Oakland teachers rally

As the teachers union prepared to resume contract talks in its 20-month dispute with the Oakland Unified School District, parents, community supporters and San Francisco educators rallied with over 500 Oakland teachers and other school workers in front of school district headquarters March 8.

Teachers and the district are at loggerheads over the district’s refusal to accept a neutral fact-finder’s report showing the district can afford to raise salaries in addition to restoring cuts taken when the district declared bankruptcy in 2003. Other demands include maintenance and restoration of district-paid health benefits for all OUSD employees, and no layoffs.

Teacher Toni Morozumi told the crowd that after taking pay cuts three years ago, “We were amazed to find ourselves the targets of [state-imposed administrator] Randolph Ward’s attempts to scapegoat teachers for the district’s financial woes.”

To enthusiastic applause, leaders of United Educators of San Francisco and the Oakland School Employees Association, also embroiled in long contract battles, pledged solidarity with the Oakland teachers.

This really happened!

A Cincinnati-based video surveillance company recently had microchip radio frequency transmitter devices implanted into the arms of two employees, the BNA Labor Letter reported. Now special scanners will be able to read these “Verichips” and detect when the workers approach the access points of certain “secure” rooms at the facilities of, a video surveillance company.

Sean Darks, CityWatcher’s CEO, told BNA that the two employees volunteered to accept the devices, which are the size of a grain of rice and are injected via needle in a doctor’s office.

Janitors picket to save jobs from ‘security check’

Justice for Janitors, SEIU Local 1877, is calling on union health plan trust funds to support janitors who were fired from their jobs at Vision Service Plan (VSP) in Sacramento, Calif., in violation of their union contract at a health plan service provider.

PRIDE Industries, VSP’s new cleaning company, instituted a “security check” to see if the janitors, who have worked at VSP for years, were a security threat. Then PRIDE fired 10 of the 13 janitors, using the excuse that they could find no security history for them.

The firings are a violation of the union contract, said Andrew Gross-Gaitan, vice-president of the local, which has already filed a grievance. “But we are also asking the trust funds that use VSP to tell them that they need to fulfill the contract,” he added.

Toxic map web site

A new web site sponsored by the Steelworkers union features an interactive “Toxic Map” that pinpoints where DuPont Corp. may be putting communities at risk of chemical exposure. The union, which represents 1,800 DuPont workers in six plants, accuses the chemical giant of “an atrocious and shocking record of pollution, community sickness and worker hazards.”

The Toxic Map, found at, allows anyone to see which DuPont plant is in their area and what hazard their families and communities may encounter, says the union.

More signers for EFCA

Several members of Congress, including four Republicans, recently became co-sponsors of the Employee Free Choice Act. The Republicans are Reps. Chris Shays (Conn.), Curt Weldon (Pa.), John Sweeney (N.Y.) and Mike Fitzpatrick (Pa.). The new Democrats include Sen. Herb Kohl (Wis.) and Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.). This brings the co-sponsor total to 212 in the House, six short of a majority. In the Senate, the number is 42. The EFCA would allow workers to form unions when a majority sign cards. It will short-circuit the employer intimidation fostered by the current NLRB process.

Chopper pilots unionize

Emergency medical service helicopter pilots have reached a first union contract, a 40-month agreement with Air Methods Corporation, which employs 647 pilots in 38 states. The agreement establishes a grievance procedure and major gains in standardized pay rates. Professional Helicopter Pilots Association Local 109 of the OPEIU currently has 4,000 helicopter pilots, according to the union’s director of organizing, Kevin Kestler.

Indiana defeats right to work

“It’s pretty bad when elected officials have to try to sneak things through on the last day of amending bills,” wrote Mike Pace from Fairland, Ind., in a letter to the editor of the Indianapolis Star March 10. Pace was writing to publicly thank the 65 members of the Indiana Legislature who voted against an amendment to a tobacco bill that would have made Indiana a right-to-work state. “I support good-paying jobs for working people who can retire with dignity,” wrote Pace.

Download USLAW flier

U.S. Labor Against the War, a coalition of more than 125 labor organizations representing millions of working people, now has a brochure activists can download listing its activities, program and how to affiliate. Go to

Unbecoming conduct by military contractors

Uniforms for our country’s enlisted men and women are often sewn in sweatshops right here in the United States, according to a report uncovering poverty wages and unsafe working conditions imposed by government contractors in an industry that employs 20,000 workers. The report titled “Conduct Unbecoming: Sweatshops and the U.S. Military Uniform Industry” was released March 14 at a press conference by Unite Here and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

Multiple support for single-payer

“We are part of a national movement … to pass universal single-payer health insurance as embodied in HR 676,” declared Steelworker Local 675 with 3,000 members working in refineries and pharmaceuticals in Southern California and Nevada.

North, south, east and west, labor support is bursting out all over for the legislation. Labor councils in Gainsville, Fla., Greensburg, Pa., and Ashtabula County, Ohio, all passed resolutions endorsing the bill introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.). Then the legislative and social action arm of the United Autoworkers in Massachusetts, its CAP council, joined the Southern Indiana and Kentucky 3rd and 4th Area CAP Councils in supporting the bill.

HR 676 would cover everyone in the U.S. for all necessary medical care including dental, mental, drugs, physical therapy, substance abuse, nursing home, etc., without co-pays or other fees. It would eliminate the high overhead and profits of the private health insurance industry and HMOs, supporters say.

This Week in Labor is compiled by Roberta Wood (
Gail Ryall and Marilyn Bechtel contributed.