It’s the biggest industrial strike in years. Over 30,000 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union are continuing to strike at 240 Stop & Shop stores in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut over proposed wage and healthcare cuts. Since the April 11 walkout, the strike has drawn support from a variety of sources. In recent days, presidential candidates Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren attended rallies and picket lines.
In Boston, Biden was joined by mayor Marty Walsh, Senator Ed Markey and state Treasurer Deb Goldberg. Goldberg was particularly significant in that her family founded and later sold Stop & Shop. “When we ran Stop and Shop we viewed it as America's version of socialism in the sense that we wanted the company to grow to employ people to provide middle class lives,” she said.
And Biden asked the crowd: “How can they make that money, buy back all that stock and tell you they're going to cut wages? They're going to cut overtime? They're going to cut your medical care benefits? I mean, how in God's name does that match anything, not a joke?”
With Easter and Passover coming, some churches and synagogues have supported the strike. “A number of rabbis in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island have been advising their congregations not to cross picket lines to buy Jewish holiday essentials... ,” said the Associated Press. “The food that you're buying is the product of oppressed labor and that's not kosher,” said Rabbi Barbara Penzner, of Temple Hillel B'nai Torah.”
In an attempt to bankrupt unions, a majority of states ban union workplaces from collecting dues to so-called free riders—workers who want the benefits of a union contract but don’t want to pay for them. And Bernie Sanders wants to end that practice. “When billionaires like the Koch brothers spend millions of dollars successfully lobbying for so-called ‘right to work’ for less laws, they are waging a war on workers,” said Sanders to the International Association of Machinists. In response, he said, “When we are in the White House, we are going to pass the Workplace Democracy Act that I will be re-introducing in the Senate.”
In an AARP report last year, Multicultural Work and Jobs Study, a majority of workers over 45 reported experiencing or seeing age-based workplace discrimination. And recent Supreme Court decisions have weakened worker power to combat those discriminations. But, according to CNBC: “The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, also known as POWADA, was recently introduced by powerful sponsors: Sens. Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa; and Bob Casey, a Democrat from Pennsylvania. In the House it is being sponsored by Reps. Bobby Scott, a Democrat from Virginia; and Jim Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Wisconsin.”
For the third time, 1700 workers at the massive Chattanooga Volkswagen assembly plant will vote on joining the UAW. The previous votes were narrow defeats. But this time, partially in response to anti-union Tennessee politicians, Volkswagen has dropped its vow of neutrality and will fight unionization. Labor Notes obtained an internal memo that said “the company believes it can ‘achieve more’ with workers through ‘open dialogue’ than unionization. The letter also states that ”the company will hold special information sessions and provide additional communication in the coming weeks.” [emphasis in original].
Ontario is saddled with a right-wing government that’s determined to cut public services—especially in education. “The province's controversial plan to eliminate nearly 3,500 teaching positions, described in a memo obtained by CBC News earlier this month, would eventually save $290 million a year from the education budget, the government says.” In response, “the Ontario Federation of Labour organized more than 50 provincewide events to oppose education changes.” Said Chris Buckley, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, “We're not going away. We're going to continue to fight this government and all their cuts.”