Labor struggles: the Americas – World Socialist Web Site

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Latin America

VW workers in Mexico reject contract for second time

On September 2, workers at the Volkswagen de México plant in Puebla rejected the draft collective labor agreement negotiated by the Independent Union of Volkswagen Automotive Workers (SITIAVW) and management by 3,450 votes to 3. 225, with 13 invalid votes. The workers had already rejected an August 9 agreement that included a 9% wage increase.

This time, Volkswagen offered an 11% increase – 9% in wages and 2% in benefits – on a two-year contract. However, with inflation in July having already reached 8.15%, its highest level in 22 years, workers recognized that the increase would be quickly absorbed by price increases. According to an Aug. 9 Reuters report, wages at the Puebla plant range from $15 to $48 a day.

Volkswagen cited the “context and challenges we face as an industry” as semiconductor shortages, global economic turmoil and the US-NATO war in Ukraine, as the cause of his “profound disappointment” with the vote. However, in a March 11 Volkswagen Group News report, he bragged about “strong results,” singing: “Operating profit before special items nearly doubled to $20.0 billion. euros. [US$19.9 billion]” in 2021.

In accordance with Mexican labor law, Volkswagen and SITIAVW may continue negotiations. Despite its declared commitment to “constructive dialogue”, the company is not expected to budge from its offer, paving the way for a call for a legal strike on September 9.

Belizean Development Bank workers protest against the dismissal of their colleagues

Workers at the Belize Development Finance Corporation (DFC) headquarters in the capital Belmopan staged protests against recent layoffs of employees last week. The protests took two forms. Starting September 1, employees were banging on their desks every hour for 30 seconds. On the same day, the workers went out and sang union songs outside the office during their lunch break.

Representatives of the Christian Workers Union (CWU), DFC and Department of Labor met Sept. 2 on the issue. CWU Belmopan representative Pablo Cawich accused the DFC of “lack of adherence to the [Labor] Act” and said the union did not accept the dismissal letters the company had sent to the laid-off workers. The workers, however, had already received dismissal letters and were escorted out of the building.

The DFC says it followed protocol as part of a restructuring plan and notified the union of the upcoming layoffs in June. The parties have agreed to continue to meet. Other issues, however, loomed large on workers’ concerns, including a proposed 10% pay cut and a reduction in benefits.

Porto Rico. Protests, clashes and arrests against a private energy company continue

As electricity prices and tariffs rise and blackouts increase in Puerto Rico, protests against privatized electric utility company Luma Energy and the US-imposed Financial Oversight and Management Board (FOMB) United continue to erupt, as do clashes between protesters and police.

On the morning of August 31, protesters blocked a section of Luis Muñoz Rivera Avenue in Hato Rey, a barrio in San Juan, blocking traffic and denouncing pro-business governor Pedro Pierluisi, FOMB and the US government for the ongoing energy crisis and its devastating effects. austerity policies. The police arrived soon after and ordered them to disperse. Sheriff Johnny Figueroa used a megaphone to threaten “the use of chemical agents or less lethal munitions” if they did not comply. The cops then arrested a dozen demonstrators.

Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, including its power grid, has eroded after decades of neglect, a situation made worse by natural disasters and Luma’s mismanagement in recent years. On September 1, protesters brought various appliances – including toasters, televisions, microwaves and even a fridge – which were damaged by frequent power cuts and left them outside the executive headquarters. on Fortaleza street.

Asked about the protests, Pierluisi told reporters, “In my case, it’s impossible for me to please everyone,” and repeated his promise not to quit.

Chilean port workers stage 24-hour strike over pensions and working conditions

Workers at the Chilean port of San Antonio were called to a three-shift strike on September 1 after months of negotiations with the government of President Gabriel Boric without reaching an agreement on working conditions, pensions and other issues .

About 2,000 port workers, members of the Chilean Ports Union, walked out. The union has more than 8,000 members at 25 ports and terminals nationwide, but only workers in San Antonio have been called up.

Among the union demands are an increase in the value of pensions, lowering the age at which female port workers can apply for a pension and reducing the years of service required before full retirement.

United States

Wisconsin nurses at UW Health announce strike to regain bargaining rights

On September 2, some 2,600 health care nurses at the University of Wisconsin (UW) announced ten days’ notice that they would go on a three-day strike beginning September 13 to regain bargaining rights lost in the of the 2011 public workers’ rebellion against Republican Governor Scott’s administration. Walker. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is currently seeking union recognition. A strike would come at the same time as 15,000 nurses in Minnesota are also expected to strike.

UW nurses began seeking bargaining rights in 2019, before the pandemic hit. Since then, COVID-19 has intensified the scourge of staff shortages and other issues.

The SEIU reported that nurses at UW Health “have been grappling with a dangerous crisis of understaffing, turnover, cuts, burnout and burnout, which has been compounded by the pandemic and puts the care of patients at risk”. UW Health simply replied that a strike would be “unpleasant…but we’ll get through it.”

Peoria, Illinois, teachers vote overwhelmingly to strike

Teachers in School District 150 in Peoria, Ill., voted overwhelmingly to grant strike permission Sept. 1 after months of negotiations failed to produce an acceptable contract. The district and Local 780 of the American Federation of Teachers admit that salaries are a sticking point for the district’s 850 teachers.

The average teacher salary in Peoria is $62,140, ​​lower than the national average of $65,090. But teachers in central Illinois are generally poorly paid, with teachers in Guangzhou receiving just $48,937 and teachers in Beijing $52,249.

District 150 Board Chair Martha Ross said their offer to the union “is among the highest in the state and attempts to keep teachers’ salaries at the same level as the core inflation rate. “. Core inflation removes some of the more volatile items such as food and energy from the other measure, the consumer price index (CPI).

The lopsided strike vote – 780 to 7 – indicates that whatever terms are offered are not what teachers are asking for. The union and the district will resume negotiations through mediation on September 7. By law, the union must provide the district with 10 days’ notice to strike. According to District 150, teachers would not be eligible to strike until mid-October.

University of Minnesota service workers protest poverty wages

University of Minnesota service workers staged an August 30 information picket on the school’s Minneapolis campus to draw attention to the abysmal salary compensation offered by the state’s leading institution of higher learning. ‘State. Members of Teamsters Local 320, which represents 1,500 cleaning, maintenance and food service workers, reject the university’s meager 3.85% wage offer under a two-year contract year.

The Teamsters are calling for a still woefully inadequate 10% overall wage increase, as well as a 5% raise for workers with high seniority at the top of the pay scale. The union is also seeking to raise the starting minimum wage, frozen at $15 an hour since 2017, to $20 an hour.

Teamsters Local 320 surveyed more than 450 of its members and found that 62% of workers said they couldn’t afford “basic expenses every month.” A further 12% said they had been homeless at least once while working at university.

The university, in a May 2022 financial presentation, admitted that about 74% of its employees are paid “below market.” The Teamsters did not proceed to a membership strike vote, indicating it will wait until mediated negotiations resume on September 8.


British Columbia Government Employees Union lifts picket lines without agreement

After a two-week “targeted labor action” in which government employees banned overtime and restricted strike activity at four BC Liquor Distribution Branch wholesale and distribution centers and several cannabis, British Columbia General Employees Union (BCGEU) officials canceled all provincial actions as a “show of good faith” with the New Democratic Party government. Even the limited actions called by the union had caused severe liquor shortages in bars and restaurants across the province.

Overall, some 33,000 provincial government office workers, firefighters, corrections officers and BC Liquor and Cannabis store workers have been without a new contract for nearly six months. Strike activity, however, involved only a tiny fraction of union members.

The workers had been given a miserable wage offer by government negotiators. With inflation exceeding 8% and projections showing that the rate will remain high throughout 2022 and into 2023, the latest proposal tabled by the government proposed 1.5% this year, 2% the following year and 2% in 2024. The union insisted on 5% in 2022 and 2023 or the rate of inflation, whichever is higher. Trading now resumes.

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