East Bay unions march for fair contracts

July 9, 2008

OAKLAND, Calif.--Some 500 union workers and labor supporters marched on the evening of June 30 in the last hours before contracts covering about 50,000 East Bay workers expired.

Affected unions include locals from the Service Employees International Union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Oakland Education Association, UNITE HERE and more.

The unions are united in fighting for fair contracts that address rising health care costs, falling wages and a soaring cost of living. In California, the economic slump is exacerbated by the state budget crisis and an onslaught of spending cuts.

The march stopped at several locations to draw attention to individual union struggles, including at the Oakland Tribune, whose newsroom workers voted June 13 to organize a new unit of the Media Workers' Guild, as part of the Communication Workers of America.

At the University of California's Office of the Regents, AFSCME workers spoke out about the issue of rising executive pay (some exceeding $500,000 yearly), while custodial and grounds workers live below the poverty line.

At the office of the Pacific Maritime Association, Clarence Thomas of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union spoke to the need for high health and safety standards. He told the crowd about the 17 workers who have been killed on the job in the ports, two in Oakland in the last year alone. He then led the crowd in a moment of silence.

The rally concluded just as contracts began expiring at midnight. But as the speakers from the front made clear, this march is only the beginning of several crucial labor struggles workers will be facing this summer.

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