The week in US unions, July 8-15, 2021

NEW ORGANIZING

New election filings at the NLRB: 160 workers at Oxford University Press in NYC are no longer waiting for voluntary recognition, and have filed for an election with the News Media Guild, TNG-CWA Local 31222, which represents workers at the AP and a few other shops, not to be confused with the New York NewsGuild. 100 security guards at Wynn casino Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, MA are unionizing with UGSO Local 295. 96 staffers at DC-based 501(c)3 Defenders of Wildlife are unionizing with OPEIU Local 2. 85 school bus drivers for First Student in Plymouth, MA are organizing with Teamsters Local 653. 22 sanitation workers at Hometown Disposal in Selinsgrove, PA are organizing with Teamsters Local 764. 21 workers with industrial chemicals supplier Brenntag in St. Louis are organizing with Teamsters Local 618. 19 drivers for Ryder in Swedesboro, NJ are organizing with Teamsters Local 107. Three painters at the Showboat hotel in Atlantic City are joining IUPAT District Council 711

Organize the South?: 104 transportation and maintenance workers for Corpus Christi Regional Transportation in Corpus Christi are organizing with TWU. 45 security guards at the Customs and Border Patrol building in El Paso are unionizing with SPFPA. Six bricklayers and masons for furnace parts supplier Specialty Foundry Products in Bessemer, AL are organizing with Bricklayers Local 8 Southeast. Four workers for Carmeuse, which makes lime and limestone products, are joining the Steelworkers in Macon, GA.

NLRB wins…: 74 maintenance of way workers for Bombardier on the Sprinter light rail and Coaster commuter rails based in Escondido, CA, voted 45-6 to join the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters; the past five years have seen SMART and the Teamsters and the Carpenters all jostling over workers at this facility, though I’m not sure how much is turf war and how much is craft divisions. Either way, curious to know how many rail workers the Carpenters represent elsewhere. 38 workers at Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits in San Antonio voted 18-9 to join Teamsters Local 657. 22 workers at Anthology Film Archives in NYC voted 13-0 to join UAW Local 2110, continuing their winning streak. 21 nurses at nursing home 60 West in Rocky Hill, CT voted 15-3 to join 1199 New England. 17 power plant workers at the Cricket Valley Energy Center in Dover Plains, NY voted 12-5 to unionize with Operating Engineers Local 30. 17 skilled maintenance workers for contractor Aramark at the Skokie Hospital in Skokie, IL voted 15-1 to join Operating Engineers Local 399. 15 educators at private school Fusion Academy in my hometown of Evanston, IL voted 6-5 to form an independent union, in what I believe is the first successful NLRB election conducted using the help of the Unit app. Six staffers at the Ohio River Valley Environmental Coalition in Huntington, WV voted 3-0 to unionize with the IWW despite management firing some of the organizers. Four workers at Finkl Steel in Chicago voted 3-0 to join Boilermakers Local 1247. Three maintenance workers at fancy spa Aire Ancient Baths, also in Chicago, voted unanimously to join Operating Engineers Local 399.

…and losses: 28 warehouse workers for UPS Supply Chain Solutions (which is somehow different from UPS, whose warehouse workers are all union, in the largest private sector union contract in the US) in Memphis voted 11-13 against joining Teamsters Local 667 7 social workers at Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital in Williamsville, NY deadlocked 3-3, thus not joining CWA.

Decertifications and raids: 70 security guards at EPA headquarters in Washington, DC are forming an independent union which appears to have broken away from SPFPA, though GUSP is somehow also involved. 64 healthcare techs at Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center in Las Vegas voted 39-13 to decertify SEIU Local 1107. 59 maintenance workers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago voted 25-8 to decertify Teamsters Local 743. United Production Workers Union Local 17-18, the company union that got taken over by actual members in an internal election last fall, continues to get pummeled by raids from other company unions, either because they just smell blood in the water or they’re getting the (of course off the record) green light from employers to do so, with United Service Workers Union Local 1212 (IUJAT) now going after 42 workers at Churchill Furniture Rental in Hawthorne, NJ. The Illinois Council of Police is raiding 38 security guards at Federal Aviation Administration offices in Chicago, currently represented by the Committee for Fair and Equal Representation, a small union which represents DHS and FAA federal security guards in Chicago. UGSO is also raiding a unit of eight FAA security guards in Hapeville, GA, currently repped by the Protection and Response Officers of America.

Outside the NLRB: Workers at Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland, with help from Cleveland DSA, are organizing for voluntary recognition with the Steelworkers. The staff of immigrant-focused Twin Cities workers’ center CTUL (Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha) formed a union and were voluntarily recognized (yes, employers, it’s that easy). Even University of Michigan can do it, recognizing a new unit of 176 “GLAM” (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museum) workers as an addition to the existing LEO-AFT Local 6244. OPEIU Local 12 is pushing for the same for the staff of Minneapolis-based anti-monopoly non-profit Institute for Local Self-Reliance. The staff of three papers in the Hudson Valley (NY) are asking Gannett for voluntary recognition through the NewsGuild (which, good luck, this will definitely go to an election).

STRIKES & BARGAINING

The three biggest strikes in the country — Volvo workers in Virginia, SEIU members in Cook County, and Steelworkers primarily in Western PA with ATI — ended this week.

It was a crazy week for Volvo Trucks workers with UAW Local 2069 in Dublin, VA, and I’ll just link to this FreightWaves story for a good play by play. The 2900 striking workers -- who went back on strike on June 7th -- took a vote on their third tentative agreement on Friday, and for a third time, voted it down, this time by a 60-40 (as opposed to 90-10) margin. The company’s response was essentially to say “OK, great, thanks for voting, now we’re implementing the agreement,” and the union’s response was to say “Wait actually let’s vote on it again.” People have pointed out that after a TA is voted down three times it’s not that unusual to have it be implemented by an arbitrator, and that the union might want to do a re-vote as part of a broader unfair labor practice strategy, but it seems to have gone over like a ton of bricks with the actual autoworkers. That said, they did ratify the agreement upon re-voting by a whopping 17 votes out of nearly 2500. As to the actual content of the agreement, there seems to be some confusion as to whether it does what the company says it does on key issues, like ending the two-tier pay structure, and, at least as of the third vote, workers hadn’t been allowed to read the actual language, just company and union summaries. But the strike is over, the workers back on the job, and the contract apparently in effect for the next six years.

2,000 Cook County, IL workers with SEIU Local 73 ended their strike this week; the Tribune focused on burnt bridges with one-time mayoral candidate and now-County executive Toni Preckwinkle, who sounds like she’s taking a victory lap. The issue of a higher wage floor for the lowest-paid workers and adding raises for the most senior workers appear to have been unresolved and will be going to some form of arbitration, and healthcare costs are going up.

After 107 days, the 1300-member Steelworkers strike at ATI ended with a ratified contract. There were lots of issues at play in the strike, but healthcare premiums became one of the central sticking points, and the union appears to have kept them at $0, albeit with deductibles going up. 

The Frito-Lay strike in Topeka, KS by 600 members of BCTGM Local 218 continued into its second week. Dan DiMaggio at Labor Notes has a look at the strike and its causes, and quotes a worker who’s gotten only a 77-cent increase over 12 years, while Frito-Lay made over a billion dollars in profit in the first quarter. The 80+-hour workweeks don’t help either.

The United Mine Workers in Brookwood, AL are still on strike, and Jacob Morrison has a piece for In These Times looking at that protracted fight.

1400 nurses with the California Nurses Association (NNU) struck two University of Southern California healthcare facilities for two days this week. The two-day strike is followed by a functional three-day lockout, as is often the case with nurse strikes where traveling nurses are hired as temporary replacements.

Pepsi workers with Teamsters Local 142 went on strike in Munster, IN on Monday.

20 barbers at Fort Lee army base in Prince George County, VA represented by the Laborers struck last week (thanks to the ILR Labor Action Tracker for catching this one!). At issue is the fact that haircutters, who work for a contractor, Sheffield Barbers, get 55% of the fee for a haircut, but when the contractor raised the price from $11.25 to $13 barbers found they were still only getting 55% on the lower price. Speaking of military base labor unrest, from everything I can gather (not much), as many as 690 metal workers at Arnold Air Force Base in Tullahoma, TN were on strike for 9 days with the Air Engineering Metal Trades Council, with a ratification vote to come tomorrow morning. I have been able to find almost no information on this one, despite it being a sizable labor action in the south on a military base, which is unusual.

Over 1,000 telecom workers with CWA Local 1400 & IBEW Locals 2320, 2326, and 2327 with Consolidated Communications in VT, NH, and ME have authorized a strike. Their contract expires August 7th.

Bus routes in Reno, NV are apparently being spontaneously cancelled as contractor Keolis experiences a “driver shortage” amid contract negotiations (which included a strike authorization vote) with Teamsters Local 533.

Teamsters with Local 639 have unanimously voted to authorize a strike against Capitol Paving in Washington, DC, and are expected to vote down the latest contract offer.

Over 1,000 members of Teamsters Local 117 in Washington state will take strike authorization votes this weekend against Safeway and Fred Meyer.

State employees in Connecticut protested Governor Ned Lamont at the statehouse for his refusal to meaningfully even consider raises, as part of pandemic-induced austerity.

A coalition of 11 unions at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA are organizing a rally to push the company to rehire the 40% of “cast members” (workers) still laid off from the pandemic and raise the wage to a $20/hour minimum.

AFSCME Local 1072, representing workers at the University of Maryland, held a protest demanding the administration extend and expand telework policies for office workers. The university currently plans to mandate all employees back to in-person work in August.

Community members and workers at the Niles, IL public library are protesting in anticipation of steep budget cuts by the library board. Workers at the library also unionized last month with AFSCME Council 31 as part of the same crisis response.

After seven years of organizing, the Teamsters finally have a first contract among one small group of workers at logistics giant XPO, with Teamsters Local 769. It’s good news, but a stark reminder of how the current model isn’t going to scale to any serious level of density, let alone influence on industry standards, if unions just keep grinding it out at this pace.

After authorizing a strike, UFCW Local 21 members at Providence Medical Center in Everett, WA have a tentative agreement.

While talk radio does a moral panic about public schools teaching Critical Race Theory, the Toledo Federation of Teachers is requesting more cops in schools, a which the district is balking at.

Public sector impasse watch: Educators in Tecumseh, MInarrowly voted down their contract, Santa Maria, CA teachers reached an agreement after a long impasse, the Teton (ID) Education Association is suing their school district for failure to disburse funds released by the state, the San Dieguito (CA) Faculty Association is pushing a recall effort against a school board trustee, and Frederick County, MD teachers are at an impasse… While Frito-Lay faces unrest in Topeka, the cops and firefighters there are also sounding the alarm, with IAFF Local 83hitting an impasse with the cityand the FOP entering mediation. Bartlesville, OK firefighters are at an impasse, too… The only one of the four state workers unions that failed to reach a contract under Nevada’s new collective bargaining law, the Nevada Police Union, which represents 700 state-employed police, is headed to arbitration over their stalled contract.

Nevada Current has a look at how Station Casinos, one of the most anti-union employers on the Vegas Strip, has kept UNITE HERE from obtaining a union contract through years of violations and delays. Another data point for how broken our labor law enforcement is; if an employer wants it badly enough, they can mostly just ignore the law.

POLITICS & LEGISLATION

Look, nobody knows what “the PRO Act is included in the Senate budget reconciliation process” or how the parliamentarian will react or how horses will be traded, but for all the speculation, it was useful to check out this memo from CWA (thanks, Joe DeManuelle-Hall) about what they thought could be passed through reconciliation.

Massachusetts legislator are pushing for a repeal of the prohibition on public sector strikes, which frankly should be a flagship progressive legislative demand at statehouses across the country.

New Jersey’s legislature is taking up a labor law reform bill that would greatly expand the scope of bargaining for public employees in that state, to include things that usually fall under the broad category of “management rights,” and -- surprise! -- managers are not happy about it: “‘It is the worst bill I’ve ever seen,’ said John Donnadio, executive director of the counties association. ‘It’s really an awful bill. It would effectively just eliminate management from management.’” Sounds good to me.

The Houston IAFF, in their long struggle with their mayor, have gathered enough signatures to get binding arbitration put on the ballot for a referendum this fall. This is of particular interest to the firefighters there, who’ve been in legal battles over a raise since 2017.

This month, Joe Biden announced a pay raise for federal firefighters, to bring them up to a whopping $15/hour, and the National Federation of Federal Employees, a Machinists affiliate, is urging the administration to do more.

UFCW Local 21, UNITE HERE Local 8, and presumably other unions have formed a PAC that has spent $110,000 on 20,000 pounds of dried cherries to mail to voters in an effort to elect Lorena Gonzalez as Seattle’s next mayor.

The [NYC] building trades are supporting the Green New Deal [for Public Schools]! It’s not actually that shocking, considering that the trades get a lot of work from the school construction authority and retrofits and as far as I know aren’t involved in that much fossil fuel delivery in the city, but it’s always good to remember that the flat narratives about what labor is and isn’t and does and doesn’t support often fizzle in the face of real money and real stakes.

INTERNAL UNION POLITICS

Oregon AFSCME has a new president.

Bloomberg Law has an interesting look at the number of ULPs workers are filing against their own unions -- they were dramatically down in 2020 and seem to be down in 2021 as well (and no, it's not just attributable to job losses). If anyone’s got the hot take on why this might be the case (or if I’m wrong and it is just about job loss after all), I’d be curious to hear it.