The week in US unions, September 16-23

Thanks for your patience with this delayed edition of the newsletter; my kid got a cold and then passed it to me. I may permanently switch to Saturdays for these weekly dispatches, TBD.

NEW ORGANIZING

New election filings at the NLRB: 295 workers at the Minnesota Historical Society based in St. Paul (but I assume these are mostly workers at the couple dozen sites and archives across the state, as part of AFSCME’s national push to organize museum workers) are organizing with AFSCME Council 5. 44 counselors at youth social services provider Leo A. Hoffmann Center in St. Peter, MN are unionizing with AFSCME Council 65. 16 drivers and mechanics for Griffith Energy in Baltimore are unionizing with Teamsters Local 570. 13 workers for North Shore Gas in Waukegan, IL are joining IBEW Local 2285. 13 workers for G&J, a Pepsi products bottler and distributor in Franklin Furnace, OH are joining Teamsters Local 92. 13 workers for ACLU of Arizona are joining the national legal services local, UAW Local 2320. Eight sanitation workers for Recology in Gilroy, CA are joining Teamsters Local 350. Eight paratransit clericals for First Transit in Newark, NJ are joining IUJAT. Five air traffic controllers at the New Bedford, MA airport, plus five in Danbury, CT, plus four in Dubuque, IA, are joining NATCA. Five workers for defense contractor Phoenix in Annville, PA are joining the Machinists. Five sprinkler fitters in Columbus, OH are joining Plumbers Local 669

NLRB election wins…: 100 non-profit staffers at Defenders of Wildlife in DC voted 70-5 to join OPEIU Local 2. 47 editorial employees at Hudson Valley-area papers (The Journal News, Times Herald Record, and Poughkeepsie Journal) voted 32-4 to join the New York NewsGuild. 32 school bus drivers and mechanics for Apple Bus Company in Wood River, IL voted 14-5 to join Teamsters Local 525. 22 workers for Cooper & Turner Manufacturing in Pueblo, CO, which makes steel bolts for wind turbines, voted 21-1 to join Steelworkers Local 2102. 21 retail workers at Bull Moose Music in Salem, NH voted 15-0 to unionize with the UFCW Local 1445, months after everyone was fired (but later rehired, under pressure) for pushing back on management’s decision to lift the customer masking mandate. 20 workers at the CVS in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA voted 9-2 to join UFCW Local 324 (win some, lose some, see below). 16 sales workers at Bob’s Discount Furniture in Poughkeepsie, NY voted 10-6 to join UFCW Local 888. 15 electrical workers for contractor Brent Electric based in Tulsa voted 8-1 to join IBEW Local 584. All three equipment operators at Redland Quarries in Tonawanda, NY voted to join Operating Engineers Local 17

...and losses: 202 workers for Ground Effects in Roanoke, IN, which provides spray-in bedliners for the nearby GM plant, voted 35-81 against joining the UAW. 44 workers at Pepsi in Macon, GA voted 17-25 against UFCW Local 1996. 41 workers at Tucson, AZ restaurant Pastry & Prep voted 7-12 against joining UFCW Local 99. 30 workers at Brinderson, a construction contractor in Billings, MT, voted 7-7 on joining Plumbers Local 30, the tie meaning they’ll stay non-union. 19 workers at the CVS in Orange, CA voted 8-9 against joining UFCW Local 324. 12 workers for uniform rental company UniFirst in Kansas City voted 5-6 against joining Teamsters Local 955. Three bakers at the Safeway in Corvallis, OR voted 1-2 against BCTGM Local 114

Decertifications and raids: 93 workers who build beverage truck bodies for ST Engineering Hackney in Montgomery, PA, decertified the Steelworkers, 24-36. 52 workers at Georgian Gardens nursing home in Potosi, MO stayed with SEIU Healthcare Missouri/Kansas in a 17-6 vote. 30 workers at defense contractor BAE Systems in San Diego voted to stick with Machinists Local 1125, 16-8. 26 workers at Tree Island Wire nail factory in San Bernardino, CA voted 1-9 to drop Steelworkers Local 5632. 19 hazmat truck drivers at Fort Bliss, NM voted out Operating Engineers Local 351, 5-6. 12 workers at Summit Fire & Security in Salt Lake City will drop (I believe) Sprinkler Fitters Local 669 after a 2-2 deadlock. Four groundskeepers at the Mount Kisco (NY) Country Club voted 0-3 to decertify UFCW Local 342

Security guards: 128 security guards at Wynn-owned casino Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, MA, voted 48-30 to join UGSO Local 295. US Court Security Guards won out over UGSO in a vote among 41 guards at 3 US courthouses in Pensacola and Panama City, FL. 28 security guards at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Cheltenham, MD voted 9-0 to join SPFPA

Union-busting: In a rare defeat, the Pacific Northwest NewsGuild has called it quits at Vancouver, WA’s daily paper, The Columbian. The company hired a union-busting attorney and shrank the newsroom to half its size after workers won an NLRB vote in October 2019, 19-8. NWLaborPress also has the story of how Imperfect Foods successfully killed the union drive in Clackamas, OR against Teamsters Local 162. Imperfect drivers unionized in northern California with UFCW Local 5 earlier in the year. For The Intercept, Matthew Cunningham-Cook looks at how public sector pensions are funding the union-busting parent company of Refresco, where hundreds of immigrant workers voted to unionize with the UE in New Jersey in one of the pandemic’s biggest blue collar new organizing wins. The Nevada Independent looked at the decades-long organizing struggle between UNITE HERE and Stations Casinos.

Outside the NLRB: University of Pittsburgh staff (that is, not grad students or faculty or those already represented by a union) are joining the grads and faculty in launching their own union drive with the Steelworkers. I haven’t seen a number on how many workers this includes, but it’s probably in the low four figures, if I had to guess. Grad student workers at Indiana University are organizing with the UE. Coffee shop workers at Darwin’s in the Boston area have won voluntary recognition through UNITE HERE’s New England Joint Board. The Teamsters are organizing at least nine Amazon facilities in Canada, which could mean good things for their efforts at US facilities, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. The stark differences in labor law between the two countries make them almost apples and oranges, in terms of comparing new organizing drives.

STRIKES & BARGAINING

The huge Carpenters strike in western Washington state (seemingly concentrated in Seattle) rolls on, with two thousand joining the strike on its first day, and rolling shutdowns and wildcats spreading despite project labor agreements with no-strike clauses. There’s been sniping between union heads and local socialist city councilmember Kshama Sawant, and by the end of the week the union had “suspended picketing” in an attempt to avoid the hefty legal fees and sanctions associated with wildcatting. This interview with member leader Art Francisco is worth a read.

The Nabisco BCTGM strike is over, after members ratified a contract (I haven’t seen numbers officially reported, but have seen some say it was about a 3 to 1 vote, something like 600-200 out of the 1,000 or so workers). Portland seems to have voted it down, but the larger Chicago facilities, plus Richmond, plus Georgia, plus the small facility in Colorado, apparently voted the other way.

The 400-worker Heaven Hill whiskey strike in Bardstown, KY rages on, and Dave Infante interviewed a local leader at UFCW Local 23-D. In what is beginning to seem like a pattern, workers say their key issue is weekend work and uncompensated overtime, as Heaven Hill seeks to switch to an “alternative” work schedule. You’ll recall this was the key issue for at least the Portland Nabisco workers, and the Frito-Lay workers in Topeka this summer.

IATSE’s 13 west coast studio locals will take a strike authorization vote from October 1st through 3rd. The dispute is with the AMPTP, a film and tv employers association, over the Hollywood Basic Agreement, and centers primarily on working hours and conditions, which are notoriously long and grueling. The agreement apparently covers 60,000 workers directly, but it would effectively shut down much more work than that, seeing as film and tv sets can’t operate without their IATSE workers, and other film unions have come out in unequivocal support for the strike, if that’s the way it goes. This would be the largest private sector strike since the 2007 GM strike in terms of numbers of workers directly affected.

Another potentially huge labor fight is brewing at Kaiser, the massive “not for profit” healthcare system that spans eight states and DC, and employs 220,000 workers, with at least 150,000 of them union members. Kaiser is one of the better examples of coordinated bargaining across a fractured union landscape at a large employer, but that coordination has serious internal fractures, with two large groupings -- the “Coalition” and the breakaway “Alliance,” plus a few independent unions like NUHW and NNU -- running their own negotiations. September 30th, the Alliance unions’ contracts expire, and they have started talking strikes. 700 members of Operating Engineers Local 39 are already out (although I don’t think they’re officially “Alliance” members, and their contract expired last week), the 3,400 members of the OFNHP (AFT) in Oregon are rallying and talking about striking, the 7,400 support staff members of Steelworkers Local 7600 are talking about striking, and the 24,000 nurses and therapists with UNAC/UHCP (NUHHCE, AFSCME) are talking about striking. That’s at least 34,800 of the 52,000 members represented by Alliance unions, and I would assume the others (which includes UFCW locals, a UNITE HERE local, a Teamsters local, some independent unions) will follow soon, considering they’re all facing the national deal being offered by Kaiser, a 1% raise and a two-tier wage system. I’m working on a story about all this for Labor Notes, so let me know if you work at Kaiser or know someone who does, who might want to share their perspective.

At Labor Notes, Sarah Hughes has the story of 200 mental health care workers in Tukwila, WA who organized a wildcat-turned-safety-strike with SEIU 1199NW.

Workers who manufacture escalators for Kone in Coal Valley, IL are on strike with Machinists Local 1191, over a two-tier wage system and weak retirement benefits.

200-some workers with UAW Local 509 at Senior Aerospace SSP in Burbank, CA, are on strike, but as you can see from the source I am choosing to link to, I have almost no information on the strike. Let me know if you do.

The 2600 healthcare workers with CWA Local 1133 have set a strike date of October 1st against Catholic Health in Buffalo. I believe the strike is set to take place only at one hospital under the health system, but don’t quote me on that.

300 flight attendants with AFA (CWA) are taking a strike authorization vote at mid-Atlantic regional American Airlines subsidiary Piedmont Airlines. Like all things airline, it’s covered by the arcane (to me, at least) Railway Labor Act, and the union and the airline have been negotiating for three years, with the main issue appearing to be wages compared to other airlines.

Dozens of workers who make tortillas for El Milagro in Little Village, Chicago walked off the job to protest safety conditions and low wages. They’re working with workers center ARISE, though it wasn’t immediately clear if the walkout is sustained or a one-day action, though I’ve seen some reports that it’s now a lockout. At least one worker died from COVID and others were infected.

250 warehouse workers and drivers for Sysco in Kent, WA with Teamsters Local 117 unanimously authorized a strike some weeks back.

Public Works Department workers in Minneapolis rejected a contract offer and authorized a strike with Laborers Local 363. Elsewhere in Hennepin County, two AFSCME librarian locals rallied against job cuts that have led to understaffing.

Around 2,000 telecom workers who work for Frontier with three CWA locals across California continue to organize info pickets at executives’ homes and Frontier offices, having authorized a strike earlier this month.

600 group home workers with 1199 New England in Connecticut have set a strike date of October 5th, if they can’t get an agreement by then.

Four hundred grad student workers at Illinois State University with SEIU Local 73 are taking a strike authorization vote next week, joining Columbia and Harvard grads who are also voting on striking.

In Chicago, the staff union (with NEA) at Columbia College might be taking its first strike authorization vote, as they push for raises deferred by the pandemic.

Transit workers with ATU Local 1301 in Beaumont, TX, as well as with TWU Local 1 in Akron, OH have both authorized strikes as they have both worked without a contract since last year. 100 school bus drivers in Elk Grove, CA with ATU Local 256 are also working under an expired contract since June, and have apparently discussed a strike. Drivers in Chattanooga, TN with ATU Local 1212 were able to win raises, in a unanimously ratified agreement. This dispatch from Detroit highlights what seems to be a widespread problem of bus driver shortages across the country.

Boston Globe NewsGuild members flyered at the Red Sox game as they approach an astounding 1,000 days without a contract.

NYC has sued the Rikers jail guards union, COBA, for what it calls an illegal strike amid mass sick-outs. Upstate in Oneida County, AFSCME Council 82 is raising the alarm about understaffing among prison guards. Federal prison employees in Thomson, IL with AFGE Local 4070 are getting a 25% “retention bonus” to address understaffing, which has seen nurses and counselors being pulled off their jobs to work as prison guards.

Louisville cops with the FOP have voted down a tentative agreement by 70%, saying the 12% raises over two years aren’t enough; you’ll recall that local organizers were mad about the contract having little to no police oversight/accountability language, so nobody is happy, least of all, I’m sure, the mayor.

Two big New York state unions, the PEF (AFT/SEIU) and UUP (AFT’s second-largest local) are still fighting with the state over vaccine mandates and the rights of workers who refuse to get vaccinated. Both of these unions include lots of healthcare workers.

Contract settlements: After a three-day strike this summer, 650 nurses with SEIU 1199NW at Logan Health in Kalispell, MT have a contract. 14,000 nurses with the California Nurses Association (NNU) have a contract with Dignity Health. Marin County, CA public employees have settled contracts as well, after an impasse.

Five unions at Harvard rallied this week, over a general frustration with the university’s handling of COVID relief moneys. The administration has settled contractions with some of the unions, but is close to a strike with the grad students. 

Hartford, CT K-12 employees with the Hartford Federation of Teachers info picketed for higher wages and lower healthcare costs

Thousands of CVS workers across seven UFCW locals are rallying for a fair contract, with actions and protests outside of stores, after the company offered five cent raises despite massive profits (partly related to providing COVID testing and vaccines). 

POLITICS & LEGISLATION

Politico has a bit of an overview on why and how unions are fighting for the reconciliation package to pass Congress, which boils down to lots of money for jobs. Whether they’ve got the clout to make it happen is the big question.

In Buffalo, India Walton won the fight over keeping primary sore loser incumbent Democrat Byron Brown off the ballot, but locally, labor is still cozy with the mayor.

Gainesville, FL labor (well, the IAFF at least) is markedly less cozy with the mayor, and are calling for his resignation, with the vaccine mandate being the last straw (though many other issues have contributed to the ill will).

The Vermont AFT (which represents something like a sixth of all union members in the state) is calling on the Vermont AFL-CIO to withdraw the resolution it recently passed against gun control. That was part of a raft of resolutions including, for example, a Rojava solidarity statement, which, like, one wonders how representative that is of the concerns and commitments of rank-and-file union members in Vermont. Tons of unions pass all kinds of resolutions all the time, usually based on the concerns of a few top officers, especially at super federated and/or delegated events like a state AFL convention. Just my two cents.

Philly airport workers officially won a raise to a $15.60 minimum wage (and other benefits) through a city bill signed by the mayor this week.

OSHA finally implemented a heat standard for inside and outside work, which is a big deal if you’ve ever worked in a factory or school or farm or on a bus or outside in any capacity. The question, as always with OSHA, is (how) will they enforce it? 

INTERNAL UNION POLITICS

The WGA West has new leadership, as does the Directors Guild of America. Hopefully they all feel compelled to make a name for themselves in IATSE strike solidarity.

The National Women’s Soccer League Players Association is the newest affiliate of the AFL-CIO, filling the open 57th affiliate slot left by the International Longshoremen’s Association, who left last year after some beef with the Masters, Mates, & Pilots.

An internal probe of UAW Local 412, which represents white collar Stellantis employees (formerly FCA, and before that Chrysler, aka the company that funneled millions to top UAW officials and their own executives, leading to two UAW international presidents landing in jail) apparently revealed a jaw-dropping $2 million embezzlement scheme. Clearly the corruption problem in the UAW is not over and wasn’t a few bad apples. Top officials are apparently patting themselves on the backs for uncovering the scheme, but if you really want to root out corruption in the UAW, you should be supporting the efforts of members organizing to win the upcoming referendum on direct elections for top officers. You can chip in $27 for union democracy here.