Labor struggles: the Americas – World Socialist Web Site

Latin America

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Protests continue in Peru over onerous living cost hikes

Protests in Peru against spiraling inflation continued last week. In Cusco, members of various unions and social organizations went on strike for 48 hours starting April 18. Train service to the Machu Picchu tourist attraction was interrupted and roads were blocked.

Among the demands of the demonstrators are the reduction of the prices of fuel, public services and essential foodstuffs. They also called for a rewrite of the country’s constitution, which heavily favors corporate interests over those of the working class and poor. Measures taken by Pedro Castillo’s administration, such as eliminating taxes on essential food and fuel and raising the minimum wage, have not assuaged the government’s anger and mistrust.

On April 21, the National Assembly of the Agrarian Sector called for a strike, alleging: “Executive power is being kidnapped by the big monopolies and also by Congress, which does not let [the government] work.” Among his demands are an increase in the national budget for the agricultural sector, the dissolution of monopolies and the convening of a constituent assembly.

In the southern region of Moquegua, the administration declared a state of emergency on April 20 and sent in the army to end protests against the Cuajone copper mining complex in southern Peru by residents indigenous. The protesters, who accused the mine of failing to benefit surrounding communities and demanded compensation, blocked the mine and cut off its water supply. They ended their protest on April 22 after 50 days.

Argentina transport union calls for two-day strike for pay parity

The Union of Automobile Tramways (UTA) has called for a 48-hour strike by short- and medium-distance passenger transport drivers from April 26 throughout the interior of Argentina. In its April 21 announcement of the shutdown, UTA said the measure was taken to require passenger transport workers inside the country to receive the same raise as drivers in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area ( AMBA).

UTA blamed the various provincial and national transport sector departments for the strike call. He claimed that “the national state has strongly aided a transportation system that is the exclusive responsibility of provincial governments, which not only have abandoned all areas of joint bargaining, but also ignore repeated invitations to participate in wage talks” .

The strike call follows a suspension in February of activities in public passenger transport throughout the interior of the country called by the Argentine Federation of Automobile Passenger Transporters (Fatap) due to lack of funds to pay the wages and fuel. Fatap noted at the time that the government made disbursements for fuel and salaries in AMBA but not in the interior. A few weeks later, the federal government provided the funds for public transport inside.

Panamanian garbage collectors on strike for wage demands

Workers at the solid waste collection company Aguaseo in the city of Colón, Panama, walked out on April 21 over wage demands. During negotiations with the company, the workers’ union of the Aguaseo company (Sitraseo) proposed a salary increase of 16% over three years. Aguaseo’s proposal is 8% over four years.

Sitraseo also accused Aguaseo of violating labor laws for years and denounced the company’s rejection of the union’s offer to collect waste from hospitals, schools and other sensitive places. The Department of Labor and Labor Development referred the unresolved issues to arbitration.

Dominican Republic. Protest called against high cost of living, infrastructure and environmental issues

Labor and social organizations in the Cibao region of the Dominican Republic called for a one-day strike on April 25 last week. The Cibao region, made up of 14 northern provinces, is the most populated region in the country, with more than 5.6 million inhabitants.

Spokespersons for the Cibao Coalition, which brings together more than 200 grassroots groups, listed the demands of the demonstration: a reduction in the price of groceries, fuel and public services; higher wages for public and private sector workers; construction and improvement of infrastructure such as hospitals, schools, roads and aqueducts. They also called for a halt to the construction of two dams which they consider to be destructive to the environment. They accused the president, Luis Abinader, of serving the interests of millionaires while disregarding the social needs of workers and the poor.

United States

Alaska Airlines pilots to vote for strike authorization as workload causes stress

The Alaska Airlines Pilots Union voted to hold a strike authorization ballot in May after three years of unsuccessful negotiations, the stress of the pandemic and a shortage of pilots that has resulted in heavy work hours for the 3,100 company pilots. The vote will take place from May 9 to May 25, however, the actual call for a strike will be in the hands of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA).

Even then, under federal law, a strike would only be permitted after the National Mediation Board (NMB) released the union from bargaining and passed a 30-day cooling-off period. Alaska Airlines requested mediation in October 2021.

During Omicron’s wave of infections, Alaska Airlines, like other airlines, was plagued with infections leading to flight cancellations. This was further complicated by a pilot shortage which forced pilots to bear increased workloads.

The disenchantment of airline workers was expressed earlier this month when pilots, along with flight attendants and other airline staff in Anchorage, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle, organized a joint picket. There have been reports of pilots leaving work to join the protest.

Captain Will McQuillen, who chairs ALPA’s Senior Executive Council at Alaska Airlines, told KIRO, “Major airlines are on track to hire 8,000 to 10,000 pilots this year alone… [we’re] competition for a scarce resource. Right now, for the first time in a long, long time in this industry, pilots have the choice to invest their careers almost anywhere they want. They will gravitate towards an airline that offers them the best opportunities, the best work-life balance, the best job protections for that investment they are making. We see very clearly in the exit interviews that, specifically for Alaska, pilots leave for quality of life reasons.

However, ALPA is responsible for allowing Alaska Airlines to operate below industry standards to maintain profitability. As McQuillen said, “We are looking for improvements to our contract based on the market, but it will also allow our business to grow and stay successful and competitive.”

Natural gas workers in New York, Pennsylvania authorize strike over lower pay and contract clause

Workers in southwestern New York and northwestern Pennsylvania voted to strike after National Fuel Gas management declared a stalemate in negotiations with International Brotherhood Local 2154. electrical workers (FIOE). IBEW members voted on April 8 to reject the company’s final offer and a bargaining session on April 11 failed to resolve outstanding issues, leading the company to impose its offer final after the old agreement expires on April 12.

Local 2154 workers who supply natural gas to southwest New York and northwest Pennsylvania complain that the company-imposed contract will still pay them 20% less than the same company pays natural gas workers in surrounding areas.

Another point of contention is the dismissal of workers. A union press release states: “IBEW Local 2154 wants its members to be protected from being fired without just cause. Currently, the conditions National Fuel Gas imposes on its employees in northwestern Pennsylvania and southwestern New York eliminate due process, union representation, and the need to show just cause, whether employees of neighboring regions receive in disciplinary matters.

National Fuel Gas has $6.2 billion in assets. In 2021, the company saw a surge in net profit, which skyrocketed nearly 394%.


Train conductors strike at Union Station in Toronto

Ninety-five workers, members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) responsible for train control, signaling and communications maintenance, went on strike last week at Toronto’s main rail hub. Workers oversee the movement of more than 300 commuter trains each day as well as freight and passenger trains that pass through the Union Station Rail Corridor.

The workers have been without a contract since December 2019. In September 2021, they rejected a tentative agreement recommended by their union leadership and Toronto Terminals Railway management. Wages are the key issue in the dispute in conditions where annual inflation is now approaching 7%.

Although management has processes in place to keep trains moving, the strike has already caused delays in commuter train service. Additionally, picketing at the nearby bus station forced buses to drop off their passengers at depots away from the central station.

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