Cleveland labor gears up for fights on multiple fronts
Summit Academy teachers on strike in suburban Parma. | Cleveland ACTS/Twitter

CLEVELAND – Like bees preparing to swarm, delegates to the Feb. 13 AFL-CIO meeting in Cleveland gathered to plan actions to support workers rights to organize, strike, hold political office and protect their working conditions. The meeting revealed the wide ranging attack now facing organized labor.

“We will be much weaker if we lose these fights,” Harriet Applegate, the federation’s Executive Secretary, told the delegates, as they wrote letters to Congress opposing off-shoring of jobs at AT &T and to the owners of the Plain Dealer to stop a plan to bust the News Guild.

The delegates also made plans to join the picket line of charter school teachers in a strike set for Feb.19.

Applegate urged affiliated unions to search for members to run in this year’s suburban elections and said the federation would provide training so candidates could be ready to campaign for labor’s programs.

She also called on unions to support progressive initiatives in the new Congress such as the “Green New Deal,” Medicare for All and tuition-free college and insist that prevailing wage and fair labor standards are enforced in all construction projects.

Teachers at the Summit Academy in suburban Parma announced they would strike for union recognition, better staffing and improved school maintenance.  After a boisterous packed school board meeting Feb. 12, members of Cleveland ACTS (Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff) decided they would walk off the job to protest lack of nurses and maintenance workers at the school serving special needs children.

They reported broken ceiling tiles, dirty classroom walls with holes and that the school forces children to clean bathrooms in the facility where there was a recent outbreak of scabies.  The parents overwhelmingly support the teachers, they said, in what is set to be the state’s first charter school strike.  Local unions and community groups have pledged to donate to the union strike fund and the federation is mobilizing to join the picket line.

Rachel Dissell, an 18 year veteran reporter at the Plain Dealer, urged support to beat back a union busting drive by Advance Corporation, the paper’s parent company.  The company announced plans to outsource the jobs of one third of the Guild members to out-of-state technicians, who would write headlines and edit articles by local reporters.  This would not only eliminate jobs but would deprive the entire community of adequate coverage of local news.  The paper’s cultural writers and leaders of Musicians union Local 4 held a highly successful concert Feb. 9 with close to 500 in attendance to rally support for the embattled Guild.

After her speech the federation agreed to launch a community-wide solidarity committee to support the Guild, by writing letters to the management, and involving public officials, businesses and community organizations of all kinds.

At the urging of Gary Kundrat, president of CWA Local 4340 delegates wrote letters to Congress demanding an investigation into how $21 billion in tax breaks AT&T received in President Trump’s tax cut for the rich measure had been spent.  AT&T had lobbied for the law, promising to create 700 new jobs, but instead has offshored thousands of jobs to low wage countries in Asia and has stalled meaningful talks for a new contract for nearly a year.

Speaking on behalf of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 268, Dan O’Malley reported on plans by the Regional Transit Authority to cut jobs and routes.

“Ohio cut funds and now spends less on public transportation than South Dakota, a much less populous state,” he said.

Steelworker delegate James Evanoff reported that the Trump Administration has ended the requirement that employers file electronic reports of accidents with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and that the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that picket line use of inflatable balloons depicting strike breakers as rats was illegal claiming it constituted a secondary boycott.


Rick Nagin
Rick Nagin

Rick Nagin has written for People's World and its predecessors since 1970. He has been active for many years in Cleveland politics and the labor movement.