Weekly Labor Reader, July 23, 2019

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Rally in Boston to Support VTA Strikers

Vineyard Transit Authority bus drivers, allies and community leaders are holding a strike rally at the Massachusetts State House Wednesday over concerns about bus safety, driver shortage, wage stagnation, and unaffordable benefits.

Support striking workers by attending Wednesday's rally and by

donating to their strike fund.


WHAT: Striking bus drivers from Martha's Vineyard rally with allies at Massachusetts State House and call for state audit and investigation of Vineyard Transit Authority

WHEN: Wednesday July 24, 12:00PM
WHERE: Massachusetts State House, 24 Beacon Street, Boston, MA

Donate to strike fund.
You can help them by contributing to the Martha's Vineyard bus drivers strike fund today.

Bus Drivers Strike Reveals Inequality on Martha’s Vineyard

Twenty-five Martha’s Vineyard bus drivers are striking for a first contract, exposing the inequality that exists for working people on an island known as the summer home of the rich and famous.
The Florida-based company Transit Connection Inc. (TCI) receives public funds to operate the bus system relied on by vacationers and year-round residents alike. So during the strike, taxpayers are literally paying scab wages—contrary to the progressive values often associated with Martha’s Vineyard.
TCI has engaged in anti-union tactics for years. Workers won a union representation election in 2015, but Transit Connection challenged the results and dragged out the process in court, putting off bargaining for months even after a Labor Board decision in April 2018 demanded that it come to the table.
When bargaining finally began late last year, the Transit Union (ATU) put forth one proposal after another, but the company at first offered no counterproposals; it just said no.

Read more from Labor Notes here.

MBTA protesters call for low-income fare

With such chants as “What do we want? Fair fares!” and signs that read “Fares Going Up, Service Going Down,” dozens of supporters of a low-income T fare protested outside the Department of Transportation Monday.

Community Labor United and the Green Justice Coalition, two advocacy groups, called on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to create a low-income fare similar to the youth pass, which costs $30 per month for middle- and high school students who attend participating schools.

The organizers’ proposed low-income fare would apply to those who are registered in a public benefit program and include people who are at 300 percent of the federal poverty line or below, which organizers said equates to about $64,000 in annual income for a family of three.

Speak Up for the Promise Act and the Cherish Act

We have rallied, marched, held forums and emailed legislators on behalf of the Promise and Cherish Acts. And we have made a lot of progress. Education funding is at the top of the agenda on Beacon Hill. But the fight is far from over. Before the Legislature goes on recess in July, our goals are to win passage of a strong preK-12 foundation budget bill based on the principles in the Promise Act and to make significant progress toward passage of the Cherish Act, which would restore state funding to public colleges and universities to levels set in fiscal year 2001.

Take action now!

Massachusetts public defenders push to unionize

BOSTON (WWLP) – Whenever someone commits a crime, they are guaranteed the right to an attorney, well now those public defenders are fighting back for job security and better wages.
During a demonstration at the statehouse on Thursday, dozens of current and former public defenders called on legislators to allow them to form a union.
Right now under Massachusetts law, public defenders can’t unionize, and they feel they haven’t been given a reason why.
“We have more than enough support in both houses to get this bill passed if it comes to a vote, but for some reason, the speaker has not allowed this bill to come to a vote,” Rachel Scotch from the Massachusetts Defenders Union said.

Read more here

House rejects Governor’s amendments to Freedom to Join bill - Vote expected in the Senate on Thursday

From State House News Service, Chris Lisinski:
Both branches passed the bill (H 3854), which allows public-sector unions to seek reimbursement from non-members for certain services and representation, with bipartisan support.
Baker returned the bill this month with amendments that remove the ability of unions to acquire personal cellphone numbers of new employees, arguing in a letter to lawmakers that the change would better protect privacy.
However, the House voted 29-127 — mostly along party lines — during a Monday session to reject Baker's amendments, which were similar to changes unsuccessfully sought by Republican legislators.
"The matters relative to the amendment were thoroughly debated in both the House and the Senate and not adopted, and I encourage members to reject the amendment," Rep. Paul Brodeur said on the chamber floor Monday.
The Senate is also likely to reject the amendment. Once the branches re-enact the bill to send it back to the governor, his choices will be limited to signing the bill or vetoing it. The bill cleared both branches by veto-proof majorities.

Worker Profile: Kathleen Santora, IUPAT DC 35

Every time she drives over the Tobin Bridge, Kathleen Santora remembers that she helped strip paint off of it. The 70-year-old bridge, a landmark visible for miles around, connects Charlestown to Chelsea. That her favorite project is a bridge should be of no surprise to anyone who knows Santora, who has built a second career out of connecting women to
opportunities. Santora, who first worked on the Tobin as an apprentice, eventually found herself in a completely different industry. However, what she found in non-union work was inconsistent pay, no benefits, and no clear path to advancement. In 2012, Santora decided that she needed a new path to greater opportunities and the promise of pay equity. She decided to
go back to the Painters and Allied Trades District Council 35.

“I wanted to be able to do things on my own and I didn’t want to ask for help.”

While she had confidence in her abilities, she wasn’t quite sure if she’d be taken back at age 52. “It was literally like a Hail Mary pass. A lot of people thought I was crazy, but I thought – what’s the worst than could happen, they say no?” DC 35 said yes.

The biggest benefit has been financial independence. “It enabled me to have good health insurance. It enabled me pay for my mortgage. It’s amazing to be able to do that.” Santora
knew that if only more women realized that this opportunity is out there, they too could enjoy the same economic security she benefits from.
“Women don’t consider trades as an option. They don’t even think of trades as a career,” she says. That’s something Santora wants to change. With the trades, she says, “I know I’m getting
paid the same as the guy standing next to me. I can’t think of another industry where that has happened.” She has thrown herself into recruitment efforts to spread the word among women about what great industries the union building trades are. She was named DC 35’s treasurer, and became involved in the District Council’s Women in Action program, which seeks to reach out and support all women in the trades. She also leads recruitment efforts in the Tradeswomen Tuesday initiative and Girls in Trades events throughout Massachusetts.
Two years ago, she even traveled around India for 20 days, visiting Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai with a delegation made up of tradeswomen to learn from the situations of women
construction workers in that impoverished country. Santora was deeply touched by what she saw. “They have a large number of women in the trades, but working in the worst conditions -- and paid about half of what men are paid.” Moved by the conditions of those women, Santora is working with a group called Building Bridges, working towards the goal of a female workforce that is 20% female by 2020. “We’re all in this together,” she says. “Women all around the world are in the same boat. By connecting women we make an impact.”

And her plate is about to get even fuller. Last month, Santora was named to the City of Lynn’s Wage Theft Advisory Committee. Unscrupulous businesses steal nearly $700 million in wages from roughly 350,000 low-wage workers in Massachusetts every year, hurting individual workers, their families, and whole communities. This panel’s mission is to ensure that known bad actors are banned from receiving city contracts. “This committee is about protecting workers in Lynn, but ideally this could become a model for cities and towns throughout Massachusetts,” she says. “I want to be actively involved in my union because it’s been life changing for me. The union has given me a lot, so I feel compelled to give back to my union and my community.” While seeking to improve the lives of others, Santora says her own life has changed as a result of the union.

Have a member feature you’d like us to include? Email Rachael Running: [email protected]

Labor Guild School of Labor-Management Relations Classes

The Labor Guild's Fall Term Courses are now available. You can find full course descriptions and register for classes here.
The 2019 Fall Term kicks off on September 9! Courses run September 9–November 4 (no class October 14)
All courses will be held at the Labor Guild (in the Archdiocese Pastoral Center), 66 Brooks Drive in Braintree.

Announcing Union Member Candidate School

Support for union members running for elected office is a top priority for the Massachusetts AFL-CIO and our affiliates. We know that when our members run on a platform of working people’s values and receive unified support from the labor movement, we will win. The Massachusetts AFL-CIO and its Executive Board are establishing a union candidate school to train our members to run for elected office from the local/municipal level all the way up to statewide/federal office.
Our first session will be held on Saturday December 7th, 9am-2pm. Breakfast and lunch will be provided. The training will be free of charge and participants will be given materials to use as a reference for campaign purposes.

Learn more and register here.

July 24: Martha Vineyard Bus Drivers Strike Rally in Boston

August 3: 1199 SEIU Community Fair, Boston

August 6: Boston Tradeswomen Tuesday

August 12: Harbor Cruise Greater Southeastern MA Labor Council

August 18: Building Trades Futures (rotating locations)

August 23: MA AFL-CIO Political & Legislative Roundtable, Dorchester

September 2: Labor Day Breakfasts in Boston and Worcester

September 2: Bread and Roses Heritage Festival in Lawrence

September 6: Western MA Area Labor Federation's Labor Day Breakfast, Chicopee

September 19: Building Pathways Awards Benefit, Boston

September 25-September 27: MA AFL-CIO Convention, Springfield

For a full list of events, visit the calendar on our website. If you have any events that you would like to be included, contact Rachael Running at [email protected]

@lizshuler: I’m joining Airline Catering workers at DCA RIGHT NOW, rallying for decent wages and affordable health care, there’s still time to join us! #1job #1u

@massteacher: "This is a victory by and for the community. But it is just a small step." - MTA President Merrie Najimy on the #mabudget passed today. https://massteacher.org/news/2019/07/school-funding-heads-in-the-right-direction … #fundourfuture