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(en) US, Boston, Strike! #, Labor Forecast: A Long, Hot Summer for the Bosses!

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sat, 10 Jul 2004 06:45:01 +0200 (CEST)

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From health care workers to janitors to public employees, Boston is poised
to be the battleground for major contract fights this summer. Thousands of
union sisters and brothers will be throwing the bosses' backs against the
wall to demand better contracts and the dignity they deserve.
On May 18, over 100 nurses, housekeepers, and nursing assistants walked off the job at
the Benjamin nursing home in the Mission Hill. The one-day strike kicked off a major
campaign for improved staff, benefits, wages, pensions, and general sense of dignity and
respect for the vital work that they perform. It was a taste of larger things to come as
contracts have expired at 19 nursing homes in an around Boston represented by SEIU local 2020.

Despite a 2% budget increase in June of 2003 and an addition $290
million per year in from the new "bed-tax" passed in
September of 2003, most nursing homes continue to claim that they
don't have the resources to pay a living wage or increase benefit
coverage. Those who provide direct health care to others cannot afford
their own and often times cannot make ends meet. Adding insult to
injury, the largely Haitian workforces are often prohibited from
speaking Creole while working or even while on break. Things will
come to a head on June 2, when the Benjamin's workers will go
back out on strike indefinitely, this time joined by 11 additional nursing

Another healthcare strike looms in Jamaica Plain as over 300
registered nurses at Faulkner Hospital, working without a contract
since October, have authorized a strike after months of fruitless
negotiation sessions. Faulkner is owned by the Partners Health Care
Corporation which made over $28 million in profit last quarter. The
major issues are wages and benefits that are not on par with other
Partners facilities, unsafe staffing ratios, and "floating."
Floating is an extremely dangerous practice where nurses are forced to
work in areas where they have not been trained to use the sophisticated
equipment or read specialized monitors.

Thus far union action has been limited to a one-day informational
picket on March 29th, but a continued stonewall approach by the
hospital has made a mid-June strike inevitable. The continued practice
of floating has made it apparent that Faulkner is not concerned about
the safety of its patients or staff, and will not hesitate to operate with
unqualified scab agency nurses should the strike happen. The
nurses' success will depend on their ability to mobilize labor and
community support, and to convince workers that aren't in the RN
bargaining unit to refuse to take on additional work that would
normally be performed by a nurse, thus making the hospital


Across town, union janitors are bringing their fight to the doorstep of
the rich in their battle with the law-breaking, non-union contractor
Commercial Cleaners. In their attempt rectify a sweetheart deal made
by the corrupt former president of SEIU local 615, in which only half of
the workers were included and significant improvement were nowhere
to be found, the largely El Salvadorian workforce has gone forward with
an aggressive campaign for a new contract that benefits everyone.

Commercial Cleaners pays its workers an average of $8 an hour while
they clean some of the most obnoxiously swanky hotel and
condominiums in the city. The pay is about $3 an hour less than most
union janitors make, and full time employees do not receive benefits.
They have authorized a strike after the firing of one union militant and
the reduction in hours of other active union members, and they have
filed at least 5 unfair labor practice charges against the company in the
past 2 months.

To date, local 615 members have been working closely with the Jobs
with Justice Solidarity Committee, which includes local anarchist
support, and groups like the "Billionaires for Bush" to organize
rallies and actions targeting the Ritz Carlton. The multimillion dollar
Ritz condos house many of Boston's rich and elite. Red Sox left
fielder Manny Ramirez, one of the Ritz's tenants, has been called
out to show his support for the campaign, and hundreds of Sox fans
signed post cards asking him to do so. Thus far, not a peep has come
from Manny, but it looks like the bad press and constant ruckus out
front may be getting to the Ritz's brass.

Local 615 is optimistic that the Ritz may soon pull their contract with
Commercial Cleaners, which could set a trend for others who use the
company, but at this point a strike still looks like a certainty for the
early summer.


As we draw nearer to the Democratic National Convention, the
headaches for Boston's Mayor Tom Menino only seem to get worse
and worse. Security costs running millions of dollars over budget. The
forced closure of major highways, city streets and train stations. Unruly
street protests expected to shadow the week's events. And, perhaps
most serious, the nasty contract fight with the city's public employee
unions, which threatens to disrupt the entire convention.

Custodians, firefighters, sewer workers, school bus drivers, social
service providers, parks services, and others have vowed to step up
their fight against the Mayor's refusal to negotiate pay raises and new
contracts for city workers, and now unions are threatening disruption
of the DNC as a means of leverage to force through their demands.

It is a labor dispute that has dogged the city for months, with the mayor
blaming the "stubbornness" of the unions for the failed negotiations,
and most union leaders maintaining that Menino is refusing to
negotiate contracts so that he can spend the city's estimated $400
million in surplus revenue on this summer's convention (often
referred to as "Tom's Party").

In January, over 5,000 people mobilized to embarrass the mayor on the
night of his 'State of the City' address. Angry workers waved signs,
chanted, hollered, and spit at politicians and assorted dignitaries who
crossed the pickets. At one point during the evening, dozens of
anarchists and rank-and-file union members attempted to block the
entrance of the security perimeter, only to be shoved back behind the
barricades by police. Protesters shouting "No contracts, no peace!"
broke into chants of "No contracts, no convention!"

"After tonight, the day of reckoning is coming," said Lou Mandarini,
president of the Greater Boston Labor Council, to roaring applause.
"There will be no work done on this convention until [Menino]
negotiates fairly and treats us right." Despite the recent settlement
reached by the city with AFSCME and the Boston Teachers Union
(two of the larger unions involved in the dispute), protests and rallies in
support of the remaining union workers without contacts have
continued unabated.

With construction set to begin at the FleetCenter (site of the DNC) on
June 8, committee officials have desperately tried to persuade the
Greater Boston Labor Council to sign a 'no-strike guarantee' covering
construction and related work for the convention. So far the Council
has refused to sign any such agreement until the city settles the
remaining contracts. However, the Building and Construction Trades
Council has reportedly turned their backs on any such show of
solidarity, offering to provide scab labor to ensure the work is
completed on schedule. Unfortunately for convention organizers, an
agreement with only the building and construction trades will not cover
other convention-site work, including telecommunications wiring and
bus-driving services.

There are a number of potential scenarios of how this labor dispute will
eventually play out come time for the DNC. As it currently stands,
various unions are going forward with plans for work slow-downs,
disruptive pickets, and public rallies during the convention. You can
bet that anarchist workers will be more than happy to show solidarity in
their fight against the city bosses and their political allies among the
Democrats. See you in the streets!


This article is a preview of the debut issue of "Strike!"

Strike! is a tabloid newspaper covering the ever important struggles of
working people in the Northeast and across the world. From
community and workplace resistance, to the fights against racism and
sexism as well as international turmoil, the struggles that rock your
world are brought to you here with a fresh anarchist-communist

Strike! is the English-language agitational publication of the
Northeastern Federation of Anarcho-Communists (NEFAC). We are
bilingual federation of revolutionaries who identify with communist
tradition in anarchism. Our activity in the last few years has focused
around radicalizing the broad struggles of our class, in the streets, in
our workplaces and in our neighborhoods.

Strike! has come to exist after a long process of rethinking our
agitational publications following the end of Barricada magazine, which
for a time was a NEFAC affiliated magazine.

In this issue of Strike!, you will find articles on rank and file labor
struggles, tenant union organizing, eco-racism, indigenous struggles,
and direct action in the streets! Plus, there is a regular column about
GI resistance within the military, and a pro-queer/feminist advice

Strike! can be obtained in most large cities in the Northeast. NEFAC
members will be making a special efffort to have it available in
community centers, left bookshops and at picket lines and

Bulk orders and subscriptions can be made with the Stelton Anarchist
Collective: PO BOX 3107 New Brunswick, NJ 08903, or contact:

For letters to the editor, content questions, submissions, and press
exchanges, contact Class Action at: classaction@nefac.net

Also, brand new issues of NEFAC's other publications (The
Northeastern Anarchist, Ruptures and Cause Commune) are set to hit
the newstands very soon!

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