STRIKES & NEGOTIATIONS
The largest strike in the country is no more; the thousands of student workers with UAW Local 2110 striking Columbia University have won an agreement that includes some big ticket items like big raises, recognition of the entire bargaining unit, and third-party arbitration for discrimination and harassment cases. After ten weeks on strike, on the second strike this year, this is a big breakthrough for higher education workers. Elsewhere in higher ed, at Columbia College in Chicago, staff have ratified a contract after coming to the brink of their first-ever strike as well.
UMWA strikers at Warrior Met in Brookwood, AL have enjoyed no such breakthrough; Kim Kelly wrote for The Nation about why the miners won’t quit, after 10 months out of work. The Special Metals strike by 440 members of Steelworkers Local 40 in Huntington, WV just passed its 100th day, with the company now planning to permanently eliminate around 75 jobs. And the Jon Donaire bakery strike by BCTGM Local 37 rolls on as well, with the workers getting some public support from a certain Senator. Bernie convened leaders of all three of these fights for a livestream event to tell the world what they’re fighting for, and build some public support. You can check that out here.
Plenty of Teamsters remain on strike as well. 300-some Teamsters Local 174 concrete truck drivers in western Washington are striking, and local projects are feeling the impact, with several transit projects now delayed due to the dispute. 250 Republic sanitation workers in San Diego with Teamsters Local 542 rejected the latest contract offer from the company on Thursday, so the trash keeps piling up. In Bethlehem, PA around 75 Coca-Cola workers with Teamsters Local 773 are still on strike, with the company paying to have cops on the picket line, though members were apparently going to vote on the latest offer on Friday, but I haven’t seen any results.
The Steelworkers have tabled a new proposal to Exxon to end the 8-month lockout in Beaumont, TX (the proposal also covers workers in Baton Rouge, LA, who as far as I know aren’t locked out) but the company rejected it; meanwhile, ballots on a decertification vote are still impounded, and I wonder if the company doesn’t want to just wait and see how that goes before entertaining any deals. Very important context here is that the Steelworkers’ pattern agreement covering 30,000 workers at twenty refineries across twelve employers expires on February 1st. Marathon is the lead negotiating target, but obviously what happens there will affect Exxon as part of the pattern.
K-12: The Chicago Teachers Union has been locked out, after voting to work remote if some basic COVID protections weren’t put in place (like, testing students to see if they have COVID, for example). So instead of less-than-ideal remote learning, there’s no school at all, because Mayor Lori Lightfoot cares about the children, or something. On Saturday, CTU revised their proposal and the mayor basically instantly rejected it, and thanked the governor for selling the district hundreds of thousands of tests (which the district received 80 million dollars from the federal government to buy many months ago but I guess never got around to it.) This is obviously a developing story, I’ve found Nader Issa and Sarah Karp to be the most consistent reporters tweeting on the subject. Chicago isn’t the only city to see teachers taking workplace action on COVID safety. Some Oakland teachers organized a sickout (as are some students), as well as across the Bay in San Francisco. and the New York Times had a long piece on how these school closures and union responses are sitting with the Democratic Party leadership. Elsewhere in the K-12 world, educators in Orange County, FL are at an impasse with the district over pay, as teachers leave the profession in droves while COVID rages in a state with one of the lowest average salaries for teachers in the country; the district is offering a $3500-$6500ish supplement mostly in one-time bonuses, and the union says it isn’t enough (which, like, objectively it probably isn’t to address staffing issues, let alone fairness issues). 275 teachers in Sudbury, MA have a new contract after going 150 days without; custodians and support staff are still awaiting a deal. Portland, ME support staff including bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and more have a new two-year contract, with a $15 minimum wage. Meanwhile in Jersey City, NJ, the school board voted to go to a $17/hour minimum.
Starbucks workers in Buffalo (who you might have heard, just unionized with Workers United, it was a whole thing) walked off the job this week in protest of COVID safety issues, demanding they close down the store until there were enough healthy staff to properly operate it; Starbucks instead pressured people to work sick.
Over 8,000 grocery workers at 74 Kroger-owned King Soopers stores in Colorado will be on strike at 5am on Wednesday if the company doesn’t come to a deal with UFCW Local 7. It would of course be the largest strike of 2022 yet, and rival the John Deere strike in terms of size; if you work at a grocery store (or for a grocery union), let me know, as I’m working on a longer piece for Labor Notes about the state of grocery union fights. (One grocery worker wrote up this snapshot of how things look at his store, that matches other accounts I’ve heard.)
Thousands of Frontier Communications workers with CWA in Connecticut, New York, and California have set a coordinated strike deadline (though they’re bargaining separate contracts) for January 15th. I haven’t seen any reporting on this, but it would be a big deal; I don’t know exactly how many workers we’re talking, but I’d guess at least 5,000. You’ll recall California Frontier workers held two one-day ULP strikes last year, as I briefly covered for Labor Notes.
Vail Resorts is hiring scabs in anticipation of a strike among ski patrollers in Park City, UT. The ski patrollers organized with CWA in August of 2020, and are still fighting for a first contract.
The Massachusetts Nurses Association has officially ratified a contract at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, MA, after one of the most bitter strikes in recent memory.
Around 1200 municipal workers for the city of Portland, OR across five locals (the largest being AFSCME Local 189) rallied this weekend with the Democratic Socialists of America in preparation for a possible strike, which could come at any point after their next bargaining session on Tuesday.
The president of ATU Local 1395, representing transit workers in Escambia County, FL has his transit job back after an arbitrator ruled his April 2020 firing – yes, nearly two years ago – was unjustified (he let a camera crew onto company property to highlight the COVID safety issues in the early days of the pandemic). The headline is “the process works,” which is a bit gobsmacking; two years out of the job for an unjust firing, only to be reinstated by an independent arbitrator, does not sound like a good process.
American Airlines and the Allied Pilots Association are seeking to bargain a new contract in a super-compressed lightning round of negotiations, meeting five days a week for four weeks starting on January 17th.
Magazine staff at Jewish Currents have their first union contract through WGAE.
ATU Local 589 representing 6,000 transit workers for the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority has a new two-year contract.
While remote work for teachers gets all the attention, AFGE has filed a complaint against the EEOC (not with, but against, as the EEOC is the employer) for refusing to bargain over telework provisions; this has been a rolling fight across several federal employers.
Tim Ryan’s Senate campaign staff in Ohio now have a ratified union contract with IBEW Local 1466.
POLITICS & LEGISLATION
NNU and the AFL-CIO are suing the Department of Labor to re-implement and finalize an OSHA safety standard for healthcare workers, which they announced would be expiring late last month.
I already linked it above, but I do think the New York Times piece on the politics of teachers unions, remote schooling, and workplace safety is worth a read. Among other things, it really makes one think about how different this particular piece of the crisis might be if there were an actual labor party in this country; not just for the unions having more leverage, but for the political class trying to navigate the tension between worker safety, childcare, community spread, and the smooth functioning of the economy. As it stands, the polarization around the issue is highly dependent on where there happen to be militant unions, where there happen to be Democratic mayors who usually have to do a dance of pretending to care about those unions, and where national politicos need to shore up support ahead of November.
Speaking of labor parties, yet another Democratic governor has vetoed legislation that would extend unionization rights for farmworkers, this time in Maine (the last one was in California). Governor Janet Mills delayed action on the bill, which passed in July, and then added it to the more than a dozen progressive pieces of legislation she’s vetoed in the past year.
Legislation in Florida seeks to end dues deduction (where the employer automatically deducts union dues from your paycheck and sends it to the union, as agreed to in the union contract) for most public employees, but notably not cops, firefighters, or prison workers; the bill would also decertify public unions that fall below 50% membership among the represented unit (which would of course be far more likely in the event that the unions have to independently collect dues from each would-be member).
INTERNAL UNION POLITICS
SEIU Local 1000, the union that represent 100,000 state workers in California, failed to pass a budget for 2022, as very public internal chaos continues to gum up the works. This was all triggered, you’ll remember, by a surprise victory from a very odd candidate who among other things planned to cease all political spending, which there’s just no way SEIU international could abide.
Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez is resigning from her elected position representing south San Diego to become the new head of the California Federation of Labor.
New election filings at the NLRB: 150 workers who make obscure food ingredients (“custom nutrient premix,” “edible film,” etc.) for Glanbia (formerly Watson’s which was acquired by Glanbia) in West Haven, CT are organizing with UFCW Local 371. 140 water and sewage utility workers at Pennsylvania American Water Company in Pittsburgh are organizing with Utility Workers Local 537. 135 workers at Graphic Packaging International, a Fortune 500 company that makes paper packaging products, are organizing with Teamsters Local 948 in Visalia, CA. 119 public defenders in New Hampshire are organizing with SEIU Local 1984. 68 “visitor services officers” at the Seattle Art Museum are organizing with IUPAT District 5 (I am surprised to see the Painters organizing at an art museum but maybe I shouldn’t be, they are the Painters, etc., dumb joke).
Small shops: 38 drivers for Ryder Logistics in Southwest Ranches, FL are organizing with Teamsters Local 769. 36 RNs at two United Methodist Communities nursing homes in Newton and Pitman, NJ are unionizing with HPAE (AFT). 31 more Starbucks workers have joined the Workers United organizing wave, 15 in Eugene, OR and 16 more in Chicago, with I’m sure more to come (the NLRB also officially granted the Mesa, AZ store a vote). 25 port workers at the Midwest Terminals of Toledo, OH (yes, Toledo has a port! Lake Erie, folks) are organizing with the ILA. 25 sales reps for Opici wine distributors in upstate New York (based in Albany) are organizing with UFCW Local 2-D. 18 editorial employees at Outside Magazine based in Santa Fe, NM are unionizing with the Denver Newspaper Guild. 18 workers at Innovative Precision machining shop in Ogden, UT are organizing with the Machinists Local 568. 17 maintenance workers at the Central Arizona Correctional Center in Florence, AZ are joining UA Local 469. 15 workers at Frattallone’s Hardware store in Circle Pines, MN are unionizing with the Chicago and Midwest Regional Joint Board of Workers United. 14 “budtenders” at “Spacebuds” (it’s a weed thing) in Eugene, OR are joining UFCW Local 555. The 13 union staffers of IATSE Local 480 in Santa Fe, NM are themselves unionizing with OPEIU Local 251. 13 uniform delivery drivers for Aramark in Troy, NY are unionizing with Teamsters Local 294. Seven more workers at the Atlanta Gas Light Company are organizing with the IBEW (another small group of workers organized at the utility this summer). Six “budtenders” at Swade Dispensary in St. Louis are joining the UFCW. Three pharmacy techs at a Safeway in Grants Pass, OR are joining UFCW Local 555. Two skilled maintenance workers at Gotham Greens in Chicago are joining Operating Engineers Local 399.
NLRB election wins…: 60 slot machine attendants at the Wynn and Encore casinos in Las Vegas voted 41-12 to join the UAW (who represent around 10,000 casino workers). 39 healthcare workers at USC’s Cardiac and Vascular Institute (part of Keck Medicine) in Los Angeles voted 26-5 in two votes to join NUHW. 22 cement masons are now union, after a whopping two of them voted for (and none against) joining OPCMIA Local 528. 21 tree trimmers for Trees, Inc. in Pocatello, ID voted 10-2 to join IBEW Local 449. 14 mechanics for Cherokee Freight in Madera, CA voted 7-3 to join Teamsters Local 431. Ten mechanics and technicians for WAI Construction in Huntsville, AL voted 8-1 to join Operating Engineers Local 320 (it’s the first non-security guard NLRB win in Alabama since 2019). Nine comic book makers for Image Comics in Portland, OR voted 7-2 to join CWA (as “Comic Book Workers United”). Seven gas utility workers for Southern Connecticut Gas Company in Orange, CT voted 6-0 to join the Utility Workers. Seven technicians for the Washington County Rural Telephone Cooperative in New Pekin, IN voted unanimously to join IBEW Local 1393. Six warehouse workers for Supervalu in Hopkins, MN voted unanimously to join Teamsters Local 120. Four building engineers at a data center in Irvine, CA voted 3-0 to join Operating Engineers Local 501.
…and losses: 77 grain millers for Busch Agricultural Resources in Idaho Falls and Osgood, ID voted 17-41 against joining Teamsters Local 983. IBEW Local 111 got walloped, 3-24, in a vote at Black Hills Energy gas utility in western Colorado. 16 workers at salt mine Sawtooth Caverns in Delta, UT voted not to join IBEW Local 1619, 4-9. Eight workers at the Connecticut Natural Gas Company in East Hartford and Greenwich, CT voted 3-5 not to join the Utility Workers.
Decertifications and raids: NUHW appears to be raiding a huge unit of 950 RNs at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital in Fountain Valley, CA, currently represented by UNAC/UHCP (AFSCME), a large Tenet-owned hospital in Orange County; NUHW already represents some non-RNs at the hospital. 21 building engineers at four JP Morgan Chase buildings in Delaware decertified Operating Engineers Local 542 in a 5-14 vote.
Security guards: 600 K-9 handling security guards for MSA Security, a private security company that provides bomb-sniffing dogs, are unionizing in Brooklyn with SPFPA. 150 armed and unarmed “transportation officers” for MVM in McAllen, TX are also unionizing with SPFPA. Five security guards at Northwell Health Labs in Little Neck, NY are joining the Federal Contract Guards of America.
Coffee Tree Roasters employees unionizing in Pittsburgh with UFCW Local 1776 rallied against the firing of one of the organizers (for the crime of appearing in a video talking about why they wanted a union), joined by some prominent allies, including Lieutenant Governor (and Senate candidate) John Fetterman.
The staff of the Democratic National Committee unionized with SEIU Local 500 by 67%, in a card check election.
The Alphabet Workers Union (CWA) has apparently filed its first NLRB representation petition (it’s not on the site yet, but the NLRB lags a few days), for 11 employees at a Google Fiber retail store in Kansas City, MO. So far, the wall-to-wall Google union has focused on organizing outside the NLRB process, but this could mark a shift in strategy (or just a variety of tactics being used).
After much drama, UFCW Local 400 has been voluntarily recognized by management at prominent DC bookstore Politics & Prose, becoming the first unionized bookstore in the District.
Finally, I thought this piece on why Amazon isn’t more aggressively fighting to delay a second RWDSU vote at the Bessemer, AL warehouse was worth reading.