This has been a strange week for union labor in America.
Hilton Hotels unionized workers in San Francisco, Chicago and Honolulu come away with a new favorable contract that keeps worker health care costs in check and increases dental coverage and pension benefits. Housekeepers get reduced workloads when they have 10 or more checkouts. Non-tipped employees receive $2 an hour wage increases retroactive to August 2009. Hotel workers in San Francisco and Chicago have been without a union contract since August 2009.
The struggle for hotel employees continues as Starwood Hotels, Hyatt Hotels, and Intercontinental Hotels Group properties in San Francisco, Chicago and Honolulu still have not settled.
Perhaps Hilton’s move will hasten contract resolutions for workers in the other unionized hotels in these cities. The hotel workers have struggled for 18 months for this resolution with Hilton Hotels. I hope the other hotel chains settle quickly.
Hilton Hotels Contract agreement San Francisco: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/03/08/BUBG1I5L9A.DTL
Hilton Hotels Contract agreement Chicago: http://chicagobreakingbusiness.com/2011/03/union-approves-deal-with-local-hilton-hotels.html
My Solidarity with Wisconsin Public Employees
Public sector workers are rising up after last night’s political maneuver in Wisconsin strips public employee unions of many collective bargaining rights. Wisconsin public workers will see a rise in employee pension contributions and health care costs.
I dropped out of public school teaching in 2003. I have a graduate degree in Labor Studies and I follow the labor movement in the U.S. although I seldom write about the issues. This blog is not the most appropriate forum for a labor union discussion, but this is the most widely read platform I have to use as an activist.
My interest over the past two decades has primarily focused on public sector unionism with specific attention to public school teachers. I have been a union member public school employee in three states. I have seen the public service sector union dismantling coming over the past 20 years.
The corporatist agenda now hits home in the States. Michigan is poised to allow corporate takeover of cities and towns. Public schools, which for two hundred years were the domain of town and municipal governments, are now dominated by state and federal mandates.
My hope was that I would be established in private sector self-employment prior to the privatization corporatist agenda iron fist coming down hard on our family. My wife is taking a beating as a public school teacher and union activist.
The public sector salary pay rises for many California public employees have all been erased by rising health care costs and job furlough days over the past couple of years. 2011 looks to be the worst year so far.
The push has been on for over 20 years to privatize public education. The slow progress on shifting public schools to privatized charter schools financed with public funds has been too slow. The legislation for No Child Left Behind made great progress in the past decade by funneling billions of dollars of taxpayer money into major corporate test-design companies like Harcourt, CTB/McGraw-Hill, Riverside and Pearson and targeting schools for corporate takeover when tests results are poor.
I worked for CTB in Monterey as a mathematics test editor in 2004-2005. I would like to point out that I received indirectly tax-payer-funded limousine rides when I traveled to states as a test editor designing standardized tests for elementary school students. Billions of public dollars go to testing corporations to create those annual standardized tests that state legislatures seek to use as the primary criteria for an effective teacher. And during my time working as a test editor most of the corporate employees creating these standardized tests in Monterey were Kelly Service temporary employees with no job rights or benefits.
My wife does not even have a working clock in her public school classroom. She had to buy her own. She takes our Costco Kirkland paper towels, markers and food to supply her classroom kids. The cost of classroom supplies she has to furnish out of her paycheck keeps rising as her paycheck is cut due to the “budget crisis”.
There are many work-related sob stories around the U.S., but the working conditions in public schools are really hard to imagine if you have never experienced the environment. The media and legislatures love to lay blame on teachers, but I never have known a school to be run by the teachers.
Administrators are the management running the day-to-day organization of the schools.
Beyond the image of a highly paid babysitter is the reality that half of credentialed school teachers drop out of the profession within 5 years. The working conditions in public schools are miserable. I can testify to that truth as someone who worked a decade in public school classrooms and two decades outside of school classrooms.
Any call for corporate tax increases and the elimination of tax evasion loopholes or taxes on investment income dividends is resoundingly defeated by deep pocket corporate and wealthy individual funding for favorable political candidates and legislators.
I saw a survey a couple of years ago that showed most young Americans think they will be millionaires.
There really is a strong need for math teachers in U.S. schools.
Charging higher tax rates for a middle class family making $100,000 in wage income (up to 40% in CA between federal and state if you don’t own a house or business) compared to the tax rate on $75,000 in stock dividend income (15%) is a crazy system that does not benefit the vast majority of our population consisting of tens of millions of working people with $0 in investment income.
Unions can’t call for general strikes across different labor segments of the population or secondary boycotts. Taft-Hartley eliminated those rights in the 1940s after the labor troubles of the 30s shut down entire cities and transportation networks.
Filmmaker and activist Michael Moore has called for the public to organize for workers’ rights.
On Twitter use #MadNation and label your state affiliation as in #MadCA for California.
My favorite tweet I saw today is from Clara Jeffery, editor @MotherJones:
You know who’s good at outlasting temper tantrums? Teachers. #wiunion