The week in US unions, Apr 22-29, 2021
Thanks for reading the 17th weekly union roundup from Who Gets the Bird? If you’ve enjoyed these dispatches, consider becoming a paid subscriber! It will help me keep the project going, and in the future I plan to have some subscribers-only longer-form pieces. Go to whogetsthebird.substack.com and you’ll see a little drop-down menu in the top right of your screen, where you can upgrade to a paid subscription, if you’ve got $5 a month to spare. Thanks for reading and sharing, either way.
New election filings at the NLRB: 380 editorial employees at Insider in New York City are organizing with the New York NewsGuild. 105 auto parts workers in Detroit at Dakkota Integrated Systems are organizing with UAW Local 155. 60 security guards at the Social Security Administration’s National Support Center in Urbana, MD are joining URSO or GUSP. 51 workers for Nutra Blend, a division of Land O’ Lakes Purina which makes agricultural feed ingredients, are organizing with Teamsters Local 517 in Madera, CA. 50 security guards at CalTech’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, CA are joining either LEOS-PBA or SPFPA Local 6. 47 sanitation workers at the Fairless Landfill in Morristown, PA are organizing with Operating Engineers Local 542. 40 grocery workers at food co-op Three Rivers Market in Knoxville, TN are organizing with UFCW Local 1995. 36 workers at Architectural Sheet Metal Incorporated in Puyallup, WA are organizing with SMART Local 66. 30 dispatchers, clerks, and supervisors at MV Transportation in Oceanside, CA are organizing with ATU Local 1309, with Teamsters Local 542 intervening. 27 workers for HVAC and plumbing contractor Lieber Mechanical in Oklahoma City are organizing with Plumbers Local 344.
Healthcare: 240 healthcare techs at the UP Health System in Marquette, MI are organizing with the Michigan Nurses Association. 140 “mental health technicians” at Friends Hospital in Philadelphia are organizing with AFSCME District 1199C, NUHHCE. 61 healthcare support staffers at Trinity Health System in Steubenville, OH are organizing with either (or jointly, hard to tell from the filing) AFSCME Local 2934 or OPEIU Local 457. 14 EMS captains for Falck Alameda in Hayward, CA are organizing with the International Association of EMTs and Paramedics, NAGE SEIU. 12 medical clerks for staffing agencies Prairie Quest Consultants and Destiny Management Services are organizing with Machinists Local SC711 at Nellis Air Force Base, NV in two separate votes. Nine RNs at Limecrest Rehab in Lafayette, NJ are organizing with AFSCME District 1199J, NUHHCE.
Small shops: 20 case managers at CHS Trail House, a migrant detention facility in El Paso, TX, are forming a union with Operating Engineers Local 351. 18 aircraft mechanics and others for military contractor Dyncorp at Fort Bliss, TX are organizing with Machinists Local SC711. 16 hair and makeup artists at the Atlanta Opera are organizing with IATSE Local 798. 15 fire sprinkler technicians for American Backflow & Fire Prevention in Wauconda, IL are organizing with the Plumbers (UA). 15 ready-mix workers at Regional Ready Mix in Rochelle, IL are organizing with Operating Engineers Local 150. 11 building engineers for Cushman and Wakefield in Franklin Square, NY are joining Operating Engineers Local 30. 10 building engineers for Jones Lang Lasalle at a power plant in Andover, MA are joining Utility Workers Local 369. Nine salesmen at a Toyota dealership in Vineland, NJ are joining either USWU Local 455, IUJAT, or Teamsters Local 676. Seven electricians with Higher Limits Development in Huntingdon Valley, PA are joining IBEW Local 98. Six staffers at the Ohio River Valley Environmental Coalition in Huntington, WV are organizing with the IWW. Five engineers and cybersecurity techs on some sort of Air Force special operations military contract at Kirtland Air Force Base, NM are also joining Machinists Local SC711. Five drivers for UNFI in Las Vegas are joining Teamsters Local 63. Four aviation supply techs with Champion at Fort Bliss, TX are joining Machinists Local 2515.
NLRB election wins…: 107 teaching artists for Studio in a School in NYC voted 76-15 to join UAW Local 2110. 93 workers at Mass MoCA in North Adams, MA voted 53-15 to also join UAW Local 2110. 78 healthcare techs at Northern Dutchess Hospital in Rhinebeck, NY voted 44-29 to join 1199 SEIU. 72 RNs voted 27-11 to join SEIU Local 121N at Kindred Hospital in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. 64 production workers at Tensar in Morrow, GA, which makes components (geogrids, other things I don’t understand) of roads and walls, voted 34-19 to join RWDSU’s Southeast Council. 31 production workers at Sun Chemical in Kankakee, IL, which makes paint pigments, voted 15-12 to join Local 498C of the International Chemical Workers Union Council, UFCW. At least 26 (the NLRB doesn’t list the number) workers at the Portland Museum of Art in Portland, ME voted (well, the vote happened in December, but ballots were impounded for four months because that’s US labor law for you) 16-10 to join UAW Local 2110. 17 school bus drivers for First Student in Weston, CT voted 15-0 to join Teamsters Local 191; First Student and First Transit were both just sold to a private equity firm, and I don’t know if that means big changes for the ATU and IBT (and likely others) who’ve been busy organizing those workers. 13 terminal operators for Motiva’s Port Neches, TX facility, which does oil storage and logistics, voted 12-0 to join the Steelworkers. 12 skilled tradesmen at water treatment company Avantech in Richland, WA voted 6-3 to join Plumbers Local 598. 8 F-35 Information Systems Analysts at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona voted 4-3 to join the Machinists. 8 rail traffic controllers for Bombardier in Camden, NJ voted unanimously to join the American Train Dispatchers Association. Two distribution operations technicians in Wausau, WI for the Wisconsin Public Service Corporation, a gas and electric utility, both voted to join Operating Engineers Local 420.
...and losses: 497 production workers at Nestle in Anderson, IN voted against joining Teamsters Local 135 in a 119-199 vote; this is the third-largest NLRB vote of 2021, and the second-largest lost (behind Bamazon). 219 auto parts suppliers at Borgers in Norwalk, OH, some of whom struck for union recognition in January with the Chicago Midwest Regional Joint Board of Workers United, took their fight to an NLRB election and lost, 76-87. 32 photojournalists for Fox Television in Milwaukee deadlocked at 15-15, meaning they won’t be joining NABET-CWA. 15 workers at Alro Steel in Boca Raton, FL voted 5-6 not to join Sheet Metal Workers Local 32. 13 workers at the John Smith Road Landfill in Hollister, CA voted 5-6 not to join Operating Engineers Local 3.
Raids and decertification attempts: In what sure looks like a raid to me, 1,000 school bus workers in Brooklyn with Jofaz and Y&M are organizing with “Amalgamated Transit Workers Local 854” which is theoretically an ATU local (they sometimes use “Workers” in spite of their acronym, apparently) but doesn’t represent any other workers and isn’t, for example, listed on the ATU directory. There’s also the matter of the number “854,” which happens to be the number of a former Teamsters Local that was known to be run by the mob (as this Association for Union Democracy report details) and was absorbed into Teamsters Local 553 -- who are intervening in this election -- in 2013 (as this Teamsters for a Democratic Union article mentions), while members complained about the substandard wages and conditions as compared with… ATU school bus drivers. 126 hazmat drivers and mechanics at Savage Services in Wilmington, CA narrowly held on to their membership with Teamsters Local 848, in a 57-49 vote. 59 support staffers at special education school The Watson Institute outside Pittsburgh in Sewickley, PA stuck with the PSEA after a 29-15 vote. I would love to know the backstory on this one: 15 workers at Pfizer’s global R&D headquarters in Pearl River, NY voted 5-9 to decertify International Chemical Workers Union Council Local 527C, UFCW. 13 production workers at ADM Milling in Spokane, WA voted 3-9 to decertify BCTGM.
Outside the NLRB: I haven’t seen it reported anywhere, but the largest union victory of 2021 was certified this week, with 850 RNs and hospital workers at public sector CGH Hospital in Sterling, IL voting to join AFSCME Council 31. 63 tech workers at NPR quickly won voluntary recognition through NABET-CWA, joining other NPR staff in that union; comparisons were quickly made to the NY Times tech workers push for voluntary recognition through the New York NewsGuild, but the fact that the Times unit is 10 times as large is kind of a big difference between the two cases. The nascent adjunct organizing at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA I mentioned some weeks back has bloomed into a full-on United Campus Workers local, the CWA wall-to-wall minority union project that has spread all across mostly Southern public universities. The staff of progressive campaigns org Fireside Campaigns is seeking voluntary recognition through the Campaign Workers Guild.
An independent union campaign began this week at Amazon’s Staten Island facility, which was the site of early RWDSU efforts when it opened and the site of Chris Smalls’s high-profile walkout at the beginning of the pandemic. It’s hard to tell if this effort is going to get off the ground they way Bamazon did, but Amazon isn’t taking any chances, union-busting early and often.
If you needed a sleek chart to appreciate the insane clip at which journalists are unionizing, Axios has you covered.
STRIKES & BARGAINING
The 2,900 worker strike at Volvo Truck with UAW Local 2069 in Dublin, VA continues to be the largest strike in the country, and the two sides resumed negotiations on Monday. UAW 3057 is still on strike at Prysmian in Scottsville, TX, and the union and management are talking, but not all that much, from the sound of it.
The 850 worker strike at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, MA by the Massachusetts Nurses Association continues to be the longest strike in the country, with federal mediators being called in this week for the first negotiations since the strike began in early March.
2,200 graduate student workers at NYU are on strike, just as their fellow UAW 2110 members uptown at Columbia vote on contract ratification. Despite many obvious similarities, an important difference is that NYU has had a union and a union contract for longer, despite some parallel struggles with the NLRB.
1,300 steelworkers remain on strike, having rejected the latest offer from ATI, despite the vague and ominous threats coming from the company. ATI reported a first quarter loss, but expects things to pick up as jet engine production ramps up, presumably related to the easing of travel restrictions; who knows how those financials will play in negotiations. The strike is concentrated in Western PA, but Ben Berke had a great dispatch from the New Bedford picket line (I recommend listening to the 3 minutes of audio, if only for the accents).
Faculty with AAUP at the Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls, OR are on an indefinite strike, to which the university has responded by locking everyone out of their email (so even if they wanted to cross the picket line, they can’t) and petitioning the state labor board to rule the strike illegal. Reports are calling it the first public higher ed strike in Oregon history, and I’d be curious to know how many AAUP strikes there have been. AAUP has hundreds of chapters, but only about 80 are union locals in the full collective bargaining sense. More on the strike here.
Teamsters with Local 272 are protesting a fancy apartment building at 29 Caton Place in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, for ditching the union contract to hire non-union parking garage workers. Elsewhere in Brooklyn, members of Teamsters Local 553 are on strike at United Metro Energy Corp., a heating oil company owned by billionaire and failed mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis; the workers unionized over two years ago and still don’t have a first contract.
Undergraduate workers with UE at Kenyon College are back on strike this week, demanding a vote for union recognition.
Two dozen beverage distribution workers with Scheppers in Jefferson City and Columbia, MO remain on strike with Teamsters Local 833, with Missouri Jobs with Justice helping gather support.
Non-union airport workers with airline contractor Unifi remain on a small strike at the Missoula Airport, while the unionized airport workers settled their latest contract.
It sounds like there was something of an unofficial sick-out in Grosse Pointe, MI public schools, with over 100 staff staying at home after COVID protocols were changed to allow for less social distancing. The union says they didn’t call the job action, if there was one.
4,000 healthcare workers for Allina in the Twin Cities with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota have officially delivered their 10-day notice for a strike, after authorizing one earlier this month. It still doesn’t mean a strike is a certainty, but it’s a serious step in that direction. This would be the largest strike of 2021 by far.
33 Connecticut nursing homes repped by 1199 New England have authorized strikes, 11 more are set to vote in early May.
ExxonMobil is planning on locking out 650 workers in Beaumont, TX with Steelworkers Local 13-243, starting Saturday. The company is demanding the union take its latest offer to a membership vote, and the union is apparently refusing, but is negotiating some kind of handover agreement to the scabs, which I haven’t heard of before.
Workers with SEIU Local 541 at Churchill Downs, the famous horse-racing track in Louisville, KY, have been without a contract since November, and now, with the Kentucky Derby approaching, they are rightly making noise about it. It’s called leverage.
3,000 grocery workers with UFCW Local 2008 at 29 Kroger stores across Arkansas may be headed for a strike. It would be the first private sector strike of over 1,000 workers in Arkansas since the Steelworkers struck Cooper Tire in 2005 (Little Rock teachers held a one-day strike in 2019), and the largest strike in Arkansas since I don’t know when.
After authorizing a strike and agreeing to a one-week contract extension, members of IBEW Local 824, workers for Frontier in Tampa, came to an agreement, averting the strike.
UPS fired 10 part-timers with Teamsters Local 804 in Queens, and is probably regretting it by now, with multiple rallies drawing the public’s attention (and that of prominent politicians) to Big Brown’s notoriously draconian work rules. Specifically, these part-time workers were fired for supposed “job abandonment” after leaving work at the end of their shift (which changes duration day by day, guarantees only 3.5 hours of work per day, , starts at minimum wage, and has no benefits for the first 9 months), despite nobody telling them they were supposed to stay late. The UPS mid-level manager who had the local president parked outside his house with a video billboard truck probably really regrets it, as do those managers whose cell phones have been given out to the public to let them know what people think of the firings. Two of the workers were 8 months pregnant, and you can contribute to their hardship fund here.
A couple thousand non-union food delivery workers rallied in Times Square, and have apparently picked up the backing of 32BJ. Who knows what the game plan is here, but could very well be some kind of foray into an industry-wide deal in the city, or political push a la Fight for 15, which lives on in some form in NYC in the Chipotle organizing 32BJ is doing.
2600 transit workers in Portland with ATU Local 757have an agreement with TriMet, after a year and a half of a contentious contract fight.
After over a year without an agreement and a week-long strike, teachers in the suburban Pittsburgh district of Keystone Oaks, PA have a contract.
In Somerville, MA, Massachusetts Nurses Association members picketed CHA Somerville Hospital over a contract that expired in 2018. On the west coast, in Napa, CA, NUHW members picketed Queen of the Valley Medical Center for laying off ER techs and patient cooks.
Michael Sainato had a good overview in the Guardian of the fight to get hospitality workers back to work, with the same union benefits and seniority they had before the pandemic. Sainato also has a useful look into United Airlines’s ploy to take government aid and kill union jobs, in one fell swoop.
POLITICS & LEGISLATION
Collin College in McKinney, TX became a backdrop for progressive labor political action this week, with AFA-CWA’s Sara Nelson and former congressional candidate Mike Siegel rallying for pro-labor candidates in the college’s Board of Trustees election on May 1st. The backstory here is that Collin College union activists were let go for organizing, as Alex Press covered in Jacobin earlier this year. For someone not officially running for anything, it’s kind of remarkable that a flight attendants union president is viewed as an important voice of labor in a public higher ed political fight. In Hoboken, NJ, 32BJ is doing politics their way, endorsing incumbents and making noise about bad actor subcontractors in city redevelopment plans.
Three months since Joe Biden signed an executive order directing OSHA to institute an emergency workplace safety standard regarding COVID-19, and over a month after that order’s stated deadline for a decision, people are still wondering why OSHA hasn’t acted on it. The wonderers include the House Committee on Education and Labor, which summoned the Department of Labor to explain themselves, and then delayed that hearing when OSHA appeared to start moving. The standard is important because it’s enforceable and creates mandates on employers for providing certain protocols, equipment, and penalties for violations. Considering it’s been the source of a ton of workplace unrest and spread of the virus, it’s pretty ludicrous they’re slow-walking it, or whatever’s going on behind the scenes. As far as I know, only the state of Virginia has taken the step of a state-level OSHA standard as the federal government dithers.
Speaking of executive orders, Brandon Magner has some useful thoughts on what Joe Biden could do for labor with the stroke of a pen. Also on the executive level, Joe Biden set up a pro-labor task force, said nice things about the PRO Act in a joint session of Congress, and set a $15 minimum wage for federal contractors.
The AFL-CIO is spending seven figures on media targeting PRO Act holdouts, and has added Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska to the list.
The Sacramento Bee has a piece on the leadership elections in SEIU Local 1000, a huge local of public sector workers in California. The article says the no-strike clause (a pretty standard clause in many union contracts that says the union won’t strike while the contract is in effect (which, incidentally, is why a lot of strikes begin at midnight, because that’s the moment the contract, and its no-strike clause, expires)) is a top campaign issue. That might be true in terms of what’s coming out of candidates’ mouths, but it’s hard to believe that (the likely very small number of) members who will vote in the election feel strongly about the clause. It reminds me of Cynthia Nixon’s stance opposing New York State’s public sector anti-strike laws, and the unions’ nearly unanimous response maintaining that they don’t, in fact, care about having the right to strike. Interesting nonetheless.