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On the picket line

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UAW strike in Ohio

Workers at the Clarios auto battery manufacturing plant in Holland, Ohio, went on strike May 10. An overwhelming 98% of the 500 workers at the plant, members of United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 12, voted for the strike since negotiations with the company have been unproductive.

The company wants workers to agree to a contract that Local 12 President Bruce Baumhower says would cost workers money. Union leaders say the workers will not make concessions, while churning out around 150,000 car batteries per week. Clarios supplies Ford and General Motors and is responsible for one-third of the car batteries in vehicles on the road.

Clarios is owned by Brookfield Business Partners, an affiliate of Toronto-based Brookfield Asset Management, a company with more than $600 billion in assets. The Clarios workers are supported on the picket line by workers from 41 other companies represented by Local 12.

On May 22 a tentative agreement between the union and Clarios was announced. Meanwhile as of May 17, the UAW has another parts plant on strike: Constellium Automotive in Michigan.

Georgia workers join Steelworkers union

Blue Bird workers celebrate win, May 2023.

The 1,400 workers at Blue Bird electric bus manufacturing plant in Fort Valley, Georgia are now unionized. In May they voted to join United Steelworkers (USW) Local 697 after a hard-fought, three-year organizing campaign. The workers and the union battled company union-busting tactics, including worker intimidation and misinformation about the union.

Blue Bird received $40 million in rebates, as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus program, and are expected to get additional funds through 2026. Yet workers are underpaid and have cited multiple safety issues at the plant.

“It’s been a long time since a manufacturing site with 1,400 people has been organized, let alone organized in the South, let alone organized with predominantly African American workers and let alone in the auto industry,” said Maria Somma, organizing director with the USW. “It’s not a single important win. It’s an example of what’s possible.” (Jacobin.com, May 2023)

Medical residents in Pennsylvania unionize

Early in May, medical residents and fellows at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center voted 892-110 to organize with the Committee of Interns and Residents. CIR, affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), is the largest union of its kind in the U.S., representing over 27,000 medical interns, residents and fellows. The Penn doctors are the first group of housestaff to unionize in Pennsylvania.

The organizing effort began during the COVID-19 pandemic, when residents were on the front lines risking their lives while Penn Med cut the residents’ cost-of-living wage increase and began union-busting tactics to thwart the organizing effort.

Dr. Chantal Tapé, a third-year resident in family medicine, spoke on why medical housestaff need the power of collective bargaining at institutions like Penn. “We chose to train at an academically rigorous and highly respected institution, but we expect more from Penn than just a fancy name,” she said. “We are human beings first and foremost. If we’re sacrificing our physical and mental health, our financial stability and our personal relationships in order to provide care, that means our health care system is failing.” (Phillyvoice, May 9)

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