By James Smith

The employees of Portland’s Providence Medical Center have been arguing for quite some time that the hospital spends too much money on mergers, acquisitions, and executive compensation, and not nearly enough on patient care and employee compensation. It’s a pretty easy argument to make once one discovers the CEO of the “non-profit” takes home over $10 million in compensation every year. The employees, who are composed of workers performing over 60 different functions from housekeeping to nurse assisting, have finally had enough. Over 800 of them voted to unionize with SEIU Local 49.

Boeing has announced the appointment of former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley to their board of directors. Boeing plans to pay her over $300,000 annually, and all she has to do is attend up to four meetings a year. Haley doesn’t know anything about aerospace. She does, however, know how to fight unions, which she demonstrated when she helped prevent Boeing’s South Carolina plant from getting organized during her time as governor of that state. So be wary, Boeing workers. And demand a raise. If they can pay that hack $300k a year for nothing, surely they can pass you fine folks a few extra dollars.

Swanson Bark and Wood Products in Longview, WA has hired union busting firm CRS Labor Relations Solutions. CRS is apparently tasked with convincing Swanson Bark’s employees that the company doesn’t have the money to give them a good deal because they spent it on CRS. Thanks to for keeping us up-to-date on the union busting low lives.

You wouldn’t know it from reading the corporate media, but workers’ movements everywhere are on the rise. Over 70,000 workers in Mexico, mostly in auto parts plants along the Texas border, struck recently. The largest strike in human history concluded in India, which involved between 150 million and 200 million people. And in the US nearly 500,000 workers participated in large-scale strikes (those involving 1,000 people or more) in 2018, the highest number since 1986. Keep up the good work everyone! And keep organizing! One of these days we’ll shut the bosses down for good.

Scabby the Rat, a giant inflatable rat with an unfortunate skin condition, has been used by labor unions for 30 years to call attention to employers using nonunion contractors as scabs. Recently, Operating Engineers Local 150 put up Scabby at multiple Donegal jobsites in Illinois after Donegal hired rat contractors. In response, Donegal filed a complaint with the NLRB stating that Scabby (who has neither brains nor muscles) has “threatened, coerced, or restrained” their customers. The NLRB promptly threw out the complaint because, well, it’s stupid. Not too stupid for Trump NLRB appointee Peter Robb, however. Robb ordered them to reopen the complaint and seek an injunction. We doubt Peter Robb reads the Seattle Worker, but just in case (and because he hates Scabby so much) we have decided to attach a picture for his displeasure.

Real (inflation adjusted) GDP grew 2.9% in 2018. At the same time, the corporate tax rate was lowered 40%, which means not only were corporations taking in a lot more money, they were paying a lot less in taxes. The bosses couldn’t have hoped for a better year, but even with that windfall of money at their disposal, they couldn’t bring themselves to share more than a pittance with the rest of us. They grudgingly decided to increase real wages and salaries about 1.7% for the year. The rest of the money, not surprisingly, the bosses kept for themselves.

During the course of the recent government shutdown, unions representing federal workers filed a lawsuit which rightly claimed forcing people to work for free is slavery which has been illegal for over 150 years. Surprisingly, US District Judge Richard Leon is apparently unaware of the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlawed slavery in the US. He decided the employees had to return to work whether they were paid or not. Adding insult to injury, the Justice Department argued that not only were the employees rights not being violated, but they weren’t even really being harmed, saying, “interim economic injury is not irreparable harm.” One wonders if anyone at the Justice Department has ever had to repay a loan of any type.

The Capitalist Overlord Power Consolidation Summit (also known by its marketing name, The World Economic Forum) invited Nobel Prize winning economist Robert Shiller to speak in Davos. In his talk, Professor Shiller declared that if we in the US subject the oligarchs to a wealth tax they will simply leave the country and take their wealth with them. This would presumably leave the rest of us to govern ourselves, and free us from having to worry about them buying our politicians, controlling our media, paying us low wages, denying us healthcare, polluting our environment, or locking us in their private prisons when we disobey their edicts. With that in mind, we should probably take up Shiller’s sage advice, and tax the shit out of the wealthy. Apologies in advance to whichever country they end up in.

Since the West Virginia teachers’ strike last year, lots and lots of teachers across the country have gone on strike, including 123,000 in North Carolina, 81,000 in Arizona, 63,000 in Colorado, 45,000 in Oklahoma, 35,000 in West Virginia, 26,000 in Kentucky, 3,000 in Oakland, and 2,400 in Tacoma alone. With their actions, teachers nationwide have not only increased their pay, improved their working conditions, and created environments more conducive to learning, they have even managed to bring crappy politicians to heel. Their actions show that a well-organized workforce doesn’t just have power over their workplaces, they have power over the government and our whole society. This is undoubtedly why their largely successful efforts have received so little media coverage: The last thing the oligarchs want to publicize is the obvious power of a well-organized workforce.

The numbers are in. In 2018 union membership was up slightly, though down as a percentage of the workforce. And workers that were members of labor unions made on average nearly 22% more than workers that were not members of labor unions.

Want a raise? Organize. It’s that simple.

[This post was published in the April-May 2019 issue of the Seattle Worker]

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