Willingness to strike

Labor Day 2023

I am always heartened to see labor succeed in what I perceive to be a hostile environment.  In the Truthout story from early August 2023,  UPS Workers Disproved Corporate Media’s Narrative That Strikes Are Harmful. The subhead:  It was UPS workers’ willingness to strike — not corporate kindness — that earned them a new tentative agreement.

The story speaks not just to the particular negotiations but the issues that labor everywhere in the USA confronts. “One thing seems undeniable: Any significant gains won by Teamsters against a reluctant employer will have come about because rank-and-file workers showed the company that they were prepared to strike…

“But you wouldn’t know this if you only paid attention to the corporate media’s reporting, which has mostly contained doomsday scenarios on the potential strike that mimic the boss’s talking points. From CNN to The New York Times, from Fox News to MSNBC, the refrains have been constant: UPS workers will disrupt the economy by striking. What if a strike causes a recession? UPS Teamsters already have it pretty good. A strike will hurt the company and benefit competitors. What about the consumers!?…

“Moreover, the corporate media’s criticism of strikes are not uniquely applied to UPS drivers. They’re deployed whenever workers threaten to strike. Teachers, nurses, railroad workers, screenwriters: they’ve all faced these attacks.”

Indeed, “What about the patients?” or “What about the children?” has been the mantra, not just of management but the news coverage. I have heard it often. To which the nurses rightly push back, “What about patient care when nurses are overextended?” Educators ask, “How can teachers teach when they need to work a second job to make ends meet and still take money out of their pockets for school supplies?”

Fair deal

“More than half of UPS’s workers are part-time. Some currently earn as little as $15.50 per hour. In 2022, thousands of part-timers saw their wages slashed, even as the company took in record profits. According to the statement released by the union, the new agreement includes a wage increase of $2.75 more per hour in 2023 and $7.50 per hour over the length of the five-year contract for existing part-time (and full-time) workers…

“Meanwhile, UPS CEO Carol Tomé raked in over $45 million in total compensation in 2021 and 2022. She holds 33,076 shares in UPS stock, worth over $6 million. In 2021, UPS’s CEO-to-worker pay ratio was 548-to-1, meaning a UPS worker making the median wage at the company would have to work well over half a thousand years to earn as much as Tomé.”

From Market Business News (MBN), “According to Glassdoor.com, a job search website, the CEO-to-worker wage ratio in the USA in 2015 was 204:1. In other words, the average CEO pay was 204 times the average worker pay. CEO pay averaged $13.8 million per year, while that of workers was $77,800.”

As recently noted, “The phenomenon of firms with overpaid CEOs and employees is not new.” The ratio should be closer to 20 to 1, lest managers experience “resentment and falling morale.”


I’m a bit of a labor nerd. I get notices from the US Department of Labor. I received these on August 3.

Department of Labor recovers $350K in back wages, damages after finding Spokane-based supermarket chain denied 602 workers overtime pay.

US Department of Labor obtains judgment ordering Indiana home care agency to pay $188K in back wages, damages to 83 workers denied overtime.

Federal court sentences South Carolina labor contractor, operators after investigation finds fraud, labor trafficking, abuses of farmworkers – This after “a U.S. Department of Labor and multi-agency investigation found the employers subjected migrant farmworkers to exploitative labor, confiscated passports and housed workers in unsafe and unhealthy conditions.”

Federal inspectors again find ergonomic hazards and inadequate medical care exposing Amazon fulfillment center employees to safety and health risks.

These are just a few examples of the government doing good for its workers rather than management.

Steve Derrick; beautiful nurses’ eyes

portraits of healthcare workers

eyes.Steve derrickOn the Road with Steve Hartman introduced me to Steve Derrick, an artist from Clifton Park. He “has produced more than 100 portraits of healthcare workers as they ended their shifts, many of them nurses at Albany Medical Center.”

The artist paints portraits of medical workers and captures their exhaustion treating Covid-19 patients. The subjects are weary, tired, brave, bruised, and raw. “Steve Derrick’s paintings depict the spirit of healthcare heroes on the front lines.”

“To escape the overwhelm of the pandemic, he engaged in painting. He says, ‘there was so much negativity on the news. This gave me something positive to think about while sitting in quarantine.'”

I found the story so touching, so compelling that after seeing it on the CBS Evening News on a Friday, I watched it again on CBS Sunday Morning. “He presents the finished portrait, a moment in time that omits no detail, to each of his subjects, and refuses payment.” Herrick’s actions have become part of a movement.

The eyes have it

Beyond this story, I’ve discovered that I have spent a whole lot more time looking at the eyes of people wearing masks. I find almost all of them are beautiful. Without seeing the whole face, it’s been necessary to discern how another is feeling. I’m required to actually look at people in a new, and arguably, better way.

Googling “eyes,” I came across a poet and short story writer named Avijeet Das. He wrote: “Eyes speak. Eyes say the unsaid words. Eyes express feelings. Eyes convey emotions. Eyes are eloquent. Eyes are tender. Eyes are sensitive. Eyes are captivating. I can’t help looking into eyes. I am always fascinated by eyes. If I were a painter then I would love to paint the eyes of the people I meet and come across.”

CBS’s Steve Hartman asked painter Steve Derrick if he were painting the nurses at their worst. Derrick totally disagreed. It is his belief that he has captured them at their best. I believe he is correct.

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