This article first appeared in the March/April 2019 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)
Coalition of Unions and Activists Boot Amazon from NYC
In Sept. 2018, after a drawn-out process that pitted aspiring host cities against each other, Amazon announced it would be splitting “HQ2” in two, one in Northern Virginia and another in Long Island City in Queens, New York. While the company expected and received fanfare from New York leaders – including Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio – they were met with an even stronger resistance from unions, activist groups, and city politicians.
The anti-Amazon coalition came together as a united front to fight the deal – handed to the richest company in the world – of nearly $3 billion in public subsidies. Protesters included members and leaders from the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union and the Teamsters Joint Council 16, as well as a coalition of local activist groups including the LIC Coalition and the New York City Democratic Socialists of America. They chanted and unfurled “Amazon Delivers Lies” banners at city hall hearings and neighborhood meetings.
On Feb. 14, Amazon canceled its plans to move to the city, a shocking reversal from the company that seemingly expected to receive whatever it wanted from city officials and residents.
“New Yorkers made it clear that Amazon wasn’t welcome in our city if it would not respect our workers and our communities,” said George Miranda, President of Teamsters Joint Council 16. “Apparently, the company decided that was too much to ask.”
Workers at 48 Factories Strike and Win Pay Raises in Mexico
In a rare victory for workers in Mexico, almost 25,000 factory workers at 48 maquiladoras, or low-wage manufacturing plants, in the city of Matamoros are receiving a 20 percent pay increase and a one-time bonus of 32,000 pesos (about $1,685), following a strike that lasted nearly two weeks.
Matamoros, just south of the border from Brownsville, TX, is a major manufacturing hub in the country. The cost of living in the border region is significantly higher than the rest of the country, and before the strike, to give a boost to workers, new Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador decreed a doubling of the minimum wage in the region, effective Jan. 1.
Many factories in Matamoros refused to initiate the raise once the decree went into effect. Workers fought back, and 48 of the plants relented to their demands.
International Workers' Day
May Day, also known as International Workers Day, is the annual holiday recognizing the working class. Originating in the 1880s, the holiday came out of the historic fight in Chicago for the eight-hour work day.
The holiday is celebrated worldwide in 80 countries (although it is not recognized in the United States as a federal holiday).
The APWU encourages all members to participate in any events in their area. If your city or town is not hosting an event, and you want to participate in one, reach out to your local labor groups and other sister unions about planning something in your area.
If you take part in an event, please send pictures of you, your family, and/or co-workers to email@example.com for a chance to be featured on the APWU website or in future publications. Remember to wear your union gear!
New Jersey and Illinois Raise Minimum Wage to $15/hour
In February, the Fight for $15 movement was victorious again with New Jersey and Illinois governors both signing bills into law that will raise the minimum wage in those states to $15 per hour by 2024. Over 2 million workers in both states will get a raise in 2019.
“We will have money to buy shoes for our kids and keep the lights on,” said Adriana Alvarez, a McDonald’s employee in Chicago and a Fight for $15 leader, in a statement to Vox. “We’ll be able to put breakfast on the table and maybe go out to the movies every now and then.”
In Congress, the House Committee on Education and Labor began a push for a nationwide $15 per hour wage, holding a February hearing on Representative Bobby Scott’s (D-VA-3) Raise the Wage Act. The bill raises the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024, including for tipped workers. It currently has 201 co-sponsors.
Education Workers Strike and Win Across the Country
Last year, education workers in West Virginia ignited a national movement by walking out of schools to demand better pay and more school funding to support the children in their state. That flame has continued burning this year, with teachers and school personnel from Los Angeles, Denver, and Oakland going on strike during the first months of 2019.
In Los Angeles, over 30,000 members of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) walked out on Jan. 14, taking to the streets in the driving rain after 21-month-long contract negotiations came to an impasse. UTLA’s strike centered on out-of-control class sizes and lack of support staff in the 640,000-student school district - the second largest in the country. These public-sector workers also fought against increasing privatization in the form of charter schools, which were taking much-needing funding away from the public-school system.
Following a week-long strike, the teachers emerged with a complete victory that UTLA described as a “paradigm shift.” The union won an immediate six-percent pay raise with no contingencies, a nurse in every school five days a week, hard caps on class sizes, and a “clear pathway to cap charters.” The strike was a major win against privatizers looking to further raid the district’s coffers for their own profit.
On Feb. 11, two thousand educators from the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) walked out after negotiating for 15 months, launching Denver’s first teacher strike in 25 years. Their strike focused on dismantling and restructuring a bonus-reliant pay system in the district that left many teachers financially insecure and in need of second jobs to support themselves. On Feb. 14, DCTA emerged victorious with a new three year contract including an average 11.7 percent increase in base salary for teachers, as well as full cost-of-living increases in the contract’s second and third years.
In Oakland, CA, over 3,000 educators from the Oakland Education Association (OEA) struck on Feb. 21. They demanded a 12 percent retroactive pay raise, more support staff, and cuts to charter school funding.
Oakland education workers returned to school on Mar. 4 after winning a new contract providing an 11 percent pay raise over four years, plus an immediate 3 percent bonus. Teachers also won a mandate to lower class sizes by one student, the addition of more support staff and counselors, and a five-month pause on school closures and consolidations. School Board President Aimee Eng also committed to introduce a resolution calling for a moratorium on charter schools in the district.
As teachers from across the country walked out, West Virginia teachers struck and won again in a political act against state lawmakers attempting to privatize its education system. That strike is covered here.