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.

Familias Unidas por la Justicia — On the March!

July 11Farm workers at Sakuma Brothers Berry Farms in Skagit Valley are marking the one-year anniversary of their formation as a worker-led, independent union. In that time, they have won several crucial victories. Sakuma Brothers CEO’s were forced to back off plans to hire “guest workers” as a means to illegally replace the 400-plus union members. A Skagit County Judge awarded $850,000 to the workers as a result of retaliation they had suffered — all of it illegal on the part of Sakuma in response to strikes held by Familias Unidas last year to win better wages and conditions. And in late June, a judge ruled that Sakuma Brothers can’t dump family housing they have long provided, in favor of sex-segregated housing that is designed to keep union members and their families out. Also, Sakuma can’t refuse to rehire those workers who were active in union organizing last year. Now Familias is fighting for a first union contract. Be part of this historic labor organizing. If you aren’t already on the OWLS email list for updates, just write to Owls@riseup.net — and see you Friday, July 11!

Gather at Burlington, WA, Cook Road Exit 232 at 10am. Head East and look for the banners!

Fighting for Justice at Sakuma Berry Farms

In 2013, Sakuma Brothers Farms was the scene of a historic labor struggle, as farmworkers waged rolling strikes during the berry harvest season to demand better treatment, living conditions and wages. Organized into Familias Unidas por la Justicia (Families United for Justice), an independent union, many of the leaders and members have worked at Sakuma Farms for more than a decade.

Now Sakuma Brothers is trying to retaliate against farmworkers as the new berry season begins. Farm worker leaders will be speaking at the June OWLS meeting (see events) about their boycott against Sakuma, and efforts to win a first contract. Visit boycottsakumaberries.com for info on the boycott! And don’t eat Sakuma Berries until justice is won!



An Open Letter to Thurston County Commissioner Karen Valenzuela

March 18, 2014

Karen Valenzuela, Commissioner District 3

Thurston County Courthouse, Building One, Room 269

2000 Lakeridge Drive SW, Olympia, WA 98502-1045

Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity is a group of union activists based in Seattle Washington. Our  goal is to reach across union lines and support our brothers and sisters in their union battles.  We stand in solidarity with all workers now under assault by the expedient, partisan forces seeking to undermine and deny workers their hard-earned rights.

We are writing to protest your move to privatize the custodian services at the Thurston County Court House. We consider this union busting, and all the worse that it is being done by a political representative who calls herself a friend of labor.  Why do the attacks always start with those on the bottom, the ones who do essential, but unrecognized, undervalued work, and are the lowest paid? Government should set an example as a good employer–and not be first in line for the race to the bottom.

Contracting out compromises the security of information and public assets. Private companies are not subject to the same public scrutiny as public employees, who are required to operate in an open arena. These conditions create opportunities for corruption, such as bid-rigging, bribery and kickbacks.

Privatizing public services where profit is the prime motivation, not service delivery, is a disservice to the public tax payers.  Profit comes from cutting corners by skimping on the quality and quantity of work performed and not paying a livable wage.  The local economy and tax base suffers as decent jobs with benefits are replaced with low-wage and no-benefits. The negative social impact of outsourcing can be wide-ranging.  Low-wage positions contribute to maintaining a disadvantaged underclass and wind up costing tax payers more through the need for social services, lower income-tax revenue and increased healthcare costs.

As one of the Commissioners on the Board of Health it seems that you would be more educated than most on the importance of janitorial services and their contribution to the overall health of the public.

Innovative and responsible government leaders know that genuine partnerships with labor are the best way to truly improve service delivery. Public resources are most efficiently and effectively deployed when front-line workers are respected and managers work together with them for the public good.

These are just a few of the reasons that Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity strongly opposes your promoting the replacement of public employees with a private for-profit company.


Katherine Wiles, for Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity

PO Box 14153, Seattle, WA 98103

Cc:  Cathy Wolfe, Commissioner District 1, Sandra Romero, Commissioner District 2