In the News: Notes from around the Northwest

By X390433

After years of on-the-job harassment, poor working conditions, and low pay nearly 8,000 Marriott hotel workers have gone on strike in 8 different cities including Seattle’s Westin, which is owned by Marriott. Negotiations have reportedly been tense but fruitful in various cities, and the workers have been backed by thousands of supporters. The New York Yankees are definitely not counted among those supporters, however. The athletes nonchalantly waltzed across a picket line in Boston and stayed in a striking hotel, so one of our local Wobblies would like you all to remember, “You don’t have to be a sports fan to hate the Yankees.” The same goes for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who also shamefully crossed a hotel picket line in Boston.

A pair of papers were published this year that tried to articulate the fairly obvious causes of the minuscule increases in wages compared to economic growth in both the US and Europe over the last twenty years. The first was authored by Professor VanHeuvelen of the University of Illinois and the second by Professors Bell and Blanchflower of Stirling and Dartmouth respectively. Unsurprisingly to nearly everyone that doesn’t have a PhD in economics, both studies concluded the decline in the power of labor unions lead to a decline in wage growth. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell had his own explanation for meager wage growth stating, “It’s a bit of a puzzle.” Because research papers that don’t support neoclassical economics are apparently too confusing for him to understand.

After a 17-day strike that affected nearly all of the 65 construction cranes in Seattle, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302 has agreed to a deal with the Associated General Contractors of Washington. In the agreed upon deal (which was the third and most generous one offered by the AGC), the Operating Engineers will see a 17.8% increase in pay and benefits over the next 3 years. Workers everywhere take note: This is how you ask for a raise.

It was recently revealed that Amazon pays workers in sandwiches to tweet nice things about working in Amazon warehouses, which was kind of an embarrassment for the company. A bill literally title the “Stop BEZOS Act” was recently introduced in the US Senate that sought to curb some of Amazon’s more egregious compensation practices. And no one knows how many unionization campaigns have been initiated at Amazon properties, but a union busting video was leaked from Amazon owned Whole Foods, so the company was at least scared enough to produce it. In response to all this, Seattle’s infamous oligarch and wealthiest man in the universe, Jeff Bezos, caved and announced he is raising Amazon’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. Lest you think the corporate hegemon suddenly sprouted a heart, there are already reports rolling in about Amazon making up the difference by cutting compensation elsewhere. So don’t stop fighting for an Amazon union. We bent the beast. Now we need to break it.

The Sunset Empire Transportation District operates buses on the Oregon coast and earned a nasty reputation for poor treatment of their workers, which included some that were forced to subsist on food stamps and live in tents, despite the fact that the SETD receives federal funding to provide transportation services to Clatsop County. This treatment led to a unionization push at SETD, in response to which the management team reportedly declared, “Hell will freeze over before there’s a union.” If that’s true, the Devil better buy a sweater because the workers of the SETD voted to join the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757. The workers at CC Rider in Columbia County also recently unionized with ATU Local 757, which means the local now boasts over 5,000 members.

Have a Heart marijuana retailer has signed a union contract with UFCW local 21 that covers 134 workers at five locations across Washington state, making it the first marijuana retailer to unionize. So next time you’re picking up a sack of dank weed be sure to congratulate the workers before you toke up and forget. Try not to visit too much though. We got organizing to do, so you’re going to want a clear head.

Alleged progressive canvassing organization Grassroots Campaigns Incorporated, whose new corporate motto is, “Engage. Activate. Mobilize.” has been hell-bent on making sure their workers do anything but. A court date is set for this December where GCI will attempt to explain to a judge why they illegally closed their Seattle office after the workers there unionized.

The teachers’ strikes in Washington state that took place at the beginning of the school year turned out to be the largest wave of teachers’ strikes to hit the state in 35 years. Various tactics were used to try to break the strike, including two unions that were sued after a judge declared the strikes illegal. But the teachers stood firm and in the end their efforts yielded double-digit percentage salary increases in various districts across the state. I know not all of you take good notes, so I’ll say it again in case you missed it the first time: THIS IS HOW YOU ASK FOR A RAISE.

Since 2015 Washington state has gained over 84,000 new union members (over half of those in the last year alone), which brings the total union membership in Washington up to an estimated 584,000 or nearly 19% of the workforce. This makes Washington the third most unionized state in the country. The IWW is similarly growing, and Seattle is now home to the largest General Membership Branch in the United States. We even have a brand spanking new organizing committee to help you organize your workplace, so don’t be shy about getting in touch.

[This post was originally published in the fourth issue of the Seattle Worker, available now!]

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