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The News Line: Feature BOSTON NURSES TAKING STRIKE ACTION – Nissan workers organise for a union BOSTON’S first nurses’ strike in 30 years began on Wednesday after a last-ditch negotiating session failed to resolve the disagreements between the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) and Tufts Medical Centre.


The 1,200 Tufts nurses represented by the MNA kicked off their strike at 7 am. It is now the largest nurses’ strike in Bay State history. The union’s qualms centre on staffing issues, pay and pensions. Tufts nurses have said they’re paid considerably less than those working at other local hospitals and argued that the Centre loses talent as a result of the low pay.

Mary Havilcek Conacchia, an OR nurse and bargaining unit co-chair said: ‘We came to the table today hoping to reach an agreement, but Tufts management is determined to force a strike and a subsequent lockout of our nurses.’

Although each side entered an all-day negotiating session at the federal mediator’s office yesterday looking to avoid the strike, the discussion failed to bring an end to the dispute that has been going on for more than a year.

Tufts Medical Centre President and CEO Doctor. Michael Wagner slammed the strikers in a statement released as the picketers hit the streets. He said: ‘It is extremely unfortunate that the union has continued to hold out for more money and an ill-conceived pension plan, and has made good on its threat to harm our great Medical Centre.

‘But make no mistake, we will continue to provide exceptional patient care. Our clinical team is fully committed to meeting and exceeding the complex care needs of our patients during the next five days and always.’

The hospital will use more than 300 temporary nurses during the one-day strike and subsequent four-day lockout. Tufts has said there will be added security, Boston cops and ‘ambassadors at every door’ to help patients navigate potential issues caused by picketers.

• In the face of anti-union management, workers at Nissan’s plant in Canton, Mississippi, have fought for more than ten years for the right to organise. This week, workers filed for a union election, with the assistance from United Auto Workers.

Nissan’s Canton plant is one of only three Nissan facilities in the world, including two in Tennessee, where workers are not represented by a union. This week, employees announced plans to seek a representation election on July 31 – August 1st for workers on the production line.

Nina Dumas, a Nissan technician who has worked in the plant for five years said: ‘Nissan employees want fair wages for all workers, better benefits, and an end to unreasonable production quotas and unsafe conditions in Mississippi. The company doesn’t respect our rights. It’s time for a union in Canton.’

The Canton plant shows a grim pattern of labour abuses, and the National Labour Relations Board (NLRB), an agency of the US government, has charged Nissan with:

Threatening, restraining and coercing employees in the exercise of their right to organise a union.
Threatening to close the plant if workers unionise
Threatening to falsify employee records to retaliate against workers.
Unlawfully instituting a company uniform policy that effectively banned workers from wearing pro-union t-shirts

McRay Johnson, a technician in the Canton plant who also has been there for five years said: ‘When we speak out to demand basic protections, Nissan threatens and harasses us. Employees need and deserve representation in the workplace.’

In addition to the NLRB’s complaint, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued multiple citations against Nissan for violations of federal safety and health laws in Canton. The most recent citations, issued in February 2017, found the company did not furnish employment and a place of employment which was free from recognised hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.

Rosiland Essex, a technician who has worked at Nissan for 14 years said: ‘Every day, we literally are risking our lives at Nissan. We deserve better.’

Management at the Canton plant have already expressed that they are not supporting the workers’ decision to seek representation. IndustriALL Global Union General Secretary Valter Sanches said: ‘It is an outrage that the workers are being denied the fundamental right to join a union. IndustriALL will continue to support the workers’ fight and we call on Nissan to facilitate the vote.’

Nissan employees’ move to form a union comes four months after the historic ‘March on Mississippi,’ when an estimated 5,000 workers and civil-right activists converged on the Canton plant to demand that the company respect workers’ rights. Organised by the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan (MAFFAN) – a coalition of civil-rights leaders, ministers and worker advocates – the march featured US Senator Bernie Sanders, Sierra Club President Aaron Mair, former NAACP President Cornell William Brooks and actor Danny Glover.

The United Auto Workers union (UAW) has waged a long campaign to organise factories in the South, where much of the nation’s auto production has shifted. On Tuesday, the UAW said a petition for a union election had been filed by employees at a Nissan plant in Mississippi with more than 6,000 workers.

They asked for a vote within a month. A victory at the plant, which the UAW has been working hard to unionise since 2012, would be a major victory. The plant is a key component in Nissan’s growth in the United States market. Stretching nearly a mile long, the factory is larger than most assembly plants, and it makes several models, including the Murano SUV and the Titan pickup truck.

Employees at the plant are angry that the company uses a lot of agency workers, whose hourly wages are lower. Workers also cite safety concerns — the company has been fined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration several times over the last five years.

To petition for an election with the National Labour Relations Board, unions must show support from at least 30 per cent of eligible rank-and-file workers, and they rarely do so with less than 50 per cent.

• On Wednesday, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union’s (RWDSU) newly unionised Guitar Centre workers at four stores in New York, Chicago Danvers, Massachusetts and Las Vegas unanimously agreed their first contract.

Guitar Centre, and the RWDSU, which represents retail workers in a variety of industries across the nation, reached agreement for contracts for over 100 of Guitar Centre’s employees who work in the four stores.

The contract was finalised as part of the global settlement agreement reached last month between the parties. Under the new contract workers will receive guaranteed base wage increases over the three-year term of the contract and access to union-provided healthcare insurance.

Stuart Appelbaum, President, Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union (RWDSU) said: ‘Workers from all four stores fought to ensure the voices of their over 100 co-workers were heard.
‘They now have trade union rights and a decent contract. This is a victory and a big step forward for workers who previously had no access to a trade union.’
 
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