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West Virginia Governor Owes MILLIONS in Unpaid Safety Fines for his Coal Miners

Here's What Striking Autoworkers Are Fighting For

By Jeff Schuhrke - In These Times, September 11, 2023

After decades of accepting concessions demanded by the Big Three automakers, the United Auto Workers (UAW) is now making bold demands of its own in one of the most spirited contract campaigns in the union’s recent history. At midnight on September 14, when the union’s contracts expired with Ford, GM and Stellantis without an agreement, workers at all three automakers went on strike at targeted locations.

The Big Three have made a combined nearly quarter trillion dollars in profits in North America over the past decade — including $21 billion in the first six months of 2023 alone. The companies’ shareholders and executives have been richly rewarded through stock buybacks and exorbitant salaries.

Meanwhile, the workers who actually make the cars have seen their real wages plummet by 30% over the past 20 years. In what was once a middle-class career, some autoworkers now make as little as $15.78 per hour, often working overtime to earn enough to support their families.

The union’s contract proposals, which UAW President Shawn Fain describes as ​“audacious and ambitious,” aim to not only counter the effects of recent inflation, but also to undo the consequences of years of concessionary bargaining by the UAW’s corrupt former leadership clique, whom Fain and a slate of rank-and-file-backed reformers replaced this March in the union’s first-ever election where top officers were directly chosen by the membership. 

“You cannot make $21 billion in profits in half a year and expect members to take a mediocre contract,” said Fain. ​“Our campaign slogan is simple: record profits mean record contracts.”

Fight for Safety, Own the Shop Floor

By Keith Brower Brown - Labor Notes, September 8, 2023

Earlier this year, on the Ford stamping line in Buffalo, sewage started pouring onto the floor. Careless managers had shut down a pump to install new equipment and caused a deluge.

The workers didn't work meekly through the dizzying stench. They shut down their line, fast. And they did it with so much unity that their manager decided not to fight back.

That collective action didn't come out of nowhere. Over the last few years, Auto Workers at Local 897 have built a fighting safety culture.

They elected new local officers who turned “militant” into a badge of honor. Members stopped the line when poorly routed forklifts dropped metal sheets near workers. They got four managers fired with safety grievances and shop floor confrontations.

“We put fear into the company,” says longtime Ford Buffalo worker Ryder Littlejohn, “Now, we walk through the floor, it’s like the Red Sea parting.”

AFGE Urges Locals to Monitor Temperature, File Heat Hazard Complaint if Necessary

By Staff - AFGE, September 5, 2023

AFGE is urging locals to monitor temperatures in their facilities after receiving several complaints from members that their agencies have refused to provide air-conditioning or fans during the summer months where several states saw record-high temperatures. 

So far, we’ve heard from members working at the Defense Department, Veterans Affairs, Transportation Security Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency. 

“Many agencies' officials are refusing to purchase air-conditioning or fans. Locals that face this type of behavior from the agency should file a complaint with OSHA,” said AFGE Workers Compensation Specialist Joe Mansour. “We need the locals to be educated and become aware that they can file a complaint on their agencies over heat hazards.”

OSHA has recently issued a heat hazard alert as it’s working on a heat standard. The hazard alert tells employers they have to do something to address heat exposure, like giving workers time to get acclimated to the heat conditions, providing rest breaks in the shade, providing cool water, and the right protective equipment. To address heat exposure, employers should do an assessment and use engineering controls, like fans, and administrative controls, like modifying schedules to work in cooler temperatures or provide breaks in cooler environments. 

Here are the steps locals should take:

  1. Take the temperature at the problem locations and take pictures of how hot it is. 
  2. Document any circumstances that contribute to the heat hazard, such as lack of cool or shaded areas to rest, lack of water and other aggravating factors like working in direct sunlight or the level of work activity. If employees are experiencing any health effects, that should be documented as well. Medical assistance should be provided immediately if anyone needs it. 
  3. Ask the agency to fix the problem in writing. If the agency refuses, then use the tool below to locate your OSHA office and file a complaint.
  4. OSHA can respond to the complaint you file in two ways:
  • They can send a letter to the agency and request a response within 30 days.
  • They can do a site visit.

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Workers vs Heat

By Staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, August 30, 2023

UPS Workers Win Heat Protections Faced with a threatened strike – including “practice picket lines” — by its 340,000 union employees, UPS has agreed to a contract that provides major gains in wages and working conditions for its Teamsters’ members. The contract includes elimination of a “two-tier” wage rate; significant wage increases, especially for the lowest paid workers; and combining part-time jobs to provide new full-time jobs.

Sometimes lethal heat conditions have been a central issue for UPS workers. UPS has promised to equip all new package cars with air-conditioning and to install fans on older package cars. Section 14 of the contract states: 

All vans, pushbacks, fuel trucks, package cars, shifting units, and 24-foot box vans after January 2024 shall be equipped with A/C. Single fans will be installed in all package cars within 30 days of ratification and a second fan will be installed no later than June 1, 2024. Air-conditioned package cars will first be allocated to Zone 1 which is the hottest area of the country. All model year 2023 and beyond package cars and vans will be delivered with factory-installed heat shields and air induction vents for the package compartment. Within 18 months of ratification, all package cars will be retrofitted with heat shields and air induction vents. A Package Car Heat Committee will be established within 10 days of ratification for the purpose of studying methods of venting and insulating the package compartment. A decision must be made by October, 2024 or the issue will be submitted to the grievance procedure. The company will replace at least 28,000 package cars and vans during the life of the contract. 

The contract was overwhelmingly ratified by UPS union members on August 22.

Amazon Workers Walk Out to Demand Climate Protection

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, August 30, 2023

Hundreds of workers at Amazon’s main headquarters in Seattle held a walkout May 31 to protest the company’s backtracking on its commitments to climate protection.

A statement by Amazon Employees for Climate Justice condemned the company’s recent admission that it had dropped its commitment to its “Shipment Zero” policy, which pledged in 2019 to reduce carbon emissions to net zero on 50% of its shipments by 2030.

A worker quoted in the statement said, “I’m appalled that senior leadership quietly abandoned one of the key goals in the climate pledge. It’s yet another sign that leadership still doesn’t put climate impact at the center of their decision-making. That’s why I walked out.”

Amazon Employees for Climate Justice accused Amazon of undercounting its carbon footprint, disproportionately locating pollution-heavy operations in communities of color, and working to undercut clean energy legislation.

The demonstration also protested Amazon’s mandatory return-to-office policies.

Will the Clean Energy Auto Economy Be Built on Factory Floors Riddled With Toxic Chemicals and Safety Hazards?

By Luis Feliz Leon - In These Times, August 30, 2023

Thirty-year-old Rick Savage was among the first workers hired at Ultium Cells’ 2.8-million-square-foot battery plant in Lordstown, Ohio, in April 2022. ​“I heard about the battery plant and how it was going to be technologically superior to all other manufacturing companies,” Savage remembers thinking. ​“The future of the automotive industry is going to be electric.”

Ultium Cells was a high-profile joint venture between U.S. automaker General Motors and South Korea’s LG Energy Solution. The Lordstown plant — billed as the largest battery plant of its kind anywhere in the country — was predicted to cost some $2.3 billion and generate more than 1,100 new jobs. GM’s legacy as a union employer was part of the company’s sales pitch to new employees. 

“They were saying, ​‘Hey, it’s the next GM, you can retire here, it’s going to be great,’” Savage says.

Deindustrialization has been battering northeastern Ohio for half a century. Ohio hemorrhaged 50,000 jobs within five years after Youngstown Sheet & Tube shuttered its Campbell Works steel factory in 1977. In 2008, after GM shuttered its facility in Moraine, 2,000 autoworkers were left without jobs. The Chinese automotive-glass manufacturer Fuyao hired some of them when it took over the closed plant in 2014, but at much lower wages.


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