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Nationwide Strike Round-up: Steelworkers, Nurses, and Auto Workers

A round-up of actions across the United States by steelworkers, nurses, and auto workers striking for health care, wage increases, safe staffing, and better contracts.

Ernie Gotta

May 2, 2021
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Originally published in Socialist Resurgence

Steelworkers say “no” to ATI ultimatum

Some 1300 union steelworkers have been on strike at Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Technologies Inc. (ATI) since March 30. The strike is, of course, having an impact on ATI’s bottom line, and the company issued an ultimatum for this past Monday, April 26. Union members of the United Steelworkers turned down ATI’s “final offer.” The offer was really a threat to start reducing the total package to offset the cost of the strike.

ATI is playing the victim, claiming losses of $7.9 million and a loss per share. However, analysts at websites like Nasdaq.com have said as recently as April 21 that ATI stock has momentum in the market and now is the right time to buy because the value of the stock will increase. This outlook could be in large part due to Biden’s infrastructure plan, which could be a serious economic boost for steel companies like ATI.

Whatever the financial situation happens to be in the high stakes gambling world of market speculation, in reality workers know that they deserve more than what they currently have. Workers have already gone more than one year without a contract, which expired in February 2020.

Union members have already given concessions in past contracts, including multiple tier health care, years without real wage increases, and hundreds of job losses. ATI wants more health-care givebacks and to push out more workers while making the remaining workforce increase productivity.

As scabs begin to restart ATI operations, workers are rejecting bully tactics and are refusing to give in to concessions. How long workers are able to stand on the picket line should be built through labor solidarity on the ground, including financial or material contributions.

Nurses’ strike won’t compromise on patient and worker safety

Union nurses at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Worcester, Mass., have made it abundantly clear after nearly two months on strike that they won’t settle unless their main issue of safe staffing is addressed.

Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, which manages St. Vincent’s, has failed to incorporate this demand into previous contract offers. Nurses rejected the last offer, which proposed the creation of committees to investigate staffing levels. As Tenet prepared to deliver a new offer on Saturday, May 1, members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association made it clear that they don’t need committees, they need guaranteed safe staffing written into a contract.

Tenet Healthcare is not really in the business to heal and keep people safe. The company exists to make profit and ensure the health of their bottom line. A month prior to the strike, Fiercehealthcare.com wrote, “Tenet Healthcare beat Wall Street expectations Tuesday as it posted a profit of $414 million, or $3.86 per share, in the final quarter of a year of historic challenges. The fourth-quarter earnings are a jump from a loss of $3 million, or three cents per share, in the same quarter of 2019. The Dallas-based health system reported revenue was up 2.2% at $4.9 billion for the quarter from fourth-quarter revenue in 2019.”

This quote is yet another stunning example of how for-profit health care disregards human life in the interests of shareholders. To further emphasize the dire situation, nurses over the past year have filed over 600 unsafe working condition claims. These problems existed well before the COVID crisis, and Tenet chose to ignore the issues instead of listening to what nurses have been demanding.

Support has been pouring in, with the nurses getting a big boost from the Worcester Building Trades Council, which urged a boycott and joined the picket line on April 28.

Workers angered over UAW’s call to end pickets before contract is ratified

Union autoworkers in Dublin, Va., have expressed anger on social media following the UAW’s announcement to end a 13-day strike before ratifying a contract after a tentative agreement had been reached with Volvo on April 30.

UAW is calling on the nearly 3000 striking workers to take down their pickets and return to work on Monday, May 3. Union members have questions and can’t understand why they are returning before voting. The UAW Local 2069 Facebook page lit up with responses from workers.

Marty D. wrote, “Why hasn’t anyone posted anything about the tentative agreements contents. Do you mean people are going back to work not knowing what they are working for? Sounds like their hidden something!!”

Delaina G. wrote, “UAW Local 2069 I thought you always vote on a contract before you go back to work? Isn’t this defeating the purpose? I mean if the contract isn’t suitable and the workers vote it down, then what? They have to strike again? That just seems strange to me. It must be a very good contract, if you have all that much hope in the fact that the workers will pass it.”

The union explained in short quips that the 2019 Mack Truck strike ended before workers voted on the contract and that “our committee people aren’t leaving til this evening. Unions fought hard for weekends, they [negotiating committee] worked all week. You will have plenty of time to ask questions before a vote is scheduled.”

These autoworkers have a right to see and discuss the contract that they sacrificed 13 days for on the picket line. Returning to work before a contract is ratified gives the company the upper hand and implies the negotiating committee doesn’t care about input from the rank and file, who stuck their necks out to improve working conditions.

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