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The Steward's Guide to COVID-19

Sat, 2020-04-04 14:43
The Steward's Guide to COVID-19 April 04, 2020 / United Electrical Workers

The following is a lightly edited version of a special edition of the UE Steward, the United Electrical Workers’ monthly publication for stewards. Labor Notes is reprinting it under the terms of the UE’s reuse policy and in our shared interest of promoting democratic, rank-and-file unionism. For more coronavirus resources for workers, visit

Categories: Labor Notes

Will COVID-19 Be Our Triangle Fire?

Fri, 2020-04-03 13:23
Will COVID-19 Be Our Triangle Fire? April 03, 2020 / David Unger

The world is in the grips of a horrible pandemic that will touch us all. But as has almost always been the case, the burden of COVID-19 will disproportionately fall on marginalized and working people. In New York, now the epicenter of the U.S. crisis, we watch as the crisis pushes the stories of previously invisible workers—the grocery store clerks and delivery persons, transit workers and hospital orderlies—squarely into the public conversation.

Categories: Labor Notes

How Auto Parts Workers Shut Their Plant

Fri, 2020-04-03 12:13

Union members at a Detroit-area auto parts plant refused to work March 19 and 20 after learning that a management employee had tested positive for the coronavirus. Angry first-shift workers gathered outside the plant and refused to enter.

The story is a textbook example of management indifference and worker solidarity. “It was one of those moments I am proud to be in a union,” said union chairman Trent DeSenglau. “This solidified us for sure. I have never seen so much support ever.”

Categories: Labor Notes

World War II: When the Government Protected All Essential Workers

Thu, 2020-04-02 14:31

Strikes, work stoppages, and protests this week at Amazon, Instacart, Whole Foods, and other workplaces may not have done much to shut down the nation’s stores and warehouses, but they sent America a very loud and potent message none the less.

The thousands of men and women who pick and pack at hundreds of giant fulfillment centers, the millions who stand behind retail counters, and the legion of gig workers tasked with delivering food and medicine to your doorstep now stand at the vital heart of the world’s largest economy.

Categories: Labor Notes

Shut It All Down Now!

Wed, 2020-04-01 14:49

More unions are demanding that all non-essential workplaces be shut down, to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

On a Labor Notes webinar March 30, essential workers pleaded with everyone else to please stay home.

Of course, that requires compensation.

Categories: Labor Notes

A Worker Agenda Against Coronavirus

Wed, 2020-04-01 14:17

This week and last, Labor Notes invited labor leaders and organizers to talk via Zoom about what we can do to organize during this pandemic. These are the beginning steps we came up with:

Categories: Labor Notes

Organizing without a Union During the Coronavirus / Organizándose sin sindicato durante el coronavirus

Wed, 2020-04-01 13:26

Workers’ health and safety matter more than anything, but workers are being forced to choose between their income and their health. It is right and necessary to be angry about how you and your co-workers are being treated.

Almost 200 people joined last night’s video call to hear from nonunion workers in agriculture, grocery, transit, and hair styling. This was Labor Notes’ first bilingual webinar! Thanks to Cesar Boc and Henry Boc for interpreting from Spanish to English.

Categories: Labor Notes

Can I Get Fired for Talking about Virus Risks?

Tue, 2020-03-31 10:12

Many workers still on the job during this pandemic are upset about their working conditions. But can you get in trouble for talking about your concerns—to your co-workers, on social media, or to the newspaper?

In a word: no. Not legally, anyway.

Below is a short run-down of your legal right to organize around wages, hours, and working conditions, even if you don’t have a union—and if you do have a union, your additional protection under your contract.

Categories: Labor Notes

Sample COVID-19 Health and Safety Measures to Demand from Management

Tue, 2020-03-31 09:42

The coronavirus pandemic poses serious risks to those workers still on the job, and all too often, management is acting slowly and doing far too little to protect essential employees like grocery workers, UPS drivers, nurses, and

Categories: Labor Notes

Using Trash Bags for Gowns: Interview with a New York Nurse

Mon, 2020-03-30 15:28
Using Trash Bags for Gowns: Interview with a New York Nurse March 30, 2020 / Chris Brooks

The United States now leads the world in confirmed coronavirus cases and New York City is the epicenter of the outbreak with over 30,000 confirmed cases.

Health care workers in New York City say the hospitals feel like a war zone. Patients are stacked in beds that line the hallways. So many people are dying that semi-truck trailers in hospital parking lots are being used as make-shift morgues.

Categories: Labor Notes

VIDEO: Educators Speak Out on Organizing During the Coronavirus Crisis

Fri, 2020-03-27 15:30

Two hundred education workers from across the United States and Canada were on a call together to learn from each other about how to organize in the face of the novel coronavirus. As the virus extended its reach in Seattle and New York City, educators fought to shut down the schools.

Categories: Labor Notes

It Didn’t Have to Be Like This

Fri, 2020-03-27 15:03
It Didn’t Have to Be Like This March 27, 2020 / Stephanie Luce

We have been forced to choose between two terrible options:

    1. Lock ourselves down to prevent the spread of the virus, resulting in massive job loss—while many vulnerable workers are still forced to work in unsafe conditions, or

    2. Maintain some business as usual, stemming the economic impact but putting tens of millions of people at risk.

It didn’t have to be like this.

We could not have prevented the virus itself, nor the resulting loss of life altogether. But imagine if:

Categories: Labor Notes

WEBINAR: Organizing without a Union During the Coronavirus / Organizándose sin sindicato durante el coronavirus

Fri, 2020-03-27 14:53

Some employers are laying us off and canceling our health care. Others say workers must show up for work regardless of the danger—and then not giving us the protective equipment we need.

What can non-union workers do to protect themselves, their families, and the public?

Find out how to take on the boss and organize on the job in this webinar organized by Labor Notes, the Food Chain Workers Alliance, and the Pioneer Valley Workers Center.

Categories: Labor Notes

New York Nurses Are Living a Heartbreaking Nightmare

Fri, 2020-03-27 08:45
New York Nurses Are Living a Heartbreaking Nightmare March 27, 2020 / Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez

UPDATE, March 29: Judy writes: "It’s SO MUCH WORSE NOW. Nostalgia for the day I described." -Ed.

Last Sunday I worked in the Montefiore Medical Center Moses Division Emergency Department and I want to share with you the real-life story—and most certainly not the worst story.

To back up... I had some concerning symptoms that started the previous Sunday at about 10 a.m. but escalated severely by Tuesday night. I was “approved” for COVID testing only because I had these symptoms and, perhaps, due to my age.

Categories: Labor Notes

WEBINAR: Don't Die for Wall Street: Essential Workers on Why Everyone Else Should Stay Home

Thu, 2020-03-26 12:05

You must register to participate in this webinar. Please register here.

Defying health experts who say we need a five-week national lockdown, Republicans and employers are pushing for workers to endanger themselves and everyone around them by returning to work in April.

The Denier in Chief is leading the charge to get everyone back on the job. Essential workers are living with how bad things are now--and they know how bad it will get if millions start defying doctors' orders.

Categories: Labor Notes

Walkouts Spread as Workers Seek Coronavirus Protections

Thu, 2020-03-26 09:43
Walkouts Spread as Workers Seek Coronavirus Protections March 26, 2020 / Dan DiMaggio, Saurav Sarkar

As the coronavirus spreads, more and more workers who are still on the job are taking action to defend their health and safety and demand hazard pay. Here's a round-up. (For an earlier round-up, see “Organizing for Pandemic Time-Off,” Labor Notes, March 16, 2020.)

Categories: Labor Notes

Good News and Bad News Come with Huck-Konopacki Labor Cartoons’ Latest Book

Wed, 2020-03-25 15:42

There’s good news and bad news about TORN, the latest book of cartoons from Gary Huck and Mike Konopacki. The good: It’s a doozy! The bad: It’s their last one.

After 37 years of syndicating Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons to unions and newspapers, these Wisconsin-bred practitioners of pushback, parody, and in-your-face outrage against enemies of the working class sent out their last monthly package in February.

It was a great run while it lasted, as some high-profile admirers have attested over the years:

Categories: Labor Notes

$1,200 per Adult, $500 per Child: Stimulus Bill Nears Passage

Wed, 2020-03-25 13:32
$1,200 per Adult, $500 per Child: Stimulus Bill Nears Passage March 25, 2020 / Amy Hanauer

This story has been updated to reflect changes in the policy and political debate.

At 1:30 a.m. today, Senate and House leaders and the Trump administration reached a deal on an enormous $2 trillion proposal to dramatically expand unemployment benefits, provide direct payments to American households, give money to state governments and Native American tribes, and assist businesses reeling from the economic catastrophe unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Categories: Labor Notes

Graduate Student Workers: UC Must Pay!

Wed, 2020-03-25 12:53
Graduate Student Workers: UC Must Pay! March 25, 2020 / Yulia Gilich

University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) graduate student workers have been on a wildcat strike for a raise since December 2019. Since February, nearly 80 strikers have been fired, while the strike has spread to other UC campuses.

Graduate student workers at 10 UC campuses across the state receive the same wages—$2,434 a month—which after taxes amounts to $19,000 a year, given that we are only paid for nine months.

Categories: Labor Notes