: Registered nurses at the University of California, members of the California Nurses Association (an affiliate of National Nurses United/NNU) voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new five-year contract. The contract covers more than 14,000 registered nurses at more than a dozen locations.¬†“We are so proud to ratify this historic contract for all registered nurses at UC. Nurses stood together in solidarity and fought back over 60 takeaways that would have directly affected our ability to care for our patients,”¬†said Megan Norman, RN, UC Davis. “We won new language addressing infectious disease and hazardous substances as well as stronger protections around workplace violence and sexual harassment.”

11,000 VA Nurses Ratify New Contract: More than 11,000 registered nurses at 23 hospitals run by¬†the Department of Veterans Affairs, who are represented by the National Nurses Organizing Committee/NNU, voted to ratify a new three-year contract that features workplace violence protections, infectious disease training and emergency preparedness information. “I am very excited about the workplace safety provisions that will improve the safety of our nurses and protect them from violence and injury,”¬†said¬†Irma Westmoreland, registered nurse and National Nurses United board member.

Maine Nurses Win Increased Workplace Safety in New Contract: Neatly 900 members of the Maine State Nurses Association (part of the NNOC/NNU) who work¬†at the Eastern Maine Medical Center (EMMC) ratified a new contract. “This new agreement sets a new bar for quality care and patient safety at our hospital,”¬†said Dawn Caron, bargaining team member and chief union steward for the nurses at EMMC. “When we began this process back in February, we set out to protect the role of our charge nurses and all of the other safe patient care provisions of our contract. The nurses at EMMC are proud to announce that today, we have done exactly that.”

Disneyland Resort Workers Approve Contract with Wage Raise and Bonus: After more than a year and a half of negotiations, Disneyland Resort hotel workers approved a new contract that includes nearly $2 an hour in higher wages and the payment of $1,000 employee bonuses originally announced in January. UNITE HERE Local 11 represents the more than 2,700 hotel workers at Disney covered by the new contract.

UFCW Members at Four Roses Distillery Reach Agreement to End Strike: In September, members of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 10D who work at the Four Roses distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, won a new agreement after a strike that lasted nearly two weeks.¬†“We’re one big, happy, dysfunctional family around here,” Local 10D President Jeff Royalty said. “You know, just like brothers and sisters, you’ll have some hard feelings from time to time, but they’re short-lived.”

Columbia Postdoctoral Researchers Win Right to Form Union: The National Labor Relations Board ruled that postdoctoral researchers at Columbia can form a union. Official elections are being held this week to determine whether or not the Columbia Postdoctoral Workers become members of the UAW.¬†“We are very excited that the NLRB finally issued the decision that Columbia‚Äôs postdoctoral workers can unionize despite the university‚Äôs efforts to undermine us,” said Alvaro Cuesta-Dominguez, a member of the postdoctoral worker organizing committee and a second-year postdoc researcher. “We look forward to the opportunity to really have our voices heard.”

Federal Judge Sides with FLOC, Rejects Anti-Union North Carolina Law: U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs ruled that a North Carolina law limiting union organizing for farmworkers was unconstitutional.¬†“North Carolina‚Äôs law is clearly designed to make it harder, if not impossible, for the state‚Äôs only farmworkers union to advocate for sorely needed protections against exploitation and bad working conditions,”¬†said Brian Hauss, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.

New York Port Authority Workers Win Wage Increase: After a long fight, working people at the New York Port Authority represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union/UFCW (RWDSU/UFCW) and UNITE HERE won an increase to a minimum wage of $19 per hour by 2023. The new agreement includes nearly 5,000 catering workers that were excluded from the previous policy. The proposal could impact tens of thousands of workers at other area airports, as well.

ExpressJet Pilots Overwhelmingly Approve New Contract: United Express pilots at ExpressJet Airlines, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), have won a new contract that increases pilot pay. More than 90% of those who voted supported the new three-year deal.

This blog was originally published by the AFL-CIO on October 3, 2018. Reprinted with permission. 

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A Taxing Profession: Cabbies Face Low Pay, Long Hours, High Risk

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On July 24 the federal minimum wage was raised to $7.25 an hour. But that won’t help Chicago cab drivers, who make an average of $4 an hour working 24 to 25 days a month for 12 to 13 hours a day, according to a study released this spring by the University of Illinois’ School of Labor and Employment Relations and commissioned by the American Friends Service Committee-United Taxidrivers Community Council (AFSCUTCC).

The study surveyed 920 drivers, or about 8 percent of Chicago’s 10,500-cab force, and found that weekly lease drivers make an average $4.81 an hour, shift lease drivers just $4.07 an hour, after paying their leases, fuel costs, airport taxes, cab upkeep and other expenses. That adds up to about $13,000 a year. Drivers who own their own medallions and have paid off the steep loans to get one do only a bit better, at $6.41 an hour.

Meanwhile a new study by the University of Illinois commissioned by the AFSCUTCC addressed the serious risk of violence that cab drivers face on a daily basis.

Many people know cab driving is a dangerous job, but most probably assume the main risk is violent robbery. The study and drivers affiliated with the UTCC assert that violent attacks related to racism, inebriation or random aggression, not involving robbery, are a serious and under-addressed risk.

Take Stanley Shen, a Chinese American driver beaten severely after he was rear-ended last year. Or Walid Ziada, a Palestinian driver allegedly beaten by two men and a woman (ironically leaving an Obama victory party) so badly that he suffered a facial hematoma and was at risk of losing his eye.

Or the 2005 murder of driver Haroon Paryani by Michael Jackson, a high-ranking city health official high on drugs who ran Paryani, 61, over with his own cab. Despite the brutal nature of the murder, Jackson’s supporters launched a campaign to defame Paryani and register complaints from past riders. The incident sparked the AFSC, with support from the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago to launch the Taxi Worker Organizing Project, which became the UTCC.

Contrary to stereotypes of cabbies being attacked in “bad” neighborhoods, the study shows the majority of attacks happen on Chicago’s northeast side, the wealthier, whiter portion of the city. (Cabs are also more prevalent in this area).

As in many major cities, Chicago cab drivers face substantial barriers to getting justice and financial compensation when they are victims of crime or customer misconduct. In Chicago, they live in fear of complaints, whether valid or not, filed with the city’s consumer services division, that can easily lead to them losing their ability to work as drivers.

The AFSCUTCC has long been pressing the city to mandate cabs bear a sticker notifying riders of a 2008 law making it a class 3 felony to assault a working cab driver. So far the consumer services division has resisted, saying such stickers would “clutter” cabs, according to the UTCC.

Drivers and organizing staff say people think they can attack or mistreat drivers and get away with it. Racism and xenophobia, or just the idea that immigrants and people of color have less political capital, play into this dynamic. About 60 percent of Chicago cab drivers are Muslim, and especially after the Sept. 11 attacks cab drivers anecdotally reported being verbally abused or discriminated against based on their race and religion. The top five countries of origin among surveyed drivers were Nigeria, Pakistan, U.S., Somalia and Ghana.

Cab drivers say multiple issues are tied together that make their jobs dangerous, grueling and low-paying. Along with a fare increase and other specific remedies they are requesting from city officials and cab companies, they say an increase in respect, good behavior and empathy from customers would go a long way.

Kari Lydersen: Kari Lydersen, an In These Times contributing editor, is a Chicago-based journalist writing for publications including The Washington Post, the Chicago Reader and The Progressive. Her most recent book is Revolt on Goose Island.

This article originally appeared at Working In These Times on August 15, 2009 and is reprinted here with permission from the source.

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