Steward's Corner

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Updated: 13 hours 37 min ago

'You Can Find Us in the Break Room': How Nurses Got Masks

Tue, 2020-04-07 16:54

I am a registered nurse at Cook County Hospital, the safety-net hospital in Chicago and the busiest hospital in the state. The people who come to this hospital are some of the most underserved patients, mainly people of color, immigrants—many undocumented, the uninsured and underinsured, the homeless, and the incarcerated. Our emergency room denies no one care and about 300 people per day come there for treatment.

We have yet to become a COVID-19 “hot spot” but my co-workers all know it’s coming. Nurses know our patients will be some of the hardest hit.

Categories: Labor Notes

Chicago Amazon Workers Picket with Supporters—and Their Cars

Mon, 2020-04-06 15:44
Chicago Amazon Workers Picket with Supporters—and Their Cars April 06, 2020 / Alan Maass

“Quite a way to start your week off, right?”

Bekin Mehmedi was watching a long line of car protesters, all blaring their horns, drive through the gates of Amazon’s main delivery facility in Chicago. He and 20 or so workers and their supporters walked a socially distanced picket line, their fourth in six days, early on Saturday, April 4.

Categories: Labor Notes

Undocumented Workers Hit Hard by COVID-19 Crisis

Mon, 2020-04-06 14:38
Undocumented Workers Hit Hard by COVID-19 Crisis April 06, 2020 / Saurav Sarkar

Restaurant worker and painter José Garcia says “positive thinking makes everything easier.”

He has a lot to make easier.

Prior to the coronavirus crisis, the Mexican-born Massachusetts resident was working nearly 60 hours a week. He earned $29,000 last year.

Together, he and his partner earned $49,000. On that money, they supported themselves, their young daughter, and his partner’s children from a previous relationship.

Categories: Labor Notes

Interview: Coronavirus Pandemic Inflames Anti-Asian Racism

Mon, 2020-04-06 11:24

Labor Notes’ Saurav Sarkar spoke with New York City teacher Annie Tan on March 23 about the rise in anti-Asian racism with the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Labor Notes: Can you tell me a little bit about your family background and how it connects to organizing against anti-Asian racism?

Annie Tan: I was born and raised in Chinatown and I have lived in New York City almost all my life. My family members were mostly new immigrants to America.

Categories: Labor Notes

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