A highlight of the April 2016 Labor Notes Conference was a one-day strike by Chicago Teachers. This feisty union hit the streets to defend public education and linked up with parents and community to demand much more, including a higher minimum wage, an end to police brutality, and improved access to higher education. Doreen McGrath, an IBEW activist who attended the Labor Notes conference and joined the teachers picket line, reports on this exciting labor action.

Breaking News: Friedrichs loses in 4-4 ruling by Supreme Court

Today, March 29, 2016, The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a decision in the Friedrichs case, recognizing that stripping public employees of their voices in the workplace is not what our country needs.

The 4-4 decision essentially upholds the 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. The OWLS Petition, Reject Friedrichs, Honor Unions, had more than 1,000 signers calling on the court to uphold the union shop, and helped initiate an important conversation within the labor movement of how to fight the growing threat of “Right to Work” — or better called No Rights At Work.
Thank you to all the activists who signed the OWLS petition. Let’s celebrate this victory as the discussion begins on how to push back.gJQUGCWaxuiCaqS-800x450-noPad

Reject Friedrichs! Honor Unions!



Below is a petition that Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity has initiated. The online version can be accessed by clicking on the link above. Please sign the petition, post it on facebook, and share widely. Let’s crank up the heat on the Justices! For paper copies, call 206-261-1420.

To the U.S. Supreme Court:

We, the undersigned, support the right of Public Employees to unionize as upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1977. Public Employee Unions have the right to require that everyone they represent pay a “fair share” or “agency” fee to cover the union’s costs to negotiate and enforce a contract that covers all the public employees, even those who choose not to be union members.

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, is a thinly veiled anti-labor attack on all workers and public-sector employees in particular.

By accepting this case, after it was soundly rejected by the Appeals Court, the Supreme Court threatens to gut the collective rights of workers and further entrench the power of big business. History proves that strong unions work to level the economic playing field. The weakening of unions correlates directly with the drastic worsening of income inequality and the extreme concentration of wealth among a small minority.

We call on the Supreme Court to reject the Friedrichs case in its entirety, uphold the Appeals Court decision and uphold the 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education

(This petition and all signatures will be mailed to the U.S. Supreme Court.)




OWLS Holiday Party!

Saturday, December 19, 7pm — Celebrate the 2015 Year of Labor Solidarity with OWLS … and help raise some dough to help raise more hell for workers’ rights in 2016! Potluck.
4117 Wallingford Avenue N. Seattle. 206-632-1022 for directions. See you there!

Message from King County Labor Council

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

There are two important actions on Wednesday, June 10th your help is needed on.

The first is to support the Amazon security workers who’ve been battling the huge corporation to demand fair treatment, an end to retaliation for union activity, an end to discrimination and – of course – the right to union recognition and decent wages and working conditions.

The workers are organizing with SEIU Local 6. They’ve joined forces with Teamsters Local 117, Transit Riders Union, Tenants Union of Washington, Working Washington and others to let Amazon shareholders know that Seattle demands responsible behavior from our corporate tenants.  Please join us:

Amazon shareholders meeting, Wednesday, June 10th, 8:00 – 10:00 am

Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer, at 2nd Avenue N

Demand Good Jobs, Public Transit, Affordable Housing, Diverse Workforce

 Later that day, we’ll join Familias Unidas por Justicia to tell PCC that they should stop selling Driscoll berries until Driscoll stops buying their berries from Sakuma Brothers.Farmworkers at Sakuma Brothers Farms in Burlington are demanding fair treatment, decent working conditions and the right to their union.

For over a year they’ve been working to get union recognition and a union contract. They’ve taken job actions including strikes, and built a base of community support. Sakuma Brothers tried to replace them with 438 H-2A immigrants, pretending that labor wasn’t available, but was forced to back down. The workers are asking for a boycott of Sakuma Brothers berries, a boycott endorsed by the Washington State Labor Council.

 Tell PCC: No Driscoll berries!

Wednesday, June 10th, 5:30-7:00 pm

PCC Fremont, 600 N 34th Street

(Just north of the Fremont Bridge & west of Fremont Avenue)

Please come to one or both actions – and wear your union colors!

In solidarity,

MLKCLC Mobilization Committee


The article below, published in the Olympian, calls out the State Senate for breaking the law in its refusal to fully fund labor contracts that were negotiated by public sector unions, on behalf of state employees. Call your State Senator and urge them to do whatever necessary to  FULLY FUND STATE LABOR CONTRACTS NOW! — OWLS

Republican Sen. Andy Hill, front, speaks about the chamber’s budget proposal, Tuesday, March 31, 2015, in Olympia, Wash. The plan seeks to put more money into the state’s basic education system without raising taxes. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)

By Rachel La Corte

Senate Republicans offered a budget plan this week that is creative in the way it shifts funds and takes other steps to meet a balanced budget goal – without raising taxes. It is full of as yet unexamined budget complexities but one thing is obvious: It balances the books too heavily on the backs of state employees.

The Senate plan rejects union contracts – negotiated with Gov. Jay Inslee’s labor team – that otherwise would raise most general government workers’ pay by 4.8 percent over two years. These are state workers who last saw a general wage increase in July 2008 – more than six years ago.

In its place Senate budget writers, led by Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, are offering flat $1,000 per year raises to state agency workers – regardless of pay level.

Of course, such a move would be illegal.

Under the Personnel Reform Act of 2002, state workers were given the right to bargain collectively with the governor, and lawmakers were given only the right to reject or accept ratified contracts through the budgeting process.

The Legislature has no right to impose terms or dictate what raises should be. Rather, if lawmakers failed to ratify or accept the contracts, Inslee and unions would go back to the table and negotiate all over again. In the meantime, terms of old contracts – which had no pay raises – would remain in effect.

When Hill outlined his plan Tuesday, he said it saves taxpayers upward of $500 million compared to what full funding of contracts would entail. It does that mainly by rejecting most of the roughly two-dozen contracts negotiated between unions and Inslee. About $40 million is saved by no longer covering spouses of state employees who have access to health plans at their own jobs.

The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus budget does provide cost-of-living raises for K-12 teachers and also home care workers. But unlike the governor’s and House Democrats’ budget plans, the Senate does not provide extra funds for K-12 staffers beyond the cost-of-living raises required under Initiative 732.

The other budgets add extra funds for K-12 pay because teachers, like line workers in general government, have not seen general wage hikes since 2008.

Hill’s budget also shows some cunning. He offers pay raises of $1,000 per year for state workers regardless of salary level. Hill said the goal there is to get at the problem of wage inequality.

That’s a claim that labor unions are finding hard to swallow.

“I would say they are interested in the politics of resentment – pitting workers against each other. Just like the playbook of pitting private sector worker against public sector workers,” said Greg Devereux, executive director for the Washington Federation of State Employees, the largest state-worker union. “It’s intended to be divisive. It’s very clever.”

Devereux has a point.

Lawmakers would be wise to follow the lead of House Democrats whose budget plan, like that of Inslee, fully funds the contracts.

Read more here: http://www.theolympian.com/2015/04/03/3658025_senate-pay-plan-is-wrong-solution.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy


Safety is a Life and Death Issue at Tesoro Refinery

Report on the OWLS Meeting of March 24, 2015

Three retired refinery workers, Tom Montgomery, Dennis O’hern, and Doug Erlandson, gave a gripping account of how dangerous refinery work is, underscoring why safety was the major issue in the recent national refinery strike.  Insurance costs for US refineries are five times higher than in Europe. The corporations who own US refineries have purposely neglected their OSHA mandate to provide a safe work environment for their employees for the purpose of maximizing profits. US refineries typically rely on equipment that has surpassed their functional life span. The State of Washington found that the horrendous 2010 tragedy at Tesoro Refinery in Anacortes, WA was “preventable.” On the picket line OWLS members learned that workers had long warned management that the heat exchanger responsible for the accident needed to be replaced. It was replaced only after 7 Tesoro employees were killed in an explosion at Tesoro.

Every refinery process is dangerous. Dennis O’hern called the deaths of 6 refinery workers in the 1998 Anacortes Equilon fire, “murder.” These workers were working on the coke exchanging process. Coke is the last byproduct of petroleum. It is a sludge that ends up in one of two massive drums. These drums are under extreme pressure and very hot. The two drums are filled and emptied at staggered times. While one drum is being filled, the other is being emptied on a sixteen hour rotation. Normally, the drums are cooled down by steam to safely open them. A power outage disrupted the process and the steam ports which normally cooled the coke had become plugged. L&I investigators later determined the drum needed 262 days to cool down. The process engineers ordered the drum opened thirty hours after power was reinstated. A warning by the night shift to the day shift went unheeded. Five workers and a supervisor perished. Refinery workers understand the message from their employers, “Your lives don’t matter.” On average a refinery worker dies every ten days. And the death rate is far higher among non-union refinery workers.

The particulars of the new contract are not being made available yet. Members ratified the deal the day before the OWLS meeting. It must have held enough promise for improvement, but as some of the United Steel Workers flyers pointed out, the companies have made big promises before and failed to follow through. The contract is settled, but this fight is not over. OWLS will be keeping an eye on this industry and will support the Steel Workers in their ongoing fight for safety in the Oil Refinery Industry.

Ongoing Labor Battles:

A contract has been signed by adjunct professors at Bellevue College while Seattle University is still trying to block union efforts of its adjunct professors.

Seattle Solidarity Network continues its fight against miscreant employers and landlords.  A day laborer is still fighting for 9 days of wages stolen from him while working for a landscaping contractor. Sea Sol has organized a number of actions to win back the wages. Also Sea Sol is helping one of its members regain a stolen rent deposit.

There is upheaval at Group Health Hospital (GH). Hiring has been suspended along with cutbacks of staff. GH  is selling off prime property on Capitol Hill and has closed the doors of its birth clinic.

The Space Needle Restaurant sent a letter to employees promising to increase employee wages if they voted out the union. This proves the owners, Howard S. Wright Corporation, could easily pay very good wages to all employees union or non-union. If the Space Needle workers fall for this ruse, the day will come when their employer will decide to reduce wages. Don’t give up that union!






U.S. Postal Service: 2015 opens with new bills to save delivery


As the new year opens, Post Master Donahue is still preparing ways to cut Saturday Mail Delivery and downsize postal service facilities where mail is sorted  — in moves that are designed to sabotage and destroy a successful public service. Two new bills are being introduced into Congress, legislation designed to keep the postal network intact: H.Res. 12 to preserve six-day delivery and H.Res. 28 to protect door delivery! To stay tuned in on how you can help support this important legislation, and to learn about other actions, go to DeliveringforAmerica.com. Hands off the U.S. Post Office! Save Saturday Delivery!10917976_414207765401862_1223682231130539729_o

Governor Inslee: It’s time for a fair COLA!

Below is the text from a petition to Governor Jay Inslee, initiated by Washington Public Employees Association. Other unions representing state workers are also planning actions, and strategizing on how to stop the austerity and concessions that the Washington State Legislature has imposed on public employees, since at least 2008. State workers are being told to tighten their belts at a time that huge corporations are raking in record profits. Let’s remember that Gov. Inslee helped Boeing get $8 billion in tax breaks! Please go to the link at the bottom of this page and sign the petition.


The facts are clear: Classified state employees have not received an across-the-board salary increase in more than six years, and during part of that time they sustained a 3% salary reduction. Also during this period, health care premiums were increased by 25% and the Consumer Price Index rose by more than 12%.

The conclusion is obvious: Classified state employees need a fair cost of living adjustment (COLA) along with stable health care costs.

Governor Inslee: It’s time for a fair COLA along with stable health care costs for classified state employees.




After one year in prison, join the effort to Free Nestora Salgado

This article is reprinted from The Stand, Washington State Labor Council

salgado-nestora(Aug. 19, 2014) — Nearly one year ago, on Aug. 21, 2013, Renton resident Nestora Salgado, a naturalized U.S. citizen and leader of a legal indigenous community defense force in her hometown of Olinalá, Guerrero, was arrested. For 12 months, she has been imprisoned in Mexico on false charges and denied the right to see her lawyers.

A federal judge’s orders to free her have been ignored. Kept in isolation without medical attention, she represents hundreds of people in self-defense groups who have been jailed for defending their communities against powerful, politically connected criminal cartels. In Guerrero, indigenous people have the constitutional right to form such forces, known as comunitaria; they have been emulated in other states and communities by Mexicans who consider it a necessity for self-preservation and dignity.

TAKE A STAND — Join Nestora’s family, attorneys and supporters in demanding action from the Mexican government at a press conference at 11 a.m. this Thursday, Aug. 21 at the Mexican Consulate, 2132 3rd Ave. in Seattle. Attend Thursday’s Free Nestora Salgado rally from 4 to 6 p.m. outside the Federal Building, 915 2nd Ave. in Seattle. Contact our U.S. Senators and tell them that one year is too long! Contact Sen. Patty Murray — 206-553-5545 or via email — and Sen. Maria Cantwell — 206-220-6400 orvia email — and urge them both to speak out publicly NOW and call for Nestora Salgado’s release. Learn more, request a speaker, or donate via www.FreeNestora.org orFreeNestora.Seattle@gmail.com or on Facebook.

The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO (WSLC) has called for Nestora Salgado’s release, urging U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to press for her release. Likewise, U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-9th) has urged the same, saying:

I am extremely troubled by the circumstances around Nestora’s arrest and am outraged at reports of deplorable conditions and treatment that violate her basic human rights. I sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging him to ensure due process, access to attorneys, and a fair trial for Nestora. I also voiced my concerns, and the concerns of Nestora’s family, for her inhumane treatment, and asked that the U.S. Embassy use all means necessary to ensure her health and safety while she is detained.  Every individual should have the right to due process, and I will continue to work with Nestora’s family and her legal representation at Seattle University to push for justice and fairness.

Following is a resolution approved by the WSLC Executive Board in February 2014:

Approved by the WSLC Executive Board on Feb. 6, 2014

WHEREAS, Nestora Salgado is a resident of Renton, Washington, a naturalized U.S. citizen, and an indigenous leader imprisoned in Tepic, Mexico; and

WHEREAS, Ms. Salgado and the indigenous citizens of her hometown of Olinalá, Mexico, decided to defend themselves from drug traffickers, corrupt politicians, and exploitation by mining companies by organizing their own legally-sanctioned, democratically-elected community police force with Ms. Salgado as their coordinator; and

WHEREAS, Ms. Salgado’s duties included working to reduce domestic violence and child abuse and engaging in conflict resolution and community building; and

WHEREAS, Ms. Salgado was jailed and falsely charged with kidnapping after community police officers under her command arrested the sheriff of Olinalá on theft charges and she insisted he stand trial like every other citizen; and

WHEREAS, Ms. Salgado is being denied medicine and medical attention in jail; and

WHEREAS, over 120 organizations and individuals have endorsed the campaign to free Nestora, including the Seattle Human Rights Commission, Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 8, Washington Federation of State Employees Local 304, Puget Sound Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Puget Sound Coalition of Labor Union Women, the National Lawyers Guild, Central Puget Sound Carpenters Union Local 30, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) San Francisco Chapter, United American Indians of New England, and the Seattle Martin Luther King Celebration Committee 2013-2014; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the Washington State Labor Council endorses the “Libertad para Nestora/Freedom for Nestora” campaign and urges affiliated organizations to do the same; and be it finally

RESOLVED, that the Washington State Labor Council urge the U.S. State Department to take immediate and rigorous action to secure Ms. Salgado’s release.