The week in US unions, June 3-10, 2021

NEW ORGANIZING

Recent election filings at the NLRB: 81 educators at Manhattan private school The Blue School are unionizing with UAW Local 2110. 73 workers at Essity, which makes toilet paper and other paper hygiene products in Greenwich, NY are organizing with the Steelworkers. 70 bus drivers at regional operator Academy Bus based in Hoboken, NJ are organizing with Teamsters Local 560. 60 cheese workers at Formaggio in Hurleyville, NY are organizing with UFCW Local 342. 41 dispensary workers with Sunnyside (Cresco Labs) in South Beloit, IL are organizing with UFCW Local 881, continuing the weed worker organizing drive in Illinois. 30 drivers for transit operator Road Runner (RATP Dev) based in Camarillo, CA are unionizing with Teamsters Local 186. 29 social services workers at NICE (New Immigrant Community Empowerment) in Jackson Heights, Queens, NY are joining the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, UAW Local 2325

Small shops: 25 workers at car dealer Toyota of Santa Fe are organizing with Machinists Local 794. 21 editorial employees for Gannett’s Atlantic Digital Optimization Team are joining the New York NewsGuild. 21 workers at Hallowell in Munster, IN, which makes metal shelving and lockers, are organizing with Teamsters Local 142. 20 sanitation workers in Winslow, IN are organizing with Teamsters Local 215. 18 building engineers for turbine manufacturer Ethos Energy Group in Dover Plains, NY are organizing with Operating Engineers Local 30. 14 workers at odd liquor supplier Montebello Brands in Baltimore are unionizing with Teamsters Local 570. 14 Aramark food services workers at Skokie Hospital in Skokie, IL are joining Operating Engineers Local 399. 12 mechanics and clerks for Albertsons in Tolleson, AZ are joining Teamsters Local 104. 11 building services workers for property manager Bronx Pro Group in The Bronx, NY are joining dubious union League of International Federated Employees Local 890. Six skilled maintenance workers at posh spa Aire Ancient Baths in Chicago are joining Operating Engineers Local 399. Six workers at Manhattan Mini-Storage are joining Teamsters Local 210. Three facilities maintenance workers at 950 L’Enfant Plaza SW in Washington, DC are joining Operating Engineers Local 99. Three HVAC techs at Elite Aire in Mayfield, KY are joining Plumbers Local 184

NLRB wins…: 106 educators at Great River School in Saint Paul, MN voted 62-8 to join Education Minnesota (NEA/AFT). 46 special education workers at Easterseals in Monticello, NY voted 35-7 to join CSEA Local 1000 (AFSCME). 16 aircraft mechanics for defense contractor Amentum in Fort Bliss, TX are joining Machinists Local 2515 after a 9-2 vote. Nine medical clericals at Nellis Air Force Base, NV are now members of Machinists Local SC711 after a 6-2 vote. Eight security guards at Montefiore Medical Center in The Bronx, NY voted 5-0 to join the Special and Superior Officers Benevolent Association. Six grocery workers in the bakery department of the Seaside, OR Safeway voted 3-0 to join BCTGM Local 114.

...and losses: 57 social services workers at Central City Concern in Portland, OR voted against joining AFSCME Local 88 (Council 75) in a 14-25 vote. 39 pipefitters at Lieber Mechanical in Yukon, OK voted against Plumbers Local 344, 10-17.

Decertifications & raids: Teamsters Local 657 lost a unit of 16 Frito-Lay workers in Eagle Pass and Del Rio, TX; despite it being an 8-8 deadlock vote, tie goes against the union. The Nuclear Enforcement Officers National Union (SPFPA) is raiding a unit of 84 security guards at the Grand Gulf Nuclear Station in Port Gibson, MS, who are currently represented by UGSOA. The shady Transportation, Production & Warehouse Employees Union Local 438 is raiding three shops of 30 workers each -- Prime Packaging Corp, Tri State Lumber, and Tri State Surgical Supply in Brooklyn, NY -- each represented by United Production Workers Union Local 17-18, which is also a dubious union but one that was recently taken over by rank-and-file members through a contentious internal vote (and failed expulsion attempt), after 30 years of corruption and no internal elections.

Outside the NLRB: 32 public transit workers in southern Maine for the Biddeford Saco Old Orchard Beach transit system have voted to join ATU Local 714. Luke O’Neil has a look into the voluntary recognition union drive at Pavement Coffee in the Boston metro area, with UNITE HERE’s New England Joint Board. The staff of NYU Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice are organizing for voluntary recognition through UAW Local 2320. Staff at The Atlantic asked for -- and kind of shockingly, received -- voluntary recognition through the NewsGuild (CWA).

STRIKES & BARGAINING

Volvo workers with UAW Local 2069 in Dublin, VA once again voted down a tentative agreement by 90%; unlike the first time, however, they were given the green light to go back on strike, reclaiming the mantle of the largest strike in the country. It’s been a stop-start fight, with the members, the bargaining committee, the local union, and the international union all on different pages at different times, so it’s hard to know what comes next. But these 2,900 Appalachian manufacturing workers could certainly use public support.

Chicago Teachers Union educators struck Urban Prep charter schools for two days, and reached a tentative agreement. CTU is also setting its sights on the Epic Academy charter school for firing four workers. 

The latest bargaining update from the Steelworkers on the 1300-member ATI strike makes it sound like they’re still really far apart on health care premiums, but then also notes that, “besides the health care issues, we remain apart over issues that include wages, profit sharing, transfer rights, VEBA, O&T issues and shutdown provisions.” So, like, everything remains on the table.

Warrior Met management at the UMWA strike in Brookwood, AL is becoming increasingly violent, says the union, with at least three strikers being hit by cars.

Dana Simon at The Nation recaps the Massachusetts Nurses Association strike at St Vincent Hospital in Worcester, MA. As the author notes, “This weekend, as striking nurses are now being threatened with being replaced, the union is asking all who can to contribute immediately to their strike fund. Says MNA’s Katie Murphy: “If you and your friends are within driving distance of St. Vincent’s in Worcester, come join the picket line from 7 AM to midnight seven days a week until victory.””

Non-union workers for the Department of Juvenile Justice in Columbia, SC, from security guards to educators, walked off the job protesting 24-36 hour shifts. Three days later, staff were back on the job.

50 mechanics with IAM Local 1546 at engine manufacturer Cummins in San Leandro, CA are on strike as of Tuesday.

100 steelworkers with USW Local 759L are locked out at Mississippi Polymers in Corinth, MS. The company is claiming it’s a strike, which the union disputes.

Something like 6,000 electrical workers with IBEW Local 46 in and around Seattle could be on strike as of midnight, if no tentative agreement is reached. This would affect a ton of different worksites, and would generally be immensely disruptive, but management is apparently not very close to settling, and we’re coming up against the wire. It would be the largest strike by far of 2021.

The ~4,000 meatpacking workers of UFCW Local 304A at Smithfield in Sioux Falls, SD, who make 5% of the country’s pork products, rejected a contract last week, and then officially authorized a strike. The last strike at the plant was in 1987, which you can see news coverage of here. On Thursday, the union announced they’d reached a tentative agreement.

100 Teamsters with Local 231 have authorized a strike against Bellingham Cold Storage in Washington state.

After authorizing a strike in March, New York NewsGuild members at the New Yorker, Pitchfork, and Ars Technica (all under the Conde Nast publishing umbrella) are on the edge of actually striking, and are holding actions at management’s homes, among other escalating tactics.

The 2,100 Connecticut group home workers with 1199 New England who were set to strike last Friday reached a last-minute deal for $184 million in state funding over the next two years, mirroring that union’s last minute big win for their nursing home members. 

ExxonMobil and USW Local 13-243 are apparently going to meet regarding the long lockout at the Beaumont, TX refinery, which is progress, but is a pretty low bar for the 650 workers who are out of a job. Meanwhile, ExxonMobil appears to be waging a war of attrition against its Baton Rouge, LA workforce, members of USW Local 13-12 (where, as I noted a couple weeks back, someone has also filed to decertify Operating Engineers Local 407).

The Biden administration is instructing TSA management (under the Department of Homeland Security) to expand union rights and boost pay for TSA workers, who are represented by AFGE.

Contract updates: Welfare workers with CWA Local 1088 in Ocean County, NJ won a new contract after a big COVID safety fight, as Labor Notes reports. About 11,000 workers in California with Operating Engineers Local 3, who represent all kinds of blue collar state workers, are getting raises in a new 2-year tentative agreement. A contentious city council meeting in Weirton, WV failed to approve contracts for police and municipal employees. Police and fire unions in Pocatello, ID are running into bargaining trouble as well. AFSCME nursing home workers in Mansfield, OH have a new contract. So do 400 nurses with NNU in Orange County, CA. A couple dozen members of CWA Local 4818 at Memnon, which contracts with the University of Indiana to do digital archive work, ratified a contract after a 24-hour strike earlier this spring. 400 food service workers at Northwestern University with UNITE HERE Local 1 are rallying for a contract. Negotiations between Northern Michigan University and AAUP-represented faculty are nearing their deadline with considerable distance between the two sides, primarily around pay. Residents at UC Davis with CIR have a first contract. So do 340 physician assistants with AFT Local 5297 in Michigan. IAFF Local 42 in Kansas City has a new contract with provisions to end practices that have led to a disproportionately white firefighter force.

K-12: Pueblo, CO educators are getting a 10% raise over two years, while support staff protest a proposal to privatize food services and other groups await contract settlements. Teachers in Madison, WI, meanwhile have been promised a raise but the district won’t officially put it in their contract. In South Bend, IN, educators are protesting being assigned longer working hours with no compensation. The Sonoma, CA school board has gone back on its commitment to using union labor for construction projects, reversing an approved Project Labor Agreement. Falmouth, MA educators rallied en masse to defend their local union president, who’s being targeted with discipline by management.

IUE-CWA Local 84811 is protesting a plant closure in Janesville, WI that will kill 166 unions jobs, as a Hufcor moveable doors plant relocates to Mexico. In West Virginia, members of USW Local 957 are taking their protest to the statehouse, demanding that their pharmaceutical plant, formerly Mylan and now Viatris, not close and take 1500 jobs with it.

The Alphabet Workers Union (CWA) is pushing for workers to be allowed to use their chosen names, as a Pride Month campaign.

As Labor Notes and The Intercept each report, NYC municipal unions are shifting retiree healthcare to save money for the city in ways that could result in huge costs for those retirees. If this were to upset the apple cart enough among retirees in the UFT alone, it could have real implications for NYC union politics and national AFT politics, as UFT retirees represent the bedrock voting bloc of the 70-year incumbent Unity Caucus which runs the UFT and, by extension, the AFT.

Members of ILWU Local 10 at the Port of Oakland played an important role in turning away an Israeli-operated cargo ship in solidarity with the Palestinian cause.

POLITICS & LEGISLATION

In a truly despicable turn, after months of delay and doing nothing, the Department of Labor has released its COVID workplace rule and is limiting it to healthcare workers. This is absolutely asinine and a huge giveaway to meatpacking, hospitality, transit, and other industries who now will have to do approximately nothing to safeguard the lives of their employees, who are still dying from COVID, and have been extremely hard hit. The only reason to do this is to let those bosses off the hook; it has no basis in science or justice and is an absolute stain on Marty Walsh and Joe Biden, after months of bullshitting.

UNITE HERE Local 23 is pushing for retention rights for 800 United Airlines workers at Houston’s George Bush International Airport, as the airline seeks to outsource union jobs despite taking tons of pandemic relief money.

In Baltimore, MD, UNITE HERE Local 7 is protesting Governor Larry Hogan’s move to end federal jobless benefits, which obviously will have a huge impact on the large number of hospitality workers who remain out of a job.

INTERNAL UNION POLITICS

At Strike Wave, Jonah Paul, a rank-and-file member of SEIU Local 1000, writes about that union’s internal leadership election and what led to this bizarre turn of events in which a demagogue has won leadership of a nearly 100,000-worker union in California on a platform of halving dues and threatening to strike if the state won’t implement an across-the-board 21% raise. One of the president-elect’s highest-profile promises was that Local 1000 would end all political contributions; which is why outgoing president Yvonne Walker scheduled an emergency board meeting which approved a $1 million contribution against the recall effort targeting Governor Gavin Newsom.

Gary Jones, the ex-president of the UAW, has been sentenced to 28 months in prison for embezzlement. This isn’t a surprise, but it’s a huge stain on the UAW and the labor movement as a whole. Here’s hoping the one member one vote referendum this fall leads to actual change at the top.