Labor struggles: the Americas – World Socialist Web Site
The World Socialist Website invites workers and other readers to to contribute to this regular characteristic.
Strikes and protests continue in Panama due to economic crisis
Activists from several unions and other organisations, including teachers, plan to continue strikes and protests against inflation, high fuel prices and the quality of social services. There have been a growing number of protests by teachers and workers in other sectors in recent weeks, with the Association of Teachers (Asoprof) calling for a three-day nationwide strike starting July 6. The strike was joined by workers in delivery, construction, health care, fishing and other sectors. Organizations of students, parents, peasants and indigenous people also responded to the strike call.
The unions conducted negotiations with the government, but to no avail. The last round with the Ministry of Education ended without an agreement. Asoprof has published a list of 32 demands, including the reduction and/or freezing of fuel and food prices; supplies of medicines and medical equipment; the end of police repression; and a secure retirement. A particularly essential requirement is compliance with Article 349 of the Organic Law of Education which requires the government to guarantee the quality of education for all.
On July 7, with the government of Laurentino Cortizo offering no concrete proposals, the organizers declared that the strike would continue indefinitely. At least 45 locations across the country experienced roadblocks on major highways. During a mobilization in the capital Panama, national police officers used tear gas on demonstrators, who threw stones at them.
Bolivian doctors call for strike following the arrest of a colleague
Doctors from the Union of Medical Branches of Public Health (Sirmes) in La Paz, Bolivia, protested the arrest of the president of the Bolivian Medical Association, Luis Larrea, and called on July 8 for an indefinite nationwide strike that will begin on July 11. Larrea, who is also president of the National Health Council (Conasa), was charged with homicide.
Larrea’s half-brother alleges the doctor could have saved the life of his father, who had contracted COVID-19, but failed to vaccinate him in time. His father died in June 2021. After complying with a call to testify at a July 8 hearing, Larrea was incarcerated. It was not until May this year that the charge was filed.
Sirmes has conducted unsuccessful negotiations with the government and recently broke off dialogue over the government’s refusal to comply with a series of demands. The union accused the prosecution of having political motives behind the arrest and expressed fear that more arrests could follow. A statement from Sirmes said: “Today it’s him, tomorrow it could be any of us fighting for a better healthcare system.”
Four-hour strike in Uruguay for a pay rise and other demands
The Inter-Union Plenary Assembly of Workers-National Workers’ Convention (PIT-CNT) of Uruguay has called for a four-hour strike for July 7. In the capital, Montevideo, workers marched from Plaza Independencia to the Legislative Palace, where speakers denounced the neoliberal policies of Luis Lacalle Pou’s government.
Some workers outside the PIT-CNT, such as bank employees and members of the Single Union of Automobiles with taximeters and telephone operators, as well as popular organizations, joined the strike and the march, while others did not haven’t done it. Members of popular kitchens, cooperatives, student and feminist organizations joined the limited walkout.
However, workers in public education, health services and civil servants did not join the strike. The National Union of Workers and Transport Workers, affiliated to the PIT-CNT, continued to operate with the agreement of the federation.
Demands put forward at the rally included an end to hunger and starvation; decent and quality work; better wages; full social security; cancellation of the increase in the retirement age; defense of collective bargaining; and ending the privatization and underfunding of public enterprises and strengthening the social services sector.
Trinidad cement workers protest late payments, medical plan cuts and breaches of contract
Protests by Trinidad Cement Limited (TCL) workers have repeatedly erupted over delays in the payment of wages and pension contributions. On July 4, workers gathered outside the factory and company headquarters in Claxton Bay to demand payment and respect for the collective bargaining process.
Workers demonstrated again on July 7, demanding that TCL stop meddling with health and pension plans and meet with representatives of the oilfield workers’ union, a demand they have been making since March.
Teamsters Union Calls on Private Equity Sharks During Indiana FireKing Strike
The Teamsters union staged protests outside the Boston and San Francisco offices of private equity firm Champlain Capital on July 8. The company is investing in the FireKing-owned manufacturing plant in Albany, Indiana, where 86 members of Teamsters Local 89 have been on strike for two months. Teamsters general president Sean O’Brien sought to portray the helpless protest, along with a letter to Champlain, as representing “solidarity…taking to the streets.”
Meanwhile, FireKing has refused to change its health insurance plan, which the Teamsters says “could leave families up to $13,000 in payouts a year.” With the start of the strike on May 9, FireKing immediately cut health care coverage and hired strikebreakers to replace workers. The company has made it clear that it will not rehire strikers.
OhioHealth cuts more than 600 jobs in outsourcing move
OhioHealth announced July 7 that it will cut more than 600 employees over the next three to five months in the largest layoffs in company history. The cuts will affect its IT sector and the revenue cycle department that handles insurance claims and patient billing.
IT will suffer 567 job cuts, leaving only 128 workers in this department. Another 70 out of 1,400 revenue cycle workers will see their jobs disappear by November and as AGS Health LLC takes over.
IT jobs will be outsourced to Accenture. Colin Yoder, director of media and public relations for OhioHealth, tried to obscure the company’s purpose by saying, “It’s not a cost-saving measure.” But the Columbus Dispatch said the layoffs “position the healthcare system for a future where patients are more reliant on telemedicine…”
With the onset of the pandemic, many healthcare companies have been forced to ramp up telemedicine, where doctors and nurses assist patients remotely. The move comes at a time when nurses across the country are angry at unsafe staffing levels and pushing for tighter nurse-to-patient ratios.
OhioHealth is one of Ohio’s largest employers, with 30,000 workers, 12 hospitals and 200 outpatient centers.
Unions bow to bankruptcy court to prepare sale of Pennsylvania company
The International Association of Machinists and the United Steelworkers reached a settlement last week that will allow the bankrupt sale of Pennsylvania-based Armstrong Flooring to proceed.
The union agreements will eliminate retirement benefits owed to spouses and dependents of workers who died on July 31, 2022. The Steelworkers have not resolved claims for 401(k) contributions owed to 33 of its members who owe $3,500 $ each. Health care and other benefits will end after the workers’ last day of work.
Armstrong Flooring was spun off from its parent company in 2016. It has operations in Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Illinois, California and Oklahoma, as well as China and Australia. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2022.
The agreement with the union paves the way for the sale of the company. It is rumored that another company competing with Armstrong, AHF, is maneuvering to buy Armstrong’s assets.
Union officials propose to end Quebec dairy farmers’ strike without new contract
Officials from the Central of Democratic Trade Unions (CSD) last week offered management to end the strike by 250 workers at the Agropur cheese factory in Granby, Quebec. Workers, who have been without a contract for nearly a year, went on strike at the dairy plant on June 29, demanding a new deal that addresses concerns over wages, benefits and working conditions.
Particularly egregious is Agropur’s demand to modify a stable shift system that has been in place for decades so that the length of shifts can be reduced from 8 to 12 hours. In addition, working hours would be irregular, requiring workers to go to work at different times during the work week. With negotiations at a standstill, CSD representatives sent a proposal to management promising to return to work and continue negotiations if Agropur withdrew its shift change proposals. Agropur has not yet responded.
The strike drew national attention after news reports showed dairy farmers dumping full tankers of milk due to lack of access to a dairy processor. It is estimated that two million liters of milk have been spilled since the start of the strike. The television coverage did not mention the fact that 100 to 300 million liters of milk are dumped in Canada each year. Canada’s dairy farmers, under a supply management protocol, receive compensation for milk that does not reach their markets.