Labor

Our Community, Our Health Care

On Tuesday March 18th, LabCorp workers held a large Informational picket outside Swedish Cherry Hill Hospital on 18th Avenue between Jefferson and Cherry. These LabCorp employees work as phlebotomists and lab technicians at Swedish and other locations in our region. UFCW 21 represents these more than 700 worker members and is Washington State's largest private sector union with over 46,000 workers in grocery stores, health care and other industries. Squire Park Community residents also attended and supported the picket. Squire Park residents included members of the ILWU and SEIU unions. Our current less-than-union-friendly legal environment required this initial picket to be confined to one entrance of the Cherry Hill building and thus seemed to inhibit the workers from providing information directly to patients and visitors of the Hospital, or distributing as many leaflets as could have been accomplished.

Undaunted, LabCorp workers stood up for dignity, respect, and a fair contract. They did not stand alone. LabCorp workers were glad to see so many people from other unions, organizations, and from our neighborhood stand with them. Passing cars sounded their support.

This struggle is similar to so many others, across our state and across our country, where ordinary working people must unite to fight for better lives. Our LabCorp workers want competitive wages, affordable healthcare, and safe staffing levels for patients. It is ironic that LabCorp, a healthcare provider, would attempt to compromise affordable healthcare for their own workers. LabCorp needs a shot of justice and that’s exactly what they got.

As we go to press there are additional contract negotiation dates through the end of April. Hopefully management of LabCorp will get the message and change the approach they have had since last summer, when bargaining began. These workers have been pushing for a long time and deserve the basic respect of decent wages, affordable health care, and safe staffing levels. Not only are these conditions better for workers, but also will improve our experience and safety as their patients.

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Mural to Celebrate Workers Coming to S. Jackson Street

In late April, Jackson Street will be transformed by a mural on the top portion of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO building on 16th. The mural is our gift to the community.

Installed on panels across the building, the mural depicts labor history through the lens of the working women and men in Washington, focusing on stories that are frequently not told but inform the persistent struggle for economic, racial, and social justice that is labor’s legacy in Washington State. Since our building is at the nexus of Seattle’s historic Central Area and International Districts, the mural highlights the African American and Asian Pacific Island communities. It shows how our history is informed through struggle, movement building, and solidarity – and so much is covered – from the free speech fights, to the general strike to the No WTO march; from migrant organizing to Rosie the Riveter, to Black Lives Matter.

The mural shows pride, solidarity, and hope – and it also tells the truth, we see the Chinese expulsion, the detainment of Japanese, the Everett and Centralia Massacres, the segregation and desegregation of organized labor. We learn from the triumphs, and the errors of the past. Throughout the mural, during hard times and good times, we see the resilience of workers and the continuing fight for a better world. The mural tells our history, and the final section depicts our hopes and aspirations for the future

Katherine Chilcote, muralist and founder of Building Bridges, and Devon Hale, a young, local artist with historical roots in the International District collaborated on the mural. The artists are proud members, and Building Bridges is signatory, to the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District 5.

The art speaks volumes, but we also want to supplement the painting with a website that will give more information on the history, and the unions connected to the history. We hope to provide links to the website at street level, so passersby can get more information on the spot.

Grants from Seattle’s Dept. of Neighborhoods, and 4Culture, along with donations from affiliates and community partners of the labor council turned our vision into a beautiful reality. We are still in the process of fundraising so we can add a website that includes written and oral narrative, along with digital reproduction of the mural.

Few murals since the WPA funded projects in the 40’s have depicted the lives of everyday working women and men. As labor murals are being destroyed in other parts of the country, we are intent on celebrating our rich history. We are telling the stories of workers, especially migrant workers, black workers, latino workers, Asian pacific island workers – the stories of the women and men who built Washington State, and continue to fight for social justice; the stories of the Labor Movement. It is our hope that this mural provides recognition for those who built this state and also inspiration as we resist oppression and hate today, and collectively build a brighter, more just future.

The mural opening celebration will be in mid May and is open to the community.

For more information, please contact Lynne Dodson, Secretary Treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO at Ldodson@wslc.orgor (206) 281-8901.

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